Toaster oven creations that make dinner time easy

When it comes to using the toaster oven, things like heating up slices of pizza, melting cheese on toast, reheating your dinner leftovers, or cooking a prepackaged frozen meal according to the instructions on the box are typically what come to mind. The toaster oven, however, can do so much more. Don't think of the toaster oven as a fancy version of the standard microwave, but rather as smaller version of your beloved kitchen oven. Capable of baking, broiling, and toasting, the toaster oven can prepare a variety of your favorite meals without the need to heat up the entire oven — or your whole kitchen. With a few recipe adjustments and prepping smaller portions, you can cook foods you never even would have thought about. From crisp morning bacon to tonight's satiating sheet pan chicken dinner, these are the yummy foods you didn't even know could use a toaster oven for.

Muffin frittata

Frittatas usually involve prepping ingredients in a skillet then finishing the cooking process by baking in an oven. While it's a fairly simple process, there's an even easier way to cook frittata and all it takes is a small muffin pan and a toaster oven. Skipping the skillet and oven altogether, muffin frittatas are the perfect single-serving frittatas that can be whipped up in a snap, thanks to out friend the toaster oven.

In a bowl, beat six eggs with salt, pepper, and any additional ingredients you like. Divide the egg mixture evenly into a six-cup greased muffin tin, then bake at 350 degrees until the eggs have set. While the filling for the frittata is up to you, you can't go wrong with spinach and tomatoes, mushrooms and smoked Gouda, or cheddar and bacon. Whether you're looking for a quick breakfast, need a brunch recipe, or want lunch on-the-go, you'll love whipping up a quick batch of muffin frittatas.

Dried fruit

Food dehydrators can be a costly way to dry out fruit, especially if you don't use it that often. If you don't feel like forking over the cash, use your toaster oven. You won't have to worry about purchasing another appliance because you can utilize the resources you already have.  

Apples, bananas, strawberries, apricots, cranberries, cherries, and blueberries are just a few fruits you can try drying out in the toaster oven. Since the drying will take several hours, set the toaster oven on a lower setting like 200 degrees. A lower setting will allow the fruit to dry out without causing it to bake and burn. Now that the oven is set, evenly spread out your fruit and let the toaster oven do it's magic until the fruit reaches a desired consistency. Mix the dried fruit with some nuts and you have a healthy, homemade trail mix perfect for snacking.

Croutons

Why spend money on croutons when you can bake them your way in the toaster oven? The toaster oven is the ideal vessel for preparing croutons. Since toaster ovens heat up so much faster than a regular oven, you can have them ready in a snap and you don't need to worry about them taking forever to make.

Giving stale bread a second life, tear it into chunks and toss to coat in olive oil. Spread the bread out evenly on a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the croutons turn golden brown. This should take about 15 minutes, but you'll want to keep an eye on them and flip halfway so they don't burn. When they're ready, you can top a Caesar salad, garnish tomato soup, use it as a mac and cheese topping, add it to red bell peppers and tomatoes drizzled with red wine vinegar, or snack on them as-is.

Cornbread

Thanks to the toaster oven, there's no need to heat up the kitchen in order to make a delicious crumbly cornbread. While you may be used to cooking it on the stove top in a cast iron skillet or watching it bake in the oven, cornbread cooks just as well inside a toaster oven. All you need is a baking dish that fits snuggly inside the toaster oven and your favorite cornbread recipe.

Jalapeno cheddar cornbread, whipped honey butter cornbread, green chile and bacon cornbread, whatever the recipe calls for, pour the mix into a greased baking dish. Bake it at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the cornbread is turning a golden brown. To test whether or not the cornbread is cooked thoroughly, do the toothpick test. If it comes out clean, it's ready. With a toaster oven on-hand, you can free up space in the kitchen oven and not have to worry about what to cook first.

Sweet potato toast

If there is one thing the toaster oven is used for most, it's probably for preparing toast. With a slew of toppings, you simply can't go wrong with that. Melted butter, avocado, eggs, tomatoes, cheese, cream cheese, jam, all these things taste great on toast. But let's think outside the box for a minute. Rather than conjuring up a new topping, replace the toast itself with sweet potatoes. The toaster oven already does a great job making toast and baking sweet potatoes, so why not combine the two? Transforming breakfast, sweet potato toast is one toaster oven recipe you're not making but should be.

Making sweet potato toast is as simple as, well, making toast. Slice a sweet potato into roughly a ⅓- inch slices and brush with olive oil. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender in the middle. Now comes the fun part, top your toast! Avocado and soft boiled eggs, lox and cream cheese, peanut butter and banana, or simply butter will all pair nicely. Ditching all the gluten in bread and replacing it with a vitamin-packed spud, the health benefits, not to mention taste, will make sweet potato toast your new favorite toaster oven recipe.

Bruschetta

Want to whip up bruschetta for dinner guests while the oven is full? Turn to the toaster oven. The toaster oven can heat up bruschetta like a regular oven in a few quick and easy steps, meaning you have more time to chat while the dinner cooks in the oven.

While there are several routes you can take to preparing bruschetta, leave all the hard work to the main meal and keep it simple. Brush baguette slices with olive oil then top with a mixture of cherry tomatoes, minced garlic, and fresh chunks of mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the bread starts to turn golden brown. Top each slice with fresh basil and it's ready to serve. One bite of this toaster oven bruschetta recipe and you'll agree that simple is best. Oh, and be sure to save some for your guests — or make a double batch just in case you don't want to share.

Roasted vegetables

When we think about the capabilities of the toaster oven, sometimes even the simplest of foods fail to come to mind. This is easily the case for roasted vegetables. While roasted vegetables are often done in the oven, they can easily be made in the toaster oven. The only major difference being there's less space, which if you're only cooking for one or two, can be a good thing.

Lemony asparagus, garlicky broccoli, cumin carrots, curry spiced potatoes, and even a vegetable medley can benefit from the toaster oven. Prep your veggies as you like then place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast at 425 degrees until they are tender to the touch, being sure to flip them throughout so they don't burn. Just be sure not to over-crowd your baking sheet — they'll end up steaming each other and turn soggy. Once you figure out you can roast your veggies in the toaster oven, there's no going back. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you'll enjoy roasted veggies with any meal.

Baked potatoes

Is it just me or does it seem like it's a waste to use a giant oven to make one baked potato? Sure, the microwave could cook it faster, but you don't achieve the same crispy skin you do when baking. That's where the toaster oven comes in handy. With a toaster oven, you can still achieve a crisp potato skin with a fork-tender flesh in the same time or less. So stop wasting oven heat and nuking potatoes to death in the microwave, and start baking potatoes in the toaster oven.

After the potato is scrubbed, pierce it with a fork a few times so the steam inside can vent. Rub it in olive oil then bake at 400 for about 45 minutes. When the potato feels tender and the outsides have crisped, it's ready for the fixings. Split it open, then slather on sour cream, bacon, and fresh chives, or load it up with black beans, salsa, cheddar cheese, bacon, corn, and anything else you like.

Nachos

Nachos in the microwave? Forget it. The toaster oven is the best way to fix up a plate of nachos. With the microwave, it's easy for the cheese to cook way too fast, resulting in an unfavorable consistency. Make nachos in the toaster oven, on the other hand, and you have a sheet pan meal cooked to perfection. Don't worry about the process, preparing nachos in the toaster oven is as simple as the microwave. As an added bonus, you can keep a better eye on it, not to mention prevent the chips from getting soggy.

Place a heaping pile of tortilla chips onto a baking pan lined with aluminum foil, then load on cheese and a host of fixings like olives, black beans, salsa, and chicken. Place the pan in the toaster oven and cook until the cheese is melted. After it's ready, top it off with sour cream, lime, avocado, and fresh cilantro.

Tostadas

One of the last things that come to my mind when thinking about the toaster oven is making tostadas, but I can't fathom why. The word tostada itself is Spanish for toast, meaning these crispy tortillas topped with flavorful food combinations were made for the toaster oven. An excellent serving vessel for all your favorite fixings, tostadas can be enjoyed any time of day.

If you don't already have a package of tostada-style tortillas, they are incredibly easy to make. Simply brush corn tortillas with olive oil, then bake in the toaster oven until they're golden brown. This should only take a few minutes. From there you can load on fresh toppings like ceviche, or maybe refried beans, chicken, lettuce, and cheese, possibly even some hummus, micro greens, and goat cheese. If you're looking for a fully cooked tostada add the toppings and then bake. Either way you're about to do your happy dance.

Quesadilla

Feeling to lazy to cook? I hear that. That's why the food gods invented the toaster oven quesadilla. The quesadilla is already an incredibly easy meal to make, but when the cooking process doesn't even require you to stand over a stove, it just got easier.

In terms of prepping a quesadilla, you probably already know the drill. Sandwich a heaping pile of shredded cheese in between two tortillas and add any fillings you like. Mushroom and spinach, butternut squash and kale, black beans and chicken, steak and bell peppers, tomatoes and bacon, the list goes on and on. The only real culinary trick here is to pair the fixings with the cheese, but really, if you're hungry anything will do — even plain cheese itself. Bake it in the oven until the tortillas start to brown and the cheese gets all nice and gooey. That's it. Maybe if you're not too lazy, you can top it with salsa and some guacamole. Or at least dash on a little bit of hot sauce.

Sheet pan chicken

Sheet pan chicken is the perfect solution to dinner any night of the week. You get a filling protein along with a serving of vegetables, all while requiring little prep, little clean up, and a single sheet pan letting the oven do practically all the work – oven being the keyword here. Why not skip turning on the oven and use the toaster oven for your weeknight sheet pan chicken instead? The toaster oven is ideal for preparing a single-serving sheet pan chicken dinner. On those nights when you're flying solo or everyone else is fending for themselves, you can simply pop your meal in the toaster oven and sit back and relax.

To prepare, Prep a boneless chicken breast any way you like. Place it on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup. Next, add in an array of veggies that suit your mood. Tomatoes, onions, broccoli, carrots, green beans, asparagus, or whatever is in the kitchen will do. Bake it all together at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until the chicken breast and veggies are done. Dinner is served!

Grilled cheese

Grilled cheese doesn't take much to make. A couple slices of bread, some cheese, a dab of butter, and you have the makings for a mouthwatering grilled cheese. The tricky part about it is getting the cheese to melt without burning the bread. Turn the pan on too high and you'll get charred bread with hard cheese. Too low and the cheese will take forever to melt. In this case, ditch the stove top and opt for the toaster oven. By cooking grilled cheese in the toaster oven, you can control the rate at which the cheese burns without worrying about burning the bread.

To make the perfect toaster oven grilled cheese, butter one side of two slices of bread. On the unbuttered side, place a couple slices of cheese. Then, bake the sandwich open-faced with the butter side down on a sheet lined in foil. As the cheese begins to melt, check the bread. If the bread needs more love, close the sandwich and bake until it's golden brown.

Pizza

Did you know you can make pizza in the toaster oven? No, I don't mean reheating leftover slices or baking a frozen pizza, I mean making your own homemade version. If you're not a master of flipping dough like they do at the pizza parlor, don't worry. There is always store-bought, along with plenty of dough substitutions that work stellar in the toaster oven.

First, choose your base. Pre-made crust, flatbread, pita bread, english muffins, bagels, or tortillas all work nicely. Then, choose your sauce. Marinara, olive oil and garlic, pesto, black bean spread, or hummus are a few options. Now, for the toppings. Depending upon your base, you can add on several complimenting proteins, veggies, and herbs. Bake in the oven until the crust begins to brown and the cheese is melted. Wait for it to cool just enough so you don't burn the roof of your mouth and dig in.

Bacon

Want an easier way to cook bacon in the morning without the weird consistency you get from nuking it in the microwave? Use the toaster oven instead. The toaster oven will get your morning bacon nice and crisp while you're busy running around getting ready for the day. Considering most of us don't have time to stand over a skillet in the morning (and sometimes wind up skipping breakfast altogether), toaster oven bacon is a win win.

Set the toaster oven to 400 degrees. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, lay out strips of bacon without overlapping. Plop it in the toaster oven for about 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp. Be sure to set a timer because you don't want to burn the bacon due to multitasking. Once the bacon is done, you can toss the parchment paper away for an easy cleanup that leaves the pan grease-free. Be forewarned, once you try toaster oven bacon, you may never feel the need to bust out a skillet again.

S'mores

Who said you need an open flame to make s'mores? For all those times you can't have a campfire, there's the toaster oven. Toaster oven s'mores are a fast way to satisfy your cravings and there's no hassle involved.

As easy as 1-2-3, line a baking tray with a layer of spaced out graham crackers. Top each one with a square of chocolate and a marshmallow. While you may be tempted to top that off with another graham cracker, resist the urge. If you do the cracker will burn and the marshmallows won't cook properly. Now that you've resisted the urge, place the tray in the toaster oven and bake until the marshmallows start to bubble and brown. This will be about five minutes give or take. Now you can put that final graham cracker layer on top and take a bite out of that delicious s'more as waves of nostalgia come rushing in.