The Best Ways to Use Frozen Puff Pastry, Phyllo, and Pie Doughs

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Brie Passano)

You know puff pastry, phyllo, and pie dough as the backbone of many a sweet dessert, but these versatile doughs are good for so much more. In fact, one of my favorite ways to use them is for savory snacks and appetizers, from puff pastry cheese sticks to fresh corn galettes. Frozen dough is my secret to no-fuss, last-minute get-togethers with friends and family.

But these doughs, while similar, are not created equal. You might think of puff pastry, phyllo, and pie dough as interchangeable, but each has distinct qualities that set it apart. Here’s what you should know, including the best ways to use whatever dough you’ve got stashed in your freezer.

Do You Know Your Dough?

Are you after delicate, buttery layers? Or maybe you want buttery, but more substantial layers? Then again, it may be that crisp and flaky is what you’re after. Whatever the case may be, there is a frozen dough for you.

Puff Pastry

What it is: Puff pastry, or pâte feuilletée in French, is made with just butter, flour, and water. In its frozen form, it looks very similar to pie dough. But what sets this dough apart is that it puffs up as it bakes. That’s because the puff pastry dough is made of alternating layers of dough and butter (where pie dough has butter incorporated throughout the dough).

How to use it: Reach for puff pastry when you want flaky, airy layers. We love it for turnovers, baked Brie, cheese straws, palmiers, and savory tarts.

Appetizer Recipes with Puff Pastry

Phyllo Dough

What it is: Sometimes referred to as filo, phyllo means “leaf” in Greek. Like puff pastry, it is made up of tissue-thin sheets of dough, but unlike its buttery counterpart, phyllo contains very little fat. This means that as it bakes, the layers get super crisp and flaky.

How to use it: Reach for a box of phyllo dough, found in the freezer section and sold in flat squares or rolls, when you’re after those crisp, flaky layers of dough. It works best as the base or shell for tarts or for traditional Greek dishes like baklava or spanakopita.

Appetizer Recipes with Phyllo Dough

Pie Dough

What it is: Pie dough is very similar in composition to puff pastry dough and it even looks alike in frozen form. But, unlike puff pastry or phyllo dough, pie dough doesn’t have layers. That doesn’t mean it’s not great! It is! It’s buttery, tender, and ever-so-slightly flaky — it just doesn’t puff up like puff pastry or have many ultra-thin, flaky layers like phyllo dough.

How to use it: If you’re making a rustic galette, hand pies, or a pretty scallop-edged tart, then pie dough is the right choice for you.

Appetizer Recipes with Pie Dough