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Make mini quiches for a fun, flexible family meal

(Rey Lopez for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post )

If you needed any further convincing that good things come in small packages, allow me to steer you to these Mini Quiches With Phyllo Crust.

They feature a tender, custardy egg filling surrounded by frilly edges of golden, crisp phyllo. When you pull them out of the oven, they smile back at you like a field of friendly flowers.

The recipe is the latest entry in my recurring series spotlighting dishes that are flexible and generous enough to feed a family. (Previous dishes: Sheet Pan Pancakes and Stuffed Sweet Pepper “Boats.”)

Quiche was already a popular dinner option in my house, so I started wondering whether there was a way to riff on it in a smaller package that would make it easy to customize to different tastes. I pulled out my muffin tin to make some mini quiches.

At first, I couldn’t resist the siren song of store-bought pie dough. Punch out rounds of pastry, press into a muffin tin, fill and bake. Sadly, the crust proved more resistant to pressing into the tin than I anticipated. Then, after several rounds of testing, I didn’t love the ratio of crust to egg — too much of the former, not enough of the latter. And even with par-baking the crusts, a step I started to resent, I couldn’t achieve the pretty golden shell I was after.

What about phyllo? This extremely thin pastry dough is another store-bought staple (find it in the freezer section) and, better yet, much easier to mold into muffin cups. You do need to stack and cut the sheets, of course, but following the lead of Ellie Krieger’s Fig Baklava Tartlets, I had six layers of phyllo assembled, sliced and pressed into the pan in no time. It was simpler and less stressful than the pie dough.

At that point, all I had to do was pour in the filling. For 12 mini quiches, I went with a half-dozen eggs, which, despite the higher prices these days, seemed like a reasonable investment that stretched the recipe to four to six servings. Before adding a cup of milk or other dairy (or nondairy alternative), I whisked the liquid with a small amount of cornstarch, a tip I picked up from a Cook’s Country full-size quiche recipe I’ve been playing around with for a while. The cornstarch helps the eggs set and stay tender as it buffers the proteins in the eggs from bonding too tightly and squeezing out moisture. That’s especially helpful in such a small format where overcooking is a real risk. Success! Even when the filling reached a higher temperature than you’d ordinarily want for eggs — you do want those crisp phyllo edges, after all — the eggs were not the least bit rubbery.

Once the custard is in the shells, then comes the fun part of letting everyone customize their quiches. Just about anything you can think of will work: cheese, salsa, meat, vegetables, herbs. Keep in mind the relatively brief cook time as a guide on how much to prep these ingredients. Diced ham works great, but bacon will be best if it’s already crisped. Finely chopped crisp vegetables can work okay raw, although they will release a bit more liquid. Firmer vegetables, such as winter squash, or more potent ones, such as onions, will benefit from precooking.

While these are elegant enough for a party hors d’oeuvre or nibble for a champagne brunch, I like the extra flair when there’s no special occasion other than sitting down to a family meal.

Get the recipe: Mini Quiches With Phyllo Crust