21 Junk Food Recipes We Love

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[Photographs: Caroline Ford, Robyn Lee, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Sarah Jane Sanders]

We're not pointing any fingers, but it's quite possible you may or may not be looking for some serious junk food today. But whether you're observing a special occasion or just in the mood for some guilty pleasure foods, making them at home opens up a whole new world of options. Fry up some tater tots or potato chips with unique toppings and flavors for crispy carbs at their best. Homemade nachos, popcorn and hot dogs drum up memories of the ballpark and state fair but taste way, way better. Or go sweet with a sundae, milkshake, or homemade candy bar to end your indulgent feast on a, erm, high note.

Savory

Perfect Thin and Crispy French Fries

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[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The ideal French fry for lovers of the fast food rendition: long and thin, all crisp and bubbled on the outside, fluffy and light within. The trick? It all boils down to reverse engineering the McDonald's fry. (We've got the whole story, replete with trickery and science right this way.)

Get the recipe for Perfect Thin and Crispy French Fries »

The Ultimate Poutine

[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

Wondering what else you can do with homemade french fries? Poutine is the answer. Top your fries with homemade, beefy gravy and soft, fresh cheese curds for a snack that hits salty, tangy, and crisp all at once. Making the gravy, cheese curds and fries yourself are worth the effort when the result is this good.

Get the recipe for The Ultimate Poutine »

Mozzarella-Stuffed Crispy Baked Onion Rings

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg]

If you've ever struggled to choose between mozzarella sticks and onion rings, you know how difficult ordering bar food can be. But what if there was an appetizer that combined them both, so you'd never have to face such a cruel and impossible decision again? Under the working theory that nothing can go wrong when I combine my favorite bar foods, I decided to put them together and make one ring to rule them all: Mozzarella-Stuffed Crispy Baked Onion Rings.

Get the recipe for Mozzarella-Stuffed Crispy Baked Onion Rings »

Chili Cheese Dog Grilled Cheese

The Chili Grilled Cheese Dog

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

If you're slapping your forehead and exclaiming "duh!," then we can relate. Adding chili and sliced, fried hot dogs to your melty grilled cheese is a no-brainer. Be sure to cook one side of the bread before topping with chili and cheese so that you don't end up with a soggy mess. Or give any of these 20 other variations a go!

Get the recipe for Chili Cheese Dog Grilled Cheese »

Spicy Cheese-Caramel Popcorn

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

Salty and sweet is the best of both worlds, right? Tabasco-tinged cheese sauce made from Kraft Macaroni & Cheese powder coats half of the fresh-popped corn, while a homemade caramel coats the other half. Be sure both batches have dried before combining, so that each can retain its individual flavors. Not into those particular flavors? we've got a whole array of ways to spice things up.

Get the recipe for Spicy Cheese-Caramel Popcorn »

Extra Crunchy Potato Chips

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[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

We think a classic potato chip should be pale yellow and salty, but with a hefty crunch. To achieve this trifecta, wash your potato slices first, and add a little vinegar to the water when boiling (just like with french fries). Dry them well and then fry in batches for the optimal salty snack. Want to throw some variety into the mix? Check out our favorite flavor variations.

Get the recipe for Extra Crunchy Potato Chips »

Crispy Deep Fried Jalapeño Poppers

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

It doesn't get much better in the category of junk food appetizers than piping hot jalapeño poppers. These bite-sized versions have a creamy, cheesy interior and crispy crust that can't be beat. A double-layer dredging with milk, flour, milk, and finally breadcrumbs creates a crust that won't slip off the poppers.

Get the recipe for Crispy Deep Fried Jalapeño Poppers »

Pepperoni Pizza Tots

Pepperoni Pizza Tots

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The great thing about making your own tater tots is customization. Lightly fry cubes of potatoes before pulsing in a food processor (do not over-work) and adding seasonings, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. Shape into traditional cylinders and fry again for tater tots that are the ultimate combination of two favorite junk foods: tots and pizza.

Get the recipe for Homemade Tater Tots »

The Ultimate Fully Loaded Nachos

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

What does it take to make an incredible plate of bar-style, fully loaded nachos? For starters, at least three kinds of cheese, two kinds of beans, and two different applications of creamy, tangy dairy. It may sound like overkill, but you'll be more than happy with the results. If you're planning ahead, all parts of the recipe can be made ahead of time except for the guacamole and assembly.

Get the recipe for The Ultimate Fully Loaded Nachos »

Totchos (Tater Tot Nachos)

Totchos (Tater Tot Nachos) with Cheese Sauce, Charred Tomato Salsa, Chorizo, and Pickled Jalapeños

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

There are some mashups so gut-wrenchingly glorious, so decadently delicious, so damn greasy, that they deserve to be tasted, tested, improved, written about, modified, expanded, contracted, broken down, reassembled, broken down again, and possibly reassembled (after lunch) until they've finally emerged in their ultimate form. Totchos—that'd be Tater Tots dressed like nachos with gooey cheese sauce, charred tomato salsa, crisp chorizo, and fresh vegetables—definitely are.

Just like you can make or break a sandwich depending on how you stack it, proper layering is essential in constructing the perfect tray of totchos. Layer your tots and ingredients so that every tot is evenly gooped, from the first to the last.

Get the recipe for Totchos »

Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs with Avocado, Tomato, Onion, Mayonnaise, and Potato Chips

Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs with Avocado, Tomato, Onion, Mayonnaise, and Potato Chips

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

These dogs have it all: a wrapping of crispy fried bacon, a fresh topping of salted tomato, avocado and onion, pickled jalapeños, mayo with a squeeze of lime, and a crunchy crumbling of potato chips. They're a combination of meaty, tangy and salty flavors with crispy and creamy textures all in one hand-held dish.

Get the recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs with Avocado, Tomato, Onion, Mayonnaise, and Potato Chips »

Stout-Battered Onion Rings

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[Photograph: Caroline Ford]

While you're doing some frying, why not make these beer-battered onion rings? The stout-based batter, along with a little spice and some tangy mustard, makes them much more flavorful than your average rings. They couldn't be easier to prepare—as long as you're up for hanging out with a pot of hot oil for an hour or so while you daydream about biting into a crisp, hot onion ring.

Get the recipe for Stout-Battered Onion Rings »

Ramen Crust Pizza

Ramen Crust Pizza

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Yes, you heard right. Pizza with a ramen crust. A layer of barely-cooked ramen noodles is fried in a cast iron skillet and then topped with cheese, tomato sauce, more cheese, and toppings of your choice. The whole thing goes in the oven and is done in 30 minutes start to finish. It's a pan-style pizza that is sure to satisfy your ramen and pizza cravings in one go.

Get the recipe for Ramen Crust Pizza »

Vegan Frito Pie

Vegan Frito Pie

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Even though this recipe is vegan, it still fits snuggly in the junk food category thanks to the base of corny Frito's. Topped of with hot chili, pickled onions, jalapeños and avocado, it's sure to satisfy your Frito pie cravings. Not a vegan? Add cheese or sour cream or, dare I say, both.

Get the recipe for Vegan Frito Pie »

Sweet

Chocolate Ice Cream Bon Bons

Chocolate Ice Cream Bon Bons

[Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

This two-ingredient chocolate dessert is perfect for a special treat with minimal effort. Bon bons are a great way to serve ice cream without having it immediately melt all over the place, and, even better, they can be made ahead. Be sure to use high quality ice cream, as cheaper, fluffier versions don't form a tight enough ball.

Get the recipe for Chocolate Ice Cream Bon Bons »

Homemade Butterfingers

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[Photograph: Sarah Jane Sanders]

In the mood for something crispety, crunchety, and peanut buttery? This homemade version is is flakier and definitely more peanut buttery than its namesake, and is topped off with your favorite chocolate. Accomplishing this kind of feat takes a fair amount of time, but the work itself isn't actually hard if you're patient. Remember while making to frequently return the candy to a warm oven to keep it pliable and easy to roll and fold.

Get the recipe for Homemade Butterfingers »

Spiked Thin Mint Milkshake

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

If you're lucky enough to have a box of Thin Mints tucked away in your freezer, why not make these adult milkshakes? Combine chocolate and mint chip ice cream with cocoa powder, peppermint schnapps, tequila, and cookies for a lightly boozy dessert with lots of chocolate flavor. Garnish with whipped cream and crumbled Thin Mints, and you have a milkshake worthy of using a sleeve of your precious cookies. Got a different brand of Girl Scout cookies lingering? Good thing we've got five other booze-spiked options up our sleeves.

Get the recipe for Spiked Thin Mint Milkshake »

Chocolate-Covered Caramel-Filled Shortbread Cookies (A.K.A. Homemade Twix)

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Twix are a favorite of many candy bar lovers, but there is room for improvement. This recipe replicates the familiar flavors of the chocolate-covered caramel-and-shortbread cookies, but with high quality dark chocolate, buttery homemade caramel, and crisp, flavor-packed shortbread cookies. The recipe takes some time, but your hard work will be worth it when you bite it to these candy-cookies.

Get the recipe for Chocolate-Covered Caramel-Filled Shortbread Cookies (A.K.A. Homemade Twix) »

Yeast-Raised Doughnuts

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[Photograph: Lauren Weisenthal]

Make fresh doughnuts, and you will be king or queen for a day. You will be loved by your adoring, doughnut-eating fans. Plus, as the cook, you will get the first warm, glazed bite because you obviously can't share them without sampling first. If you plan ahead and own a stand mixer, this recipe is less painful than it seems.

Get the recipe for Yeast-Raised Doughnuts »

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae

Reese's Peanut Butter Sundae

[Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

Chocolate and peanut butter lovers, this one's for you. With gooey hot fudge, warm peanut butter, and chopped peanut butter cups, this is a Reese's lover's dream. Making the homemade peanut butter sauce and hot fudge takes less than 30 minutes, so you can indulge at a moment's notice.

Get the recipe for Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae »

Novelty Ice Cream Hacks

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Not one, but FIVE novelty ice cream hacks that all take just a simple recipe for homemade chocolate magic shell and a batch of vanilla soft serve. We're talking your very own DIY King Cones, Klondike Bars, ice cream pops, and beyond.

Get the recipes for all five novelty ice cream hacks »