48 Homemade Food Gifts for the Holidays

Our favorite holiday gifts are thoughtful, homemade, and most importantly, edible!

A jar of homemade chili crisp
Vicky Wasik

When it comes to holiday gifts, there's not much money can't buy...provided you have it in the first place. But if you're on a tight budget this season, a trip to the grocery store and a few hours in the kitchen can yield an impressive pile of presents for cheap. Homemade edible gifts aren't just easy on the wallet; they're heartwarming labors of love (or, at least, that's what your friends and family will think). If you have the right recipes in hand, they'll also be far more unique and delicious than their store-bought counterparts. And if you're the least bit crafty, a spool of ribbon and a session of hand-decorating labels can transform even the most ho-hum of condiments, like mayo or barbecue sauce, into charming packages.

Read on for our favorite easy-to-make, easy-to-gift crowd-pleasers—both savory and sweet—from briny, punchy olive tapenade to homemade mixes for pancakes and brownies. For a more substantial presentation, just whip up a handful of these recipes in big batches, portion them out into Ball jars and/or cellophane bags, toss them in a tissue-paper-lined wicker basket, and let the gifting commence.

Savory Homemade Gifts

  • XO Sauce


    Homemade XO Sauce, the Cook's Condiment

    What doesn't taste better with XO sauce? It's a question we've been asking ourselves as we slather it on everything from pasta and ramen to clams to Mexican street corn. The sauce, which originally hails from Hong Kong, is packed with a long list of umami-rich ingredients, like dried seafood, aged ham, and oyster and soy sauces. Balanced with sugar, ginger, and other spices, it makes a condiment that can provide instant complexity and a savory boost to your favorite meals.

  • Chaat-Spiced Chex Mix

    Vicky Wasik

    There's something for everyone in a classic batch of Chex Mix. But tossing it with some chaat masala is a great way to transform the crowd-pleasing snack into an extra-special gift. The South Asian spice blend is traditionally used to season chaat, a popular street food (and an excellent, if somewhat more involved and less shelf-stable, DIY gift unto itself). You may have to hunt around a bit to find all the ingredients, but the salty, tart, spicy combo is worth the effort—you could even give out batches of the spice blend alone.

  • Tomato Raisins (Oven-Dried Whole Cherry Tomatoes)

    Vicky Wasik

    These homemade tomato raisins are dramatically better than any store-bought alternatives. They're juicy, plump, go with just about everything, and are undeniably special. A light glaze of salt, sugar, and olive oil seasons the tomatoes as they roast. While a jar of raisins might not be the flashiest gift ever, but we guarantee whoever gets them will be impressed once they get a taste.

  • Oven-Dried Grapes (a.k.a. Raisins)

    Vicky Wasik

    Okay, admittedly, "homemade raisins" may not sound like the most exciting of presents, but these plump, juicy specimens just might surprise you. Drying grapes in a very low oven preserves their fresh flavor and gives them a more tender texture—they'll be dry enough to store for several weeks, but far less hard and shriveled than their store-bought counterparts. Plus, this method allows you to mix and match grape varieties for a more exciting range of color and flavor.

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  • Marinated Goat Cheese

    Emily and Matt Clifton

    If you're especially short on time, or lack confidence in the kitchen, this is the project for you. Buy fresh goat cheese, slice it into portion sizes (or roll it into balls), and marinate it in jars with olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, bay leaves, and thyme. In a matter of hours, that unassuming store-bought log will be infused with herbal, citrusy flavor—a major upgrade, with virtually no effort required. The cheese should be consumed within a week's time, so encourage your recipient to dig in sooner rather than later.

  • Homemade Pickles

    Vicky Wasik

    Like marinated goat cheese, pickles are a low-effort, high-reward undertaking. But it's worth noting that one of the biggest factors here is time—you'll want to give yourself at least three weeks to let these babies ferment. Our Milwaukee-style cucumber pickles are simmered with vinegar, sugar, and spices before they're packed up with garlic, onion, and dill to brine for several weeks. For a more sour pickle, try out some lacto-fermented dill pickles instead. A saltwater brine creates the ideal environment for lactobacillus bacteria. You can make half-sours in just three weeks' time, or commit to a longer fermentation period (about six weeks) if you'd prefer full-sours.

    If your giftee isn't a fan of cukes, or if you're looking for a new project, homemade sauerkraut is a remarkably fun undertaking, and perfect for the sausage- or hot dog-lover in your life.

  • Salmon Rillettes

    With their fancy French name and their fancy French flavor, salmon rillettes will make your recipient feel fancy—and think you're fancy, too. In fact, the only thing that isn't fancy about rillettes is that they're incredibly easy to make (not that anyone else needs to know that). The spreadable hors d'oeuvre is made from gently poached and shredded salmon, combined with fresh herbs, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Not a fan of salmon? A pork-based rendition offers up a slightly richer rillette. Both versions can be stored and gifted in small Ball jars, and make a perfect addition to a cheese and meat platter, accompanied by cornichons and toast or crackers.

  • Homemade Carr's-Style Crackers

    Vicky Wasik

    These whole wheat crackers are incredibly versatile—thin enough to go with dainty hors d'oeuvres, but hearty enough to snack on by themselves, and equally well suited to both sweet and savory accompaniments. They'd make a wonderful gift on their own—perhaps packaged in some cellophane—but they're also a great way to round out any of the homemade spreads and dips on this list, like rillettes, olive tapenade, or even cookie butter.

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  • Spiced and Candied Nuts

    Vicky Wasik

    Seasoning nuts is a time-honored way of dressing up profoundly simple ingredients with fairly minimal effort. If you've made our lemon syrup and have some to spare, try using it in a batch of crispy citrus-candied pistachios. For something a bit less labor-intensive, though, we have a few easy combos to spice up the holiday season. Ground ginger and cayenne pepper add a savory kick to our Mexican spiced chocolate pecans, bound in a light, crispy egg white coating. That same treatment gives our smoky candied almonds their delicate shell, spiced with smoked paprika, cayenne, and punchy Old Bay. If you'd rather avoid the sweetness of candied nuts, our savory, briny, and herbal olive-rosemary spiced cashews should hit the spot.

  • Olive Tapenade

    Vicky Wasik

    Tapenade, as most of us know it, is an olive-heavy purée, typically spiked with garlic, anchovies, and fresh herbs. But traditional tapenade, created by a chef in Marseille back in 1880, takes its name from tapeno, the Provençal word for capers, and it's flavored accordingly. With equal parts olives, capers, and fish (in our case, anchovies and tuna), it's briny and intense, and it gets even more flavor from fresh herbs, Dijon mustard, and a splash of cognac. It's not for everyone—which is why we have a recipe for the more commonplace variety as well—but it's the kind of gift that's guaranteed to please and surprise more adventurous palates.

  • Better-Than-Store-Bought Mayo

    Two-minute mayonnaise in a serving bowl with a spoon, with an open face tomato sandwich on the right edge of the frame

    Diana Chistruga

    Sure, most people already have a jar of mayo sitting in their fridge, but true mayonnaise connoisseurs will appreciate the substantial flavor improvements you can get from homemade. The traditional method, which calls for hand-whisking a slow drizzle of oil into a mixture of egg and mustard, takes some serious elbow grease and has a tendency to go awry. But if you have a hand blender, the process couldn't be easier—simply combine your ingredients in a jar and blend. Two minutes later, you'll have a rich, creamy, complex bowl of mayo. If that doesn't sound quite exciting enough to gift, stir in some sriracha, garlic, or 'nduja for added punch.

  • Homemade Garam Masala

    J. Kenji López-Alt

    The key to a truly nuanced, full-flavored spice blend is toasting fresh whole spices before grinding them—a step that most likely won't have gone into your average store-bought blend. With an aromatic mix of green cardamom pods, coriander seed, cumin, black peppercorns, cloves, fennel, cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg, garam masala is a bold, bright mix that can be used for a wide variety of curries, braises, and other Indian preparations.

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  • Homemade Spicy Chili Crisp

    Vicky Wasik

    Chili crisp is good on just about everything. We've been known to dollop it on eggs, spread it over meat, and slather it all over pepperoni pizza. Sichuan peppercorns give the sauce their iconic numbing effect, while pieces of fried shallot and garlic chips, along with peanuts, bump up both the taste and texture. Your friends will be asking for another jar long before the next holiday comes around.

  • Great Barbecue Sauce

    Daniel Gritzer

    Some traditional varieties of barbecue sauce can be pretty time-consuming to prepare, but these three variations take just minutes to complete. All start with a base of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, but they quickly diverge from there. Our coffee-ginger barbecue sauce is smoky and rich thanks to a touch of paprika, a little dark chocolate, and a drizzle of molasses; it's great for pairing with pork shoulder or brisket. For something more acidic and hot, give our buffalo barbecue sauce a shot—with Frank's RedHot and butter, it's the perfect vinegary topping for wings, smoked chicken, or pulled pork. Funk-lovers will revel in this Korean kimchi barbecue sauce, packed with the intense, tangy heat of kimchi and gochujang (Korean chile paste). We love it on grilled chicken, pork, and shellfish.

  • DIY Cheez-Its

    Vicky Wasik

    Fans of Cheez-Its will get a kick out of these homemade crackers, which deliver the same buttery, cheesy, utterly absorbing crunch of the snack time classic, but made better with higher-quality ingredients and some TLC. To replicate the Cheez-It look, you can slice them with a fluted pastry wheel and use a skewer to add the signature center dimple. Alternatively, just grab a cookie cutter and go to town, stamping them out in any shape you'd like.

  • Superior Sauces

    Vicky Wasik

    Whether it's an easy Italian-American red sauce or the best slow-cooked bolognese, a homemade pasta sauce is virtually guaranteed to taste better than whatever you'll find in a supermarket jar. No matter which recipe you choose, though, take the time to properly can it, or be sure to tell the recipient to use the sauce within a week or so. We doubt they'll have much trouble following through.

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  • Traditional Toum (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

    Vicky Wasik

    Toum is a little bit like mayonnaise, but we find ourselves using it way more often. It works equally well as a sauce, a condiment, and a dip. Raw garlic not only gives toum its kick; it also helps emulsify the mixture and keeps it stable for up to a month in the fridge. Even your friends and family who don’t like mayonnaise will get hooked on this bold, all-purpose garlic sauce.

  • Yeolmu Kimchi (Quick-Fermented Young Radish Greens)

    Liz Clayman

    Giving a jar of this beautiful young radish kimchi will impress even your most hard-to-shop-for friends. The addition of a potato porridge speeds up fermentation while also counterbalancing the grassy flavors in the greens. Unlike some kimchis that take much longer to ferment and become pungent, this one is ready to eat in as little as one day, though it develops maximum flavor after the first week. It’s perfect on rice, or eaten just as it is.

  • Fresh (or Dried) Chile Harissa

    Vicky Wasik

    This punchy North African chile paste can be made with either fresh or dried chiles. In one version, an assortment of fresh chiles are charred and blended together for smoke and spice. The peppers are then seasoned with the traditional additions of caraway and coriander, but they can be jazzed up with anything from diced preserved lemon to pungent raw shallots. The dried chile version, which takes even less time to make, is just as flavorful, and they both can be used in any number of ways.

  • Dukkah (Middle Eastern Nut and Spice Blend)

    Vicky Wasik

    Think of dukkah, the versatile Middle Eastern spice blend of seeds, nuts, and spices, as a savory fairy dust: It's great sprinkled over pretty much anything, from soups and roasted and grilled vegetables to fish and meat dishes. Your giftee can even mix some with olive oil and use it as a dip for a crusty baguette. This rendition features warming spices like cumin and coriander, toasty sesame seeds, and roasted peanuts, all blended together with kosher salt to your desired consistency. Packed up in an airtight container, it's good for up to two weeks.

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  • Romesco Sauce


    How to Make Romesco Sauce

    Roasted tomatoes, dried peppers, almonds, and garlic unite in this bright, nutty Spanish sauce. Slather it on sandwiches, roasted or grilled meats and seafood, or serve it with crudité. Your recipient will need to eat it within five days, but that's hardly been a challenge in our experience.

  • Pickled Mustard Seeds

    J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

    Whole mustard seeds are cheap...but not exactly snack-worthy. By simply cooking them down in vinegar with a bit of whiskey and salt, we plump them up and rein in their sharp bite in one fell swoop. The result is a sweet-hot garnish that's welcome on roasted marrow bones, roasted meats, or deviled eggs. Make a big batch and spread the mustardy cheer—these pickled seeds will last months in the refrigerator.

  • Garlic Confit

    Vicky Wasik

    Whether you buy garlic expressly for this project or you're looking to put spare cloves to good use, this simple recipe yields buttery-soft, sweet garlic that's ideal for spreading on bread, blending into soups, stirring into sauces, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

    For safety reasons, garlic confit should be made according to our specifications, stored in the refrigerator, and consumed within two weeks.

  • Sourdough Rye Crackers With Coriander and Fennel

    Tim Chin

    If you’ve been baking up a sourdough storm recently, chances are you’ve found yourself with excess sourdough starter. And if you’ve got bread fatigue, you can use the starter in these elegant sourdough rye crackers instead. The dough uses rye flour for a nutty, earthy flavor, as well as sparkling white wine for a sweet and fruity kick. Cracked coriander and fennel seeds, along with flaky salt, add the final touch of flavor to the crackers before they’re baked. The resulting crackers are thin, crisp, and perfect for your giftee's next cheeseboard.

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  • Everything-Bagel Rugelach With Onion Jam

    Emily Dryden

    For a savory take on rugelach that'll impress any gift recipient, try these everything-bagel rugelach. Cooking the jam low and slow helps bring out a slightly sweet flavor, while the dough incorporates cream cheese for a touch of tang and easier rolling. Before baking, the rugelach are topped with an egg wash to ensure a shiny finish, as well as everything-bagel seasoning—a delightful mixture consisting of poppy, caraway, and sesame seeds; dehydrated onion and garlic; and salt. You’re left with a treat so tangy, sticky, and rich, that you might have to keep some for yourself.

  • Sourdough Anchovy Croutons


    That sourdough loaf on your counter that’s threatening to go stale can easily be turned into these crispy croutons. In addition to the bread, the recipe only calls for olive oil and anchovies—ingredients you likely have on hand already. Start by breaking down the anchovies to infuse the olive oil with a deep umami flavor. Then, simply coat the bread pieces with the oil and toast them until golden brown. It’s an easy and cost-effective way to use up old bread and introduce your friends and family to their new favorite snack.

  • Alguashte (Salvadoran Pumpkin Seed Seasoning)

    Karla Vasquez

    With just two ingredients, you can make this versatile Salvadoran condiment and bottle it up for an easy but special gift. All you need to do is toast hull-on pumpkin seeds, grind in a blender or spice grinder, sift through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any larger pieces, then mix with salt. The powder adds an earthy, nutty flavor to everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to savory dishes.

    Sweet Homemade Gifts

  • Homemade Brownie Mix

    Vicky Wasik

    Gifting a box of store-bought brownie mix would be unimpressive at best, but making your own is another story entirely. As long as your friends have a big jar of this on hand, they'll be able to make rich, fudgy brownies whenever they please. The mixture combines a blend of dark chocolate and Dutch cocoa, and a tiny pinch of espresso powder to keep the sweetness in check. In theory, it will be good for up to a year, but you can be sure it won't last that long.

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  • Vegan Brownies

    Vicky Wasik

    Everything we love about our classic brownie mix, only vegan! Here, cocoa butter and malt extract stand in for malted milk powder, while soy milk powder keeps the batter emulsified for a perfect texture.

  • Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

    a scoop of homemade hot cocoa mix

    This isn't your ordinary hot cocoa mix. It packs not one but three sources of chocolate: bittersweet dark chocolate, earthy Dutch cocoa powder, and creamy milk chocolate. Instant espresso, toasted sugar, and malted milk powder add complexity to the blend. Transfer it to a glass jar, throw on a label for preparing the hot chocolate, and make any chocolate lover's dreams come true.

  • Homemade Pancake Mix

    thin pancakes, drenched in syrup

    This simple pancake mix requires little more than pantry staples, comes together quickly in the food processor, and remains shelf-stable for up to a year. Toasted sugar and malted milk powder add depth of flavor, but the real key ingredient is flavorless: Coconut oil coats the flour and helps control gluten formation for a light, airy texture. To further tailor your gift, we have two slightly different formulas, so you can choose between making a mix for thick and fluffy pancakes or light and thin pancakes. Just don't forget to include instructions—your recipient only has to add a splash of milk, an egg, and a touch of vanilla extract for a pancake batter that beats Bisquick any day.

  • Pancake Syrup


    Sure, a fancy bottle of real-deal maple syrup makes a nice gift. But anyone with a whisper of nostalgia for Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Buttersworth will be delighted by this buttery-sweet homemade take on supermarket pancake syrup. Our recipe leans on white and brown sugar for a balanced sweetness, while cream of tartar gives it a wonderfully smooth, luxurious texture—with no corn syrup in sight.

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  • Crispy Granola


    Homemade granola is an ideal food gift—easy on the eyes, designed to be made in giant batches, and shelf-stable for up to six weeks. But all too often, granola recipes create jagged, overly sweetened oats that taste like a sad and stale crumbled cookie. For a lighter, crisper blend, we soak the grain base—a flavorful mixture of oats and flax, nutty-sweet wheat germ, and faintly floral and crunchy chia seeds—in buttermilk and melted butter. Toasting it low and slow builds caramel notes, while pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans, dried apricots, dried cherries, and dried blueberries add textural interest to the mixture. For a fun twist, try our banana granola instead, which makes use of black bananas and captures the spirit of great banana bread.

  • Cookie Butter


    This stuff is bananas: a spread with the texture of peanut butter, but the flavor of a nutty-sweet speculoos cookie. For those of you who have a thing for Biscoff (or our DIY version of the Belgian classic), this one's a no-brainer. For that matter, it should be a no-brainer no matter who you are. Pack it up in jars, and keep it handy to spread on white bread, French toast, fresh fruit, or—gasp—MORE COOKIE.

  • Toasted Sugar


    It doesn't get much more budget-friendly than a recipe that calls for literally nothing beyond granulated sugar and a stint in the oven. Load up a baking dish with a few pounds of sugar, and let it toast at a low 300°F (150°C) for anywhere from two to five hours, stirring occasionally. The result is a richly caramel-flavored sugar with a subdued, more subtle sweetness. Your recipient can use it as a one-to-one substitute for plain sugar—it's key to our Perfect Swiss Meringue, but it'll play just as well in coffee or in their favorite batch of cookies.

  • Fruit Syrups

    Fresh lemon syrup in glass jar on counter.

    Most fruits have a pit, skin, or rind we wind up tossing. But if you're smart about what you hold on to, you might be surprised by just how valuable some of those discards are. Case in point: Stop chucking your lemon rinds and start saving them up for a big batch of brightly tart-sweet syrup. Tossing the used rinds with about half their weight in sugar yields a deeply flavorful, colorful extract—no juice, added flavorings, or dyes required. The resulting syrup bottles beautifully and lasts in the fridge for up to three months. It can be used as a mixer in any cocktail where a hint of citrus would be welcome, or added to a batch of whipped cream.

    Don't have any leftover rinds or pits? The same principle, applied to freshly cut whole lemons, will yield an electrifying batch of lemonade (and it works wonders with limes as well).

    If you're not a citrus person, plenty of options remains. The whole concept (with a few minor tweaks here and there) works just as well for pineapple corescherry pits, and mango pits and skins.

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  • Easy Caramel Sauce

    Vicky Wasik

    It takes just 20 minutes and a remarkably short ingredient list to pull together a batch of this silky homemade caramel. A quick simmer of water, sugar, and salt will get you most of the way there, but a cup of cream, a dash of vanilla extract, and an empty vanilla pod give it a smooth texture and complex flavor. Stop when it reaches a pale, honey-colored hue for a simpler, more straightforward sweetness, or keep simmering until it's a toastier amber shade to coax out a pleasantly bitter edge. You'll want to jar the caramel promptly, as it will thicken and stiffen as it cools. Though your recipient should use it within a month, chances are it'll go a lot faster than that.

  • Cajeta Casera (Homemade Goat's Milk "Caramel")


    For something a little more nuanced and, well, gooier than your standard caramel, we turn to this twist on dulce de leche. In place of boiled cow's milk, cajeta casera embraces the tangy-rich, faintly funky flavor of goat's milk. One benefit is that the unique cooking properties of goat's milk allow for a relatively quick stint on the stovetop. The result is a deeply concentrated, intensely flavored topping perfectly suited to drizzling over ice cream, spreading over cakes, adding to cookies, or eating straight from the jar.

  • Chocolate Truffles

    20161208-chocolate-truffles-vicky-wasik (2).jpg

    If you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty, chocolate truffles are a surprisingly low-effort undertaking, with serious visual (and gustatory) appeal. The process is simple: Whip piping-hot heavy cream into a bowl of finely chopped dark chocolate, then whisk in some butter and, if you like, a splash of your favorite booze. When the mixture has firmed up in the fridge, just roll it into bite-size balls and coat them in powdered cocoa, ground nuts, or tempered chocolate. Our recipe makes a sizable batch, enough for at least a few small gift sets.

  • Cookies Galore

    Vicky Wasik

    Cookies are the OG of DIY gifts, and we have more than enough options for all your needs. Start with Stella's tips on how to craft a holiday cookie assortment and then get browsing. From chewy chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons to the best chocolate chip cookies that science (and an insane level of obsessive passion) can produce, you'll find dozens of recipes on our holiday cookie page to get you started.

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  • DIY Milk Duds

    Close-up cross section of milk dud.

    This recipe gets a tad messy, but the chewy, chocolaty, caramel-laden results are well worth it. Each caramel is hand-dipped in chocolate, for delicately thin shells with far greater complexity than those of the yellow-boxed originals.

  • Sweetened Condensed Milk

    A stream of homemade sweetened condensed milk filling a clear glass jar

    Homemade sweetened condensed milk traditionally requires ultra-low heat and up to six hours of constant stirring, a project that might take up too much of your precious holiday gift-shopping time. But with a splash of heavy cream to prevent scorching, you can crank up the heat and be done in 45 minutes flat. The result is thicker, creamier, and more luscious than anything from a can, with a rich dairy flavor and subtle notes of toffee.

  • The Best Applesauce

    Vicky Wasik

    Warm aromatics and a bit of apple cider vinegar set this applesauce apart from the ones that crowd grocery store shelves. Cinnamon, orange peel, and rose water impart a sweet, unmistakably floral flavor, while toasted sugar adds depth. You can be certain that what you end up jarring and giving to friends is no regular old applesauce.

  • Pistachio Paste


    The pistachio lover in your life will swoon over this vibrant green paste, which boasts an intensely nutty, mildly floral-sweet flavor. Yes, it takes a little elbow grease to blanch and peel the pistachios, but the paste's versatility makes the work more than worthwhile: Spread it on toast or between layers of cake, or use in our recipes for pistachio cream, moist and airy pistachio cake, or these decadent pull-apart pistachio breakfast buns.

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  • Apple Cinnamon Sugar


    Freeze-dried apples add tart, autumnal flavor to the classic combo of cinnamon and sugar. For a bit more oomph, you can swap out the white sugar for caramel-forward toasted sugar and add fragrant fennel pollen to the mix. There's no right or wrong way to use this powder, but we like it sprinkled over apple cider doughnuts, buttered toast, or a morning bowl of oatmeal.

  • Creamy Homemade Nutella


    If store-bought Nutella—with its high volume of sugar and palm oil and minimal amounts of actual chocolate and hazelnuts—is good, just imagine what happens when you make an entire batch of the stuff from high-quality ingredients, instead. Think top-notch melted dark chocolate, toasty hazelnut brittle, and roasty hazelnut oil, all blended together until velvety smooth and insanely rich.

  • Crispy Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

    crispy chocolate hazelnut spread

    If you like the sound of our homemade Nutella but want to give something a bit more unique, consider this crispy variation, which simply stops a step early to leaves tiny shards of the caramel-y hazelnut brittle intact.

  • Homemade Vanilla Extract

    A single jar of vanilla extract

    Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

    We tested and found that this homemade vanilla extract is better (and cheaper!) than store-bought—which makes it an excellent homemade gift to wow your recipient with. While most versions made at home take weeks to come together (and usually don't turn out well), this recipe leans on the power of an immersion circulator for results in just three hours, plus an overnight rest. Bottle it up and decorate it with a ribbon, then gift it to the baker in your life for use in all of their sweet treats.