No matter what time of year it is, I’m always baking something. Whether it’s birthday cake for a party or chocolate chip cookies for a girls’ night in, I’m constantly looking for new recipes, especially cheap and easy ones.
Besides foregoing the endless ingredient list, a lot of my friends and family are gluten-free, lactose intolerant, paleo — you name it. By baking with a simpler recipe, I’m not only reducing my grocery list and minimizing my time in the kitchen, but I’m also making it easier to bake for those with allergies or restrictive diets.
Here are my 10 favorite quick dessert recipes with three ingredients or less and how much they cost. I collected prices from Walmart, Target and my local grocery stores, so you may notice some pricing variations when you shop in your local stores.
10 Easy Dessert Recipes to Please Your Palate and Budget
I dug up these 10 quick and easy dessert recipes that require just three ingredients or fewer.
1. Pumpkin Bread
- 1 can pumpkin ($2.11)
- 1 box spice cake mix ($1.44)
This recipe from North Carolina Charm only requires two ingredients, and it’s unbelievably easy. The only difficulty I’ve had is finding spice cake mix at my local grocery store year-round.
If you can’t get your hands on the real deal, here’s a recipe to turn a yellow cake mix into a spice cake mix. You can also be creative with this recipe by mixing in other ingredients, like chocolate chips, nuts or dried fruit.
If you keep the loaf plain, your total will be $3.55, and you’ll only spend a few minutes in the kitchen.
2. Peanut Butter Cookies
- 1 cup peanut butter ($1.25)
- 1 cup sugar (27 cents)
- 1 egg (7 cents)
Platter Talk’s peanut butter cookies are absolutely delicious and so easy to make. They’re also protein-packed and gluten-free! One batch will come out to $1.59, and your guests will likely think you spent a lot more time in the kitchen than you actually did.
3. Chocolate Mousse
- 1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder (12 cents)
- 3 teaspoons powdered sugar (3 cents)
- ½ cup heavy cream (90 cents)
This chocolate mousse by Circle B Kitchen is another great recipe whether you’re having a huge gathering or a party of one. One batch is only one serving, so you may need to double or triple the recipe if you plan to share guests.
The beauty of this two-minute recipe is that you can throw all the ingredients in a mason jar and shake it up without dirtying another spoon or container. For a deeper flavor, add a pinch of sea salt. Add a dollop of whipped cream to the top or eat it plain at $1.05 a serving.
4. Cake Mix Cookies
- 1 box cake mix ($1)
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil (13 cents)
- 2 eggs (13 cents)
These cake mix cookies from Somewhat Simple may be one of my favorite recipes of all time. You can use any type of cake mix and add-ins you want, whether it’s yellow cake with sprinkles or chocolate cake with chocolate chips. They’re always delicious. The best part is a batch of about 24 cookies only costs $1.26.
5. Flourless Chocolate Cake
- 8 eggs (52 cents)
- 1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate ($8.00)
- 1 cup butter ($2.60)
Gimme Some Oven’s flourless chocolate cake is another great recipe for anyone who’s gluten-free or just loves chocolate (i.e., everyone). This $11.12 fudgy chocolate cake is delicious and great for decorating with a chocolate glaze or fresh berries. And the best part of this simple recipe? You can tell your guests you made it from scratch.
6. Coconut Macaroons
- 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk (99 cents)
- 14 ounces flaked coconut ($1.94)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract ($2.22)
These coconut macaroons by Just a Taste are simple and so delicious. They look cute with a fun chocolate drizzle on top or plain next to a cup of tea. While it may be one of the more expensive recipes — About 40 macaroons cost $5.15 — this is definitely a dessert that will impress.
7. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1 cup oats (73 cents)
- ¼ cup chocolate chips (31 cents)
- 2 mashed bananas (94 cents)
Skinny Taste’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are a classic. Did you know those overripe bananas on your shelf are actually a great substitute for eggs? This recipe is also perfect for anyone who’s lactose intolerant or on a low-carb diet. And if you’re looking to cut down on your caloric intake, just use a handful of raisins in place of the chocolate chips. At $1.98, you can’t beat a batch of these cookies.
8. Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup butter ($2.60)
- ½ cup powdered sugar (25 cents)
- 2 cups flour (47 cents)
These shortbread cookie recipe from Laughing Spatula is another classic you won’t want to miss. Although it may be a little more time-consuming than other items on our list, it’s a great activity for kids, especially if you invest in some fun cookie cutters or other cookie decorations. A batch of these cookies is about $3.32 and well worth the time.
9. Gingerbread brownies
- Gingerbread cake mix ($2.48)
- ½ cup melted butter ($1.30)
- ⅓ cup evaporated milk (20 cents)
This gingerbread brownie recipe by Oh Bite It is a little more seasonal than the rest, which means you may have trouble finding gingerbread cake mix at your local stores until wintertime, but it’s definitely a recipe worth saving for the holidays. At $3.98, this fun twist on traditional gingerbread shows a little bit of creativity in the kitchen without straining your budget.
10. Fruit Tart
- 12-by-2-inch sheet puff pastry ($2.65)
- 16 ounces strawberries, sliced ($2.99)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (2 cents)
This simple fruit tart recipe from The Comfort of Cooking is a great summer treat. My strawberry tart was $5.66, but you can also change the recipe to include stone fruit, other berries or whatever’s left in your kitchen.
Let’s face it, baking can be expensive, time-consuming and messy. It’s easy to end up putting in a lot of effort, spending a lot of money and destroying your kitchen for a baked good you may not even like in the end. That’s why I’m a huge fan of anything that uses three ingredients or less. I know it sounds impossible but, trust me, those cheap and easy dessert recipes are out there!
Grace Cooper is a freelance writer and college student from Washington D.C. She’s written for several publications, including Verily, Pittsburgh Magazine, and Aleteia For Her.