13 Ways To Revitalize Stale Muffins In Little Time

When made correctly, muffins are drool-inducing, tender baked goods that make the perfect breakfast treat. But, sometimes, life happens, and things in the kitchen don't go as planned. Inaccurate oven temperatures, missing ingredients, wrong measurements, stale leaveners, overbaking, overmixing — all can lead to disappointing results and a batch of dry, dense muffins that no one wants to eat.

Of course, there's also the possibility that you're a rock star baker whose muffins always turn out moist and fabulous. But after lingering too long on the counter exposed to air, your once-stellar muffins have begun to lose their wonderful, soft, fresh-baked texture. Or, maybe your recipe yielded far too many muffins for your household to consume fast enough, and they've begun turning hard and dry. Whatever the case, we have simple ways to bring those muffins back to life so they don't go to waste. Read on to learn how to revitalize stale muffins in a jiffy.

1. Warm in the oven

It may seem counterintuitive, but you can warm a stale muffin in a hot oven to curb dryness. First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, spritz the muffin with some water, place it in a paper bag, and close the bag shut with leeway, leaving room for the bag to expand. Then, place the bag with the muffin in the oven, close the oven door, and let the muffin warm for about 5 minutes. Finally, remove the muffin from the oven and carefully open the bag — a tender, revitalized muffin awaits you!

If you don't have a paper bag, use a baking dish with a lid, or cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil. The idea is to create an environment full of steam that will force moisture into the dried-out muffin. The moist steam reinvigorates the muffin, giving it a lovely sheen and a tender, soft interior.

Pro tip: You'll need to adjust the temperature if you have a convection oven. Preheat your convection oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and check the muffins after 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Use a steamer

Steaming is a great way to add moisture to past-their-prime muffins. And according to a TikTok user, you should also be steaming your muffins when you bake them since the hot air and steam allow more time for the centers to rise, resulting in tender and airy muffins. But like all baked goods, muffins baked with steam eventually go dry, too, if not enjoyed in the first couple of days.

If you have a stovetop steamer pot, your dried-out muffins are in luck. This nifty kitchen equipment is great for refreshing muffins and an alternate way to steam them if you don't have an oven or don't feel like waiting for your oven to preheat — or if you don't happen to have a paper bag lying around. 

Here's how: Place the steaming insert into a steamer pot on the stovetop. Fill the pot with water just below the bottom of the steaming insert, and bring the water to a boil. Place the muffins into the insert, cover, and steam until the muffins are warm and the centers are moist, 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover the insert and use tongs to remove the hot muffins onto a plate carefully.

3. Heat in the microwave

We love baking muffins because they're delicious, relatively quick to make, and something even the most novice baker can pull off handily. But whether we're making apple cinnamon muffins, easy banana muffins, or blueberry muffins, most recipes give us far too many muffins than we can eat. So despite our best efforts, some inevitably are forgotten and left behind on the counter, fading into sad, dry territory as the days pass. And as usual, by the time we remember to store some muffins in the freezer, it's too late.

Well, here's a quick and easy trick to bring your stale muffins back to life. Moisten a paper towel, wrap it around the muffin, and reheat it in the microwave until warm, about 15 to 20 seconds. Don't be tempted to microwave the muffin much longer than 20 seconds. You can easily overcook a muffin in the microwave, turning it hard and dry and possibly burning the muffin's interior.

4. Broil in a toaster oven

Toaster ovens are handy, mid-size appliances that take up very little space on a counter. They heat up faster than conventional ovens and won't turn your kitchen into a hot sauna. Toaster ovens are great for small-batch cooking, roasting, reheating, toasting — and broiling. And, as it turns out, broiling is a great way to revitalize stale muffins.

Start by slicing the muffin in half crosswise to separate the muffin's top from its bottom. Sprinkle the cut sides with water (or milk) to moisten the crumb, then place the muffin halves on your toaster's baking sheet or directly on the rack in the middle position. Set the toaster oven to broil, and cook until the muffin is toasted on the edges, about 1 to 3 minutes. Remember that the muffin will be very hot, so you should use tongs to remove the muffin from the toaster oven. For added indulgence, smear soft butter over the toasted muffin halves before eating.

Pro tip: Avoid a common mistake everyone makes with toaster ovens by not overcrowding your oven with too many muffins; this will ensure even cooking in your toaster oven.

5. Pan-fry on the stovetop

Muffins are the best. They're the perfect amount of sweet (and sometimes savory) packed into a portable treat and also come in many tasty flavors — from pumpkin streusel and cappuccino to chocolate chip and jalapeño corn. It's hard to imagine a way to improve these little baked delights. But we're sold on one specific genius hack. This buttery tip will seriously improve muffins, whether fresh or stale.

Warm a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Cut the muffin in half and spread the cut side of each half with butter. Place the halves, butter-side down, onto the hot skillet and allow to cook until the bottoms are golden brown and toasted — which, in our experience, doesn't take long. (Alternatively, you could melt butter directly in the pan and place the muffin halves, cut-side down, in the hot butter.) The result is a warm, crunchy, buttery muffin that's just as good — or better — than the original.

6. Cover with a glaze

Top a muffin with a sweet glaze, and it will undoubtedly improve in flavor and appearance. A glaze is a simple mixture of powdered sugar and a liquid, typically water or milk, used to spruce up and add moisture and flavor to baked treats. A glaze is an easy way to pep up a dry muffin and make it look prettier. The moistness and yummy sugary taste from the glaze will make you forget about any dry texture in the muffin.

It's easy to make a glaze that can be spooned or drizzled over the tops of muffins. One of our favorite sweet toppings for muffins is a lemon glaze. Simply whisk together 1 ½ cups of powdered sugar with about 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice until the mixture is smooth and thick yet pourable. If the consistency needs adjusting, add more powdered sugar or lemon juice as needed. Then, use a fork to drizzle the lemon glaze over the top, or dip the muffin's top directly into the glaze for a full coating. While a sugary glaze won't save you any calories, it will treat you to a delicious muffin-eating experience.

7. Top with icing

What's better than a muffin? A cupcake! Well, maybe not. But when you've got a batch of dry muffins sitting in front of you, an easy fix is to top them with a swirl of buttery, sweet icing, essentially turning them into pseudo-cupcakes.

A quick and easy icing to make — which also happens to be one of our favorites — is traditional American buttercream frosting. Made with just four ingredients, buttercream can easily be made in less than 15 minutes. First, beat together 1 cup of soft, unsalted butter with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Then, beat in 3 cups powdered sugar and ¼ cup milk, a little at a time, until incorporated. Finally, beat the icing on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You can use a piping bag to swirl the icing on the muffins or hand-frost the icing with a mini offset spatula.

A topping of icing adds fat, moisture, and flavor to dry muffins. So, give icing a shot to bring your muffins back to life. Whether you're reviving apple cinnamon, cranberry, or pumpkin muffins, we're sure a swirl of icing will do them good.

8. Soak them

News flash: Soaking dry muffins with a liquid will make them moist. This method is the no-brainer solution to hard, stale muffins — and it's so easy to do. You only need a toothpick (or fork) and a pastry brush (or spoon). First, prick the muffin tops all over with a toothpick. Next, pour your liquid of choice (e.g., milk or fruit juice) into a bowl, dip a pastry brush into it, and brush the tops of the muffins. The liquid will seep into the muffin's interior, soaking the crumb and softening the muffins, turning them as good as new.

If you have a few minutes to spare, opt for simple syrup as your liquid for the same reason professional bakers use it to keep cakes moist. Simple syrup adds moisture to baked goods while contributing a slight boost of sweetness. In addition, you can add flavorings — like extracts, spices, and liqueurs — to the simple syrup to add flair to your muffins.

It's quick and easy to make a batch of simple syrup. First, bring equal parts water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Your simple syrup is now ready to be brushed over pricked muffin tops. Improving your muffins with simple syrup takes no more than 5 minutes, and any leftover simple syrup can be used in cocktails — sweet!

9. Fill them

When a muffin's interior crumb gets dry, it's a problem. To solve this quandary, we recommend carving the center of the muffin out and replacing it with something delicious. First, use a sharp paring knife to carve a cone shape out of the top of the muffin. Next, remove the carved-out cone and fill the hole with 1 to 2 teaspoons of your favorite filling, being careful not to split the muffin by overstuffing the hole. Then, separate the muffin top disk from the carved-out cone, and place it over the hole to cover the filling. Problem solved.

When it comes to fillings for your muffins, choose a flavor that complements the type of muffin you have. Buttercreams, jams, jellies, whipped cream, nut butter, lemon curd, pudding — the list of possible fillings is endless. We get excited just thinking about a chocolate chip muffin filled with peanut butter, a carrot muffin filled with cream cheese frosting, or a lemon muffin with a raspberry jam center. A sweet surprise filling will make eating any muffin much more enjoyable.

10. Make a trifle

When baked goods turn out less than ideal, bakers often put them to use in a trifle, a multi-layered dessert typically consisting of cake, fruit, and custard. Trifles are great for using up mediocre (but still edible) treats that aren't particularly fresh — like dry muffins. When used in a trifle, dry muffins soak up the juices from the fruit and fat from the custard, gaining flavor and moisture.

A muffin trifle is easy to assemble. Cut the muffins into cubes and layer them with spoonfuls of custard (or whipped cream), fresh-cut fruit, berries, and even Jell-O. Add toasted nuts, chopped candy bars, and crushed cookies for texture and flavor. Make sure to build the trifle in a glass container to show off the individual layers and refrigerate it for about one hour so the muffin pieces have time to soak up the liquid and flavors.

Pro tip: However you decide to compose your trifle, don't make it too far in advance, as the muffins may get mushy, and the flavors and layers will settle, melding into one another. Stick with one hour, as a well-made trifle boasts distinct layers.

11. Make cake balls

Here is a fantastic way to turn dry muffins into something festive and fun. Use crumbled, dry muffins to make a delicious new sweet: cake balls (or cake pops). So say goodbye to tasteless muffins and hello to moist muffin crumbs full of delicious, sugary flavor.

To make cake balls, crumble the muffins into a large bowl. Add your favorite frosting a little at a time, and mix with your hands until the crumbs and frosting are well combined. Roll the mixture into small, smooth balls, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and chill them for one hour. Dip the chilled cake balls into melted chocolate or candy melts and return to the baking sheet. Allow the coating to set before serving.

Cake balls are a great way to extend the life of muffins, as they stay fresh for quite a long time. Store them in an airtight container to avoid moisture or air from getting to them. They'll stay fresh for four to five days, thanks to all the sugar in the filling and the outer candy coating. Cake balls can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to one month.

12. Make bread pudding

We love bread pudding because it is one of the most versatile desserts. You can choose numerous add-ins to elevate your bread pudding and substitute the bread with croissants, cinnamon rolls, baguettes, cake — and even muffins. And as it turns out, stale muffins are even better to use than fresh ones because they are more likely to hold their shape after soaking up the custard base.

The custard base in bread pudding is traditionally made with milk, eggs, and sugar. Depending on the flavor of the muffins, you can customize the base with different add-ins and spices. For instance, if you're making bread pudding with carrot muffins, throw a handful of walnuts and cinnamon into the custard. Or, add some ground ginger and golden raisins to your bread pudding if you are using apple muffins.

The best part? You can use your favorite bread pudding recipe and substitute your stash of day-old muffins for the bread in a simple 1-for-1 substitute.

13. Make French toast

We love baking muffins because they're a perfect size and just so delicious. But occasionally, a batch of muffins can turn into too much of a good thing, and eating them day after day can become a chore. That's when we give them a second life by turning them into yummy French toast.

French toast is an easy and incredibly versatile dish. Like bread pudding, you can substitute the bread used in French toast with croissants, cinnamon rolls, baguettes, cake — and yup, you guessed it, muffins. You don't need much time or fancy equipment to turn muffins into French toast. Here's how to do it:

First, cut each muffin into 1/2-inch-thick slices from top to bottom. Next, dip each slice in beaten eggs. Then, pan-fry the dipped muffin slices in melted butter until each slice is golden brown on both sides. Within minutes, you'll have a delicious and unique French toast dish that everyone will enjoy.

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table, Daily Meal, and Mashed.