This crowd pleaser is incredibly easy.

With the holiday season now in full swing, it's time to pick my favorite recipes for what to bring to holiday parties. And with so much going on in general, I love a dish that's easy to prep ahead while still delivering a wow factor that suits the occasion. My go-to? Sweet and savory cream puffs!

And at the base of every kind of cream puff is a surprisingly easy to make base—pâte à choux dough.

Why I love cream puffs as a make-ahead dish for holiday parties

First, cream puffs are endlessly versatile. They can go sweet or savory meaning you can bring them as an appetizer or a dessert. Best yet? These puffs freeze beautifully, so I can take a quiet Sunday, make a giant batch, and freeze them in bags of 24, then fill as needed the day I need them. They last me all holiday season long!

Cream puffs
Credit: Getty / sot

How to make and freeze cream puffs

Here's what to do:

1. Prepare a tripled version of this pâte à choux recipe to make a big batch.

2. Scoop dough onto parchment-lined sheet pans with a small cookie scoop, or pipe balls about one tablespoon.

3. Heat your oven to 375°, and bake 25-35 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.

4. Use the tip of a paring knife or a wooden skewer to poke two holes in each puff so that the steam is released, then return to the oven to dry out and get crisp, about 5-7 minutes more.

5. Cool completely on a rack, then put on a sheet pan and freeze, uncovered, until solid. Once frozen, put in zip top bags in batches the size you will need, and put the bags into a box or other container so that they don't get knocked around.

Filling cream puffs for holiday parties

If you need an appetizer to bring to a party, fill the puffs with softened whipped chive and onion cream cheese. If you need a dessert, make some lightly sweetened whipped cream and fill with that. You can flavor the whipped cream with vanilla or coffee extract, or fold in melted chocolate.

Pro tip: I fill my puffs when they are still frozen and then store in the fridge until I take them to the party. Assume two to three puffs per person serving size as part of an appetizer or dessert buffet.  

Cream puff recipes to try

Once you discover how easy these stuffed puffs are to make, you can experiment with different fillings like tonnato mousse or crème diplomat, or bring some dipping sauces to accompany the puffs. Here are a few recipes to use for inspiration.