While trying to juggle homework, sports, and a budget, we all sometimes resort to after-school snacks of pre-packaged cakes, bags of chips, and candy. They’re delicious, and sometimes, when you’re really in a rush, they’re better than nothing.
So when we were thinking about planning the kids’ after-school snacks, we wanted to round up some quick cooks that would make the pre-packaged stuff less tempting. We also wanted to deliver an afternoon burst of energy with flavor that beats anything that came out of a plastic bag.
We also love finding ways to get the kids in the kitchen to pick up valuable life skills like cooking, some self-confidence, and a few extra moments with friends and family—all while keeping as much as possible off your already-full plate.
Here’s our list of favorite after-school snacks (get the links to full recipes below):
Air Fryer BBQ & Cheese Spirals
Air Fryer Potato Chips with BBQ Ranch
BBQ Seasoned Popcorn
BBQ Chicken Taquitos
Sweet & Sticky BBQ Chicken Steamed Buns
Slow Cooker Meatballs
BBQ Chicken Puffs
BBQ Buffalo Chicken Tenders
BBQ Chicken Naan Bread
Cheesy BBQ Chicken Pull-Apart Sliders
BBQ Chicken Quesadillas
Loaded BBQ Fries
These spirals of ham, cheese, and your favorite flavor of Head Country Bar-B-Q sauce are twisted, brushed with butter, and baked to the perfect golden-brown in the air fryer in minutes—all with ingredients you probably have in your fridge right now. Serve with extra sauce for the school-aged dippers and dunkers.
FULL RECIPE: Air Fryer BBQ & Cheese Spirals
If you’ve never had a warm, homemade potato chip, here’s how you can fix that right now. They’re ready super-quick in your air fryer. A dusting of parmesan and some BBQ ranch dipping sauce on the side make these chips seriously craveable.
FULL RECIPE: Air Fryer Potato Chips
Homemade popcorn: is there anything better? We’ve been keeping a secret on how to make homemade popcorn one of the best things you will ever put in your mouth. It’s surprisingly easy, and you’ll find it right here.
FULL RECIPE: BBQ Seasoned Popcorn
Make these taquitos as simple or as elevated as you like. Keep it easy for after school with leftover chicken, cheese, tortillas, and your oven. Or, when it’s Friday afternoon and you’re ready to cut loose, go with toppings like grilled corn salsa and lime crema. Our slow cooker BBQ Beer Can Chicken recipe keep quick and easy to grab-and-go.
FULL RECIPE: BBQ Chicken Taquitos
Sweet, savory, satisfying—and ready in just a few minutes. Keep frozen steamed buns on hand for these super-fast handheld sandwiches and they’ll be within reach to fuel those afternoon homework sessions.
FULL RECIPE: Sweet & Sticky BBQ Chicken Steamed Buns
It’s a beloved secret of slow-cooker cuisine that low-and-slow heat, grape jelly, BBQ sauce, and meat together equals big flavor. Throw these meatballs in your slow cooker before school. Set it on low, and they’ll be ready for when the kids come bursting through the door after the last bell rings.
FULL RECIPE: Slow Cooker Meatballs
These quick bites come together in just minutes if you keep a few sheets of puff pastry and leftover chicken on hand. Simply add sauce, cheese, and a muffin tin. Serve piping hot for maximum cheese-pull action and savory, flaky crust.
FULL RECIPE: BBQ Chicken Puffs
The best buffalo sauce you’ve ever had is just a few ingredients away—in fact, you probably have what you need on-hand already. Toss with pre-made chicken tenders or nuggets, and the kids’ tastebuds will be singing in minutes.
FULL RECIPE: BBQ Buffalo Chicken Tenders
Think of BBQ chicken naan bread as your new favorite appetizer, game-day starter, and after-school snack. It comes together in minutes when you prep the ingredients over the weekend, or when you have some leftovers on hand. Kiddos can mix up the toppings and the sauce to make their own snack creations.
FULL RECIPE: BBQ Chicken Naan Bread
This twist on the classic BBQ sandwich is a treat for anyone who loves to watch the cheese stretch when it’s time to pull servings from the baking dish. The garlic-herb butter takes these sliders over the top.
FULL RECIPE: Cheesy BBQ Chicken Pull-Apart Sliders
Ah, the versatile, simple, ready-in-a-flash quesadilla. We show you how to stack yours with BBQ chicken from the slow cooker, but you should feel free to make your own snack creation with whatever you have on hand. You’ll be surprised what a drizzle of BBQ sauce over the fillings can do.
FULL RECIPE: BBQ Chicken Quesadillas
We love how a bag of frozen french fries (or tater tots, if that’s what you have) is the perfect base for all our favorite toppings—starting with anything you’d put on nachos, including BBQ. Try these with smoked or grilled meat leftover from the weekend, plus plenty of cheese, add-ons, and dipping sauces (don’t forget your favorite flavors of Head Country Bar-B-Q sauce).
FULL RECIPE: Loaded BBQ Fries