Making homemade pie crust from scratch is a labor of love, but it’s not particularly difficult. My Grandma’s recipe results in a flaky and flavorful pie made with butter rather than Crisco. Here’s how to make pie crust using the recipe I grew up with.
Psst! This old fashioned peach cobbler is another great recipe to try for dessert!
My friend Vera at Ancestors in Aprons shares a homemade pie crust recipe, the perfect recipe, she calls it. No way, I thought. I have the best flaky pie crust recipe, straight from my Grandma’s recipe card file. When I clicked over, though, I was surprised to see that her recipe—one passed down through the generations—is very similar to my recipe, which came from my grandma.
Homemade pie crust recipe with butter (and a secret)
Both of the “best pie crust recipe” contenders call for an unexpected ingredient: vinegar. I’ve always thought that was the secret to the wonderful flavor of this crust. I’ve modified Grandma’s pie crust recipe a bit—I use butter instead of Crisco shortening—but it’s still our go-to recipe for pie making.
These days, my youngest son is in charge of our holiday pies. Let me tell you, folks. If my teenage (now young adult!) son can tackle a pie crust made from scratch, you can too!
No more Mrs. Smith’s frozen pies for you. Grandma’s recipe will make a believer out of you!
How to make pie crust from scratch
Certainly, it’s easy to grab a ready-made pie out of the supermarket freezer. But a homemade pie crust offers so much more flavor, so much more heart. Plus, perfecting pie crust allows you to skip wonky ingredients that come with pre-packaged pie dough.
Learning how to make pie crust from scratch means you will always be able to make a dessert that wows people. Whether you’re using apples, peaches, blueberries, or making something savory like a chicken pot pie, mastering this recipe is the foundation of baking a pie.
Notes on ingredients
Butter: I’ve altered Grandma’s recipe to use butter rather than shortening. I prefer to avoid the ingredients in the Crisco shortening she used. (Soybean oil is likely derived from GMO soy and the use of palm oil is an ecological nightmare.) I tend to keep only salted butter on hand, so that’s what I use. Unsalted butter will work fine, too.
Flour: All-purpose flour is the only answer here. You could try to incorporate some whole wheat flour, but you’ll get the best results with good old all-purpose. That said, I do choose unbleached all-purpose flour to avoid the bleaching agents that come with sparkling white flours.
Vinegar: I use apple cider vinegar in this recipe. You could also use a basic white vinegar.
When making homemade pie crust with butter, avoid over-working the dough. Blend the pie dough ingredients just until they come together. This isn’t like bread dough that requires kneading.
You’ll start by cutting the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until it becomes a fine crumble. This evenly distributes the butter throughout the crust.
If you have a food processor, you can use it in order to save time. To be honest, I’ve made the entire recipe in a food processor once or twice and nothing bad happened. If you try it, just be sure to stop as soon as the ingredients come together; don’t over process it. It’s not the traditional way Grandma made it, but in a pinch (and we’re all crunched for time, right?) you can certainly use this method.
Once the dough is done, you’ll divide it in two. This recipe makes TWO crusts. That is, enough to make one pie with a top and bottom crust or two single-crust pies. If you only need one of these, you can freeze the other for another pie another time.
Chilling the dough for an hour or so can make it easier to roll, but it’s not entirely necessary. You can also wrap the pie dough and refrigerate overnight if you’re not ready to bake right away. (I wrap mine in a damp towel, as I don’t keep plastic wrap on hand.) You’ll need to let the pie dough sit at room temperature for a bit when you’re ready to roll it out.
Rolling out the dough
Divide the dough in two. Turn one half of the pie dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough. This prevents the dough from sticking. Use your hands to press the dough into a flat disc, 6-8″ across. Turn the dough over, dusting your work surface with flour again. Working from the center of the dough and outward, use a rolling pin to create a thin sheet of dough.
Crimping the pie dough
Sometimes I feel like this is the step that prevents people from trying to make their own pie crust! Certainly there are some highly skilled pie makers out there, but you don’t need to match those fancy pies when you’re just learning. My mom does this crazy single handed crimp that I’ve — quite honestly — never mastered. For a basic crimp, a two-handed method is probably the easiest. To do this, hold two fingers against the outside edge of the pie pan in a “peace” sign and use the pointer finger of the opposite hand to push the dough into the peace sign. Another easy way to crimp? With a fork. Just press the tines against the dough.
In reality the crimping a single-crust pie has less to do with making a tasty pie than making a pretty one. The crimping on a double-crusted pie does help to hold in the bubbling filling as it cooks, so you’ll want to make sure that it’s well sealed.
Recipes to try with this homemade pie crust
- Skillet Apple Pie: How to Make Apple Pie in Cast Iron
- Apple Pie Recipe Like Grandma Makes
- Yummy Pumpkin Pie from Fresh Pumpkin
- Savory Tartlet Recipe with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta Cheese
- Peach Pie with Crumb Topping
- Maple Pecan Pie
- Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Tart
- Heirloom Tomato Tart Recipe
- Lemon Meringue Pie
★ Did you make this homemade crust recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★
Grandma's Pie Crust Recipe
Make this homemade pie crust recipe from scratch, beginning with my Grandma's pie crust recipe!
Make the dough
Measure flour and salt into large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until you have a fine crumble. Crack egg into measuring cup; add vinegar and then enough water to make 7/8 of a cup, more or less. Use fork to whisk egg mixture together. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients almost all at once. (I usually hold out about a quarter of a cup.) Mix with the fork, gently gathering the dough from the outside of the bowl. Add the rest of the liquid if necessary. Do not over mix. Alternatively, you can use a stand mixer - just be sure not to over mix.
- As soon as the dough comes together, turn it out onto a floured surface. Use your hands to carefully press the dough together---you're not kneading here, just binding the ingredients together in a solid mass.
Roll the dough
Divide dough evenly into two, then roll out on a liberally floured surface. Fold the dough in half for easy lifting, then move into a pie pan. (I just use a simple glass pie pan like this.)
- Roll both dough edges under at the rim of the pie pan, and crimp them together. Crimping is an art! Perfect crimping takes years of practice. (My pies are still not as beautiful as my mom's, but I've got her apple pie recipe down pat. You should try it.)
This homemade pie crust recipe makes a double crust -- enough for a top and bottom. If you're making a single crust pie such as a pumpkin pie, you'll be able to make two.
If you only need one of these, you can freeze the other for another pie another time.
This post was originally published in September, 2013. It has been updated.