Pie making is deceivingly difficult. The first vegan pastry dough I made was a disaster! The pie crust was dense and there wasn’t a single flaky layer. After that traumatic experience, I became determined to perfect a vegan pie crust.
In my vegan pie baking journey, I have learned so much. Even though most pie doughs only require a few ingredients, everyone has their two cents when it comes to the perfect crust. What I am going to share works best for me and has always given me the best results.
What flour should I use?
I’m going to come right out and say this, “DO NOT USE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR!”. You are going to be tempted to reach for healthier flours. You don’t eat pie for your health. Please use white flour when making pastries. Something that changed my baking game was pastry flour. Pastry flour has a lighter texture and is ideal for achieving flakiness. I always have amazing results when I use 50% pastry flour and 50% all-purpose flour. I do this for two reasons. One reason is pastry flour enhances layers in the dough and the all-purpose flour provides structure so that the dough has some stability. The other reason I do this is that I did it once and it worked perfectly and I am too afraid of messing up another pie. I suggest either 50/50 ap flour and pastry flour or all ap flour.
What fat do I use?
Pastry dough requires a solid fat. You cannot make a traditional pie crust with liquid fats like oil. It might be possible, but I strongly caution against it. You do not want a pancake crust. The two main fats used in pie crusts are shortening and butter. I think vegetable shortening is technically vegan, but I never use it and I don’t plan on using it. I always go for Earth Balance margarine sticks. In my opinion, these sticks are the closest thing to dairy butter. Whatever you decide to use, it needs to be solid at room temperature. But do not leave it sitting at room temperature, please refrigerate the margarine. Another vegan option is solid coconut oil. Scoopable coconut oil can create the same effect as butter. I do not usually go for this option because there is a hint of coconut flavor and it can be distracting. In conclusion, use Earth Balance. If you are in a pinch, use solid coconut oil.
Do I need sugar and salt?
Short answer, yes! Sugar and salt are essential to pastries. Sugar gives a touch of sweetness to the crust and also helps with the tenderness. Only a small amount is needed. Too much sugar and you will get a dough that cannot be rolled out without breaking. I use two tablespoons of brown sugar in my recipe. I like that hint of molasses the brown sugar gives the pastry. When the amounts are small enough, brown sugar and cane sugar can be used interchangeably. Either one is fine. If you want to make a savory pie, just reduce the sugar by half. Be careful with liquid sweeteners. I’m not saying you can’t use them, but proceed with caution. Agave or maple syrup might not add the same structural value and it could heat the dough-preventing layers from forming during baking.
Nearly all baked-goods need a dash of salt. Don’t worry, your crust will not have a salty taste. Adding salt simply enhances the buttery flavor. I don’t know if this is scientifically proven, but I have found that salt keeps the dough from being too crusty. You want a crust to form, but you do not want it to shatter when it comes from the oven. You just need to trust me on this.
What’s the deal with ice water?
Every pie recipe I have ever read explicitly states to use ice water. Generally, pastry recipes will call for cold liquids. Of course, there are exceptions, but I don’t want to get off-topic. The reason you use ice water in pie dough is to prevent the fat from melting. This is especially important for butter crusts because butter/margarine can easily disintegrate. When I make a pie crust, I literally put ice cubes in the water. The amount of water is equally as important. Having too much water in the dough will make it a gloppy mess. Likewise, not having enough water will make the dough crumble.
Is an egg-wash necessary?
This could be my vegan bias showing, but eggs are not needed. Egg-washes are used to intensify browning and to add gloss. However, there are other ways to achieve this. I use plain soy milk and I brush it on top right before the pie goes into the oven.
Do you need special equipment?
Not really. The process becomes faster if you use a pastry blender or a food processor, but these are not a requirement. 95% of the time I use a fork and my hands to bring the pastry together. You will need a rolling pin to roll out the dough.
What is the process?
You need to work fast! I strongly encourage you to get all of the ingredients out first, excluding the margarine. I get my floured surface ready and I grease the pie plate before forming the dough. Additionally, I cube the margarine and then keep it refrigerated until I need it. See the recipe card for the specific measurements. I start by combining the dry ingredients. This includes sugar. I grab ice water, vanilla extract, and the butter substitute. Then, I add the cubed and chilled margarine to the bowl. I use a fork to cut it into the mixture and then I go in with my hands to rub in the fat. You should have somewhat uniform pieces of fat in the flour. After this step, I pour in the vanilla extract. The ice water comes next. I add in the water one tablespoon at a time. The dough should be just combined. When you can form the dough without it breaking, you don’t need to add any more water.
At this point, the dough can be rolled out. I roll out dough on a floured piece of parchment paper. I roll out the dough in one direction and make a one-quarter turn and roll in that direction. I do this until the dough is the right size for the pie plate. Place the dough on your rolling pin so there is no sticking and gently place the dough over your pie plate. Shape the dough and trim off any excess. If you are making a pie that requires a top and a bottom crust, double the recipe I share below. Pinch the dough near the lip of the pie plate to prevent any slipping. Poke holes in the bottom crust to avoid bubbling. Lastly, fill your pie with a cream or fruit mixture and bake. Cover the top of the pie in the soy milk “egg” wash (this is optional). The pie in my photos is a cherry pie inspired by Baker by Nature.
What else do I need to know?
You might have heard of blind baking. This is when a crust is baked without the filling first. For cream pies, you will need to blind bake. For fruit pies, you don’t need to blind bake when the filling is cooked before going into the oven. If you decide to blind bake, you will need to cover the bottom crust with parchment paper and pour dried rice or beans onto the parchment paper; then bake for 10 minutes on low heat.
On fruit pies, I like to sprinkle a bit of cane sugar over the top crust. I like the effect it has, but it’s not at all needed. I prefer lattice tops. If you are making a pie for the first time, I would recommend a traditional top crust with four slits in the center. You can crimp the edges or you can create fork marks to seal the edges.
I also want to point out that while my recipe is a great pie crust, the perfect pie doesn’t exist. Each pie I make turns out differently. The pie in my pictures isn’t perfect either. My lattice isn’t even and some crust slipped during baking. If you have made it this far, thank you! Here is the recipe card you have been waiting for.
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The Best Vegan Pie Crust
This crust is flaky, buttery, and on par with traditional pies. Did I mention that it is vegan? You can use this recipe for pies, galettes, pop tarts, etc.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour.
- 1 cup white pastry flour.
- 2 tbsp brown sugar or cane sugar.
- 1/4 tsp sea salt.
- 2/3 cup chilled vegan margarine (11 tbsp).
- 1 tsp vanilla extract.
- 1/2 cup of ice water.
In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar.
Incorporate the vegan butter using a pastry blender, food processor, or fork.
Once the butter creates small even clumps in the mixture, add the vanilla extract. Then, add the cold water one tablespoon at a time.
When the dough is able to hold together without crumbling, it is ready to be rolled out.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, turning frequently to achieve a circular shape.
See the above instructions on how to prepare the pie plate.
If you are not using this right away, cover in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. You can use 100% all-purpose flour if you want.
A few more notes…
If you made this and want an even more tender crust, add one tablespoon of vodka to the dough. Make sure to adjust the amount of water you use. I think this is a great general pie crust. You can use it for various pies and pastries. My favorite way to use this dough is for homemade pop tarts.
Thank you so much for reading! I know this was a long and possibly boring post. I wanted to be extremely detailed because I know how hard it can be to make a pie. If you use this recipe, please tell me about it in the comments and consider leaving a rating. Have a good weekend!