Homemade Buttery Flaky Pie Crust

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Bakers! Welcome back to my Baking Basics series.

This is a very long post. Pie crust makes me chatty.

It’s summer. The days are longer and a bounty of fruit is at our fingertips. And this means you have time to finally nail homemade pies. Today I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about making the perfect buttery flaky pie crust. This is the one and only pie crust recipe I use. It’s been passed down through generations. Stands the test of time. Old-fashioned, yet never out of style. Wins my heart every single time.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

There is nothing more satisfying than making a pie completely from scratch. From the golden crust to the juicy filling and everything in between. Pies are so damn tasty for one reason: they’re time consuming. This shouldn’t scare you! It should intrigue you. Because if you can bake an exceptional homemade pie, congratulations. You’re a talented baker.

Let me help you get there.

As the base holding all of the pie’s contents, pie crust’s flavor is in every single bite. Start with a solid crust and you’re that much closer to pie-fection. !! Today we’re going to explore my pie crust recipe, preparation tips, how-to’s, and troubleshooting.

About The Ingredients

This crust is made with a few simple ingredients: flour, salt, cold water, and fat.

Start with quality flour. Did you know that not all all-purpose flours are created the same? King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (adoring fan girl. they do not know I exist.) is my go-to for not only pie crust, but for pretty much ALL baked goods. Now, I admit. Sometimes I buy cheaper flours that are on sale, but in general– KA flour is my top choice. Why? Its high protein level: “At 11.7-percent protein, it tops ordinary American all-purpose flours by nearly 2 percentage points.” (source)

What does this mean? Baked goods rise higher and stay fresh longer.

A gluten free pie crust, you ask? I’ve never made one. Do you have a solid recipe for one?

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Next up in my pie dough: salt. An obvious ingredient. Brings out the flavor. Pie crust shouldn’t be sweet.

Now, the final ingredient(s). They’re highly debatable. There are strong opinions out there for butter crust vs. shortening crust vs. lard crust. (I rarely use lard because it’s not as easy to come by for most people– though it makes a TASTY crust.) If you despise shortening, my pie crust recipe isn’t for you. If you want a crust recipe that stands the test of time, using good old shortening just as mom did– read on.

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Why I Use Shortening and Butter

Not all fats are created equal. Why shortening? With its high melting point, shortening aids in creating flakiness. Flaky, tender, melt-in-your mouth crust. Why butter? Butter imparts unparalleled, impeccable flavor. Nothing beats butter. I use both to create a crust that is full of tender flakes and rich in buttery flavor.

A Tasty Experiment

I recently performed an experiment. The tastiest kind, of course. I prepared an all-butter version to compare to my beloved butter/shortening crust. One thing was clear: the all-butter crust created a lighter textured crust with more defined flakes. This is due to the butter’s water content. As the crust bakes, the butter’s water converts to steam, creating light flakes. Get it? Because of all this butter, I found that the all-butter crust didn’t have a perfectly neat-edged crust. Crimping the edges of the crust was a little pointless.

The all-butter crust tasted like pure butter. The butter/shortening crust (1) was just as flaky and tender in my opinion (and my taste tester’s, thanks Kevin) and (2) tasted buttery and like pie crust (think: diner style cherry pie). Both crusts were great. But the butter/shortening won in terms of texture, flavor, and appearance. This KA Flour blog post had similar results (great read if you’re a pie nerd like I am!).

Use Cold Fat

Why the emphasis on temperature? Keeping your pie dough as cold as possible helps prevent the fat from melting. If the butter melts inside the dough before baking, you lose the flakiness. When the lumps of fat melt in the oven as the pie bakes, their steam helps to separate the crust into multiple flaky layers– as explained above. Warm fats will lend a hard, crunchy, greasy crust instead of a nice tender flaky crust.

I keep some of my butter in the freezer and transfer it to the refrigerator a few hours before beginning the crust. This way it is part frozen and very, very cold. For shortening? Just keep it in the refrigerator.

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Tips + Recipe

(Print-friendly recipe below!)

Start with flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the cold fats. Use a pastry cutter (or two forks) to cut in the fats. A pastry cutter is ideal. And the easiest. Cut in the fats until the mixture resembles coarse meal. You should have some larger pieces of butter and shortening when you’re done. That is OK.

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Next: ice water. Measure 1/2 cup (120ml) of water in a cup. Add ice. Stir it around. From that, measure 1/2 cup of water (since the ice has melted a bit!). Drizzle the cold water in, 1 Tablespoon (15ml) at a time, and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon after every Tablespoon (15ml) added. Do not add any more water than you need to. Stop adding water when the dough begins to form large clumps. I always use 1/2 cup (120ml) of water.

Stop adding water when the dough begins to clump just like this:

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

If too much water is added, the pie dough will require more flour and thus become tough. If too little water is added, you’ll notice the dough is dry and crumbly when you try to roll it out and handle it.

Vodka?

Speaking of liquids. Have you heard of adding cold vodka to pie dough? It comes as no surprise to me that the geniuses at Cook’s Illustrated rave about it. They say that half of the pie dough’s moisture should come from vodka, which is 40% pure alcohol. This alcohol doesn’t promote gluten formation, helping the crust stay flaky and tender. Basically, it is a BLESSING to those of us who accidentally overwork pie dough.

(If you want to try using vodka– use 1/4 cup cold vodka and 1/4 cup ice cold water in the below recipe. OR try out the Cook’s Illustrated recipe. Note: their recipe only makes one pie crust and my recipe below makes two.)

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Back to my recipe. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Using floured hands, fold the dough into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats. Form it into a ball. The dough should come together easily and should not feel overly sticky.

Cut the dough in half. Flatten each half into 1-inch thick discs using your hands. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 5 days. Or freeze!

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Specks or swirls of fat = good!

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

After the dough has chilled, start preparing your pie.

Roll out the crust. Always use gentle force. You are not mad at the crust. When rolling dough out, always start from the center and work your way out in all directions, turning the dough with your hands as you go.

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Turn, roll, turn, roll.

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Roll the dough to fit a 9-inch pie dish. I typically roll the dough into a 12-inch circle so that there is enough crust to go up the edges of the dish and so I can trim and flute.

Do NOT be overwhelmed. I made sure to break everything down very easily, so a lot of the text in this recipe is me being as thorough as possible. Be sure to read through additional tips and troubleshooting below. Let me know about your pie adventures!

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. 

Homemade Buttery Flaky Pie Crust

This recipe is enough for a double crust pie. If you only need 1 crust for your pie, cut this recipe in half OR freeze the other half per the Make Ahead Tip instruction below.

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour (measured correctly)
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 3/4 cup (148g) vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) ice water

Directions:

  1. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening.
  2. Using a pastry cutter (the one I own) or two forks, cut the butter and shortening into the mixture until it resembles coarse meal (pea-sized bits with a few larger bits of fat is OK). A pastry cutter makes this step very easy and quick.
  3. Measure 1/2 cup (120ml) of water in a cup. Add ice. Stir it around. From that, measure 1/2 cup (120ml) of water-- since the ice has melted a bit. Drizzle the cold water in, 1 Tablespoon (15ml) at a time, and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon after every Tablespoon (15ml) added. Do not add any more water than you need to. Stop adding water when the dough begins to form large clumps. I always use about 1/2 cup (120ml) of water and a little more in dry winter months (up to 3/4 cup).
  4. Transfer the pie dough to a floured work surface. The dough should come together easily and should not feel overly sticky. Using floured hands, fold the dough into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats. Form it into a ball. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half into 1-inch thick discs using your hands.
  5. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (and up to 5 days).
  6. When rolling out the chilled pie dough discs to use in your pie, always use gentle force with your rolling pin. Start from the center of the disc and work your way out in all directions, turning the dough with your hands as you go.
  7. Proceed with the pie per your recipe's instructions.

Make ahead tip: Prepare the pie dough through step 4 and freeze the discs for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using in your pie recipe.

Did you make a recipe?

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

How to Make a Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust! Tips, tricks, and recipe included!

Pie Crust Tips

I prefer using a glass pie dish when I make pie. Why? Glass dishes conduct heat evenly, which allows the bottom of the crust to bake thoroughly. Also, you’ll be able to see when the sides and bottom of the crust has browned.

Keep everything cold. Cold fats are key, as you now know. On a hot day, you can even measure and chill your flour in the refrigerator before beginning. When taking the pie crust out of the refrigerator to roll out and fill, make sure your pie filling is ready to go. If not, keep the pie crust in the refrigerator until it is.

Preheat the oven so that the cold dough will go into a hot oven.

 If your pie recipe requires pre-baking (crust “blind baking”)– let’s say you’re making a pie with an especially wet filling– use pie weights. Without pie weights, the dough will puff up, then shrink. Pie weights are made from metal or ceramic beads and work to weigh down the crust to prevent the puffing/shrinking. Dried beans can also be used! Whichever you choose, be sure to line the crust with parchment, then fill the empty pie crust with the weights all the way to the top of the pie dish rim prior to baking. More on pie weights.

 I always, always use a pie crust shield. A shield keeps the crust edge covered, which protects it from browning too quickly or worse– burning. Here is the one I own. Alternatively, you can cover the pie with a piece of aluminum foil. Cut a large circle in the center of the square so the center of the pie is exposed.

If your pie recipe requires a pre-baked pie shell, such as banana cream pie, french silk pie, or a tart, here is what to do: prepare the pie crust through step 6. Roll out the chilled pie dough into a 12-inch circle, carefully place the dough into a 9-inch pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth, then trim and flute the edges. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork, then line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake at 375°F (190°C) until it begins to color around the edges. (15-20 minutes)

Troubleshooting

Prevent a crumbly pie dough. Make sure you use enough water when preparing your pie dough. Too little water will make your dough unworkable. Read more about water above.

Prevent a tough baked pie crust. Tough crusts are the result of not enough fat in the crust, as well as overworking the dough. Use the recipe above (plenty of fat) and don’t work the dough too much.

Prevent a burnt crust with a pie shield! See above.

Pie Recipes!

Recipes to try using this crust: peach pie (in my cookbook!), cherry piechicken pot pie, pumpkin pie, quichebaked apples, salted pecan pie tarts, apple crumble pieblueberry peach pie, homemade pop-tarts!, and salted caramel apple pie.

How to make my FAVORITE pie crust! This is my go-to recipe!

287 comments

  1. You asked about gluten free crusts. Nothing of course substitutes for flour to get the same results, but you can get a tasty pie using, for example, ground nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc) instead of flour.

    I make (flour based) pie crusts using a virtually identical recipe to yours, which is failsafe and easy to remember. I change it up from time to time though, sometimes adding a heaping teaspoon of baking powder and/or tablespoon of sugar to the dry ingredients, and sometimes replacing some of the ice water with an egg and/or tablespoon of white vinegar. Each providing a slightly different result.

  2. Sally, you asked about gluten free pie crusts. I use Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 flour http://www.bobsredmill.com/gluten-free-1-to-1-baking-flour.html , which can be swapped straight across with gluten flour. So far, the swap has allowed me to use my old recipes from before my family went gluten free.

  3. Sally, thanks much for the tips! I’m new to baking, have lots to learn, and am really happy to have stumbled upon your site!
    My gluten-free crusts are made using Arrowhead Mills organic baking and pancake mix. The trick is to add xanthan gum,and as you say, keep all the ingredients cold. Makes an excellent crust! Aloha!

  4. This is my new favorite pastry crust! So, I made this for the first time around Thanksgiving, and I felt that there wasn’t quite enough pastry to work with to flute it beautifully, but it was so flaky that I knew I needed to keep this recipe around. When I made this last night, I increased all the ingredients by 25%, which was easy to do, since you include the gram measurements (much appreciated). This is THE flakiest, tenderest pastry crust EVER!! I also love that this makes 2 crusts, AND that you include make-ahead directions. I’m a food-prep-in-advance kind of girl, and I love that there are freezer instructions. Thanks so much for sharing this awesome recipe, Sally!

  5. Hi, I’ve been looking for a good recipe that combines both shortening and butter for a long time. Lard just seems a bit gross to me for sweets (haha) and all butter was way too golden and crisp. All shortening is bland. I made two pumpkin pies with this recipe and it is definitely a keeper. Got a lot of compliments on my pastry too! Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Hi, I use 300g flour, 150g cold butter and one cold egg instead of water (all blended in the processor) and roll it on cling film then bake straight away. Crust is tasty though shrinks a little. Should I be using more butter? I notice you have 250 butter+shortening with a similar amount of flour.

    What is the benefit of refridgerating the dough? is it taste developement or just easier to manage when rolling?

    Thx Chris

  7. Delish!! Made a chicken pot pie last night and there were zero leftovers. A win-win and super good compliment for any cook! Today I am making an apple pie using this crust recipe. You mention it yeilds enough for 2 9″ pies. Um. Am I missing something?? Only makes one.

  8. Help! When I try to roll out this dough it just breaks up into pieces and sticks to the rolling pin. I floured the counter. Is it because I live in a tropical climate? There is no air conditioning in my kitchen so it’s not possible to cool it down too much. Thanks!

  9. Hi Sally! I’ve made your pie crust a couple times now, and I think I’m doing something wrong. It tastes amazing, but the crust is very crumbly… I’ll leave the dough in the fridge overnight, and then the next day I’ll roll it out and it breaks a part into large chunks, so I add more cold water to help it stick better. I can somewhat manage rolling it out (it doesn’t quite look as pretty as yours!) but then even when it bakes, sometimes the pieces of the crust will break off and crumble everywhere and its a mess… Should I try using more water? But then too much water I think it’ll be too sticky. My problem sounds similar to Sarah’s. Help! 🙂

    • Hey Caryn! A little sticky is ok, so don’t feel like you’re doing anything wrong when you are mixing up the pie dough and are adding more ice water. It’s cracking and crumbling because it’s too dry. The dry winter weather doesn’t help either! I always add more water in the winter months and less in the summer.

  10. what if I need to use quickly? can I put it in the freezer for a less time?

    • It really should be chilled for at least 2 hours. The freezer may unevenly chill it– some super cold spots, some warmer spots. I recommend the fridge.

  11. I’m gonna have to admit it smells delicious this was the easiest pie crust I’ve ever made! I haven’t baked yet but I’m hoping I added enough water but either way I feel like I’m going to love it even if it crumbles while eating lol 🙂

  12. Sally, I’m used to using only top crust for Veggie pot pies but my children had individual pot pies with top and bottom crust. I’m concerened about ending up with a soggy bottom. How can I avoid this from happening? Susanna

    • Hi Susanna! I’ve never had a particularly soggy bottom crust with this recipe.

    • Sally, tried it last night and was very pleased with results. No soggy bottom on crust. Thanks for the simple recipe for a good crust.

    • I have a baking stone (Pampered Chef) and I put it in the cold oven and preheat it along with the oven.  I always blind bake my crust regardless of the filling.  After 15-20 minutes of blind baking, I brush the crust with egg wash and bake another 1-2 minutes.  I keep the stone in the oven and put my filled pie crust on it and bake.  It helps the bottom crust get, & stay, flaky.

  13. Do you egg wash on top? Trying your recipe for pasties! 

  14. Hi Sally,  I am excited to use your crust for your peacan pie and a French silk pie I’m making for Easter. I have to blind bake the French silk pie. What temp and how long do I bake it for?  

    Thanks so much! 
    Kelly

  15. Helppp! I’ve read your post a  times to try to see where I’m going wrong, which could be a series of things, burn maybe you have some insight. Every time I make this, when I go to roll my dough, it basically cracks, never letting me get to the 12″ circle. Then I end up over working the dough trying to make up for it and it’s a hot mess. 

    Any ideas? I’m pretty confident I follow the recipe pretty well. 

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