Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

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 on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.” (from KA Flour site)

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?

Tag @sallysbakeblog on Instagram and hashtag it #sallysbakingaddiction.

© 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!

SaveSave

358 comments

  1. I just made this and I’m so pleased with the dough! It’s chilling now and I’ll make the pie tomorrow. I haven’t been happy with my go to recipe the last couple of years – not sure if it’s because it’s all butter or the food processor worked the dough too much. Using my cutter and bringing the dough together manually was a game changer! Thanks Sally!

  2. I giggled at “You are not mad at the crust.” Ha!
    i’d love to make this pie crust and one of your pies! Any recommendations / your favorite pie?

  3. I adore your recipes & your insight! I have always failed at pie crust. Not anymore. It was perfect for sweet & savory. The blueberry pie, well, I have to keep telling myself it’s fruit & MUST be healthy. It rivals anything I had in Maine.
    And, the chocolate chip cookies….♡
    Thank you Sally!

  4. What vegetable shortening do you prefer? 

  5. First time using vegetable shortening….. Pretty sure I have epically failed at using it correctly. Any tips other then a cutter? It was solid as a brick.

    • …. And now I have just realised that Copha shortening is not a suitable substitute, And Crisco is not available in Australia….. Devastated!!

  6. I have tried the Cook’s Illustrated pie crust and it is fantastic. You cannot taste any alcohol in the finished shell at all. You are right and the recipe only makes one crust and I always prefer two. I mean if you’re going to take the time to make a homemade crust (the best part of the pie IMO) go all the way with top and bottom covered with loveliness! 🙂 I’m bookmarking your recipe to give it a try next time I make a pie. Sounds yummy!

  7. Do you have any advice about using lard? My finance continually insists that lard is the ONLY way to make pie crust. I am going to have to do a real side by side to decide myself! Do I just replace the shortening with lard?

  8. Hi Sally, my fav pastry is so tender and flaky that I have to share it with you and your readers! 2c. Flour, 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, mix tog. To this cut in 1c. of crico or lard making sure to have both small and larger chunks of fat in the mixture. In a bowl, beat 1 LG egg with 2 – 4 TBSP ice cold water add liquid evenly over fat mixture and using a fork gently mix to form a dough. Divide into two discs and wrap in plastic wrap and store in zip lock bags in fridge or freezer til ready to use. This makes 1 double crust pie.

    • That sounds fantastic, Wendy! I’d love to try it sometime. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Almost identical to my grandmother’s recipe that was my go-to for years. She always said that it’s difficult to overwork lard pastry . I’ve recently switched to half butter, half lard ( excellent) and am considering switching out half of the water for vodka.
      For those who use lard instead of shortening, it’s usually found in the Hispanic fooods section in the U.S. West and Southwest, and often in one pound blocks that simplify measuring. John Morrell is the most common brand.

  9. Hi hi Sally! Instead of using all all purpose flour which I can’t have, can you use almond flour or coconut our? If so how much should I use?

  10. I am going try this recipe today! I have made homemade crust before and never turned out right and then would always scare me away.. I am sure this will turn out great!

    Thanks Sally!!

  11. You mentioned using vodka, but your recipe does not call for it, you don’t use it?

    • Nope. See my note in the post: 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.

  12. I have found that I can be “mad at my crust”. When 5 goes to the garbage disposer, I am mad. However I did find a solution. 2 glasses of Peach Schnapps works wonders! I will try your recipe because it sounds so much easier than the one I have been using. Thank you so much.

  13. How long do you bake the finished pot pie?

  14. I cannot use Crisco (or any other standard commercial vegetable shortening) in pie crusts because my husband is allergic to soy, and all of them are made from soybeans. If you are trying to make pie for someone with a soy or combination peanut/soy allergy, try Spectrum shortening, which is made from palm oil. It will work with any crust recipe that calls for shortening. I’ve used the Cook’s Illustrated recipe and a James Beard recipe (with the vodka from the CI version), and my crusts turn out fine.

  15. Would you recommend *not* doubling this recipe and instead just making 2 seperate batches for two pies?

    • I do NOT recommend doubling. The fat wouldn’t be equally distributing among both pairs of crust. Rather, make 2 separate recipes.

  16. Sally, I need your help.  I’m beyond impressed with your crusts but the Gods hate me and utterly refuse to let me have a successful experience.  I just spent two hours (chilling time etc.) making — not yours, but that Cooks Illustrated Recipe (double crust)  The dough was so soft that it cemented itself to my VERY WELL FLOURED countertop.  It would not come off — I had to use a pastry scraper.  Even when I used my method of rolling it out on parchment or plastic wrap (with flour) it was still temperamental.  I ended up pressing the dough into the pie pan.  For the top crust — it’s the holidays and I wanted to try some of your beautiful designs… LOL…  Lattice?  Nope.  The pastry broke every time I lifted a strip.  Fun little fall leaf cutouts?  Nope.  Stuck to every nook and cranny of those forms.  Finally, I just draped a whole crust over my pie and– it cracked while resting on the apples. I haven’t sworn this much in a long time.  The pie is in the oven.  I am disheartened.  Why – why does this happen to me?  I truly followed the recipe to a T.  Could it be the temperature in the house?  I live in Florida and we keep it at 77° with the A/C on.  Is that the problem?  

    • Hi Lisa! Since it’s not my recipe, I can’t be certain. Any humidity could be the issue or there is likely too much liquid in the dough. Have you tried my recipe?

  17. Hey Sally,

    I’m in a pickle. I have been attempting to use your recipe for pie crust for the last three years and I just don’t have success with keeping it together when I am rolling it out and transferring it. I’m not sure if I’m overworking the dough or if I’m not just meant to make pie crust. I thought of trying the vodka route, but you say you don’t. Do you use a silicon mat when rolling out dough? 

    Regardless of my success with the crust, your pumpkin pie is always a hit in my house–so I’m going the extra mile and making your blueberry and pecan pie too! Only fear is, this means more crust! Ah! 

    • Is it too dry and cracking, Staci? That would mean your crust needs more ice water when preparing it. Try adding an extra Tbsp next time. Should make a big difference.

  18. Hello Sally,

    I’ve yet to find a good crust protector (I use tinfoil but I don’t want the hassle). When I clicked on your link for the one you use, it took me to the Williams Sonoma sight. I searched pie crust protectors and only got ne came up. It is a white silicone one, which the reviews gave 3 stars (I didn’t read why). Is this the one you use and like? I just want to be sure before purchasing it. Thanks!

  19. Hi Sally!

    I can’t wait to try this out – I’m in charge of the pies this Thanksgiving (yippee!). I’ve looked around a few places and can’t seem to find a definitive answer on this: does the type of vodka matter? Can it be cheap-in-plastic-drinkable-lighter-fluid or should it be something a little more upscale?

    I don’t drink vodka so I don’t have any around the house . Before I make a trip to the liquor store, I wanted to know your opinion on whether there’s any variation.

    Thank you so much!

    • My recipe doesn’t call for vodka, so you don’t have to pick up a bottle if you don’t want to!

      That being said, if you prefer to use a vodka pie crust recipe… it doesn’t matter as much as you would think. Though I would opt for a middle of the road vodka. Don’t buy the super expensive stuff, waste of money if only using in pie crust. And don’t buy the suuuuper cheap stuff either.

  20. Thank you! I’ll probably stick with the good ol’ butter version in the end but I am curious about how the vodka works out.

  21. Hey sally! I’m planning on making some pot pie for dinner tonight and my dad isn’t eating white flour currently. What flour would you recommend replacing it with in this recipe, if at all? 

    • Hi Taylor– I strongly recommend all-purpose flour in this pie crust. You can try to search for a whole wheat pie crust recipe alternative. It won’t be a 1:1 switch in my recipe. Let me know if you find a good one!

  22. Hi Sally! The last time I made pie crust, the crust was very hard once it came out of the fridge and I wasn’t able to roll it. Do you have any tips to avoid this?

Comments are closed.