Homemade Buttery Flaky Pie Crust

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 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.

Pie Crust 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?

bag of King Arthur all purpose flour with text overlay that says quality flour

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– read on.

stick of butter and shortening in a measuring cup

Why I Use Shortening and Butter

Not all fats are created equal. I use a mix of shortening and butter because they work together to make the BEST crust. Butter adds flavor and flakiness, while shortening helps the dough stay pliable which is helpful when you’re rolling and shaping it. Plus, its high melting point is advantageous because it helps the crust stay tender while still maintaining shape.

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. The all-butter crust tasted like pure butter. The butter/shortening crust (1) was just as flaky and tender in my opinion 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!).

Use Cold Fat in Pie Crust

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.

cubed butter

Pie Crust Tutorial

(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. Cut in the fats until the mixture resembles coarse meal. You should have some larger pieces of butter and shortening when you’re done.

2 images of pie dough in a bowl with a pastry cutter and coarse crumbs of fats and dry ingredients mixed together in a bowl

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.

If too much water is added, the pie dough will require more flour and 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.

shaggy pie dough mixture in a pink bowl with a spatula

Vodka in Pie Crust? 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.

pie dough in a ball

After the ice water is added, let’s chill it. Here are the steps:

  • 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 it.

3 images of discs of pie dough

Visible Specks and Swirls of Fat in Pie Dough

These specks and swirls of butter and shortening will help ensure a flaky pie dough. They are a GOOD thing!

2 discs of pie dough wrapped in plastic wrap

How to Roll Out Pie Crust

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.

disc of pie dough with a wood rolling pin

Turn, roll, turn, roll.

hand holding pie dough

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 as detailed as possible. Be sure to read through additional tips and troubleshooting below. Let me know about your pie adventures!

Print
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pie crust strips on top of cherry pie with text overlay that says baking basics a series

Homemade Buttery Flaky Pie Crust

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 pie crusts
  • Category: Pie
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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 (313g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 2/3 cup (130g) vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) ice water

Instructions

  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) 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. 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). Do not add any more water than you need.
  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. Cut 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. Visible specks of butter and fat in the dough are perfectly normal and expected!
  7. Proceed with the pie per your recipe’s instructions.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: 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.
  2. Shortening: (update in 2021) I use between 2/3 and 3/4 cup of cold shortening in this dough. Lately, I find 2/3 cup (which is 10 Tbsp + 2 teaspoons or about 130g) works best.
  3. Salt: Use regular table salt. If using kosher salt, use 1 and 1/4 teaspoons.

Keywords: butter pie crust, homemade pie crust

pie dough rolled into a circle with a wood rolling pin

Pie Crust Tips

  1. 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.
  2. The refrigerator is pie dough’s best friend. Keep everything cold. 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.
  3. Preheat the oven so that the cold dough will go into a hot oven.
  4. If your pie recipe requires pre-baking– let’s say you’re making a pie with an especially wet filling– follow my how to blind bake pie crust guide and 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.
  5. Use a pie crust shield to keep the crust edge covered, which protects it from browning too quickly or worse– burning. Use an adjustable silicone pie crust shield that you can fit to the size of your delicate pie crust. Metal can break the crust. 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.
  6. 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 Pie Crust

  • To prevent a crumbly cracking 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: cherry piechicken pot pie, peach pie, pumpkin pie, quichebaked applesapple crumble piehomemade pop-tarts, and salted caramel apple pie.

750 Comments

  1. Was there not a video to go with this recipe? I had thought that I had seen one before but now I cannot find it!?

    1. Yes there was. It had a great explanations re butter and shortening. Same question to website, where is the video ? or will an updated video be posted instead?

      1. Hi Patty
        Can you please tell me the difference between All Purpose Flour (APF) & Plain Flour? I live in Australia and we don’t have APF only Self-Raising & Plain.
        I’m not an experienced pie crust maker so have not had much sucess with pastries. Can you please tell me the difference and any tips for the only plain flour users. Thank you so bery much!
        Robbie J

  2. GREAT instructions! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Have you ever tried this recipe using lard instead of shortening? Normally I use lard for pastry but am looking forward to adding butter as well. Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Susan! Lard should work in place of the shortening without any other changes. Keep the butter. Enjoy!

  4. Before the update, how did you make this (minus the shortening)? I don’t have lard or shortening, just butter, and this used to be my standard recipe for pie crusts ! i forgot to note it down 🙁

    1. Use 12 Tbsp shortening instead of 2/3 cup. That’s the only change! You could also try my all butter pie crust.

  5. Loraine Stecewycz says:

    Question about the Buttery Flaky Pie Crust … I know you can freeze the dough or use it right away but can you leave it in the refrigerator after prepping (for a few days?) instead of freezing?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Loraine, you can chill the pie dough in the refrigerator for up to five days.

  6. Hello! Do you have a gluten free version of a pie crust recipe?!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Devin, we do not have a gluten free pie crust recipe — so sorry!

  7. Your recipes always deliver a notch above all the others! My first recipe of yours was the very peanut buttery cookies! I fell for you as my primary go to ever since. Your flakey pie crust recipe works every time for me. I have tried every pie crust recipe under sun. I would usually end up with unworkable dough that would crumble and not allow for transfer into the pie plate. Your directions and measured amounts of ingredients were liberal enough to have enough dough to work with. I also appreciated the rolling techniques and tips. (Especially for fluting the edges!) Best of all, the crust is tender and flakey and tastes so good! Pie making is no longer an anxious endeavor but a real joy! Thank you Sally!

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marcy, Thank you for these kind words! We are SO glad you love this recipe!

  8. Can butter-flavored shortening be used?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jane, Yes it works in place of regular shortening for even more buttery flavor. Be sure to use the real butter as called for also. Enjoy!

  9. I made this recipe twice and both times it was way too much shortening. I think between 6 – 8 Tbsp should be more than sufficient. As written with 3/4 cup – it was like a very soft cookie dough, even after being in the fridge for 2 hours. I went back to the recipe on the “Crisco” can… it was really flaky but lacked the butter flavor I wanted. I will keep searching.

  10. I just used this pie crust for a chicken pot pie. It turned out beautifully!! Thanks for the dough tips and tricks!

    1. Cindy, can we have your Chicken Pot Pie recipe please? I haven’t had one since leaving the USA for Australia in 1977! As a child I loved the old Swanson ones but now want to make 1 of my own from scratch!
      Thanks
      Robbie

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