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 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.

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?

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. 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 if you’re a pie nerd like I am!).

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

Back to my pie crust recipe. 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!

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

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!

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

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.

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!

Print

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 (315g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 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

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) 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.

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.

Keywords: butter pie crust, homemade pie crust

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

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. 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.
  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

  • 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!

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521 Comments

  1. Seriously, the pastry blender is one of those tools that changed my baking life. It is so much easier than using knives or your hands! And it’s not hard or scary to use, either! Great step-by-step, Sally!

  2. Sally, I would be sooooo embarrassed if you knew how many hours I’ve spent watching how-to make the perfect pie crust on youtube!!! Literally hours upon hours. I totally agree with everything you said, you DO need both butter and shortening for the perfect pie crust. I’ve heard of the Vodka trick but have never actually tried that. Now I will. I’m printing this off and adding it to my cookbook bests file. And I find I need crust not just for pies and tarts but for my families favorite, chicken pot pie!! 

  3. This is SUCH a great post! Pie crust is probably the one food item that actually instills fear into my heart to make! But with all these fab tips, I am thinking that will be no longer the case! Pinning!

  4. I am a vodka user!! In my regular pie crust, I almost always use vodka (I also use shortening + butter). The pie crust on my blog is a buttermilk pie crust that I like to use as my go-to, but when I’m not feeling it, I turn to the vodka one. I love the texture! I also love this post! Thanks for being thorough, Sally!

  5. I have to admit, pie crust has always been soooo intimidating to me (especially g-free pie crust! eeeeek!) but I love how easy and approachable you make it! AWESOME tips. I’m going to have to do some experimenting in the kitchen in the same way, but with gluten-free flours. As always, thanks for the down-to-earth baking education!! Also — can’t wait to see the cherry pie recipe <3

    1. Hi Leah – did you find something that works for a GF version?  I’ve been trying for a long time, but can’t seem to get it right!

  6. Great tutorial!  This is one item that is so difficult to master.  Practice is the other element needed here. You’ve got to just get your hands in the dough.   I agree with you, shortening and butter are some necessary ingredients in order to make a great crust.   

  7. This is such a great resource for Pie- Baking! Thanks for compiling all these tips. 🙂 I’ve used vodka before (in a brown  butter crust!) and I’ve never had a flakier crust. 

  8. Pie crust used to be so hard for me! Years ago I ended up in tears over a crust and swore to never attempt one again. Last year I watched some YouTube videos and gave it another try. It really doesn’t have to be that difficult if you have a few tips and tricks. This is a great breakdown of crust-making! And ditto on the pastry blender. I can’t believe I attempted a crust without one! No wonder I was frustrated.

  9. I’m so glad you added this to the Baking Basics series!  I’ve studied this post on your blog before and it’s on my list to master this summer. You mention glass pie plates. There’s concern over the newer ones made here in the U.S. being more susceptible to thermal shock and shattering. Any thoughts?  I have an old 9″ Pyrex but it doesn’t accommodate the deep dish pies I’d like to make. 

    1. Chelle, I own both newer and old glass pie dishes. I’ve never had a problem. I personally don’t think you can go wrong with any Pyrex.

  10. I teach high school English and inevitably every year a student asks me if I ever cheated in high school. I was a pretty good kid, so I tell them the truth that I only cheated on two things. Both of these were in my culinary arts class: somebody else made my pie crust for me and another person made my frosting rose. A frosting rose has been something I’ve never regretted not being able to make, but maybe it’s time to revisit the pie crust since every single time I make something from your recipes it is just fantastic!

  11. “You are not mad at the crust”… THIS made me laugh!! Your posts/dialogue about your recipes always cheer me up, Sally!! This looks like a great recipe and I’ll be sure to try it out this weekend! 🙂 Happy Independence Day to You!!

  12. This recipe looks great!  Would this be good for tarts as well?  I have a recipe that  only uses shortening and I find it tastes a bit greasy even though it gets great reviews. If I’m doing all that work I’d prefer to have something I like too!

  13. I have to admit, this particular post was a make-it-or-break-it one for me.  I have a very special place in my heart for pies and pie crusts and if you had some flimsy, silly post, I was ready to leave forever.  But, you NAILED IT!  I have worked on pie crusts for years to get them “just right” and it seems like you have done the same.  EXCELLENT INSTRUCTIONS!  Thank you.

  14. I have always used an all butter recipe and you are right–it tastes great, but doesn’t come out looking pretty! I am anxious to try this. I always use my food processor to make pie crust. Would your recipe work using it? Or do you swear by a pastry cutter?

  15. I’ve read both vodka and vinegar help the pie crust, but then I read another article saying vinegar is useless haha! I 100% agree with the shortening/butter ratio. I made an all butter crust and it just felt like it was missing something. It’s almost like the butter made the pie too rich? It took away from the filling flavor!

  16. This is almost the exact same recipe I use except for 2 things. I do use all butter and my recipe calls for apple cider vinegar. It’s makes the crust super tender! It was a great tip I learned from heartland kitchen. 

  17. I’ve been enjoying your Baking Basics – thank you so much!  They are so helpful.  When I read the part about the vodka, it was like, whaaaat?!  🙂  I’m definitely trying that.  So far my crusts have been all-butter, but I’ve been approaching them with your scone advice in mind – I’ve been using frozen butter, and either putting it in the food processor or grating it to get it started.  I also keep my flour in the freezer, and use it cold for crust recipes.  I don’t know if the frozen butter has been making a huge difference… but the crusts have been tender and flaky.  I’ll have to try it with 1/2 shortening!  (And the vodka, of course.)  Thank you!

  18. Yay yay! Can’t wait for the cherry pie recipe – that is definitely my favorite! I haven’t made homemade pie in a long, long time so I look forward to trying it out!

  19. What a lovely tutorial. I’ve always made all butter pie crusts with a blender. It sounds odd, but it really works: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/07/easy-pie-dough-recipe.html

  20. Thank you!
    This could not have come at a better time…and the tip about chilling your flour, esp in India where it is so hot all the time! Brilliant!
    I am going to try it, this very evening!

  21. hello sally using many of your recipes made aclear difference in my baking love them and thanks to you 
    but as a muslim i cant use vodca or any alchohol liquid any replacement you have ?thank you 

  22. I’m a pie nerd, too! I love baking and my grandmother taught me how to make pies from scratch. I’ve always used all shortening because that’s what she taught me and our family has always raved about her crusts. She has Alzheimer’s disease now, so I am the one to carry on the tradition. I just can’t mess with her pie crust recipe! I’ve made a cherry slab pie before that was excellent; however, it was a pain to pit all of those cherries! This pie is gorgeous!

  23. I have been trying to master making pie crust and so far have had little luck.  I am defintely going to try your recipe; it looks really good and sounds kind of easy.  One question:  Could I make the dough in a food processor instead of using pastry blender?  Love all your recipes!

    1. In my experience, dough mixed by hand is better. Less tough, more flaky, more tender. I never make it in a processor.

  24. Hey, Sally. I’ve been following you for years and I know every recipe I try of yours is going to be foolproof. But this pie crust, man… It’s really kicked my ass.
    I’ve tried it at least 3 times with and without a pastry cutter and it ALWAYS comes out crumbly and falls apart. Also, the mixture turns into clumps long before I add the water, so I typically add about 1 Tbsp of water out of the 1/3 of a cup that you recommend because its already clumpy and coming together. What do you think could be the problem? One thing I do is cut the shortening in before the butter, or vice versa, but not together. Could that be why? I swear by your recipes and I know this would be fantastic so I really wanna nail it. 

    1. Hey Robin! Easy fix. The reason is the lack of water! The reason your dough is crumbly and falls apart is because there is no liquid in the pie dough. There needs to be liquid. Use about 1/2 cup. Trust me!

      1. YES! It worked! I knew your recipes were foolproof. You’re awesome, thanks so much! I can finally make pie!

  25. How do you bake the pie shell? I was going to make a banana cream pie and it needs a baked pie shell. I wanted to use this recipe because I’ve made your salted caramel apple pie and it was soo good.

    1. 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 375F until it begins to color around the edges. (15-20 minutes)

  26. Hey there Sally. Hope your weekend has been good. So my 7 yr old asked that if the Blueberry peach was a hit at our family get together would I make her a blueberry pie. Well it was a hit so now I need to make the blueberry pie I promised.  Could I use the recipe for the Blueberry peach pie and just leave out the blueberries. I found a recipe online, but everything I make of yours turns out perfect. That recipe calls for 6 cups blueberries. 

  27. Awesome thank you. She is so excited to help with her pie. We made the crust tonight. Thanks to your great instructions I am able to make great pie crusts where as before, ummmmmm not so much. 

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