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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 (especially as salted caramel apple pie!).

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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (313g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), plus more as needed for shaping and rolling
  • 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.
  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 pie, peach piechicken pot pie, peach pie, pumpkin pie, quichepecan pie, blueberry pie, apple crumble piehomemade pop-tarts, and salted caramel apple pie.

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I know lard has been around since the beginning of time and produces a tasty crust, but why would anyone want to put that my bad cholesterol in their body?

  2. Hi there! good to replace vodka with other tipples? such as whisky or Gin?

    1. Hi Audrey! Best to stick with cold water or vodka for this pie crust.

  3. Can I replace the vegetable shortening with something else if I don’t have any on hand?

  4. Thank you! After years of hit and miss pie crusts, I now have consistent success using your recipe and methods. I had come to the conclusion that I just could not make a good pie crust, and my “pie crust stress” was getting the best of me. Then, I found your website and everything changed. Your tutorial video felt like you were talking to me. I appreciated the information regarding how to incorporate the flour and butter and what “small peas” actually looked like, as well as approximately how long it took to achieve the consistency. I smiled and felt such relief when you demonstrated how to correct imperfections, especially when rolling out the crust and positioning it into the plate. I loved your technique of cutting an extra strip of dough for evening out the edges. Now, I have complete confidence and success when making your Homemade Buttery Flaky Pie Crust. I have been following this recipe and tips for two years now, and I have shared your website with many of my friends. In closing, I have learned a great deal from you. I want to thank you for helping me to be better at baking and easing the stress of pie crusts. Now, I am always proud to serve my pies to my guests and family. No more pie crust stress! Bless you.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind note, Lisa! We’re so thrilled to hear that you’re enjoying our recipes and love this pie crust recipe, it’s a favorite. Happy baking!

  5. Can I make the crust in my food processor?

    1. Hi Michelle, While you could use a food processor to make this pie crust, it’s strongly recommend to use a pastry cutter, or even two forks, to avoid over-mixing. Food processors are quick to over-work pie dough.

  6. Sally I’ve taken a break from making pies …like a ton of pies during quarantine now that I’ve returned to work. But hubby brought home rhubarb to encourage me to make one, so I did. This time I used my vitamix to blend (pulse) all the pie ingredients. I was worried because I barely used any water towards the end thinking the crust would be too moist. It turned out great!! Now there’s a quicker way to make your excellent crust whenever we crave pies (I see this happening often this summer). Thank you again!

  7. Hi Sally, you’re my favorite baking site! Love your stuff! Quick question, I made these crusts for several pies and the dough turned out weird. It was simultaneously both very, very sticky and falling apart which made it difficult to work and a real chore to finally get into a pie pan, taking several attempts. However, the taste and consistency of the crust turned out great once baked. I’ve made a lot of different crusts and have never seen this before. Where did I mess this up?? Thanks!

    1. Hi Ridlon! If the dough was sticky, it may have had too much liquid added – try adding a bit less next time. And make sure to use flour when rolling it out and handling it to prevent it from sticking and breaking apart. Glad you enjoyed it once it was baked!

  8. Just found this recipe and will pair it with the updated blueberry pie recipe. I am wondering about changing the baking time if I use small pie pans that are the size of mini tarts. Would I shorten the bake time?
    Thanks! Your baking addiction really is helpful to me!

    1. Hi Connie! Yes, the bake time will be shorter for smaller pies, though we’re unsure of the exact bake time needed. Thank you so much for making and trusting our recipes!

  9. I want to make your Blueberry Pie for a friend who is vegan. Should I use butter-flavored shortening for the pie crust and how much?

    1. Hi Glenda! You can use all shortening but your pie crust will not be as flakey.

  10. Could you substitute butter and/or shortening with high ratio shortening? Could you use high ratio shortening with butter? Lastly, what is your opinion about using the high fat butter like Kerry Gold or is that just too much fat?

    So many questions. Thanks!

    1. Hi Marsha, European style butter, like Kerry Gold, is wonderful in cooking but we find it’s difficult to use in baking recipes– especially pie crust. Its higher fat percentage, while making the butter tasty, creates too much grease in doughs. We have not tested a high ratio shortening but suspect that the same would be true if using it.

  11. Hi, I want to try out this recipe but can’t find any shortening. Is it possible to replace it with margarine (higher water content)?
    Thanks 🙂

  12. Love, love the pie dough recipe ,(as well the site). Have received many compliments and requests for the recipe, evenfrom a cousin whose mom was the pie queen in our family – well earned. I changed the recipe just a bit. Grated 1 stick (8 T) frozen butter into the flour before adding
    butter flavired shortening and lightly toss. Then add shortening. Also, if you have any leftover pie dough, roll out, smear with butter and top with cinnamon sugar. Cook’s treat.

  13. I’ve been using a food processor with your recipe but it seems the dough comes out extremely wet and sticky, even with just a tiny bit of water. I tried dumping the flour/shortening/butter mixture into a bowl and adding the water there but it still was very wet with just 2 tblsp of water. But after chilling it, it was very dry and brittle when I tried to roll it out, and kept breaking, even the strips for the lattice crust. Suggestions?

    1. Hi Kirk, While you could use a food processor to make this pie crust, it’s strongly recommend to use a pastry cutter, or even two forks, to avoid over-mixing. Food processors are quick to over-work pie dough which is likely the root of these troubles. For next time, we recommend trying one of these alternate methods instead of the food processor. Let us know if we can help to troubleshoot further!

  14. This is my go-to recipe now for no-fail pie crust. Also, for those considering using lard: My friend and I experimented last year, making crusts with one recipe as written here and one with lard instead of vegetable shortening. They both turned out well and tasted delicious, but our families all agreed that the crust made with lard had a slight taste and flake advantage!

  15. Tried this recipe twice today. What am I doing wrong!!?? Very frustrated. The first time, the walls of the pie caved in while par baking. Even with the extra strips!! The second time, it was a soupy goopy mess in the bowl and I tossed the whole thing out. I hadn’t even added a quarter cup of water yet!!

    1. Hi Sandra! Make sure to use enough pie weights when par-baking, you want to mostly fill the crust to prevent shrinking. As for as a gooey mixture, make sure to keep your fats (butter and shortening) VERY cold to prevent them from melting into the dough while you work with it. Hope these tips help for next time! The video in the post above may be helpful as well for a visual.

  16. I do NOT like making pie crusts but decided to try this one for my husband for Father’s Day this year. This one was delicious and easy!! I will definitely be making it again!!

  17. I have spent years searching for a pie crust recipe that I can use that’s not crumbly and/or difficult to roll and doesn’t taste like bread!!! THIS NAILED IT!!! I’ve used it practically everyday since I’ve found it about three weeks ago I’ve just been on a baking spree as this pie crust is just unbelievably good…..

    Thank you soo much from my family and I for blessing us with this wonderful recipe❤

  18. Hi! What would I swap out if I want to try this pie crust with lard? Thank you! 🙂

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

  19. This is my go-to pie crust now! Always turns out amazing!

  20. I use milk (and lard ) instead of water, and oh! What a difference!

  21. Hi Sally. Every year I make at least 12 pies for thabks giving. Half sweet potato and half apple. For years I made my crust by hand, and it would take forever. One year I actually worked my hand so much I got a tendinitis. So I decided to purchase a kitchen aid to decrease the hand labor when making so many pies. This had helped do much. I have been using my grandmother’s old school pie recipe for years, but your kooks amazing an I want to try it. What is your stance on using a kitchen aid with the flat spatula like mixing pice for pastries and also with so many pies, I give them away. I usually use the 10 inch deep foil pie pans. I have been taught to always bake my crust a little first, and to put fork holes all on the bottom, that usually seems to work but I do notice the crust does shrink from the top a little but prevents puffing up..then I put the pie filling in and continue to bake. I have never tried to pie weights before but I heard of them. Sorry so long.

    1. Hi Bridgeete, I don’t usually recommend a mixer for pie dough because it can’t cut cold fats into the dry ingredients quite like a pastry cutter or food processor. If you aren’t using a pastry cutter/doing it by hand, I really do recommend a food processor. Pie weights are extremely helpful when par baking pie dough.

  22. This is the best butte pie crust I’ve ever made. Came out perfect (made a cherry pie one) Thank you. I was giving up already and then I found you. Love from Slovakia.

  23. Can I fully bake the pie crust and freeze it for later use also could I add some sugar

    1. Hi Andy, You could pre-bake, cool completely, then wrap and freeze. Thaw slightly before continuing to blind bake or before filling. No need to thaw completely. 1 Tablespoon of sugar would not mess up anything in the dough. Use regular white granulated sugar, not brown. Mix it in with the salt + flour.

  24. Yes, i love the ‘traditional’ butter/shortening recipe, but since trans fat concerns, i have been looking for a crust recipe without Crisco, which i think still has some trans fat. my attempts at all butter have not worked, comes out crispy not flaky. i have begun to use Spectrum, trans fat shortening and butter. Appreciate any comments, as i love pies?

    1. Hi Ken, I’ve made this dough with Spectrum brand shortening before and have loved the result. If you’re looking for an all butter alternative, this all butter pie crust is tender and flaky.

  25. Have you ever tried using butter flavored shortening? Or would that make the butter flavor too overpowering?

    1. Hi Traci, butter-flavored shortening will work just fine in this recipe.

  26. Hi, Sally! My pie dish is slightly larger, 9.5 inches. Would this recipe still produce enough dough as written, or do you think I would need to add more to it?

    1. Hi Megan! For your slightly larger pie dish, you should be able to simply roll the crust a bit thinner. You could always make 1.5x the recipe to ensure you have enough and trim excess dough from the edges of the pan. Hope this helps!

  27. First time making this pie crust. AWFUL. I followed directions exactly and wondered aloud about all the shortening AND butter. My timer just went off on my pie, and the top crust is raw, doughy and not cooked. I will leave the pie in the over a bit longer hoping the top cooks.

  28. I followed the recommendation to cover with foil after the first 20 minutes. I think that is where my problem started. I took the foil off , and let the pie cook another 30 minutes . My pie browned beautifully (and no, my pie did not burn).

    I will try this again, but leave the foil off.

  29. Sally, I’ve been loving all things on your site – and especially the baking by weight versus measuring cup method. This is new to me! And transformative! Just a quick question on this double pie crust recipe; is it intentional that there is no sugar at all in the dough? Seems most other recipes I’ve ever known have at least a small amount included. Thanks for clarifying!

    1. Hi Michelle! We use a touch of sugar in our all butter pie crust to help break down the large quantity of butter. Since we’re not using as much here, there’s no need for sugar. The shortening doesn’t need help breaking down at all. However, 1 Tablespoon of sugar would not mess up anything in the dough here. Use regular white granulated sugar, not brown. Mix it in with the salt + flour. Hope this helps!

  30. Hi Sally, your recipe sounds very similar to my moms who was an excellent pie baker. She adds vinegar and the pies are always flakey. I always add foil around the edge of pie first 1/2 so it doesn’t overbake