For years I attempted to make a vegan pie crust recipe that was both flaky and flavorful. I tried coconut oil, olive oil, shortening, you name it. The results were bland, a pale imitation of the irresistible crusts that dairy butter delivered. Nothing passed muster.
Turns out all I had to do was wait. With the explosion of plant butters on the market, we can finally have our vegan pie and love it, too. This pie dough recipe works in nearly any sweet or savory recipe calling for an all-butter pie crust.
Plant Butter to the Rescue!
Faux butter has been on the market for years, but it hasn’t always been vegan. I grew up in the 1980s, and what my generation and those before knew as margarine can contain dairy-based ingredients, and therefore was off the table for vegan baking.
Once plant butters started appearing, it was finally possible to do a 1:1 swap for dairy butter to veganize many basic recipes in the baking repertoire. Think of plant butter as fancy margarine that’s much less likely to contain animal-derived products. Still do your diligence and check the label to verify if what you’re buying is vegan.
Like dairy butter, today’s plant butters are at least 80 percent fat. Any plant butter or margarine with less than 80 percent fat by U.S. law must be labeled a “spread”. Avoid plant butters that are spreads, as they’ll deliver underwhelming results in vegan baking.
Vegetable shortening doesn’t have any flavor, so it’s not our favorite for making crust. Note that butter-flavored shortening often contains dairy-derived flavoring and is therefore not vegan.
Expect Some Subtle Differences
Flavor-wise, plant butter delivers a very appealing pie crust. However, it has fundamental differences from a crust made with shortening or dairy butter.
- Pie dough made with plant butter is more prone to cracking when you roll it out. This is because of chemistry! Molecules are not identical across fats. Dairy butter tends to be pliable, while tropical fats like palm oil (which is very common in plant butter) are crumbly and brittle. This translates to a crust that’s a little more finicky.
- Err on the side of handling your crust less and being okay with imperfections. If there’s a hole or a crack, lay a patch of excess dough over it and press lightly instead of mushing and pinching hard, which can soften and overwork the dough, resulting in a tough crust. Your lightly patched crust will look much better once it’s baked, I promise.
- The flavor improves as the baked crust sits. Fresh out of the oven, the crust doesn’t seem like much, but after it’s cooled for 1 hour, the texture and flavor are like the pie dough you know and love.
Plant Butters to Use
Not everyone has access to the same plant butters. I tried this with different ones to see how they performed and tasted. Gladly, you can use any of them and get worthy results, though some are more finicky to use.
- Country Crock Plant Butter with Olive Oil was soft, making it easy to work into the flour. However, it’s prone to getting too soft and greasy. When rolling it out, I needed to dust the crust with flour more generously than other doughs.
- Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks yielded a dough that was on the crumbly side, and prone to cracking when rolled out. I simply did some delicate patchwork in my crust and in the end was happy.
- Miyoko’s European Style Cultured Vegan Butter held up the best, meaning it did not become greasy as I cut it into the dry ingredients. The crust I made with it was easier to roll out and had a wonderful flavor. The downside? This product is not as easy to find, plus it’s expensive.
Fruity Dessert Recipes to Veganize With This Crust
Homemade Vegan Pie Crust
This recipe is for a single 9-inch crust. Double it to make a double crust and form into 2 separate disks, rolling each out individually.
Not all margarines are vegan; check the label to verify. Most products that call themselves “plant butter” or “plant-based” should be in the clear.
If your plant butter is unsalted, increase the salt to 1/2 teaspoon.
8 tablespoons (113g) salted plant butter
2 to 6 tablespoons ice water
1 1/4 cups (160g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (see recipe note)
Cube and chill the plant butter:
Cut the plant butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Place on a small plate and pop it in the freezer so it stays as cold as possible while you finish your prep.
Put a large sheet of plastic wrap out on the counter so it’s ready for wrapping your disk of dough. That way you don’t have to wrangle around for plastic wrap later with sticky pie dough hands.
Prepare the ice water:
If you don’t have ice, measure out the 6 tablespoons of water and chill it so it’s as cold as possible. Leave the tablespoon in the cup; you’ll use it later.
Combine the dry ingredients:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
Work in the fat:
Get the plant butter out of the freezer and dump it into the bowl. Toss the pieces to coat in the flour mixture so they are not clumped together.
Using your fingertips, smoosh the fat into flakes and small pieces. If you’d rather not use your hands, use a pastry cutter.
Your fingertips are the coolest part of your hands and are less likely to warm the fat as you work it in. You want the plant butter bits to remain cool and pliable.
Don’t rush through this step. You are aiming to have flakes or pieces of butter no larger than the size of a pea. It’ll look like a crumbly mess, which is exactly as it should be.
If the butter starts to get greasy, pop the entire bowl in the freezer, wait 5 to 10 minutes, and then resume your work.
Drizzle in the ice water:
One tablespoon at a time, drizzle in the cold water and toss gently with your hands as if tossing a salad. You will not need all of the liquid.
Keep adding liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing and pressing together, until the dough resembles a rough, shaggy mass and keeps its shape when you squeeze a ball of it in your fist.
You’re not kneading the dough, per se; you’re just getting the water distributed so there are no dry, floury patches. Err on the side of slightly sticky rather than floury.
Lightly knead, then wrap in plastic:
Lightly knead the dough just a few times so it forms a cohesive ball (I do this right in the bowl rather than on the counter). Then transfer it to the center of the plastic wrap, press it into a flat disk about 6 inches across, and wrap tightly.
Chill 30 minutes before rolling:
The dough is often easier to handle once it’s rested for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
You can refrigerate the wrapped disk of dough for up to 3 days, or freeze it for up to 6 months. Thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator.
Roll out the dough:
This is best done in a cool kitchen, which keeps the dough from breaking down and becoming fragile and greasy. If your kitchen is hot, consider working early in the morning, when it’s coolest.
Generously flour a clean counter or pastry cloth. Dust the rolling pin and the dough itself on both sides well with flour. If the dough has been in the fridge for more than a few hours, let it sit out for 10 minutes before rolling it out.
Don’t have a pastry cloth? Line your countertop with a few overlapping large sheets of plastic wrap. This makes for easy cleanup.
Working from the center of the dough, roll away from you and then toward you, rotating the disk of dough bit by bit as you roll. This helps keep it from sticking. Dust the dough and/or the counter with more flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
To line a 9-inch pie dish, you’ll want a circle of dough at least 14 inches across.
Brush the excess flour off the dough with a clean, dry pastry brush or your hand. Lift the rolled-out dough into the dish by rolling it up on the pin and letting it drape over the center of the dish.
Some plant butters are more prone to making the dough crack or tear than others. If your dough seems brittle, just keep going and don’t worry about perfection. You can patch cracks with excess dough. Avoid pinching or mushing the patches together, as that can make the crust tough.
Shape the crust:
Trim the excess from the sides of the pan. If you’d like to create a folded and pinched edge, leave about 1 inch of overhang. If the dough is too brittle to easily fold without it cracking, just trim it so the crust is even with the rim of the pan.
To make a pinched crust, fold the overhang under the rim of the pan. Then use your thumb and forefinger to flute the edges.
Don’t worry about a picture-perfect crust! Imperfections often disappear once the pie is baked.
To blind bake the crust (fully bake the crust without any filling), proceed as you would with any other pie dough.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 13g||17%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||38%|
|Total Carbohydrate 16g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||2%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|