Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, as more people discover they have sensitivities or allergies to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. For those who need to avoid gluten, navigating day to day meals and baked goods can present challenges. Fortunately, there are more and more gluten free options available on grocery store shelves, including gluten free pie crusts.
What is gluten and who needs to avoid it?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. It helps give elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape. It gives bread its chewy texture. For most people, consuming gluten is not a problem. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms and health issues.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the small intestine is damaged by exposure to gluten. This damage prevents proper absorption of nutrients from food. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) refers to a condition where an individual experiences adverse reactions when ingesting gluten, but does not have celiac disease. Symptoms of gluten intolerance can include gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain. It can also cause fatigue, headache, anxiety, brain fog and more. The only treatment for celiac disease or NCGS is strictly adhering to a 100% gluten free diet. This means reading ingredient labels diligently and avoiding obvious sources of gluten like bread, pasta, baked goods and beer.
Challenges of following a gluten free diet
While gluten free living has gotten much easier over the past decade, it still presents challenges. Gluten is found in many everyday food products, including sauces, dressings, soups, broths, soy sauce, seasonings, chips, fries cooked in shared oil and more. It takes diligence to identify hidden sources of gluten and make sure you are fully avoiding it.
One especially difficult thing to give up for gluten free folks is baked goods. So many baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries and pie crusts rely on wheat flour for their delicious taste and texture. Finding tasty gluten free replacements for these treasured treats can be frustrating. But with some research and trial and error, gluten free bakers can find alternatives they enjoy. And fortunately, grocery stores now offer more and more gluten free bakery items so you don’t have to bake from scratch every time.
What is pie crust?
Pie crust is the thin, crispy outer layer of a pie. Traditional pie crust contains wheat flour, salt, butter and/or shortening or lard. These ingredients are mixed, chilled, rolled out and shaped before baking to form the characteristic flaky layers. The gluten in the wheat flour gives the crust its structure and helps it hold together and remain tender and crisp. Fats like butter and shortening keep the crust tender by coating the gluten strands and preventing them from forming too many bonds.
After the crust bakes, the starches swell and steam evaporates, resulting in the light, flaky texture. Meanwhile, sugars caramelize, also enhancing the flavor. Pie fillings ranging from fruit to custard to chocolate are baked within the pie crust casing.
Challenges of gluten free pie crust
Recreating the flaky, crispy texture of traditional pie crust without gluten presents difficulties. Gluten free flours, even when blended, do not contain the elastic proteins necessary to produce the same texture. When gluten free flours are substituted into a typical pie crust recipe, you often end up with a gritty, crumbly crust. Trial and error is necessary to adjust the ingredients and proportions to achieve a tender, flaky gluten free crust.
Some common issues with gluten free pie crust are:
- Too dry and crumbly
- Too gritty in texture
- Falls apart or cracks
- Doesn’t hold its shape when rolling
- Loses crispness too quickly, becomes soft
To overcome these challenges, gluten free bakers have to get creative. Using alternative flours like almond meal, buckwheat flour or oat flour can improve the texture. Binding agents like xanthan gum or guar gum help hold the crust together. Vinegar or lemon juice tenderizes the dough. And careful handling when rolling and transferring the shaped dough prevents cracking. With testing and adjustments, you can make tasty gluten free crusts to be proud of.
Benefits of gluten free frozen pie crust
To make life a little easier, several brands now offer gluten free frozen pie crusts. Choosing a frozen gluten free crust provides several advantages:
- Convenience – no need to gather ingredients and spend time mixing, chilling and rolling out dough
- Consistency – uniform texture and flavor
- Time savings – simply thaw and fill as needed
- Mess reduction – no need to flour work surfaces and mixing bowls
- Peace of mind – assurance that manufacturing facilities are gluten free
- Labor savings – much less hands on effort
- Portion control – crusts come in convenient ready to use sizes like a 9 or 10 inch round
Frozen gluten free pie crusts open up possibilities for quick and easy pies any night of the week. They can also be handy for holidays, parties or pie fundraisers when you need to make a lot of pies but have limited time. You get the satisfaction of serving homemade pie without all the from-scratch effort.
Where to buy gluten free frozen pie crust
Gluten free frozen pie crusts are carried at many large supermarket chains. Some brands to look for include:
- Pillsbury Gluten Free Pie Crust Dough
- Krusteaz Gluten Free Pie Crust
- Betty Crocker Gluten Free Pie Crusts
- Immaculate Baking Company Gluten Free Pie Crust
- Wholly Wholesome Gluten Free Pie Shells
- Namaste Foods Gluten Free Perfect Pie Crust
- Mama Mary’s Gluten Free Pie Crust
You can typically find these alongside the regular frozen pie crusts in the freezer aisle. Be sure to double check that the package is labeled gluten free.
Many major grocery delivery services like Instacart, Amazon Fresh and Walmart Grocery also carry gluten free crusts for quick shipping to your door. Smaller online gluten free specialty shops are another option. These include sites like:
Natural food stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts or Earth Fare will typically stock at least one or two varieties in their freezer case as well.
Prices of gluten free frozen pie crust
Expect gluten free frozen pie crusts to cost a little more than regular wheat flour crusts. Prices often range from about $4.50-$8 for a package containing two crusts. Here are some approximate prices for popular brands:
- Pillsbury Gluten Free Pie Crusts – $4.79 for two 9-inch crusts
- Krusteaz Gluten Free Pie Crusts – $5.49 for two 9-inch crusts
- Betty Crocker Gluten Free Pie Crusts – $5.49 for two 9-inch crusts
- Immaculate Baking Company – $7.99 for two 9-inch crusts
- Wholly Wholesome – $7.99 for two 9-inch crusts
- Namaste Foods – $6.99 for two 9-inch crusts
- Mama Mary’s – $8.99 for two 9-inch crusts
The price tends to break down to $2.25-$4.50 per crust. Buying larger packages with 3-4 crusts can sometimes reduce the per crust cost a bit. Store brand gluten free crusts are also usually a little cheaper than name brands. With regular sales, promotions and coupons, you can often get deals on the pricier options.
Taste and texture comparison
When it comes to taste and texture, gluten free pie crusts get mixed reviews. Here is how some of the major brands compare:
Pillsbury Gluten Free Pie Crust
Pillsbury’s gluten free crust gets praise for its mild, neutral flavor that doesn’t compete with fillings. It bakes up light and crisp. Some find it gritty or mealy in texture. It can be prone to crumbling when cutting slices. But it’s a reliable option that’s readily available.
Krusteaz Gluten Free Pie Crust
Krusteaz crust has a distinct shortbread flavor from rice flour that stands up to fillings. It bakes to a crispy browned crust that remains sturdy when sliced. However, some think the texture is too dry and sandy.
Betty Crocker Gluten Free Pie Crust
Betty Crocker’s gluten free crust has a reputation for achieving an authentically flaky, tender texture. It holds up well to fillings and baking. The mild flavor provides a neutral backdrop. Negatives are that it can dry out quickly or taste bland.
Immaculate Baking Company Gluten Free Pie Crust
Immaculate Baking earns praise for its tender, flaky texture with noticeable layers. It mimics traditional wheat pie crust well. The taste is buttery from palm oil shortening. But some find the texture too crumbly or mushy.
Wholly Wholesome Gluten Free Pie Shells
Wholly Wholesome’s crust stands out for its crunch and structure. It retains its shape both before and after baking with a pleasing layered texture. The natural ingredients lend a subtle sweetness. But some find it dense rather than flaky.
Namaste Foods Gluten Free Perfect Pie Crust
Namaste Foods crust has a firm texture that holds up well to juicy fillings. It has a pleasant butter and shortbread taste. But some find it bland and lacking in flakes. The texture can be dry or chalky.
Mama Mary’s Gluten Free Pie Crust
Mama Mary’s is known for its authentic, old-fashioned pie crust flavor and ultra flaky texture. It browns beautifully and slices cleanly. The only downside is the higher cost.
As you can see, experiences vary somewhat based on personal preference. Your own taste buds will guide you towards your favorite gluten free frozen pie crust. You may need to experiment with a couple brands to decide which you like best.
Tips for success with frozen gluten free pie crust
To ensure you have the best results baking with purchased gluten free pie crusts, keep these tips in mind:
- Allow the crust to thaw gradually in the refrigerator overnight before use. Thaw in the packaging to avoid drying out.
- Line the pie pan with the crust before letting it fully thaw. It’s easier to handle when still slightly chilled.
- Pre-bake empty crusts 5-10 minutes before adding fillings to prevent a soggy bottom.
- Brush crust edges lightly with egg wash or milk for enhanced browning and sheen.
- Place a sheet of foil over the crust edge halfway through baking to prevent over-browning.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing for clean cuts and optimal flavor.
- Store any unused crusts in a freezer bag in the freezer up to 2 months.
With proper handling, you can achieve bakery-quality pies using convenient gluten free frozen crusts. They make gluten free baking so much faster and easier. Be sure to thoroughly read labels and follow manufacturing precautions concerning shared equipment if you have celiac disease.
Make your own gluten free pie crust
While store-bought frozen crusts offer convenience, you can also make great gluten free pie crusts from scratch. Homemade allows you to control the ingredients and tailor to your own preferences. Here is a basic recipe to try:
Gluten Free Pie Crust Recipe
- 1 1/4 cups (140g) glutenn free flour blend (like Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 or King Arthur Measure for Measure)
- 1/4 cup (28g) tapioca flour
- 1/4 cup (48g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
- 1/2 cup (112g) cold butter, cubed
- 1 large egg
- 2-3 tablespoons ice cold water
- In a food processor, combine the flours, sugar and salt. Pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 2 tablespoons water. With the food processor running, pour in egg mixture and process just until incorporated. If dough seems dry, add another tablespoon of cold water as needed until it holds together when pinched. Do not overmix.
- Turn out dough onto plastic wrap. Divide in half and form each half into a disc. Wrap tightly and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- On a well floured surface, roll out one disc to about 1/8 inch thickness. Fit into a 9 inch pie pan, trimming edges as needed. Fill and bake as recipe directs. Roll out second disc for top crust if making a double crust pie.
Feel free to adjust the sweetener or add spices, herbs or citrus zest to customize the flavor. Chilling the dough makes it easier to handle. And keeping the butter cold prevents overworking to maintain flakiness. With practice, you can make gluten free crust to rival any wheat flour version.
In summary, gluten free frozen pie crusts now provide a quick baking shortcut for those on restricted diets. Thanks to growing demand, gluten free versions are stocked at most major supermarkets alongside their traditional counterparts. While perhaps a couple dollars pricier, the convenience can be worth it for busy home bakers and those new to gluten free cooking. You can now enjoy fast treats like spontaneous banana cream pies, mixed berry galettes and classic pumpkin pies using safe, purchased crusts.
Texture and flavor varies somewhat by brand, so sampling different options helps determine preferences. With proper handling and baking tips, these store-bought crusts can deliver tender, golden pies the whole family will love. Of course, creating your own gluten free crust from scratch allows for complete customization. As gluten free products continue improving in quality and availability, sticking to a wheat-free diet gets a little bit easier.