Gluten free pie crust can be tricky to work with. Without the gluten to hold it together, it can easily become crumbly and fall apart. However, with the right ingredients and techniques, you can make a tender, flaky gluten free crust that holds up beautifully.
Gluten free flours lack gluten, the protein that gives dough elasticity and structure. To compensate, you need to use binders in your dough. Here are some good options:
- Xanthan gum – A tiny bit of this gluten free baking essential helps hold the dough together. Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per crust.
- Guar gum – Another binder that mimics gluten. Use about 1/2 teaspoon per crust.
- Ground flax – Whisking ground flax seeds with water makes a “flax egg” that acts as a binder. Use 1 tablespoon flax meal whisked with 3 tablespoons water per egg replaced.
- Cream cheese – Tangy cream cheese adds structure. Use 2 to 4 tablespoons per crust.
- Nut butters – Almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower seed butter bind the dough. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons per crust.
Be careful not to overdo it on binders or the crust can become dense. Start with less and add more as needed to get the right consistency.
Choose the right flours
Using a blend of gluten free flours creates a more cohesive dough. Some good options include:
- White rice flour – Gives crusts tenderness.
- Brown rice flour – Adds nuttiness and structure.
- Tapioca flour or starch – Lightens texture.
- Almond flour – Imparts flavor and richness.
- Sorghum or millet flour – Provides texture.
You can make your own flour blend or use a store bought gluten free flour mix. Avoid blends with starches like potato or cornstarch, which can make crusts gummy.
Use chilled ingredients
Working with cold ingredients helps prevent the dough from becoming too warm and sticky. Keep your crust ingredients chilled before use:
- Refrigerate your gluten free flour blend.
- Chill the butter before cutting it into the flour.
- Use ice cold water to bind the dough.
Avoid overworking the dough, which raises its temperature. Mix the dough just until it comes together.
Fat tenderizes gluten free crusts and gives flakiness. Some tasty options include:
- Butter – The classic choice. Use 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) for a double crust pie.
- Shortening – Helps make a tender, melt-in-your-mouth crust. Use 1/2 cup for a double crust.
- Lard – Adds incredible flakiness. Try 1/2 cup per double crust.
- Coconut oil – A clean flavor that pairs well with fruit pies. Use a scant 1/2 cup melted per double crust.
Cut the fat into the dry ingredients until it resembles fine crumbs for an even distribution.
Shape the dough well
Shaping the dough neatly helps ensure the edges hold together during baking. Here’s how:
- On a floured surface, gently roll out the larger disk of dough into an even circle.
- Carefully fit it into the pie pan and trim any excess dough from the edges.
- Roll out the top crust and cut into strips with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
- Lay the strips in a lattice pattern over the filling and trim off extra length.
- Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crust together to seal.
- Crimp decoratively by pinching the dough between your fingers.
Chilling the shaped crust helps firm it up before baking.
Par-bake the crust
Pre-baking, or par-baking, the crust prevents it from becoming soggy from wet fillings. Here’s how:
- Prick dough all over with a fork.
- Line crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake at 400°F for 10-15 minutes until just beginning to brown.
- Remove weights and lining and continue baking 2-3 more minutes until set.
Let the par-baked crust cool before filling to prevent oozing. Brush edges with egg wash before topping to help binding and browning.
Reinforce lattice crusts
Beautiful woven lattice tops are prone to slipping and gaping. Here are some tips:
- Weave strips tightly, without gaps in the lattice pattern.
- Brush the lattice with egg wash for better adherence.
- Place foil strips underneath the crust strips as added support.
- Once set, remove foil and continue baking until deep golden brown.
Chilling the pie after assembly helps lock the lattice in place before baking.
Keep it cool
Gluten free dough becomes more delicate as it warms. Follow these tips for cool handling:
- Make the dough in a cool kitchen, around 60°F to 70°F if possible.
- Shape dough quickly and return to refrigerator to chill between steps.
- When rolling out, use brief strokes rather than pushing and stretching the dough.
- Refrigerate dough for 10-15 minutes if it becomes sticky while working.
Avoid leaving shaped crusts out at room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to fill and bake.
Creating steam in the oven prevents the exposed crust edges from drying out. Methods include:
- Placing a rimmed baking sheet on the rack below the pie to catch any drips.
- Filling the sheet with ice cubes before baking.
- Lightly spritzing the crust edges with water before baking.
- Spraying the oven walls with water when you turn the pie.
Steam only during the first half of baking, until the crust sets. Extended steam makes crusts soggy.
Brush with egg wash
An egg wash gives crusts sheen, browning, and binding power. Make one by beating together:
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Pinch of salt
Brush the egg wash over pie crusts before baking. The wash glazes and seals the surface as it bakes.
Use pie shields or foil
Pie crust edges often brown faster than the top. Prevent over-browning with:
- Pie shields – Metal rings that sit over the edge of the crust for protection.
- Foil strips – Strips of foil wrapped around crust edges.
Shields and foil tenting should be removed during the last 15-20 minutes of baking so the edges fully crisp up.
Let cool completely
It’s hard to resist cutting into a freshly baked pie! But gluten free crusts remain fragile while hot. Allow pies to cool completely before slicing to prevent the crust crumbling:
- Cool at room temperature 1-2 hours.
- For clean slices, refrigerate pie 3-4 hours once cooled.
This allows the filling to set fully and the crust to firm up. Now you’re ready to serve your homemade gluten free pie!
Troubleshooting Crumbling Crusts
Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry. If your gluten free crust still comes out crumbly, look at these common issues:
Not enough binder
Without adequate binder, gluten free crusts lack cohesion. Try adding a bit more xanthan gum, flax egg, nut butter or other binder.
Dough too dry
A crust that cracks and crumbles may need more moisture. Add water slowly, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough holds together when pinched.
Excess handling makes edges split and crack. When shaping crusts, handle edges as little as possible and use brief, gentle strokes.
Baked too long
Dry, brittle crusts often bake too long. Use pie shields, reduce oven temperature and watch crust closely to prevent over-browning.
Cooled too quickly
Fast cooling gives crusts no time to set, causing cracking. Allow pies to gradually cool at room temperature before refrigerating.
Storing and Reheating Tips
Like all pies, gluten free creations taste best fresh. But here are some storage tips to extend their shelf life:
- Cover pie tightly and refrigerate up to 3 days.
- Freeze pie unbaked up to 2 months; bake frozen pie 15 minutes longer.
- Freeze baked pie up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in fridge before serving.
- Reheat thawed pie 10-15 minutes at 350°F until warm throughout.
Avoid refrigerating pies with custard fillings like pumpkin or pecan, which causes weeping. Enjoy those pies within 2 days.
With the right techniques, you can enjoy gluten free pies with tender, flaky crusts and vibrant fillings. Get creative with fruit, nut, cream, custard and savory fillings galore.
Gluten Free Pie Crust Recipes
Once you master the method, get creative with gluten free crusts! Here are some tasty recipes to try:
Basic Gluten Free Pie Crust
This simple recipe uses a flour blend, butter, oil and ice water for a tender, flaky crust.
- 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold butter, diced
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3-5 tablespoons ice water
- In a food processor, pulse together the flour, xanthan gum and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle in oil and pulse to combine.
- With machine running, slowly add just enough ice water for dough to come together. Divide into two disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- On a floured surface, roll out one disk into a 12-inch round. Press into a 9-inch pie pan, trim edges and flute decoratively. Roll out second disk for top crust.
- Fill as desired and top with second crust. Cut vents, seal and flute edges. Chill 30 minutes before baking as directed.
Gluten Free Graham Cracker Crust
For a crisp, cookie-like crust, use graham cracker crumbs held together with sugar and butter.
- 1 1/2 cups gluten free graham cracker crumbs
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- In a bowl, mix together crumbs, sugar and melted butter until well blended.
- Press mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie pan to form the crust.
- Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely before filling.
Grain-Free Almond Flour Crust
Nutty, tender almond flour makes a delicious grain-free pie crust.
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 large egg
- In a bowl, stir together almond flour, coconut oil, honey and egg until a dough forms.
- Press dough into a 9-inch pie pan and shape edges as desired. Prick all over with a fork.
- Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes until set and lightly browned. Cool before filling.
Baking the perfect gluten free pie crust does take some care and practice. But with the right blend of ingredients and handling techniques, you can have beautiful crusts that hold together beautifully. Experiment with these tips and recipes for tender, flaky pies the whole family will love.