From the first bite to the last slice, tomato pie is sublime: Sharp tomatoes and savory bacon are seasoned with thyme and bathed with mayo and sharp cheese to make a humble pie that's the perfect entrée for your end-of-summer suppers and lazy weekend brunches.
I have a theory that tomato pie was created by thrifty Southern cooks who were trying to make the most of tomatoes from their backyard gardens — especially those tomatoes that weren't quite ripe enough for tomato-and-mayo sandwiches or canning. These cooks had the ingenious idea to transform these so-so tomatoes into something wildly delicious with pantry staples like mayonnaise and breadcrumbs. It also means that any home cook can master this speciality with just a few key points.
What Is Southern Tomato Pie?
Not to be confused with the classic thin-crusted pizza also know as tomato pie, Southern tomato pie is like a savory, crumb-topped pie that feels more like a scrappy casserole made from basic pantry staples and an overabundance of tomatoes. There are no added eggs to bind it, so it doesn't come close to quiche, but the mayo and cheese help hold everything together. It's the sort of retro-classic dish that you'd find in Junior League cookbooks rather than in historical reference cookbooks. The resulting pie is rich in buttery-crispness from the crust and crumb mixture, while remaining juicy, tangy, and deeply savory from the tomatoes, bacon, and cheddar cheese.
For Your Information
- This pie calls for 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes and pie crust. Feel free to buy store-bought crust or make your own.
- The crust blind bakes at 350°F for 20 minutes. The filled pie bakes at the same temperature for 40 to 45 minutes.
Two Southern Secrets for Better Tomato Pie
The biggest challenge when adding ripe tomatoes to pie is combining those juicy specimens with a crisp crust without either getting soggy. Two steps will ensure a crispy crust. The first is blind baking the crust: Bake the pie crust with beans or pie weights to keep the bottom of the crust flat, and bake until golden-brown. Make sure the crust is cool before filling.
The second step is salting the tomatoes while the pie crust blind bakes, and then patting them dry with paper towels to remove as much moisture from the tomatoes as possible before building the pie.
Read more: How To Blind Bake a Pie Crust
Put Your Duke's Up
I realize that many people are brand loyal when it comes to mayonnaise, but Duke's Mayonnaise is near religion in the South. This thick and tangy mayo is the only mayonnaise I'd eat on tomato and mayo sandwiches and one that makes tomato pie taste even more like the regional specialty it is. Luckily, you can have a small jar delivered to your door for just a few dollars.
Read more: Why Duke's Is the Best Mayonnaise
Three Steps for the Best Tomato Pie
- Choose firm, low-moisture tomatoes for tomato pie. Romas and beefsteak work well. Ripe heirlooms have too much moisture and will waterlog the pie. After slicing, pat the sliced tomatoes dry with paper towels to remove surface moisture.
- Blind bake the pie dough for a crisp crust. Baking the pie shell without the tomatoes — and instead filled with beans and parchment paper — is the easiest way to ensure a crisp crust.
- Bake it longer than you think it needs. The crust should be golden-brown and bubbly, with dark, crisp edges on the pie crust.
Serving Tomato Pie
Cool the pie for at least 15 minutes before slicing. The longer you can wait to slice it, the neater your slices will be. Use a sharp knife to ensure you can slice through all the tomatoes and their skins. Serve at room temperature with a cold glass of bubbly wine, preferable on a cool porch with a swing.
How To Make Southern Tomato Pie
What You Need
6 slices bacon
1 1/2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, thickly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter cracker crumbs (about twelve 3/4-inch crackers), such as Ritz
9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate
Dried beans or pie weights
Large cast iron skillet
Knife and cutting board
Measuring cup and spoons
- Preheat the oven and roll out the pie crust. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Roll out the pie dough to an 11-inch round, then transfer to a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate.
- Crimp the edges of the crust. Roll the edges of the dough about 1/2 inch over on itself, then crimp or flute. Refrigerate while the oven heats.
- Blind bake the pie crust for 20 minutes. Line the chilled pie shell with parchment paper, then fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Cook the bacon until crisp. While the pie crust bakes, place the bacon in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and cook until crisp, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the pan to paper towels to drain.
- Cool the pie crust. Place the crust on a wire rack and carefully remove the parchment and beans or weights. Set aside to cool while assembling the rest of the filling ingredients.
- Salt the tomatoes and chop the bacon. Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Finely chop the crisped bacon. Pat the tomatoes dry with another double layer of paper towels.
- Layer the tomatoes, bacon, and thyme in pie shell. Reserve 3 to 4 slices of tomato for the top of the pie. Arrange 1/3 of the remaining tomato slices evenly in the pie shell. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the bacon and 1/3 of the thyme. Continue layering the tomatoes, bacon, and thyme for a total of 3 layers.
- Top the tomatoes with the mayo and cheese. Place the cheese, mayo, and pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine. Spread the cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes in an even layer.
- Sprinkle with the cracker crumbs and reserved tomato slices. Sprinkle with the cracker crumbs, then place the reserved tomatoes on top.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Bake until the pie is golden-brown and bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes.
Cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Remove the pie to the wire rack and cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve hot or at room temperature.
- Make ahead: The pie shell and bacon can be blind baked and cooked up to 2 days in advance. Loosely wrap the pie shell and refrigerate it and the bacon after cooling.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.