We Tried 8 Frozen Pie Crusts — And Even the Runner-Up Can Totally Pass for Homemade
“If a store-bought crust will get people to bake, I’m all for it,” says Christine, our senior recipe editor who herself opts for the frozen stuff 25 percent of the time. She’s not the only food editor at The Kitchn who keeps a premade pie crust on ice: “I always have frozen store-bought pie crust in my freezer,” says Patty, our staff writer and pie maven. “I always find myself getting really ambitious about the filling, then run out of steam when it comes to the pie crust.”
The truth is, a perfectly flaky pie crust takes practice … and planning (so does an imperfectly flaky pie crust, while we’re being honest). Even our senior food editor Kristina, who worked at a bakery for years, thinks “it’s handy for those who aren’t comfortable making pie crust/don’t have time to make it.”
Still, finding a frozen crust that replicates the delicate artistry of the homemade thing is a BIG ASK. With the holidays on the horizon and cozy quiche-filled brunches on the brain, we set out to do just that.
We tasted eight frozen pie crusts across using this classic recipe for pecan pie for all entrants. We divided the crusts into two categories — standard and gluten-free — with a focus on national and select store brands that are widely available throughout the country, and reasonably priced. (The standard frozen pie crusts were all under $5 at the time of this tasting; gluten-free crusts, which are typically slightly more expensive, were priced around $7.) We also looked at recent sales data and past taste tests to round out the selection.
After one afternoon of baking and another spent tasting and tallying, these are the frozen pie crusts that tasted (almost) as good as homemade.
The Best Frozen Pie Crusts
Best Frozen Pie Crust: Marie Callender’s Deep Dish Pastry Pie Shells
It really should come as no surprise that one of the biggest names in the pie biz — Marie Callender’s — takes the top spot. Her frozen pies could totally pass for homemade, and it’s clear that quality extends all the way down to the crust. Not only is it a looker — multiple tasters note the crust’s “nice golden-brown color” and “even crimping” — the crust is sturdy (in the best way!). It “held up well when cut into,” says Rachel, our associate director of project management.
Despite being made with soybean oils (and not butter or lard), “the flaky [texture] held up to the filling,” says Lindsay, our design director. “It makes the filling the star,” adds Brian, our director of people operations, though he wouldn’t mind amping up the butter flavor. Greg, our workplace experience manager (and speediest taster), sums it up in two words: “Solid base.”
What’s So Great:
“Most classic looking”
Sturdy and flaky
Good to Know:
Light on flavor
Buy: Marie Callender’s Deep Dish Pastry Pie Shells , $3.99 for 2 pie shells at Kroger
Runner-Up: Oronoque Orchards Deep Dish Pie Crusts
In the end, four points separate this frozen crust from standing atop the hypothetical podium, which is why we included it as our runner-up. Like the winner, tasters are very into Oronoque Orchards’ “nice golden-brown crust.” Made with palm and soybean oil, the “dainty crimping,” though, earned mixed reviews (“lovely,” “looks like a stamp,” and “I would prefer a different style”), and is the main reason why this crust didn’t take the gold.
At the same time, it has a few standout attributes that Marie Callender’s doesn’t. For starters, it is one of the only crusts whose pleasant scent and delicate flavor weren’t overpowered by the pecan filling. And, this crust is noticeably more crumbly, “but not too crumbly,” says Nikol, our shopping writer; though one taster did feel the crumbliness made it “a little hard to grab a clean slice.” Cory, our associate food editor, has actually used this brand in the past to much success: “It has a very pleasant buttery aroma as it bakes, almost as if it was homemade!”
What’s So Great:
“Good caramel color”
Crumbly, yet dense with a delicate flavor
Good to Know:
Polarizing crimping pattern
Buy: Oronoque Orchards Deep Dish Pie Crusts, $4.69 for 2 pie crusts at Instacart
Best Gluten-Free Frozen Pie Crust: Wholly Wholesome Gluten Free Pie Shells
How We Tested the Frozen Pie Crusts
We held a blind taste test of eight different frozen pie crusts across two categories: standard and gluten-free. Nine pecan pie enthusiasts (several of whom are avid home bakers) who work in our office participated in this one-day test.
Like so many freezer finds, tasters want their frozen pie crust to look/smell/taste as close to homemade as humanly possible. Ideally, it should have a nice golden to golden-brown hue, give off a buttery aroma while baking, and have some kind of flaky or crumbly texture (tasters were split on this last one). It should also be sturdy enough to withstand the weight of whatever filling its nestling.
In this case, we chose this streamlined version of a classic pecan pie. Pies were baked one day ahead of the tasting by Ola, our culinary assistant, using the same ingredients with the exception of the frozen pie crust, which were swapped in accordingly. Pie crusts were baked according to the package instructions. With the exception of one brand, all the pie crusts came in their own aluminum tins and required no thawing or shaping before baking. For the one that didn’t, we thawed it and molded it into a glass pie dish (again, according to the instructions) before baking.
The following afternoon, we removed all the pies from the fridge two hours ahead of the tasting to sample at room temperature. Each pecan pie was assigned a letter to conceal the brand’s identity. Tasters sliced their own pieces of pecan pie and transferred them to paper plates for testing. We also had water on hand for palate cleansing.
Tasters rated each of the frozen pie crusts on a scale of one to five (1 = No thanks; 2 = Meh; 3 = Pretty good; 4 = Really like; 5 = Yes, please!) across four criteria — look, smell, texture, and flavor — and included any specific observations, tasting notes, and general opinions worth mentioning. They were also asked to answer, arguably, the most important question of all: would you buy this frozen pie crust?
Why You Should Trust Us
This was a blind taste test, which means tasters had no knowledge of the brands being evaluated ahead of or at the time of the tasting. It was held over one day and tasters were instructed to sample the frozen pie crusts in random order (to stave off palate fatigue and not give any one can an unfair advantage). The group of tasters included a mix of food professionals and pie enthusiasts/home bakers who work at The Kitchn and/or Apartment Therapy Media (The Kitchn’s parent company). All participated in the taste test voluntarily, and we thank them for being so generous with their time and feedback.
Speaking of, each taster filled out a score sheet (without discussion or influence) ranking the frozen pie crusts across several criteria (listed above). The results were also tabulated without any visibility into the brands. Only after the numbers were finalized, did we reveal which brands corresponded to the winners.
Did your favorite frozen pie crust make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.