8 Unexpected, Delicious Ways to Upgrade Your Pie Crust
I can’t say anything bad about a graham cracker pie crust. It’s so easy that it can be made in the spur of the moment, is always filled with something irresistibly sweet and frequently creamy, and has that classic honey sweetness.
But did you know you can make a crumb crust out of many other cookies and crackers — and even cereals — too? If you’re looking for a different sweet and/or salty flavor to zhuzh up your desserts, try one of these options for your next pie fix.
You can also mix and match various crumbs to make your own flavor combination, and of course you can use gluten-free options to suit your taste. You can even blend cookie and cracker crumbs with nuts, seeds, or nut flour for more texture. Read on for instructions on how to make a crumb crust out of almost anything you find in your pantry.
- Gingersnaps bring a warmth from ginger and molasses to the party, making them perfect for fall and winter desserts. Try it with pumpkin or sweet potato pie in place of a traditional pastry dough crust.
- Animal crackers have a very subtly spiced flavor, making them similar in taste to a shortbread crust. Try them with a tangy lemon curd tart.
- Nilla wafers are pure nostalgic sweetness, taking you back to snack-time with their pure vanilla flavor. Try it with a banana cream pie or a coconut cream pie.
- Chocolate wafer cookies aren’t just for icebox cakes. They toe the line between sweet and salty, their dark chocolate lending a touch of bitterness that’s a little more grown-up than Oreos. Try it with a no-bake peanut butter pie.
Crackers and Cereal
- Ritz or Town House crackers add a buttery, soft crunch to every bite. Try it with butterscotch custard pie for a complementary duo.
- Saltines give pie crust a flaky texture for a fun change of pace. Try it with Atlantic beach pie, a lemon-and-lime curd pie similar to key lime pie that’s a North Carolina tradition.
- Pretzels are for those of us who love salt as much as sweet. Try it with cream cheese pie with fresh fruit or a chocolate-caramel pudding pie.
- Cornflakes are craggy and crunchy on their own, adding a chip-like texture to pie crusts — even when crushed. Try it in an orange cream pie.
- Crispy rice cereal (okay, Rice Krispies) can be used two ways: as a traditional crushed crumb crust or molded treat-style into the pie pan. Try it with an ice cream pie (any flavor, and don’t forget the whipped cream).
How to Make a Pie Crust with Cookies or Crackers
- Weigh ‘em! You’ll need about 1 1/2 cups of crushed crumbs per crust to fill a standard shallow pie pan. The number of cookies or crackers or volume by cup of cereal will vary by brand, so your best bet is to measure by weight. In general, 1 1/2 cups crushed crumbs will weigh about 6 ounces or 170 grams. Weigh your whole materials first before crushing, and always err on the side of more crumbs.
- Crush ‘em! While you can always crush your pie crust base by hand with a rolling pin in a sealed zip-top bag or use a food processor, I prefer to use my Vitamix high-speed blender. It takes mere seconds and cleanup is so much easier that I’m never going back to another method.
- Mix with melted butter. The amount of butter you’ll need will vary slightly depending on the cookies and crackers you’re using for the crust. I prefer unsalted butter for all crumb crusts, so the finished product is not overly salty if, say, Saltines or pretzels are involved. Start with 5 tablespoons melted butter and add 1 tablespoon a time, up to 8 tablespoons, until the texture resembles wet sand.
- Add optional sugar and spices. If you want to add more sugar or spices, now’s the time to do so. Add up to 2 additional tablespoons granulated or brown sugar. Try a teaspoon or two of cinnamon, cardamom, five-spice powder, or even a pinch of chile powder for heat.
- Form the crust. Pour the crumbs into your pie pan and use your fingers to spread them evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. To press the crumbs together firmly, use a 1/4- or 1/3-cup measuring cup and tamp the bottom and sides until the crust is smooth.
- Bake! Prebaking the crust before adding your filling of choice helps the crumbs adhere to each other, preventing crumbling when sliced. Preheat the oven to 350°F and chill the crust in the refrigerator while the oven preheats. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the crust looks matte and is just starting to brown at the edges.
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