The Secret to a Far Better Pie Dough Is Already in Your Cupboard

published Sep 20, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

I have made countless pie doughs in my lifetime using butter, shortening, or a mix of the two. And I’m not here to settle the debate on which is better. That is a personal preference.

But I am here to tell you there’s an easy way to improve the overall flavor of any pie dough and it involves an ingredient that is probably sitting in your cupboard right now: Vanilla extract!

Why You Should Add Vanilla to Your Pie Dough

Vanilla is one of those flavors that makes a lot of desserts better, so adding it to dough may even seems obvious. Yet the majority of pie dough recipes don’t call for vanilla extract. Let’s change that.

To make this upgrade work, however, you can’t simply add a splash of vanilla to the dough and roll it out. You need to ensure the vanilla gets worked into each crumb. How? You add the vanilla directly to the ice water before it goes into the dry ingredients. It’s like making vanilla-flavored ice water.

I’ve been using this trick (and getting compliments) for years, but it’s time to let the secret out: Just a teaspoon of vanilla in the ice water produces such wonderfully flavored and scented dough, and enhances the flavors of nearly every kind of pie, that family (or guests) will be licking their plates. I prefer using a high-quality pure vanilla extract, however this trick works with artificial vanilla too. 

Upgrade Your Pie Dough

Next time you’re making pie dough from scratch, simply add a splash of vanilla extract to the ice water and give it a good stir to ensure it’s evenly distributed. Then proceed as you normally do. It will take your pie dough game to a whole new level. 

Need a pie dough recipe? Start here: How To Make Flaky Pie Crust