The 15 Best Types of Pie You Should Know About
Aside from a traditional layer cake, pies are the most beloved desserts you could serve at family gatherings all year long. Summer is prime time for blueberry and strawberry pies, and creamy pumpkin pies, apple treats, and pecan confections make their way onto the table when fall rolls around. The world of pies is incredibly vast and spans every kind of flavor profile you can think of. To learn more about the dessert, read on for the different types of pie out there.
A custard pie always consists of a filling made from milk or cream, sugar, and eggs or egg yolks — the building blocks of a traditional custard. An old-fashioned custard pie consists of just the basics — it has a white or beige color and a very creamy consistency. Today, ingredients like pumpkin purée or other fruit purées (think: pumpkin or sweet potato pie) or citrus juice (like key lime pie) are commonly added, too. Custard pies are usually made with pie dough or a crumb-based crust and are commonly baked. Custard pies are typically eaten at room temperature, although some people prefer them warm.
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A classic cream pie has many similarities to a custard pie. They both have smooth textures, but while a custard pie is always made with eggs, a cream pie can contain eggs, pudding mix, or another ingredient to give it a thick, creamy texture. The main difference between a cream pie and a custard pie, however, is that cream pies are often made with a pastry cream filling that isn’t baked, but heated on the stove. And — just to confuse matters — some cream pies, such as French silk, have a filling that isn’t cooked at all.
Additionally, cream pies usually have a lofty whipped cream topping. One of the most popular versions of a cream pie is a coconut cream pie, which has a coconut-flavored cream filling and whipped topping with toasted shredded coconut sprinkled on top. Cream pies are almost always eaten cold.
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A crumb pie is one of the many types of pie that might make an appearance on your Thanksgiving table, although they’re great year-round. A crumb pie usually consists of a fruit filling, such as diced apples or peaches, that is placed in a traditional pie crust. The name of the pie, however, comes from the crumbly topping that’s spread over the filling. The topping, which is made from butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and flour, becomes crunchy and rich when the pie is baked. Crumb pies are typically eaten warm or room temperature.
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A single-crust pie is more of a generic description of what the large majority of pie fillings are baked in. Some pie crusts are made from crushed cookies or graham crackers, but most are prepared using basic pie dough. Your typical pie dough is made from flour, sugar, cold water, and butter. Many single-crust pies require blind baking, which helps partially cook the crust so it can stand up to the filling later on.
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A double-crust pie is exactly what it sounds like: a pie that consists of two layers of pie crust — one on the bottom and another on top — with a warm fruit filling (like apples or cherries) in the middle. The bottom layer of a double-crust pie is a very basic round of pie dough, while the top layer can be either another round of flattened pie dough with slits cut on the surface, or a lattice pie crust. Additionally, many pie enthusiasts, like Erin McDowell, get super creative and make their own designs for the top layer.
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A traditional Southern chess pie is made using a basic pie dough and a filling made from some of the same ingredients you’d find in most pies: sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Chess pies contain a thickening agent like cornmeal, cornstarch, or flour as well as an acidic ingredient like citrus juice or vinegar. The addition of cornmeal or flour gives the pie more structure than a custard pie. The most prominent hallmark of a traditional chess pie is its very basic ingredients. Today, though, you’ll find chess pies with chocolate and other additions. Chess pies can be eaten warm or room temperature.
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A slab pie has all of the makings of a traditional single- or double-crust pie, but with one significant difference. While a traditional pie is made in a round pie dish, a slab pie is made in a large (quarter or half) rimmed baking sheet. This makes for square or rectangular slices, rather than wedges, and allows you to make a larger amount of pie for a crowd. Slab pies often consist of a single layer of pie crust lining the bottom of the baking sheet and sometimes includes a crust on top, such as a lattice or various shapes made from pie dough. Slab pie is usually eaten warm or room temperature.
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In addition to being delicious, meringue pies are some of the most photogenic pies out there. A meringue pie consists of a sweet custard filling with plenty of eggs. Additionally, the filling of a meringue pie is commonly flavored with citrus like lemon, orange, or lime (think: lemon meringue pie). The name, of course, comes from the beautiful topping spread on the pie filling: A meringue pie is topped with shiny whipped meringue that is then lightly browned with a kitchen torch. Meringue pie is typically eaten cold or room temperature.
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While we often associate the word “pie” with desserts and sweets, the world of savory pies is not to be forgotten. A savory pie can be included in a list of types of pie, as they often contain some sort of layering with a filling and a crust. Shepherd’s pie traditionally consists of a ground lamb filling, while cottage pie includes ground beef — both of these types of pies include a mashed potato or root vegetable–based topping.
Additionally, chicken (or other types of poultry, like turkey) pot pie includes a creamy filling with vegetables like peas and carrots and a pie crust topping. Chicken pot pie can be made in one large pie dish or several smaller dishes like ramekins. Savory pies are best eaten warm or hot.
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Ice Cream Pie
Ice cream pies, sometimes called “freezer pies,” are among the easiest pies to make at home — especially if you choose to use a premade crust. An ice cream pie usually has a crumb-based crust (such as crushed wafer cookies or graham crackers) that’s filled with ice cream and other fun mix-ins, such as sliced fresh fruit, melted chocolate, crushed cookies, and sprinkles. You can also add toppings like caramel, cherries, whipped cream, or magic shell. And it comes as no surprise that ice cream pies should be consumed cold!
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An icebox pie is similar to an ice cream pie in that it requires the fridge or freezer to help it come together. The difference between an icebox pie and an ice cream pie, however, is that an icebox pie, like an icebox cake, often includes just whipped cream or sweetened whipped topping mixed with other ingredients, rather than actual ice cream. The time the icebox pie spends in the freezer helps it to form so that you can get a clean slice when it comes to time to serve. Some examples of an icebox pie include this lemon icebox pie, which get extra richness from the use of cream cheese.
A chiffon pie might sound kind of fancy, but it’s actually one of the simpler pies on this list and shares characteristics with cream pies. The most distinguishing feature of a chiffon pie is the texture of its filling. Chiffon pies often contain eggs in the filling, which is mixed with gelatin to give the pie structure and body. Chiffon pie commonly has a whipped ingredient like cream or egg whites folded into it — this makes for a light and fluffy filling. It’s believed that a chiffon pie gets its name from its super-soft texture, which is reminiscent of chiffon fabric.
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Another variety of pie on the simple side, hand pies are quite literally pies that you can hold in your hand. Hand pies are little bundles of pie, made from rounds of pie dough filled with the same fillings you’d use for a traditional single- or double-crust pie, like apples, cherries, or peaches. For a hand pie, you will need to cut the fruit for your filling on the smaller side so that the pieces fit more easily in the sealed dough.
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Because pie is a very broad and subjective term, different types of pies take all different shapes and sizes. We’ve decided to include tarts in this list, as you can often use the same exact ingredients in a tart pan that you would in a pie dish. Tarts are either prepared in a tart pan or simply on a baking sheet on a rectangular sheet of puff pastry. Compared to a pie dish, a tart pan makes for a very pretty fluted shape that works well with pie dough or firmly packed crumb crusts. Additionally, tarts are commonly made with both sweet and savory fillings.
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Similar to tarts, galettes are included on this list, as they are typically made with the same ingredients needed to make a traditional pie. The unique thing about galettes, though, is that you don’t need any special dish or pan to make them. A galette is a free-form pie of sorts, and consists of a large circle of pie dough that’s filled with fruit or other ingredients. The sides of a galette are folded inward and overlapped to help encase the filling. Like a traditional pie, though, galettes are usually sliced into wedges and eaten warm or at room temperature.