Take your holiday baking to the next level by learning how to make pie crust from scratch without a food processor! Store-bought crusts can’t compare to a handmade crust containing real butter. Skip the food processor for even less clean up and even more control over the final result.
I’ll teach you how!
Why Should You Make Pie Crust From Scratch?
I will always advocate for making food from scratch. Making pie crust from scratch gives you total control over the ingredients as well as a hand in the shape, thickness, and amount of crust you can use.
Store bought pie crusts are rolled to a machine-determined thickness, rolled into parchment and preserved for easy use. However, if you want a thicker crust, or a different shape, or size, it’s not as versatile.
In addition to total control, store bought pie crust doesn’t hit all of the best flavor points of a good pie crust! Often times, store bought crust isn’t as flaky, buttery, or tender as a homemade crust!
Don’t skimp on making your own pie crust from scratch! Your holiday guests won’t soon forget your pies if you take the time.
What Makes a Pie Crust Flaky?
The best tasting pie crust will be light, buttery, and flaky with a tender mouth feel. It’s easier to miss one of these elements in your homemade crust, than to hit them all. However, understanding the science behind a good pastry can help.
Flaky layers in pie crust happen when the separate fat pieces in your dough, melt and evaporate, while cooking. These once butter-filled pockets create the crispy layers in your crust.
It’s important to preserve the pieces of butter within the dough as you work with it to ensure this can happen properly as it bakes!
Why Should You Make Pie Crust WITHOUT a Food Processor?
At first glance, using a food processor seems like a great way to save time when making pie crust from scratch. It’s no secret that making anything, let alone pastry, at home is going to take some time.
I was so excited when I discovered the option to use a food processor to help make my crust, but I was quickly disappointed with the result.
Using a food processor will cut the butter into flour too much. The art of pastry making requires the butter remain in tact to some degree to form your flaky layers.
The food processor, even when pulsed sparingly, combines the butter and flour too thoroughly which does not create those layers.
Using your hands and pastry cutting tools to make your pie crust from scratch, without using a food processor, allows you to feel the size of the butter and the texture of the dough without overworking it. This hands-on approach truly gives you the best result: a flaky, golden brown pie crust with a tender, buttery taste.
Using Butter vs. Shortening vs. Lard
The most common fat components when looking at pie crust recipes are butter, shortening, or lard.
Shortening is technically any fat that is solid at room temperature, but in most modern recipes it often refers to vegetable shortening.
Shortening and lard both produce a similar result in pie crusts. The key difference is that lard is an animal fat rendered down from pig fat, whereas shortening is a hydrogenated vegetable oil. Both have minimal flavor and softer texture compared to butter at the same temperature.
While recipe testing, I found that lard yielded a crust lighter in color and the flavor of the flour was more noticeable… not my favorite.
The butter almost seemed to toast the flour as it cooked, giving everything a nuttier, buttery flavor with a golden brown crust. Much better result in my experience.
Finally, butter is an ingredient that most home chefs have on hand! My family actually considers me a little weird for having tubs of lard in my kitchen… but butter? Everyone has butter!
- Lighter color
- Raw flour flavor
- Less flavor overall
- Harder to work with softer texture
- Less readily available
- Golden brown finished result
- Toasted, buttery flavor
- Great flavor
- Easier to work with, firmer texture
- Readily available ingredient
What You’ll Need to Make Pie Crust From Scratch
Making a pie crust from scratch without a food processor takes just three ingredients (if you don’t count the water) and just a few simple, and common, kitchen tools!
- Butter, cubed (I like salted, but unsalted is fine!)
- All-purpose flour
- Fine salt (I use pink salt)
- Ice cold water
- A large mixing bowl
- Pastry cutter (can also use a fork and knife or your hands for this)
How to Make Pie Crust From Scratch Without a Food Processor
Begin by combining your flour and salt. Mix thoroughly.
Cube up your very cold butter into 1/2″ cubes.
Gently and quickly toss the butter in the flour to coat on all sides.
Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter to combine with the flour until butter pieces are slightly larger than pea sized.
You can use a knife and fork or your fingers to press the flour into the butter if you don’t have a pastry cutter.
Add 4 Tablespoons of the water.
Mix gently to combine.
Add water 1 Tablespoon at a time, mixing between additions, until a shaggy dough forms.
The dough should not be sticky, but will mostly hold it’s shape when pressed together.
Do not over mix. The dough does not need to form a tight ball in the bowl. You’re just looking for the texture that will hold it’s shape when pressed together.
When the dough is mixed, but not over mixed, turn out the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and divide into two.
Press each piece of dough into a ball and wrap tightly in its own piece of plastic wrap.
Press into a disc.
Refrigerate for 2 hours up to 24 hours before using in your favorite pie recipe or make these muffin tin mini pies!
When you’re ready to roll out the crusts, only work with one at a time to ensure they stay as cold as possible. Most pies require a thickness of 1/8″, but I like to go slightly thicker than that.
We just used this recipe to make a delicious apple pie using home canned apple pie filling and it was incredible! I’m a sucker for the lattice tops!
Can I Make Pie Crust Ahead of Time?
Homemade pie crust freezes extremely well! If you want to dedicate one day to making pie crusts so that they are as convenient as store-bought, you can freeze them with no problems for up to 6 months.
When freezing, wrap tightly in plastic wrap individually and then place a few of the discs into a freezer bag to further protect them from freezer bun.
Label and use within 6 months for ultimate convenience!
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cubed, very cold butter
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 4-8 TB ice cold water
- Begin by combining your flour and salt. Mix thoroughly.
- Cube up your very cold butter into 1/2″ cubes.
- Gently and quickly toss the butter in the flour to coat on all sides.
- Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter to combine with the flour until butter pieces are slightly larger than pea sized. (You can use a knife and fork or your fingers to press the flour into the butter if you don’t have a pastry cutter.)
- Add 4 Tablespoons of the water.
- Mix gently to combine.
- Add additional water 1 Tablespoon at a time, mixing between additions, until a shaggy dough forms. (The dough should not be sticky, but will mostly hold it’s shape when pressed together.)
- Turn out the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and divide into two.
- Press each piece of dough into a ball and wrap tightly in its own piece of plastic wrap.
- Press into a disc.
- Refrigerate for 2 hour up to 24 hours before using in your favorite pie recipe or make these muffin tin mini pies!
- Be careful not to overwork your dough.
- When using your pie crust dough, pull only one out at a time to keep the dough cold.
- Pie crust can be frozen and stored up for up to 6 months.