Everyone can make a cake. At the most basic level, a boxed mix will suffice. However, there is no boxed mix for pie. Pie is more complex, and consequently, more impressive. One must master a crust that is both buttery and flaky yet pliable enough to manipulate into a detailed lattice. Then there is the filling—fruit fillings must not leak, and creamy fillings need to set just right, and not to mention the toppings ranging from fluffy whip to a sugary crumb. But fear not. We’re here to help. Here’s how to (easily) veganize any pie. Ready, set, bake!
Flaky, buttery crust
We all know it—flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, perfectly crimped pie crust. Unfortunately, it’s not always as malleable as Snow White makes it look as she’s rolling and folding dough into pie pans while the birds chirp around her. A solid flaky, buttery pie dough recipe really only needs four ingredients, but the end result is often a gamble if you’re new at pie baking. If you’re following a basic pie dough recipe that calls for butter, flour, ice cold water, and salt, simply swap the dairy butter for a plant-based variety (we swear by Earth Balance sticks—not the tub). Some vegan recipes will use coconut oil, but do not substitute coconut oil for dairy butter unless the recipe explicitly calls for it. The secret to a perfect pie dough is following the recipe. You can often get creative with certain fillings, but the dough is based in science.
Try this recipe: Flaky Vegan Pie Crust by I Love Vegan
Graham cracker and cookie crusts
Far less fuss than traditional dough, this sweet foundation involves crushing cookies into oblivion. For the graham cracker base, purchase a brand that does not contain honey (both Nabisco and Keebler Originals are vegan-friendly). Blitz the grahams with a bit of coconut oil or non-dairy butter and a tablespoon or two of sugar until you can easily press the dough together and it holds. The same method applies to cookie crusts, though you may omit the sugar in this case. Wafer cookies work, but the cream-filled variety acts as a bonus adhesive—which means you can use less vegan butter and avoid an oily crust. In this case, you’re allowed to get a bit creative and turn any vegan-friendly sandwich cookie into a one-of-a-kind pie crust (such as pumpkin pie atop Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s).
Try this recipe: Vegan Graham Cracker Crust by Dessert Done Light
Vegans are in the clear for this one! Thankfully, most non-vegan bakers aren’t sneaking any animal products into their berry or apple pies. You can follow your nana’s recipe to the tee for this pie component. The one exception is the rare dotting of the filling with pats of butter (most often seen with apple pie). Swap the dairy butter for whatever vegan butter you have on hand, and you’re golden.
Try this recipe: Deep Dish Apple Crumble Pie by Minimalist Baker
We’re talking pecan pie here. Non-vegan pecan pie recipes typically call for eggs and butter. The vegan swap? Tofu. When thoroughly blended with corn syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla (and perhaps some bourbon), tofu acts as a crucial binding agent that gives pecan pie its signature sweet custardy filling beneath the layer of toasted pecans. Bakers beware: use the silken tofu that comes in the shelf-stable cardboard package. The kind from the refrigerated section will not work.
Try this recipe: Maple Pecan Pie by Post Punk Kitchen
Think pumpkin, key lime, lemon meringue, chocolate, and chess pie. Along with cornstarch, these pies rely on eggs for thickening and binding. To veganize, you have a few options. Along with the ever-reliable tofu, cashews can help create a creamy consistency that doesn’t run when sliced. Like the crust, creamy filling pies rely a bit more on science than creativity, so while you can attempt to transform a non-vegan creamy pie into a plant-based treat, there is no one-to-one swap that will guarantee results every time, so prepare for a bit of trial and error. When it comes to our favorite creamy pie recipes, we look to vegan-as-is recipes for a reliable and tasty end result.
Try this recipe: Vegan Pumpkin Pie by Food Network
Why struggle with a complicated lattice top crust when you can simply sprinkle on a heaping mound of sugary, buttery crumble topping? Easily veganize this delectable element by swapping in vegan butter for dairy butter. The remaining ingredients—sugar, brown sugar, flour, and salt—are good to go.
Try this recipe: Apple Crumble Pie by Love and Lemons
Whipped cream topping
Full disclosure: thanks to all of the vegan whipped cream products available, store-bought is nearly as good as the homemade version. We are fans of So Delicious’ Cocowhip and Nature’s Charm canned coconut whipping cream. However, if you’re set on making your own, you’ll need a can of full-fat coconut cream, powdered sugar, vanilla, and a beater or stand mixer (trust us, you do not want to beat this by hand as you’ll need some horsepower to create fluffy peaks of cream). The trick is to chill the can of coconut cream until a solid layer forms at the top, then transfer that solid mass into a bowl without any of the liquid. Note: sometimes, you’ll get a “dud” can of coconut that refuses to whip and instead creates a curdled mess. You cannot save it at this point, which is why it’s crucial to have a backup can or a store-bought vegan whip on hand.
Try this recipe: Coconut Whip by hot for food
The discovery of aquafaba—whipped chickpea brine—has made vegan meringue possible. For years, bakers vexed over the solution to this egg white and sugar concoction. Who knew the answer was in a can of chickpeas? Aquafaba tends to be slightly less finicky than coconut cream, so you can attempt this topping with confidence. Having a stand mixer helps tremendously, but if you’re okay with getting a bit of an arm workout, hand-held electric beaters will work in a pinch. Pile up your sumptuous vegan pie with a mountain of meringue then take a torch to it to delight your guests.
Try this recipe: Vegan Lemon Meringue Pie by Pickles & Honey
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and runner living in Orange County, CA.