Gluten-Free Baking Basics for Pies and Tarts

A flaky, buttery pie crust is possible for gluten-free bakers! Read our top tips for making pies without gluten. Whether you're ready to make your own crust from scratch or want easy alternatives, we've got you covered.

Need to avoid gluten? There’s no reason you have to miss out on the deliciousness of homemade pie. We’ll be honest: pie crust is a little fussy to make (although the right pie baking tools makes it a lot easier). If you’re still learning the gluten free baking basics, we’ve got plenty of ideas for making gluten-free pie as easy as pie. More advanced, or game for a project? We also share pointers for making gluten-free crust from scratch.

Bookmark these mouth-watering, gluten-free recipes.

Skill Level: Easy

1. Use a Store-Bought GF Pie Shell

Many grocery stores stock gluten-free pie crusts that are already shaped and ready to fill. You can usually find them in the freezer aisle. These couldn’t be easier to use. Simply prepare your filling according to the recipe instructions. Check the pie crust label for recommended baking temperature and times.

2. Make an Easy Gluten-Free Crumb Crust

Some pies always have crumb crusts; think pumpkin pie and cheesecakes. But any pie can have a crumb crust—there are no rules! Crumb crusts are typically made with graham crackers and some sugar whizzed up in the food processor. Add some nuts if you want the added flavor; many fruits taste great with almonds, walnuts, or pecans.

3. Try a Nut-Based Crust

You can make a simple pie crust entirely from nuts. Simply grind about two cups of nuts, a pinch of salt and a spoonful of sugar in a blender or food processor (careful not to over-blend, or the nuts will turn into butter!) Mix in six tablespoons of melted butter. Press into a pie pan and bake as usual.

4. Look for Pie Alternatives

Pie’s not the only game in town, and going gluten-free might be a great excuse to explore some delicious alternatives. Crisps, crumbles and buckles have the same bubbly, fruit-forward filling, minus the stress of the crust. Typically, these desserts are topped with a sweet, crunchy concoction made from sugar, butter, and some flour or oats. Simply use an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, gluten-free oats, or even ground nuts instead of flour. These recipes are hugely forgiving, so it’s hard to mess up.

Love cheesecake? Try flan. Love creamy pies? Make pudding.

Skill Level: Moderate

Sub In an All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend

You can make most pie crust recipes gluten-free simply by using gluten-free flour instead. Make sure to use an all-purpose flour blend, which is a professionally tested combination of various flours meant to have a similar balance of protein and starch as wheat flour. Many blends contain a binder, like xantham gum or psyllium husk; if yours does not, you should add about a teaspoon to your recipe. Whisk into the flour along with the salt and sugar, and then follow the recipe as normal.

A few quick pointers:

  • Did you make gluten pie with that rolling pin or wooden spoon? Drop it! Wood is porous, so it’s impossible to be certain that it’s completely clear of all flour. Use silicone baking tools, or have a dedicated gluten-free spoon and pin. Try this baking pin with rave reviews ($18).
  • Your crust may be drier or more prone to cracking than a traditional crust, especially if you refrigerate it. Add water sparingly.
  • Roll your dough out between sheets of plastic wrap for an easy, no-stick experience.
  • Some gluten-free crusts may brown quickly; cover the pie with aluminum foil for the last half of the bake to prevent burning.

Want to make your own all-purpose flour blend? Here’s a recipe.

Skill Level: Advanced

Create Your Own Gluten-Free Flour Blend and Make Pie Crust from Scratch

This option is similar to making a crust with an all-purpose blend, except you can choose your own flours. If you love buckwheat or oat flour, for example, you can control the flavor and texture of the final result.

Some caveats:

  • Avoid using nut flours like almond in your pie crust mix, as their high fat content can make the crust oily.
  • You want a balance of starches, which keep the crust tender, and whole-grain flours, which give the dough stability and structure (and flavor).
  • Go for a balance of about 40% whole grain and 60% starch.
  • Take notes on which flours you use and how the final bake turned out. You’ll be able to hone your recipe over time.

These gluten-free baking tips take your game even further.

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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.