Flaky Rich Pie Crust – Wheat Free

Wheat free – can be made vegan, see substitutions, below. Look for a GF pie crust coming soon!

Flaky Pie Crust with Apple Filling

I’ve been baking all my life and doing a pretty good job of it I think – nobody complains anyway. But my one Nemesis has always been pie crust. In years past, I have watched my crust-wizard Uncle make a pie, I have solicited tips from other talented bakers after admiring their golden and flaky offerings, I have read tips and tricks until I thought I could stand on my head and make a pie crust upside down. But my end result was always somewhat hard and crumbly.

Arrrgh! I was tearing my hair over this. Why isn’t my crust flaky? What am I doing wrong? I researched – one cookbook said the ingredients must all be cold (made sense). One said you have to use whole wheat pastry flour. I asked advice – one cook told me you have to use butter flavored Crisco™.  Another said use lard. Hmmmm. Well, I try to avoid lard, and have long since banished hydrogenated oil in any form from my kitchen. I no longer cook with wheat flour. Now what?

Well, I just decided to start over. Take some updated ingredients and a cookbook I trusted (my old friend Betty Crocker) and try to make some flaky apple turnovers. I chose spelt flour (related to wheat but with less gluten) and  Spectrum ™ Organic non-hydrogenated shortening plus organic butter to replace my banished lard and hydrogenated oil, and the resulting crust was so light, flaky and delicious, that I made an apple pie as soon as the turnovers were gone. And the crust received highest praise from my in house pie critic. Said it was so good he could, and would, eat it plain without any filling. Whew! I could dance a jig.

The funny thing is I didn’t really do anything so very different, but I did make a few adjustments to my old ways that seemed to do the trick. My tips? Don’t overwork the fat (shortening/butter). The particles should be the size of small peas  – not breadcrumbs, not cornmeal, but little chunks. And if some of the particles are a bit larger, don’t fuss too much about it. Second, when you add the water, don’t overdo it. Add ice cold water, a bit at a time and just enough to bring the dough together into a pliable ball, not a drop more. And it doesn’t hurt to have most or all ingredients chilled. I had great success with room temperature shortening but all the rest of my ingredients were cold. Plus I think spelt is easier to work with than wheat flour and the flavor of spelt is superb.

Flaky Wheat Free Pie Crust Recipe
Makes enough for a generous 2 crust 9″ or a deep dish 10″ pie.

  • 2 cups White Spelt Flour
  • 2/3 cup Whole Grain Spelt Flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter cut into 1/2″ slices or chunks
  • 1/2 cup organic non -hydrogenated Shortening (Spectrum™)
  • 7 – 8 Tablespoons Ice Water.

In a large bowl whisk the two flours and salt lightly together. add the butter and shortening and cut them into the flour mix using a pastry blender, or in a pinch, two butter knives. The mixture should look coarse and have little pieces of butter shortening the size of small peas. I use my (clean) fingertips to lightly feel for any really large chucks and rub them between thumb and finger down to flakes of fat (a tip from a good baker I know). Do NOT overwork or let warm hands start to melt the butter. A few regular pea sized chunks in there are just fine. :)

Sprinkle the ice water in two tablespoons at a time lightly tossing and mixing with a fork as the dough gets clumpier, back off on the amount if water you sprinkle at a time. Start testing whether it will come together in a ball by pinching two clumps together. When it just holds together nicely gather it into a smooth ball – I find this is somewhere between 7 and 8 TBSP. Do not add so much water it gets sticky! I gave the dough 3 quick, light kneads to fold the butter into additional layers, though this is probably not strictly necessary but I read it in one chefs cookbook so I do it for luck.

For a two crust pie, separate the crust not quite in half –  one larger portion and one smaller. Shape each into a flattened round, wrap and refrigerate while you prepare your filling.

Roll out your dough on a lightly spelt-floured smooth surface about 1/8″ thick. It should not be sticky, it should be easy to handle. If you see unincorporated bits of butter don’t worry, it’s a good thing! When it is rolled out fold lightly into quarters, transfer to your pie plate and unfold. I also sometimes simply roll/drape the crust over the rolling pin and then unroll it over the pie plate. ease the crust completely into the pan filling all corners. Make sure there are no air bubbles or stretched places.

Roll out the top crust, fill the bottom crust and then top with the top crust. Cut decorative vents using cookie cutters (before you place on the pie) or slit with a knife after placement (or you can cut lattice strips of you have the time) Crimp the top and bottom together. Bake according to directions for the type of pie you are making.

You can also pre-bake the crust (prick all over with a fork and use pie weights to keep shape), or cut into rounds and fill for turnovers (make sure you vent them with slits).

Optional: For a lovely rustic golden top, take an egg white and 1/2 C water and beat. Brush lightly over the crust.

Shield the edges with pie shields (some people use foil strips) until the last 15 minutes or so of baking to avoid over-browning.

For vegan flaky pie crust, omit butter, and use 100% shortening. Omit egg wash. You may need to adjust the shortening slightly down (1/2 TBSP) and the water slightly up as butter is not 100% fat – it has a little water in it.

I usually have leftover scraps of pie dough. Kids love these. Let them roll them out, cut in shapes with cookie cutters if they want, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake (alongside your pie) until just starting to brown around the edges. Growing up, I thought these were far better then the actual pie.

IMPORTANT: This recipe is “modern wheat” free, but NOT gluten free. Spelt is related to wheat and should not be consumed by anyone avoiding gluten for any reason.

Post to Twitter Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to MySpace Post to StumbleUpon


  1. Can you do this recipie with all butter? I don’t do the crisco thing and have never heard of the spectrum and don’t want to drive an hour into the city to my nearest health food store to get it. I have and keep butter on hand.

  2. You can use all butter. It may affect the amount of water you need slightly, and may change the texture and flavor somewhat. However, I’ve used all butter before and it comes out very rich and delicious, if not quite as flaky. Good luck!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this recipe. I’ve been looking for a wheat-free pie crust recipe and since I’ve discovered that I can eat spelt, this has been a great find. I can’t wait to try it!

  4. Hi Maia! I’d love to hear how it comes out, and if you find any tips to make it even better!

  5. gretchen says:

    i highly recommend the healthy, delicious, vegan butter called Earth Balance. I’m a big baker (and cook) and find this to be the best fat out there for everything from sauteeing to pie crusts. I’ve got a wheat-free (but not gluten-free) friend to bake for, so i tried this recipe with Earth Balance and it worked BEAUTIFULLY.

    And Earth Balance can be found in every big supermarket i’ve been to–no special trips required. it’s usually housed in the “healthy” section and is in plastic tubs. it also comes in handy sticks, but those you DO have to go to a health food store for! when i find them, i usually get three or four pounds and keep them in the freezer….

    one tip: don’t confuse this with Smart Balance. EB is MUCH better.

    Happy baking!

  6. Hi Gretchen! Thanks for the tip! I really like the vegan Earth Balance (which is available at my local health food store, but not my local grocery) for a spread, but I’ve never tried it in baking. I can’t wait to try it in this pie crust.

  7. Any suggestions since I don’t use butter, shortening or egg?

  8. Hi klplaza. Gretchen used vegan Earth Balance with good results. You might also try using extra virgin organic coconut oil. There is no egg in this recipe. Good luck!

  9. Hello Judy
    Thanks for your ideas of this recipe-I am going to try it for the first time. I have white spelt flour, but no whole grain–can I use 2 and 2/3 c of white flour? Also, I don’t have the spectrum–can I use Crisco instead?
    Many thanks

  10. Hi Maureen, You can use all white spelt, or, if wheat is not a problem for you, use part wheat (white flour). I’d never recomend Crisco, trans fats are bad for cardiovascular health, however that is a personal choice. It would certainly work in the recipe.

  11. Claudia says:

    Hi Judy ,can you use olive oil instead ?

  12. Hi Claudia! I don’t see why not. My thought would be to chill the olive oil so it solidifies and then cut it into the flour mixture. If you just pour it in as a liquid, you might lose the chunks of fat between layers of flour that make a pie crust flaky. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  13. Spelt is wheat. It’s a species of wheat so this isn’t really a wheat-free pie crust. It’s a mistake to think that this is a gluten-free dessert because as with all wheat species, spelt contains high levels of gluten. However, I think this looks like a great dessert anyway.

  14. Hi Gretchen! Thanks for the clarification. You are right, spelt is officially classified as being in the wheat family, and it is important that anyone going GF know that it does contain gluten (as noted in my post)and avoid it. Also important to note, this is NOT a Gluten Free blog, but rather an exploration of “modern wheat” alternatives including grains, seeds, nuts and more.

    Spelt is an ancient grain and while related to modern wheat they also have significant differences. People like me that do NOT have a severe gluten allergy can often use spelt because the gluten it contains is more fragile, more water soluble and hence much easier to digest. I also personally think spelt tastes better. I have a problem with psoriasis that appears when I eat modern wheat, but not with spelt. The nice thing for people that can tolerate spelt is that the gluten it contains allows it to react in recipes much like modern wheat does. If you are gluten free, or allergic to modern wheat, spelt is not for you! But if you are simply trying to avoid the hard to digest gluten in modern wheat, or like me, prefer the flavor, spelt can be a lovely alternative.

Speak Your Mind