Making flaky pie dough at home is so much easier than people think. I haven’t bought the stuff from the grocery store since the first time high-waisted jeans were in. So if you haven’t made your pie dough at home, I encourage you to try this recipe out and see what you think. Not only will you save time and money, but you’ll also find the stuff you buy in the refrigerated section just doesn’t measure up anymore.
This dough is not only easy to make and inexpensive, but it’s also freezer-friendly. Make a double batch and freeze some of it for future pies, tarts, or quiches.
*This is an update from a November 2021 post to add a quick video tutorial.*
What’s the difference between regular pie dough and this one?
I have another pie dough recipe on the site for Mealy Pie Dough. The difference between the two is also the reason why they’re used in specific recipes. You can read about the whys of mealy pie dough another time, but the reason to use flaky pie dough is just preference. I’m a big fan of buttery, crisp crusts for quiches, tarts, and certain pies. Because of the fandom I have, I use flaky pie dough to make the crusts for those particular recipes.
Since it’s mixed a certain way, this pie dough bakes up with lighter layers, which is what makes it flaky and airy. It’s a great go-to for recipes that only have one crust or recipes like my Quiche Lorraine.
What makes a pie dough flaky?
The amount of fat to flour, the way the fats are cut into the flour, cold ingredients, and, finally, the way the dough is mixed all create the flakiest pie dough you’ve ever had in life.
The best fat to use when making pie doughs is lard. I know, right?!? I love lard, but not in my pie doughs. Well, let me clarify that I mean, not in my sweet pie dough. I’d totally use it in my savory quiche or tart doughs. The reason why I don’t is that sometimes I want to make sweet pies on a whim. So I want my pie dough to be versatile.
Using super cold butter, shortening, and ice water, keep the dough cold while you’re working with it. This is important because, as the butter warms, it mixes into the flour instead of becoming coated with it. The shortening and butter need to remain in sizable pieces to achieve our flaky layers. The water in the fats evaporates when the dough goes into the oven and, in their wake, leaves flaky layers in your pie crusts. Overmixing inhibits flaky layers, so be sure to only mix the dough just until the flour is no longer loose.
Why make dough at home?
If I’m being honest, I don’t like leaving my house for much of anything. This is pre-“panda” too. I’m just not a fan of going out, so if I can make it at home, you best believe I will. When you get down to the nuts and bolts of most recipes, it’s cheaper to make them at home. This recipe has minimal ingredients, most of which are probably in your pantry or fridge already. Why not make it at home is the better question.
In addition to the ease of the recipe, homemade pie dough just tastes better. There’s real butter in there, and because it’s made in small batches, your pie dough will taste fresher. Because it’s freezer-friendly, you never need to be without it, either. And it’s fun! I know your family will enjoy helping you make this as much as mine does.
What do I need to make this recipe?
To make flaky pie dough grab: all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, shortening (I use a butter-flavored shortening), kosher salt, and ice water.
Again, it’s important to keep your cold ingredients as cold as possible for as long as possible. Throw your butter and shortening into the freezer while you measure the rest of the ingredients. I’ve been known to even throw the bowl of flour into the freezer, but that’s overkill.
Ice water is crucial here because it keeps the dough from warming up as you mix it.
What kind of flour is best for this recipe?
All-purpose flour is the best kind of flour to use when making pie doughs. You want a flour that has a protein content high enough to create some gluten, but not so much that it creates a chewy texture in the final product.
Cake flour is too weak (gluten-wise), and bread flour is too strong. All-purpose flour is the middle of the road when it comes to glutenin and gliadin (gluten proteins), so it’s best for making this pie dough.
Add the all-purpose flour and kosher salt to a large mixing bowl. Use your hand to stir the two together and distribute that salt throughout the flour in the bowl.
Why you need cold ingredients for the best pie dough
Cold is king in this recipe. A cold dough loses its ever-loving mind when introduced to a hot oven. As I mentioned before, when the water in the fats is hit with high heat in the oven, it causes them to evaporate so quickly that they leave pockets of air in the dough.
Without cold ingredients, you’re destined to heat the warm butter even more so to the point it begins to melt. In turn, you create a paste rather than a dough. That paste becomes difficult to work with, especially once the gluten in the flour gets a-goin’.
Warm ingredients are a bad idea all around.
Do I have to use shortening?
Shortening is optional in this recipe, but it will help mitigate that melty drama we just discussed. Butter is amazing for its flavor; we all know that. But butter is temperamental, too. As a result, it’s what melts the fastest in this recipe. Shortening acts as a go-between for the butter and the warmth of your hands. It says, “Hey, butter! Chill! She’s only helping.” Thus, giving us enough time to cut the fats into the flour without too many issues. Butter also tends to pool when baking unless you bake it at a super high temperature. We’re not doing that here, so cutting it with shortening is needed.
That said, you don’t have to use shortening. Instead, you can replace it with more butter; just make sure that all of the butter is ice cold before starting, and be mindful that your pie dough may be greasier than mine.
I use butter-flavored shortening to help replace that buttery flavor. You can use regular shortening if you prefer. If you know your pie dough will only be used for savory recipes, go ahead and replace the shortening here with lard. No matter what, make sure all of the fats are super cold.
Shred the cold butter into the flour-salt mixture, then add the shortening. Shredding the butter just makes the mixing go faster.
How do I mix the dough?
I mean that, too. Don’t go harassing the dough too much.
I use a professional chef-y technique called the “show-me-the-money” method. First, cover the shredded butter with flour to keep the shreds from sticking together too much. Then, rub the mixture between your four fingers and thumb in the “money, money, money” gesture. Listen, Jacques Pépin, I’m not, but you get what I mean. This move creates a mealy mixture of fat and flour quickly. You can use a pastry cutter as well, but I find my hands work best.
Can I make this dough with a food processor?
Yes, you can, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort of dragging out your food processor. It also increases the likelihood of over mixing or overheating your dough. By the time you get the machine out, find the right attachment (the plastic blade), and get everything in there, you could’ve finished the dough.
If you want to, just pulse the flour and salt together for 20 seconds. Next, add the fats and pulse until a coarse crumb forms (about 30-45 seconds), then pour in the ice water until the mixture comes together.
But hands are best. Just rub the fats and flour until the mixture looks like the image above.
How much water do I add to my flour-butter mixture?
Here’s where your recipe may differ slightly from mine. The amount of ice water you must add to your dough will vary depending on the humidity where you live. When I lived in El Paso (the desert), I needed a full cup of ice water. Here in humid San Antonio, I only need to use 3/4-cup. I recommend starting with 3/4s of a cup, then increasing to 1 cup (or a little more) as needed.
Pour the ice water into the center of the crumbly mixture. Use your hand to scoop the flour-fat mixture into the puddle of water. Once the mixture begins to stick together, start grasping it in the palm of your hand to knead and press the dough together.
If you find the flour is not coming together, add a little water- a tablespoon at a time- until it does.
How do I fix my dough if I added too much water?
If you add too much water, you can fix it later by sprinkling flour onto it before rolling it out. You want to take care not to add too much water to begin with because the dough will continue to absorb water as it chills. It’s better to not add a lot of water at the beginning. Test it after allowing it to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge to see if it’s still too dry. I’m willing to bet it won’t be after hydrating.
After the dough comes together, stop kneading it. The dough should hold together, still feel cold, and not feel sticky at all. You should see streaks of fat running throughout your disc of dough.
How long do I chill my dough?
Divide the dough into equal parts. You can squeeze 3 discs of equal size out of this recipe. That’s enough to make 1 2-crust pie and a 1-crust pie. I usually divide it in half, though. This recipe makes just over 2-pounds of dough, so I divide it into 1-pound discs.
Forming it into perfect discs isn’t important; the least amount of handling is. Wrap your disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30-minutes before rolling them out; an hour is better. Two is even mo’ better. This step is important because it allows the gluten in the dough to completely relax. If you have ever rolled- or tried to roll out- a piece of dough only to have it shrink back on you, that’s what we’re trying to avoid here. Not only does chilling the dough give the gluten time to relax, but it also firms back up the fats we need for the flaky factor.
After it’s relaxed for 30 minutes, you can roll it out for whatever recipes you want to use it in.
What recipes can I use this Flaky Pie Dough for?
I use this pie dough recipe for tons of other dishes:
It’s a great recipe for any other pie recipe, even if it isn’t one of mine. We need to talk about that, though.
How long can I store it in the refrigerator?
This pie dough stores well, covered, in the fridge for 5-7 days. After that, it starts to go grey and develop funky-looking white spots.
You need to pull it from the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for 15 minutes before using it, though. Remember that butter firms up as it chills, so attempting to roll it while it’s still cold will cause it to break. Give the dough a few kneads before rolling it to use in your pie recipes.
Can I freeze the dough?
Absolutely! I do it religiously.
Wrap the discs in plastic and place them in zip-top freezer bags. Store them in the freezer for two months. Then, when you’re ready to use them, thaw them for 24 hours in the fridge or an hour on the countertop before using them as needed.
Be sure to check out my pie recipes and keep an eye out for my upcoming post on How to Blind Bake pie dough for use in quiches, tarts, and unbaked pies, like my Coquito Pie.
Don’t forget to pin this recipe to your desserts or baking boards, then share it with your friends and family. This is an updated version of a post I wrote in 2017. The recipe has been divided in half for normal-people portions and the picture have been updated.
Flaky Pie Dough for Pies, Tarts, and Quichesat Sense & Edibility
- rolling pin
- 3 1/2 cups (440 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks or 226 grams) unsalted butter very cold
- 1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces or 70 grams) butter flavored shortening very cold
- 3/4-1 cup (180-240 milliliters) ice water
- In a large mixing bowl, use your hands to combine the flour and the salt together.
- Shred the butter into the flour in the bowl, then add the butter flavored shortening. Rub the fat between your fingers and thumbs until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and the fat is no larger than pebbles.
- Add the ice water to the flour-fat mixture and mix with your hands just until the dough forms and ball and now loose flour remains. The fat should still be slightly lumpy. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Press each ball into discs to help them chill faster.
- Cover the discs of dough and transfer them to the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes, but preferably 1-2 hours. This allows the dough to hydrate.
- Use the dough as needed.
Swaps and Subs:
- use salted butter and omit the salt in the recipe
- use plain shortening instead of butter-flavored shortening
- if you know you'll use the dough for savory recipes, replace the shortening with lard
- use iced milk in place of water for a richer-tasting pie dough
- Keep the pie dough covered and store in the fridge for 5-7 days.
- OR put the covered dough into a freezer storage bag and freeze the dough for 2 months.
- Thaw frozen pie dough in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for 1 hour before using.