5 Ways to Make Your Savory Pie Crust Better

November 20, 2014

Don't forget about savory pies this season -- with a few simple tweaks, they can become your Thanksgiving game-changers. This post is brought to you by our friends at Organic Valley.

The season for pie is upon us. But somewhere between pumpkin this and pecan that, the notion of a savory pie gets lost in the mix. These hearty pockets of warmth are always crowd-pleasers, especially for guests stepping inside off of a cold doorstep; they're also a delightful weeknight staple in the coming winter months. Don't stop at traditional chicken pot pie -- fill yours with anything from steak and ale gravy to wild mushrooms and root vegetables to fish. And remember that you can always keep things simple with a galette.

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More: Here's how to make any savory galette, no recipe required.

Now that you are sufficiently pie-eyed, play with crust variations to add even more color and flavor to the pie -- these little details are simple but game-changing. Just keep in mind that the best time to add extra ingredients to your pie crust is after you've blended your flour and butter together in the food processor, and before pulsing in the cold water. Here are 5 ways to elevate your savory pie crusts: 

1. Herbs
Try adding 2 tablespoons each of any or all of these fresh herbs: chives, thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage. When using dried herbs, cut back to about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each. A crust speckled with rosemary would work beautifully with a lamb-filled pie, while thyme and sage would enhance any chicken and vegetable pie. When it comes to herbs, the pie potential is endless.


2. Cheeses
We can all agree that adding cheese to any dish is usually a home run. Cheese is always welcome in the filling, but stir some into your crust, too, like in this French Onion Tart. Try mixing up it up with different combinations of cheese: Gruyère in your filling and Parmesan in the crust, for example.


3. Spices 
Spices such as turmeric, fennel seed, or even a healthy grind of peppercorn (black, white, or pink) can significantly alter any savory crust with just a couple tablespoons. Adding an unexpected spice like curry powder to a classic chicken pot pie is a simple yet profound change that adds a ton of flavor and glorious color. 

More: 10 savory pies to make this winter.

4. Bacon 
Even just a little bacon will add a lovely smokiness to your pie. Be sure to give the bacon a good chop after frying it crisp so that the bits can be well incorporated into the crust. It's glorious in a mushroom and fennel galette or a slab pie topped with Swiss chard and Gruyère.


Slab Galette

5. Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes are a beautiful addition to savory pies, but they can easily overpower when used in a filling. They're often best as a background flavor, adding tanginess, a lovely smoky red color to a crust, and tart notes to fish or vegetable pie.

First photo by Eric Moran; last photo by Ali Stafford; all others by James Ransom

This post was brought to you by our friends at Organic Valley, to celebrate all of the baking you do this holiday season.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • IvanSF
  • AntoniaJames
  • PieceOfLayerCake
  • Mary Catherine Tee
    Mary Catherine Tee
  • ShelbyBelby
MA in Food Studies NYU, Writer, Designer, Cancer Survivor


IvanSF November 23, 2014
We are making a leek and mushroom galette for Thanksgiving. I love the idea of adding ground fennel seeds or pepper to the crust to make it more dynamic. What a great suggestion!
AntoniaJames November 23, 2014
Excellent suggestion, adding bits of bacon. I'm making the French onion tart pictured above for a supper later this week, but we find the cheese in the crust to be too heavy-handed. Will definitely be adding bacon bits, and perhaps some fat, too, to the crust. ;o)
PieceOfLayerCake November 21, 2014
I thought my opinions on using animal fats was going to be novel, but considering this is Food52, I should have known. I love using lard in recipes that are lighter like a vegetable or poultry pie and suet in crusts over rich meat pies.
Mary C. November 21, 2014
I echo what Shelby said! I was inspired by a cookbook from the mid 1800s and used rendered chicken fat (it sounds off-putting, I know--kneading chicken fat and flour together feels a little off-putting, too!) in a pie crust. It turned out to be the flakiest pie crust I've ever made. Great for a savory change!
Mary C. November 21, 2014
Here's the recipe if anyone's interested:
ShelbyBelby November 20, 2014
Yum! These additions sound lovely. My favourite ways to add extra depth to savory pie crusts is replacing half of the butter in my standard pie dough recipe with flakes of lard, tallow (rendered suet), or bacon grease. Along with great flavour, when incorporated properly these fats can help create a flakier crust.
laurenlocally November 20, 2014
I love the bacon grease idea!