The Scrappy Baking Trick That Takes the Cake (Well, Pie!)

April 20, 2018

Come on, Let's Get Scrappy. All you need is a little inspiration and...stuff you already have!

Many of us start each day with a cup (okay, a few cups) of coffee. Whether we use a French press or a jerry-rigged cold brew contraption, this means that every day, we’re using coffee grounds—lots!—and then tossing them. But did you know that those grounds have more than one use? Before putting them in the compost bin, consider how good a steak, pie, or ice cream would taste with a kick of that bold, rich flavor.

Happily, spent coffee grounds still pack a punch—more than enough to lend their roasty goodness to dishes savory and sweet. They can be put to work in everything from rubs for meat to sweet treats like cakes and ice cream. In fact, you can swap in spent grounds for just about any recipe that calls for ground coffee. (Note that you probably wouldn’t want to try grounds as a swap in recipes calling for instant espresso powder, since in many cases espresso powder would dissolve or be otherwise undetectable texture-wise, which is not the case with coffee grounds.)

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One of my favorite ways to use coffee grounds is in pie—because it's always pie time at my place. Though I didn’t regularly drink coffee until college, as a kid I loved the creamy, coffee-chocolate flavors of Edy’s French Silk ice cream; my mom and I had a carton of it on hand pretty much at all times. As a grown-up, I enjoy the occasional slice of French silk pie, too, but I’ve never understood why the ice cream was coffee-flavored while the pie’s rich, chocolatey filling typically was not. Once I discovered the power of baking with coffee grounds, it was time to remedy that situation and bring the coffee flavor front and center into the pie—no mild-mannered mocha flavors here.

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Top Comment:
“This sounds so good! Do you think I’d be able to freeze it and enjoy it almost like an ice cream pie?”
— marilu

My version of French Silk pie puts coffee grounds to use in two different ways: straight-up in a chocolate cookie crust, and more subtly infusing a whipped-cream topping. (That second option is a good one to remember—you can infuse milk or cream with grounds for drinking, pouring on cereal, turning into ice cream, etc.) When brewed coffee is used in baked goods, it can sometimes disappear, its own flavor taking a backseat to others, like, say chocolate. That’s not the case with this pie. Since the crust is only baked for 10 minutes, the coffee flavor stays clear and strong, a true equal to the chocolate.

Photo by James Ransom

The good news for French press fans and pour-over drinkers alike is that any grind, coarse or fine, will work in this pie (as will damp or dry grounds). Now, extra-coarse grounds, like from cold brew, might be a bit too coarse to use in the crust—unless you like the idea of a pie crust that resembles chocolate-covered coffee beans—but they would be perfectly fine for infusing the cream.

If your just-brewed grounds are swimming in coffee, simply strain them first. While the grind size and wetness won't impact the results, the quality of the coffee will: A high-quality coffee will lend a lot of flavor to the final pie—older, less flavorful beans, not as much.

One last thing to keep in mind: Not only will the flavor of the beans come through in this pie, but the caffeine will, too. I’m always in favor of having pie for breakfast, but if you’re planning on serving this in the evening, you might want to stick to decaf so you don’t risk having trouble falling asleep (speaking from experience here). Or you could just stay up all night thinking of what all you’ve been missing out on (up until now!) by tossing your grounds.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • marilu
  • Katie Tong
    Katie Tong
  • mrslarkin
  • Joycelyn
  • Lindsay-Jean Hard
    Lindsay-Jean Hard
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


marilu January 24, 2020
This sounds so good! Do you think I’d be able to freeze it and enjoy it almost like an ice cream pie?
Katie T. May 7, 2018
Know of any gluten-free chocolate cookies that might work well here? Love the concept!
Lindsay-Jean H. May 8, 2018
I'm not familiar with many gluten-free options, but any type that is a crunchy chocolate cookie would work, even sandwich-style ones would work (I would scrape off the creme filling, but it also might work to keep it and lower the amount of butter needed to hold it together).
mrslarkin April 22, 2018
This is such a genius idea!!! Very excited for your cookbook!!
Lindsay-Jean H. April 23, 2018
Thanks so much Liz!!
Joycelyn April 22, 2018
Myself, although I enjoy my black coffee, I cannot abide the taste of any food/dessert that has a trace of coffee in it, including Tiramisu.