Darn Good Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Whenever I leave this world, I hope that my friends and family will think of me fondly and say, “That Erin. She baked a serious pie.”

Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Hopefully, they’ll also mention something about my being a good person—while eating slices of pie.

I have a fierce, somewhat inexplicable desire to be a great pie baker. The only rational interpretation I’ve found for this compulsion is that I consider pie to be the dessert translation of love. It’s messy, it’s intentional, and it doesn’t have to be perfect to be magnificent. In fact, I consider “pie” and “love” so synonymous, I once baked heart-shaped pies. Totally rational.

How to make the best Whole Wheat Pie Crust

While I have many, many pies to bring into the world before I consider myself a “serious” pie baker, judging by the number of empty plates I’ve left in my wake thus far, I’m at least “respectable,” an honor I attribute to the fact that I finally broke down and started making my pie crust from scratch.

Homemade pie crust intimidated me. I believed it to be hard, time consuming, and a feat that could only be achieved by professional bakers and seasoned grandmothers (often one in the same). I was convinced that, if my pie crust wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t worth making.

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be magnificent.

How to make perfect Whole Wheat Pie Crust that's tender and flakey every time.

As it turns out, pie crust is neither time consuming, nor the baking equivalent of Mt. Everest. In fact, if you use a food processor (I’m emotionally attached to this one), it takes a grand total of 10 minutes. Silence the voices that tell you pie crust is hard, that flakey is impossible, that homemade isn’t worth it.

While I do think that making a perfect pie crust from scratch requires long practice, fortunately for us, the distinction between “perfect” pie crust and “darn good” pie crust is a minute one, and darn-good pie crust can be made by just about anyone with a positive attitude and a willingness to embrace butter.

In my quest to leave a positive pie legacy, I’ve tried a plethora of different pie crust recipes and techniques. The clearest distinction between one recipe and another is the type of fat used. My Grammy uses 100% shortening, while some of my favorite bakers like Deb and Joy swear by all-butter. Between the two, I find that shortening is indisputably flakier, but butter wins for best flavor, so I opt not to choose and use a combination of both. The butter/shortening ratio in this recipe from Ina Garten (mostly butter, some shortening) nails both flakey and flavor, and the final version of today’s whole wheat pie crust recipe is closely based on it.

Whole Wheat Pie Crust Recipe

Forever dedicated to lightening up my favorite comfort foods, I conducted a series of healthier pie crust recipe experiments. I swapped part of the butter for oil. I tried Greek yogurt. I even browned the butter to see if the stronger flavor would allow me to use less. The results: only butter and shortening will do. (To the person silently insisting, “lard!” I’m sure it would work famously—I just didn’t go there.) Pie crust is worth doing properly. Embrace the butter and shortening.

How to make whole wheat pie crust from scratch

Fortunately, my attempts to sneak whole-wheat flour into the pie crust were roaringly successful. A blend of half all-purpose, half whole-wheat pastry flour still gives a tender, flakey texture, and the whole wheat adds a light, nutty flavor that’s delightful combined with any pie or quiche filling.

Overall, the most critical success factor to pie crust making I’ve found is restraint (in all things but butter anyway). When working in the butter and shortening, do not over do it. The butter/shortening chunks should remain large, nearly the size of your thumbnail. When adding the water, stop just as soon as the dough is moist enough to hold together when pinched.

Homemade Whole Wheat Pie Crust

The second critical success factor: keep it cold. The colder you can keep the ingredients (and the less you handle the dough), the flakier your crust will be.

Easy Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Once the ingredients are combined, pop the dough into the fridge for some extra chill time, then we are ready to roll.

The Best Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I am an expert pie-crust crimper. In fact, I rewatch this MarthaStewart.com video every time I bake a pie. Then, I remind myself that a beautiful crimp and a mediocre crimp taste identical. My edges might never be Martha-perfect, but remember, perfect isn’t what we’re after.

We’re after darn good, and this whole wheat pie crust is all of that and more.

How to make Whole Wheat Pie Crust

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be magnificent.

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Whole Wheat Pie Crust

An easy recipe for whole wheat pie crust that’s tender and flakey every time. Use this recipe for all of your favorite pies and quiches.

Yield: 2 (10 inch) pie crusts

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water (about 1/2 cup)

Directions:

  1. Cut the butter and shortening into a small dice, then place them in the freezer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place the all purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, then pulse a few times to combin. Scatter the butter and shortening pieces over the top. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of chickpeas. Some of the pieces will be small and others will be larger (about the size of a thumnail).
  2. With the machine running, add 4 tablespoons ice water to feed tube. Add the remaining water one tablespoon at a time, just until the dough is moist enough to hold together with a small portion is pinched between your fingers. Pulse the machine until the dough forms a shaggy ball. Place the dough on a lightly floured board and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, divide the dough in two. Use both immediately or wrap and refrigerate for up to two days or freeze for up to two months.

Recipe lightly adapted from Ina Garten.

// All images and text ©/Well Plated.

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

33 comments

  1. What did our ancestors without food processors do? I always wonder.
    This looks amazing. I love whole wheat crusts for savory quiches, or for nuttier fruit pies. It’s such a great balance!

  2. Pie crusts are my baking Achilles heel, so I’ll have to try this one. The addition of whole wheat flour is a great idea!

  3. Looks like you NAILED girlfriend! Love your step by step photos!

  4. Erin, you make this sound so easy. I am one who is intimidated by pie crust, but now I’m going to attempt it. After all, what do I have to lose? Just a few ingredients and maybe a little pride…. Lol.

  5. Love this tutorial! I, too, have been super intimidated by homemade pie crust. I’ll have to give this one with whole wheat flour a go for sure.

  6. Yummy!! That makes me hungry for a pie!

  7. I look forward to trying this recipe!! Your crust looks perfectly pinched!!!

  8. A gorgeous pie crust that you should be extremely proud of. I need to try this one at home. 

  9. Book marking this for when I venture into my annual attempt at pretending I can bake!!

  10. I’ve always been an all-butter kind of pie baker but love the flakiness of shortening as well. This is just a great balance of both worlds. Now if only I can crimp like you, then life as a pie baker will be complete. 

  11. AMEN SISTER!! I am a firm believer in the idea that pie=love. And pie crust from scratch is soooo worth it. I’m just loving everything you said in this post! :)

  12. You’ve definitely got pie crusts down and I’m loving that it is whole wheat.

  13. Your pie crust looks perfect! Your tips and step by step shots are spot on and I love the whole wheat flour you snuck here too :)

  14. Wow that pie crust really does look amazing! And I love that it’s whole wheat, that’s awesome!! Pinned :)

  15. I just love that you found a way to use whole wheat in a pie crust! Pie crusts are not my forte – I battled it out with a quiche recipe I was trying to make … I need to try again! haha

  16. I honestly prefer whole wheat flour in most baked goods. I find that cookies and pies made solely with AP flour kind of bland. I can’t wait to try your recipe for this pie crust – spring is pie season, right?

  17. pie is my favorite dessert! Love that you made the crust whole wheat! also, your crimped edge does look perfect to me! 

  18. “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be magnificent”

    Now that’s a great mantra for those of us with perfectionist tendencies… This is what I need to be repeating to myself so that I can finish my current project at work… and maybe I will reward myself once I do finish it by making me some pie…. yes…! Alright then, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be magnificent….”

  19. Yeah!! I love making pies…I’ve always been of the mind that if something screws up, who cares? It may lead me to waste an ingredient or two (not the best thing when working with the expensive stuff), but I haven’t met a recipe yet that I’m afraid of. I love the idea of incorporating whole wheat in a pie crust. Way to go!

  20. Lady, this pie crust looks more than just “respectable”! I’m horrible at crimping pies. Thanks for the tip about the Martha Stewart video! I need to check that out the next time I make pie!

  21. I’m a shortening and butter pie crust gal as well. I love the flakiness shortening gives, but that butter flavor is irreplaceable. I need to try sneaking in some whole-wheat flour next time. Also, that crimping is picture perfect! 

  22. Thanks for sharing! I am new to pie baking, but have been scared to try making crust. I figured it just wasn’t worth it. I am going to try making my own crust after reading this post!

    • Stephanie, this makes me so happy to read! I avoided pie crust for years, but this recipe really is pretty straightforward. Now that I’ve gone homemade (and it tastes SO GOOD), I just can’t go back! I do hope you try it. I bet your crust will be just amazing!

  23. Hi Erin, what a great post. I love baking pies myself, but I’ve never thought about doing a whole wheat crust! I’ll have to try this sometime. Just one question: is whole wheat pastry flour different than regular whole wheat flour? I have whole wheat flour in my pantry already, so would I be able to use that?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Lara, if you love baking pies, you’ve got to try whole wheat! Whole wheat pastry flour is actually much finer than regular whole wheat flour and the protein content is different too (which impacts how light and flakey the crust is). If you use regular whole wheat vs. the whole wheat pastry, your crust will be more dense and the wheat flavor more pronounced, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be delicious! It just depends on what you prefer. Maybe try doing 1 cup whole wheat plus 2 cups all purpose. (Or just pick up some whole wheat pastry flour. I love having it around!). Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions :)

  24. I think your edges are pretty close to perfect!  Way better than mine, my edges always look awful, but it totally doesn’t matter cause homemade pie crust still tastes great!  I agree, using shortening and butter makes the best pie crust, but I have never tried whole wheat flour before.  I will definitely be doing that soon!

  25. Did you ever try making it with 100% whole wheat pastry flour?  I’m gonna try it with some peaches!  Love peach season!

    • Marci, this would be fabulous for peach pie! I have done 100% whole wheat pastry flour and wasn’t as happy with the results. It came out a bit too crunchy and the wheat flavor was a little too strong. I think the half and half is worth it in this case. Just my opinion, for what it’s worth :)

  26. Good stuff Erin. I have been retired for about a month.  I bought myself a bread machine and a food processor. My doctor does not want me to consume any bleached flour. I was thinking of trying a mixture of whole wheat pastry flour and unbleached white flour.  I think I remember reading that backing powder also adda to the flakeness of the crust. The last and only pie crust I tried was one from Alton Brown had for apple pie.  I will try yours next. 

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