Chefs share 16 classic pies recipes for you to master

Kandace Wysock

Table of Contents Peach PieMeyer Lemon PieCoconut Cream PieSweet Potato PieKey Lime PieMeat PieClassic Pumpkin PieFruit CrostataNutmeg-Maple Cream PieCustard PieTarte TatinApple PieBanana Cream PieLemon Meringue PieFrangipaneDutch Apple Classic Pie Classic pies seem to run on their own seasonal schedule, with fall bearing the bulk of fan favourites like apple and […]

Classic pies seem to run on their own seasonal schedule, with fall bearing the bulk of fan favourites like apple and pumpkin. But you don’t need to wait for Thanksgiving to roll around to break out your pie moulds. Once you have your pie baking basics down, you can easily riff on a classic and make it your year-round go-to.

From Southern spins like peach praline to savoury starters like French duck pie, here’s what the pros deem worthy of adding to your pastry repertoire.

Peach Pie

“With peaches having a truly stand-out year, I’d like to encourage everyone to try their hand at a peach praline pie. It’s a Southern staple and a real treat for a couple weeks out of the year. There are plenty of variations, but I’d recommend breaking out the tapioca starch for your peaches and starting with a hefty layer of praline on the bottom crust.” — Michael Poiarkoff, executive chef of The Maker Hotel in Hudson, NY

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Meyer Lemon Pie

“When I make pies, it’s typically at home, and a crowd favourite is my classicMeyer lemon pie. It’s light, acidic, and super creamy. Start with baking your graham cracker crust, which is very easy — just crush graham crackers, melted butter, a little brown sugar, and cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees (176 degrees Celsius) for 10 minutes. While that’s baking, in a mixing bowl, whisk together condensed milk, lemon zest, Meyer lemon juice, salt, and egg yolks. Pour into pie crust and bake in a water bath at 325 degrees (162 degrees Celsius) for about 15 minutes, or until the pie is firm and not jiggly. Chill and then serve!” — Tavel Bristol-Joseph, pastry chef and owner of Emmer & Rye, Hestia, Kalimotxo, Henbit, TLV, and Canje in Austin

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Coconut Cream Pie

Classic pies
Image: Courtesy © Christina Holmes

“It’s a pretty perfect classic pie. The cream filling has a richness due to the eggs and butter, yet the overall experience is light and fluffy. That filling chilled inside a flaky crust is all you need in life, but it also explains why it’s stood the test of time and has been popular for over a century. I like to warm the coconut to release more of its flavourful oils before adding it to the custard. Fold whipped cream into the chilled coconut custard to lighten it, and add some toasted candied coconut as a garnish that gives extra crunch and flavour.” — Ann Kirk, pastry chef of Little Dom’s and Little Dom’s Seafood

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Sweet Potato Pie

“Sweet potato pie is on a lot of tables during holiday season, but kick things up a notch and surprise your guests with some unique toppings. I like to top slices with a heaping scoop of luscious, homemade vanilla bean ice cream, a waterfall of hot honey, and some toasted pecans. If you have a guest that’s averse to anything spicy, try a salted butterscotch sauce instead. It’s perfect as is but can be transformed with a shot of dark rum, dash of cinnamon, or mixed with chopped, crispy bacon for a smoky twist!”  — Kelly Williamson, co-founder of True Scoops

“As fall is right around the corner, I feel like everyone focuses on pumpkin pie, forgetting its Southern cousin. Sweet potato pie is a staple in Black households around Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mother used to wake up around 4 am to start the turkey and the pies, and my siblings and I awoke to the warm scents of brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg filling the house. This classic pie is one of the many reasons why fall is my favourite season, and it’s a recipe I think everyone would enjoy learning.” — Camari Mick, pastry chef of The Musket Room in NYC

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Key Lime Pie

Classic pie
Image: Courtesy © JOHN KERNICK

“Key lime pie is a classic American dessert that originated in southern Florida in the 1930s and is quite simple to make. The most important ingredient for making this sweet and tart dish is fresh Key lime juice. To maximise its flavour, squeeze the lime juice about an hour before needed and let it sit at room temperature; this improves the brightness in the flavour.” — Darren Anklam, executive chef of Eden Roc and Nobu Hotel Miami Beach

“A Key lime pie is a classic dish that can easily be elevated for any occasion. It is also incredibly easy to make and lasts longer than your average pie, so you can prepare ahead and have less to worry about on the day of your big family dinner. At Yardbird, we add a touch of cinnamon and salt to our graham cracker crust bottom, and use the best quality Key lime juice to create the perfect blend of tart and sweet. We additionally decorate the pie with seasonal fruit, mini mint meringues, caramel tuile cookies, and edible flowers.” Jessica Scott, corporate pastry chef of Yardbird and 50 Eggs Hospitality

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Meat Pie

Tourtière is a French-Canadian meat pie typically made from ground beef, veal, and/or pork.  I like to add braised meat with ground meat, wild mushrooms, and box grated potatoes to absorb the fat. It’s delicious served with cranberry ketchup.” — Aidan O’Neal, chef and partner of Bar Blondeau, Le Crocodile, and Chez Ma Tante in Brooklyn

“My favourite pies are savoury, and a fancier version of a savoury pie is duck pithivier. When I was growing up, my grandparents bought a place in the middle of France, in a very rural area. Every time I was there, their neighbours made us a potato pie, which was the specialty of the region. I think that’s why I like savoury ingredients cooked in crust. There is a technique to master, but it’s so comforting to eat. All of the ingredients cooking inside that crust are not escaping; they are cooking in osmosis. The crust absorbs any juice that tries to escape. A savoury pie can be fancy or comfort food, vegetarian or good for meat-lovers. Almost anything goes when making a savoury pie, and it’s perfect for sharing.” — Nicolas Delaroque, chef/owner of Maison Nico in San Francisco

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Classic Pumpkin Pie

“Whether or not you are from the South and prefer a yam in a pie over a squash, or if you just prefer the traditional pumpkin pie to pair with the holidays, the beauty of these pies is how similar the ingredients are. You can easily increase flavour depth by adding citrus zest, muscovado sugar, and ground ginger, or you could be fancy with scraped vanilla bean pods, spiced bourbon, or even brown butter.” — Antonia Grandberry, pastry chef at The Confidante Miami Beach

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Fruit Crostata

Fruit Crostata
Image: Courtesy © Iain Bagwell. Food styling by Simon Andrews.

“As much as I love to share food, when it comes to pie, I prefer an individual crostata (free-form tart), where I get that perfect, crusty edge all the way around. While any filling will do, I’m partial to fruit with frangipane. Swapping different nuts in the frangipane and rotating the fruit gives you endless combinations, each with plenty of crunch. Just keep the crust ingredients and dough cold as you work with it to keep the butter from melting out, and generally buy your fruit in season to get the best flavour. The individual format, crimped all the way around, also holds together nicely — even when topped with something runny like ice cream.” — Andy Hollyday, chef and partner of Selden Standard in Detroit

“In general, pie dough is categorised into two types: short crust and puff pastry. The easier one for home cooking is short crust, where you use your fingertips to blend the butter and wheat flour, and add egg, water, and salt before baking with fruit compote or jam. At été, we offer a pastry-like appetiser of pie sandwiches made with pickled ground cherry and topped with caviar.” — Natsuko Shoji, Asia’s Best Pastry Chef 2020 and chef-owner of été in Tokyo

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Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie

“I’m not a huge nutmeg fan, so if you’re like me, don’t automatically count this out. You can, of course, dial back the nutmeg, but I’ve found it to be more than tolerable — and actually downright perfect. I’d classify it more as a custard pie than a cream pie. I make this every Thanksgiving along with, of course, pumpkin and apple pie. But this is always by far the crowd favourite. I used to like to add a bit of duck fat to the crust until my daughter became vegetarian.”  Michael Schwartz, James Beard Award winner, founder of The Genuine Hospitality Group, and chef/owner of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami

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Custard Pie

“Most people will have their go-to fruit classic pies like apple or cherry, but another essential should be the custard pie. Pumpkin is probably the most familiar in this family of pies, but nothing beats a chilled slice of vanilla custard pie, made with the best dairy you can find and real vanilla bean — and a thin grating of nutmeg on top is never a bad idea. As delicious and satisfying as it can be on its own, it also makes a mean vehicle for fresh berries or fruity compotes. Think of it as cheesecake’s snooty French cousin, but without cheese. Also, be sure to blind bake your pie crust well and give it a layer of egg wash before filling and baking. This will ensure the perfect textural balance of crisp crust to silky rich custard.” — Jen Yee, executive pastry chef of Hopkins and Company in Atlanta

“To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of fruit pies — I would blame my mother for feeding me cake most of my upbringing. So, when I discovered the torta della nonna during one of my first trips to Italy, I fell in love. A custard pie topped with toasted pine nuts, this ‘grandma pie’ gives me all the feels—it’s sweet, creamy, crunchy, and indulgent.” — Mike Friedman, chef and partner of DC’s The Red Hen, Boundary Stone, and All-Purpose Pizza

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Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin
Credit: © Con Poulos

“The recipe for our tarte tatin is completely faithful to the one created (by accident!) by the original Tatin sisters. Only three owners have passed down the original recipe since the beginning of the 20th century. Our secret probably lies in the fact that we only use natural ingredients, and we give the apples plenty of time to truly caramelise. This way, we obtain a creamy pie that is not at all greasy, which you can enjoy as it is without adding any other ingredient (like crème fraîche).” — Olaf Pezard, chef at La Maison Tatin in Sologne, in France’s Loire Valley

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Apple Pie

“This dessert is very uncomplicated and delicious. All you need is the right dough (French pâte brisée, or buttery pastry dough), an apple compote (homemade is always better!), and a few apple slices.”Amaury Bouhours, executive chef of Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse in Paris

“The apple pie or tart is a classic in every Irish home. The traditionally sweet pastry is made with rich Irish butter, layers of tart Bramley apples, and dusted with a generous amount of sugar. In the castle, we add ground almond to our pastry recipe to reduce the sugar, but also to keep the pastry crisp. And we cook the apples gently to allow the slow release of their natural sugar.” — Paula Stakelum, executive head pastry chef at Ashford Castle in Ireland

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Banana Cream Pie

“I remember my mother showing me how to bake sweet pies as a kid. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with achieving the perfect result. My favourite is banana cream with chocolate short crust. The key is to make a standard banana cream but use overripe (black) bananas. Most would throw them away, but they are ideal for baking and carry more amplified flavour. For the short crust, use a nice, dark chocolate powder. The bitter chocolate stands up to the banana brilliantly.” — Andrew Maturana, chef and co-owner of Festivál Café in NYC

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Lemon Meringue Pie

Classic pies
Image: Courtesy Jennifer Causey

“I like how bright and refreshing it is. It is also something that is familiar to many people and brings a sense of nostalgia. I use a very simple lemon curd that I can alter if I’d like to add flavour or make it more exotic by using hard-to-find citrus instead of lemon. I often freeze the curd in the pie slightly, as it’s easier to pipe the meringue onto it. I often pipe the meringue with fun pastry tips and garnish with violas, gold leaf, and whatever fresh berries are available.”— Shawn Gawle, executive pastry chef of Goodnight Hospitality, which includes Rosie CannonballMontrose Cheese & Wine, and MARCH in Houston

“In the world of fruit pies, lemon meringue holds its own with its layered assembly of simple ingredients — flaky pastry, luscious but tart lemon curd, and a topping of fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth meringue. The contrasting flavours and textures are a fitting end to any meal, any season. Stay patient when cooking your curd to avoid lumps, and you can achieve a creamier, denser topping by using Swiss meringue, which is easy to work with. I like to torch the meringue just a bit more than others. The bitter, toasty flavour perfectly accents this pie’s sweet-and-sour profile.” — Leah Steinberger, executive pastry chef of Spark’d Creative Pastry at HOTEL DU PONT in Wilmington, DE

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“I’m a freak for frangipane, and I think everyone should have a basic frangipane recipe in their back pocket for fruit pie fillings. Traditionally made with ground almonds, I often swap in other ground nuts like hazelnut or pistachio. It’s equal parts ground nuts, sugar, and melted butter, with eggs to bind and a splash of vanilla. Sometimes, I’ll fold in some crème fraîche for a little more luxury. Use fine or coarsely ground nuts, depending on how much texture you like. Everything from berries to poached pears and roasted peaches can be suspended in frangipane for a truly elegant, seasonal fruit pie.”Caroline Schiff, pastry chef of Gage & Tollner, executive chef at Slow Up, and author of The Sweet Side of Sourdough

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Dutch Apple Classic Pie

“I love our Dutch apple pie, as it marries the cinnamon and caramel notes of the classic American apple pie with a crème brûlée flavour from the custard and vanilla bean cooked in with it. We top it off with a brown sugar streusel for a nice crunch. This pie is great at room temperature or heated up with vanilla ice cream.” — Summer Schott, corporate pastry chef of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants

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