While cheese is a well-loved food, research suggests the potential for opiate-like feelings to take over our bodies when we ingest too much, leaving us drooling for more — actually, doesn’t sound half bad, does it?
14 Tips for Healthier Pies (and Our Favorite Recipes)
According to the American Pie Council, today is National Pie Day! We simply couldn’t let this very important holiday go under the radar, so we’ve rounded up some pro tips to help you make a better slice, plus a few of our favorite pies made healthier.
1. Cut It Out
Skip the top crust altogether, or make a lattice so the healthier fruity filling can shine through (and to cut down on the buttery base layer). If you’d rather not go completely bare, cut out shapes with a cookie cutter for a hole-y topper, or arrange the shapes on top before baking.
Store-bought crusts may be convenient and all, but they’re typically riddled with hard-to-pronounce ingredients that you likely can’t find in your pantry. Pie crust should be simple: Flour, fat, salt, sugar, and water. Spend a little time to bake up a home made crust you can be proud of.
3. Sub in Sour Cream or Yogurt
Sour cream may pair best with a baked potato, but adding a reduced-fat dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt to pie crust in place of some of the butter or lard can help amp up those nutrition facts. Cream them in with the butter, then add the dry ingredients as usual.
4. Fill With Fiber
Graduate from white flour and sub in a little whole-wheat. Some recipes use only whole-wheat, while others go half-and-half with all-purpose flour. Try whole-wheat pastry flour for a finer crumb. For pies that usually use a graham cracker crust, try pulsing high fiber cereal in the food processor and using the cereal crumbs instead.
5. Go Nuts
Replace some (or all) of the flour with nuts! Try using almond flour or grind your own pecans. The nuts have their own healthy fats, so there’s no need for tons of butter or lard. Plus, adding nuts means adding fiber, protein, and vitamins (like vitamin E in almonds, and hazelnuts).
6. Sweeten Smart
Most pies are meant as a sweet treat after a meal… but they can still taste good without mountains of sugar. An easy way to cut added sugar is to choose fruits that are naturally sweet on their own, like golden delicious apples. For extra flavor, spice pies up with nutmeg (which pairs well with berries), cinnamon (perfect for apple pie) or ginger (with peaches). Throw a little lemon zest or orange zest into the mix for even more taste without all the added sugar.
7. Chill out
Keep the cold ingredients cold — that means the water, butter, sour cream, yogurt — for a flaky crust. For easier dough to work with, chill it in the fridge before rolling out.
8. Roll With It
Though it’s fun to play with dough, try your best not to overwork it. You’ll get a tough crust (and that’s no fun). Place the chilled dough between two pieces of parchment paper when before rolling so it doesn’t stick to the pin. A light dusting of flour will help keep it from sticking to the work surface, too.
9. Spread Lightly
Instead of going crazy with a stick of butter to the pie pan, try melting a teaspoon then dabbing it on the pan with a paper towel, or use a light mist of cooking spray. The paper towel method works for coconut oil or olive oil, too!
10. Pack the Protein
Yogurt works well to lower the fat content in crust, but using it for a no-bake center makes for a slice of protein pie. Try it in the peanut butter yogurt pie (below), or this frozen blueberry coconut yogurt pie.
11. Try Different Flours
Experiment with different flours (crust doesn't always have to use wheat!), like quinoa. The nutty grain is a health superstar because it's easy to digest, and it's got a ton of protein.
12. Toss in Tofu
Tofu may not sound so appealing, especially when we're used to seeing it in a flavorless block. But, silken tofu can be used as a creamy guilt-free filling base that adapts to whatever it's flavored with, like chocolate in the pumpkin chocolate mousse cake (below).
13. Use More Nuts!
So we've already spoken of nut crusts, but why not use some more in the pie itself? Normally pecan pie resembles a sugared stick of butter more than a healthy treat, but the vegan version below is revamped, and dotted with whole pecans on top.
14. Think Outside of the Crust
We're not fooling anyone by saying pie usually comes from a pie shell of some sort. But why not whip up a pie-flavored smoothie, or bowl of oats? If it's the filling that entices you, try filling a hollowed apple with apple pie filling and placing a latticed crust on top (below).
Peanut Butter Yogurt Pie via Little Bitty Bakes
This pie has only two ingredients for its center: Vanilla Greek yogurt and creamy peanut butter. Chill it overnight for a thick creamy slice of peanutty deliciousness. One slice has 14 grams of protein.
Pumpkin Chocolate Mousse Cake via Mix it Up
Chocolate and pumpkin?! Now we’re talkin’. This rich and creamy pie uses tofu as a main ingredient for the filling.
Vegan Maple Pecan Pie via Chockolawtay
This pie uses brown rice flour instead of traditional wheat as the base of it’s crust!
Unconventional Apple Pie via Frugal Freebies and Deals
We know this isn’t exactly the apple pie you’re used to, but it’s got the same spicy apple flavor profile.
Did we miss any tips to make a healthier pie? What’s your favorite pie flavor? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott.