First things first: You need to throw everything you know about making butter-laden pie crust out the window.
Finished? Let’s proceed.
Coconut oil pie crust is one of those things that kicked my ass the first couple of times I attempted to make a pie crust with something other than (vegan) butter and (non-hydrogenated) shortening. It wasn’t until I was scraping my third or fourth trial into the trash that I had an AHA! moment and realized I was doing it all wrong. I can’t stress this enough: coconut oil is not a butter substitute, and to treat it as such will make you a little crazy; it’s not some magical replacement that you can swap with the fatty, creamy stuff and end up with the same result. Compared to butter, coconut oil is an entirely different ingredient on nearly every level, and your approach to creating (most) coconut oil recipes will need to veer slightly from the normal path of development.
If you look around the internet for coconut oil pie crust recipes, you’ll notice they all incorporate coconut oil akin to how one would incorporate butter: while it’s hard and cold, and with a pastry cutter or two knives. But we’re not going to go that route because I found working with cold coconut oil to be a complete pain in the ass (and coconut oil ≠ butter, remember?). We’re also ditching the pastry cutter (and knives) so don’t even think about using one because we’re sticking to our trusty hands. They’re going to get caked with crumbly dough pieces and, yes, you’re going to have to wash them about half a dozen times but I promise your dry skin will be worth it in the end.
Some of you are probably wondering, But Ashlae, why would I make coconut oil pie crust when there’s a perfectly suitable vegan version of butter available at the grocery store? Because the palm oil industry has been linked to deforestation, climate change (I mean, what isn’t?), loss of biodiversity, habitat degradation, species endangerment, etc. After watching this film last spring, I made the decision to drastically cut my use of vegan butter (and any product containing unethically sourced palm oil) because money speaks, yo.* I’ve also been working on a (coconut oil-based) vegan butter substitute of my own, but unfortunately I’ve been unsuccessful in developing a recipe that works in pie crusts. Hopefully that will change someday soon because I’m getting reaaaaally tired of testing butter recipes. And wasting entire jars of coconut oil, in the process.
A little bit about this pie crust: it’s sturdy, flaky (yep, flaky ass pie crust without butter), and flecked with good-for-you whole grains. Basically, you should ditch whatever pie crust you were planning on using for Thanksgiving and use this, instead. Actually, you should use it forever.
*And because I understand the hypocrisy of pointing out the environmentally destructive aspects of the palm oil industry while still doing things like buying shit that’s made in China or not always supporting my local farmer, there’s this. But just because everything we do is unethical (read the article) doesn’t mean we can’t take steps toward putting an end to those bad habits that can easily be changed. Like those that perpetuate the unsustainable palm oil industry.
Notes: I’ve made this recipe with whole wheat and spelt flour, but if you’d prefer one or the other, you can sub all or nothing. If you want a crust made with all purpose flour, that recipe is here. One of the things you need to pay attention to is when I say to use cold ingredients, chill the bowl, etc. These are not optional steps, they are crucial. I’ve made this pie crust a number of ways (with solid coconut oil, cold water instead of ice water, room temperature flour, etc.) and yes, the method drastically changes the end result. If you don’t have a scale, you may struggle with this recipe as it uses exactly 170g of flour. I’ve gotten 1 1/4 cups of whole grain flour that weigh 150g and others that weigh 180g – which may create a problem if you don’t pay attention to the texture of the dough while it’s coming together. If you don’t have a scale, just add the coconut oil in smaller increments (I add it in four parts where as you may want to add it in five or six, possibly stopping before adding the entire measurement).
COCONUT OIL PIE CRUST
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole spelt flour
1 tablespoon cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup refined coconut oil, melted and cooled
6-7 tablespoons water, ice cold
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flours, sugar, and salt. Transfer the bowl to the freezer and freeze for 15 minutes. Once the flour has chilled, slowly drizzle in the cooled coconut oil, one tablespoon at a time, using your fingers to gently swirl the coconut oil then pressing the mixture between your thumb and four fingers until the coconut oil has been evenly dispersed (if you’re confused about the latter method, watch this video) (but don’t make fun of my double jointed fingers). Repeat process with remaining coconut oil. The mixture will be sandy for the first couple of tablespoons but, once all the coconut oil has been added, your mixture should look like fifth and sixth photos above. If it doesn’t you either didn’t let your coconut oil cool properly (it doesn’t have to be cooled to room temperature, but should not be hot) or mixed a bit on the aggressive side. If your mixture looks like aforementioned photos above, transfer it to the freezer and set a timer for 15 minutes. In the meantime, clear your work area and prepare the ice water.
After 15 minutes, remove the mixture and break up any big, hard clumps with your fingers. You don’t have to get all of them, but get as many as you can. Be sure not to spend more than two minutes breaking up the clumps or else your mixture will need to go back in the freezer. Drizzle in the ice water, two tablespoons at a time, gently mixing with your fingers (like in the video linked above). After adding six tablespoons of water, get in there with your hands and start trying to form the mixture into a ball of dough. You may need to add a bit of the seventh tablespoon, or the entire thing. Work the dough into a ball and shape it into a smooth, flat disc. The dough is going to feel tough and dry, but it will soften as it rests. Tightly wrap disc in plastic and flatten until there is no air space left in the plastic wrap. Let rest, at room temperature, for 30 minutes then roll out into a large circle for pie crust. If you don’t want to make the pie crust right away, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours (or frozen for up to two weeks), but will need to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Frozen dough will need to be moved to the refrigerator overnight, then allowed to rest at room temperature as stated above.
If you’d like to bake the dough, (I’ll be sharing a recipe soon) (get your caramel sauce ready!), you’ll want to bake hand pies at 350˚F for about 20 minutes. For an 8-9″ pie, bake it according to the pie you’re making (make sure you cover the edges of the crust after 15 minutes). If you want to use this for an 8-9″ pie that uses a filling that doesn’t need to be baked, fill the crust with pie weights and bake at 375˚F for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden. If you want to make an 8-9″ pie crust with lattice, you can double the recipe.
Yield: Enough dough for one 8-9″ single pie crust or 8 3″ hand pies