How to make coconut oil pie crust

How to make coconut oil pie crust

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.

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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

55 Comments

  • Reply molly yeh 13 November 2014 at 8:51 AM

    YAY! i cannot wait to try this, yo.

    • Reply Mary 21 December 2015 at 5:45 AM

      I love this thank you so much

  • Reply cynthia 13 November 2014 at 9:02 AM

    So freaking cool, Ashlae. This is awesome.

  • Reply Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar 13 November 2014 at 9:48 AM

    i think you’ve just saved my life. This crust is straight up awesome!!

  • Reply Rossi @ A Baking Girl 13 November 2014 at 10:25 AM

    After reading this, I definitely need to revamp the recipe for coconut oil pie crust I’ve been using. No more solid oil!

  • Reply Ashley 13 November 2014 at 10:48 AM

    You are amazing!!!!!!! This looks incredible.

  • Reply Kathryn 13 November 2014 at 11:11 AM

    You’re so smart! I’ve made an olive oil pie crust before in a similar way (I think) but swapping in coconut oil sounds like a much better option.

  • Reply Jodi 13 November 2014 at 12:13 PM

    Ashlae, this is a such a perfect post, pie crust included! Simple and clear as to why we should be conscious when deciding what we bring into our kitchens! I have never seen GREEN, but plan on watching it this weekend now, thank you for sharing! and for bloggin like a boss :) Jodi x

  • Reply Whitney 13 November 2014 at 12:55 PM

    THIS LOOKS SO GOOD, ASHLAE! YAY!

  • Reply Elizabeth Jarrard 13 November 2014 at 1:25 PM

    You are the pie queen. end of story.

  • Reply Carissa 13 November 2014 at 1:28 PM

    This is super exciting! I don’t make pie much because making crusts is so fussy & I feel like they’re super unhealthy so why go to all the trouble. A coconut oil crust with whole grain flour, however, seems totally worth the fuss! Can’t wait to make an apple pie asap.

  • Reply Kari @ Cooking with Toddlers 13 November 2014 at 11:58 PM

    Such an awesome post…I’m making me some pie crust this weekend!

  • Reply Megan 14 November 2014 at 6:24 AM

    Oh thank you for this. I did the half vegan butter/half coconut oil for a double recipe and yuck! Chunks of coconut oil is not good! Blech. Thank you for showing me the melted oil way!

  • Reply Ana @ Ana's Rocket Ship 14 November 2014 at 6:27 AM

    We can’t do everything, so we may as well do something! And something is better than nothing. Well done, you’re amazing for sticking to what you believe in!

  • Reply Kristen 14 November 2014 at 7:38 AM

    This is a wonderful post. You always provide outstanding recipes, commentary, and photos on here, but I’m really happy that you shared this recipe and your eco-conscious motivation behind it. My respect and admiration for this blog and what you do just got deeper… This is why I follow you!

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  • Reply Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen 15 November 2014 at 3:08 AM

    Such an informative, well-written post, Ashlae! Love it!

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  • Reply Kulsum 16 November 2014 at 2:39 AM

    ohh this looks perfect! I have had many a failed attempts at replacing coconut oil with butter and learned hard way that they both need to be treated differently.

  • Reply Kelly 16 November 2014 at 11:30 AM

    I had no idea how to incorporate coconut oil into my pie crusts. Thank you! Can’t wait to try it!

  • Reply Jen @ sweetgreenkitchen 17 November 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Love your post, especially your acknowledgment that just because we may want to live an ethically and environmentally correct life and do many things to support that does not mean we always do everything to support that lifestyle and that is OK as long as we continually strive to do better (if that is in fact the type of person we want to be!) No judgment. and the pie crust looks yummy too :)

  • Reply Jordan @ The Balanced Blonde 17 November 2014 at 5:24 PM

    Ummm I can’t exactly tell you how freakishly happy I am that you posted this. I love a good how-to. And the photos help so much. And it helps that your photos are wayyy too gorgeous for words. As always.

  • Reply genevieve @ gratitude & greens 19 November 2014 at 7:52 AM

    You have no idea how happy it made me to see you write about palm oil’s effects on the environment- I’ve been actively boycotting brands that use palm oil for around two years now (including my beloved childhood snack Pocky) and I’m shocked that so many people don’t realize how harmful being a consumer of palm oil is for the environment. So, thank you for writing about that. And another big thank you because you came up with a recipe for a bad ass coconut oil crust. I’m excited to wow everyone with your pie crust recipe!

  • Reply Jenn 20 November 2014 at 10:16 PM

    This is happening, this weekend in my kitchen.

  • Reply Rosie @ Notes of Bacon 21 November 2014 at 3:30 AM

    These look amazing. And dangerous – these are definitely not an eat one situation. This is an eat one straight out of the oven and burn your tongue until its ok enough to eat another one. Then 4 more. So delicious, thank you. Beautiful photography too.

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  • Reply Charlie 23 November 2014 at 3:40 PM

    Maybe you and your readers should do some research on palm oil and coconut oil. They are totally different oils with totally different sources and substantially different for one’s health.

    • Reply Ashlae 23 November 2014 at 3:49 PM

      Hi Charlie,

      Maybe you should read this post in its entirety before commenting. Because I address the impacts of palm oil on the environment, not one’s health.

  • Reply Heather 26 November 2014 at 2:21 PM

    You say that the recipe uses exactly 170g of flour but in the ingredients section you don’t actually mention that and provide your measurement in cups. Which is it?

    • Reply Ashlae 26 November 2014 at 3:29 PM

      Hi Heather –

      That’s addressed in the notes section, just prior to the recipe. I provide both measurements so that people who don’t own a scale can still prepare this recipe.

  • Reply Rob 26 November 2014 at 2:44 PM

    Just made this pie crust. I made it with whole wheat pastry flour (170g), and after adding 4 tablespoons of ice water the dough already seemed pretty wet, so I stopped there. The end results seem OK, but I don’t have any other coconut oil pie crust experience to compare it too. It doesn’t seem as flaky as a butter crust though.

    Also, interesting documentary that you linked to (“Green”). Sustainability is always a complicated issue. I’m wondering if all of the Palm Oil production was stopped, would there be enough farmland available to sustain the world demand for oil using existing coconut oil farms? Human population growth is a big problem. I applaud your efforts to find sustainable solutions, but it’s hard to know what is the best long term solution.

    • Reply Ashlae 26 November 2014 at 3:41 PM

      Hi Rob –

      I was wondering how pastry flour would work in this recipe! I think I would up the coconut oil and reduce the water amount, if using a lighter flour. Thanks for starting the experimentation process for me. ;)

      I think human population growth is THE problem, and the reason I will not be having children of my own. But that’s beside the point. I don’t necessarily think the palm oil industry should cease to exist, but I do think they should take proper measures to ensure sustainable harvesting practices that preserve, rather than destroy, the environment.

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  • Reply Ali 27 November 2014 at 5:33 PM

    I can vouch for it that this pastry is just as good using extra wholemeal flour if you don’t have spelt. Best vegan pastry I’ve ever made/tasted! Thanks Ashlae!

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  • Reply Angela 21 December 2014 at 2:17 PM

    What a great recipe. Going to use COCONUT flour (instead of wheat) and try COCONUT sugar instead of cane. Hmmmm…. off to the kitchen!!

    • Reply Danielle 24 December 2014 at 2:14 AM

      I used Coconut sugar and instead of 1/2 cup Spelt flour, I used Rice flour. The dough came out great!!!

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  • Reply Gwen in LA 30 March 2015 at 12:04 AM

    I’m making quiche for my birthday (3/30) and will use this recipe, again. It turns out great using home ground white wheat and red wheat flour. I bake the shell ‘blind’ or empty, until set, let it cool, then fill with quiche mixture, cover the edge with foil and it’s wonderful.

    Hand pies a few months ago were superb…used up different fruits combined with chunks of apple. Yummy! Thank you for this recipe.

  • Reply Sheryl 14 June 2015 at 3:31 PM

    I don’t know why anyone would use butter in pie crust. I have never done it that, but that I also wouldn’t put sugar in one either. I just use 2 cups flour, one cup salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 coconut oil, and 1/3 cup cold water. But I seem to get mixed results on that. Sometimes it is perfect and sometimes I find the crust is too dry and wants to break with the exact same recipe, so I am thinking that it might have to do with the temperature of the coconut oil. That’s why I was searching the internet to see if people had ideas of whether it should be warmer or colder to get a crush that doesn’t split when you are kneading it into the pie pan.

    I used to use 1/2 cup peanut oil with less water, and that worked perfectly, but then I started to worry about my ability to digest peanut products. But really peanut oil is awesome for baking if you don’t have problems with it. Walnut oil and almond oil are great too, although so expensive!

    But I have never done a crust with butter, so this read kind of odd to me.

  • Reply Barbara 29 August 2015 at 9:14 AM

    I am just starting to try this. Just wanted to know if you have ever tried making it with Einkorn flour?

  • Reply Varshini 8 September 2015 at 7:55 AM

    thank you, thank you, thank you! this recipe worked so perfectly, with a lot to owe to your insanely detailed method. used plain (all purpose) flour and a dash more oil to make my vegan friend jam tarts and the pastry is delicious -perfectly flaky and crisp

  • Reply Daniel Åkerud 10 September 2015 at 2:33 PM

    What would happen if I we’re to use unrefined coconut oil? (Except for the obvious coconut flavour)

    • Reply Ashlae 13 September 2015 at 11:02 AM

      Hi Daniel –

      Absolutely nothing. :)

  • Reply JanetH Shea 12 September 2015 at 11:35 AM

    the crust rolled out perfectly! Only difference was I put the food processor w/ flour mixture in the freezer added co after15 min and proceeded w/ very cold water. Refrigerated till I was ready to roll it out.
    Thanks for experimenting w/ coconut oil.
    Janet

  • Reply Valarie Tooby 24 October 2015 at 6:38 PM

    Your coconut oil pastry sounds great, I’ve never thought of melting and cooling it down I usually rub it in
    like butter and you get coconut lumps I be making some pastry this afternoon so I’ll be doing you recipe
    I’m making asparagus au gratin pies in a nice healthy sauce with Japanese panko crumb topping.

  • Reply Aaron Gibson 29 November 2015 at 3:57 PM

    Ashlae,

    Thank you for your super informative posts about crafting coconut oil-based pie crusts.

    I will soon be moving to a wonderfully food-conscious town in southern Vermont, USA, and aspire to bake sweet and savory pies and breads in my apartment for wholesale to local markets and cafés, and by the piece downtown (from the trunk of my 1998 BMW compact!) for curiously hungry passer-by,

    Today marked the second consecutive daily attempt at executing your recipe. Today’s crust was monumentally flakier than yesterday’s, and in increasing my understanding of this new-to-me pie crust methodology, I am able to better formulate my ratio tables and projected monthly ingredient cost sheets.

    Your website is an invaluable resource to me. Thank you for your insight and thoughtful perspective!

    Cheers,
    Aaron

  • Reply Vienna 13 March 2016 at 12:05 PM

    I made this and the pie crust was actually flaky! Without any butter or lard! I am one happy girl. Thanks for sharing! Good job!

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