Take a step into history with this depression era Water Pie recipe. Go back in time and try this recipe your ancestors made during harder times. Brought back by Dylan Hollis on tiktok try your hand at a recipe from long ago.
Quarantine time was hard for all of us and but it was a great time to try some unique recipes. We tried our hand in making Paula Deens Water Pie to see if that southern cook could replicate this era pie. It peaked our curiosity and we had to give it a try ourselves.
This was definitely a humbling pie to make. It brought a new perspective of what others before us may have gone through. You can make this pie as a part of a school history lesson or teaching moment with your kids.
This pie is also enjoyed by many during the holidays like Christmas, or Thanksgiving. The flavor is impressive for a time that had limitations to several ingredients we enjoy today.
Why We Love This Recipe
This isn't our go-to pie but we had fun trying it and learning about this history of it. Here are some great reasons why it was fun making this recipe.
- History- This pie holds a rich history and you can learn some great lessons and use this pie as a great object lesson. It also is tasty to eat!
- Kid Friendly- Make this simple step by step pie with your kids. They can easily help and have fun learning.
- Simple Ingredients- Because this is a depression era pie, the ingredients are simple. Most of the time its ingredients you'll have on hand so you don't have to prep too much ahead of time.
- Pie crust- You can use store bought or homemade for this recipe. Store bought is handy when you're in a pinch.
- Sugar- Gives the pie its sweet flavor. Make sure to use white granulated sugar.
- All-purpose flour- Use white all purpose flour. This will help to thicken the pie and not be as watery.
- Salt- Just a hint of salt to help balance the various flavors.
- Water- Seeing that it's in the name, water is a key ingredient to this recipe.
- Vanilla- Not traditionally used, but it adds a splash of flavor to this custard like pie.
- Butter- Use unsalted butter when making this recipe. If you use salted butter then omit the salt.
See recipe card for quantities.
- In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, and salt.
2. Form a pie crust in a pie pan and add the water. Pour the flour mixture over the top.
3. Add the vanilla and lightly mix. Sprinkle the grated butter over top the water and flour mixture making sure it is evenly distributed.
4. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover the edges of the pie with foil. Bake for another 35 minutes. The pie will come out bubbly. Cool and refrigerate before eating.
Hint: When it first gets out of the oven it looks watery. Make sure to let it set and cool and then refrigerate before serving. This gives it time to set properly.
Water Pie vs. Chess Pie
Water pie and chess pie are both traditional Southern desserts with distinct characteristics. It's is a minimalist dessert, consisting of just a few basic ingredients like sugar, butter, flour, and water, resulting in a custard-like texture. Its simplicity reflects its history of being created when resources were scarce. On the other hand, chess pie is richer and more elaborate, typically made with a mixture of sugar, butter, eggs, and buttermilk or vinegar. It has a smooth, dense filling with a slightly tangy flavor.
While water pie embodies simplicity, chess pie embraces a more indulgent and flavorful profile. Both pies hold a special place in Southern culinary heritage, each offering a unique taste of tradition.
Substitutions and Variations
- Gluten Free- Make this gluten free by using a gluten free pie crust and gluten free all purpose flour when mixing with the water.
- Powdered Sugar- Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar to give it a little sweet flavor and also a cute look.
- Ice Cream- Serve each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- Whipped Topping- With each slice, add a dollop of whipped topping of your choice.
- Berries-Top with fresh berries or a berry syrup for added flavor.
- Sprite- Make this a sprite pie by substituting the water with sprite.
- Root Beer- Make this a root beer pie by substituting the water with root beer. You can use any flavor of soda you'd like to make a fun flavored pie.
Let the pie cool completely to room temperature before moving it to the refrigerator, then refrigerate for 2-24 hours. This will ensure that the pie sets up correctly. It could separate or be too watery.
Use a non-stick spray or line the pie plate with parchment paper before putting down the pie crust. The first time I made this, I didn't do that and the pie crust stuck like crazy!!
How To Serve
Serve this for any Thanksgiving or Christmas for a fun traditional southern pie. It would be a great way to start a conversation about times of old.
Serve this in a history class when you are learning or teaching about the great depression. It would be an easy way to have a visual for students to see just how some people had to eat during hard times.
This is a simple recipe and all you need for it is a Mixing Bowl, pie pan, and aluminum foil. The aluminum foil is to help the crust from burning from extended time in the oven.
Store cooked pie in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 4 days. It's not suggested to freeze this pie. It doesn't thaw well.
The pie crust is known to stick to the pan. Make sure to grease and flour the pie pan before adding the pie crust. Or line the pie pan with parchment paper.
Water pie is a vintage Southern dessert that harks back to times when ingredients were limited. This simple pie typically comprises just a handful of pantry staples: sugar, butter, flour, and water. The ingredients are mixed together to create a custard-like filling that bakes into a subtly sweet, almost translucent layer with a slightly caramelized top. Despite its uncomplicated composition, water pie offers a comforting and nostalgic taste of history, reminding us of the ingenuity of cooks in making something delightful out of basic elements.
This pie has the texture a lot like a custard and the flavor is like a less creamy custard. It's sweet and a little caramel-y tasting. The custard-like filling delivers a gentle sweetness that's not overpowering. The pie's texture is smooth and tender, with a slight caramelization on the surface that adds a delicate crunch
Water pie's appeal lies in its rustic charm and historical significance rather than in its complexity of flavors. While its minimalistic ingredients may not create an explosion of taste, its simplicity offers a taste of nostalgia and a connection to times when resources were scarce. Those who appreciate desserts with a humble and unpretentious character may find the recipe to be a comforting treat that transports them to a different era. Ultimately, whether water pie is considered "good" depends on one's appreciation for its historical context and it's straight forward non complex flavor.
To prepare this vintage Southern dessert, begin by preheating your oven and arranging a pie crust in a pie plate. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, melted butter, flour, and water, creating a smooth batter. Pour this mixture into the pie crust and bake until the pie sets and develops a golden-brown top. The result is a custard-like filling with a gentle sweetness and a hint of caramelization.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
- 1 pie crust store bought or homemade
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 5 Tablespoons butter unsalted
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Grate butter and place in the freezer.
- Grease 9" pie plate or line with parchment paper. Place pie crust into bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.
- Sift flour, sugar and salt together in a small bowl. Pour water into the pie crust. Sprinkle flour mixture evenly over top of the water. Pour vanilla evenly over the top. Remove butter from the freezer and spread evenly over the top. See process pictures above for a visual, if desired.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cover edges with aluminum foil. The easiest way for me to do this is to cover the entire pie with foil, then make some cuts in the center and peel the foil back (see photo above). Bake an additional 35 minutes. The pie should be bubbly and look like it's turning slightly golden in some places.
- Allow to cool completely to room temperature, then refrigerate 2-24 hours before serving.
- This pie crust will stick to the pie plate. Please make sure to grease your pie plate or line it with parchment paper.
- Place grated butter in the freezer while assembling the rest of the pie. It makes it much easier to work with.