Water Pie - Recipe from the Great Depression (2024)


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Discover the magic of water pie. A Great Depression era recipe, it takes simple ingredients to create this deliciously creamy and buttery pie. You won’t believe one of the main ingredients is water!

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Water pie is one of those magical recipes that came out of the depression era where cooks with little to nothing figured out how to make delicious dishes for those they love. This Depression era pie recipe was shared with me by Kay West and I published it in my third cookbook, Sweetness: Recipes to Celebrate the Warmth, Love, and Blessings of a Full Life.

This Depression era water pie recipe belonged to Kay’s grandmother, who had eight children and made her family of 10 three meals from scratch every single day. During leaner times, she developed this recipe so that her family could still enjoy dessert from time to time, no matter how hard their days were. These recipes are such a special treasure to us!

I think you’ll really enjoy the simplicity of this water pie. It has a creamy buttery taste, similar to a custard pie or warm vanilla cookie once it’s chilled and sliced. Half the thrill will be telling your family the name and that the main ingredient is water! Once you have had this pie you are going to be in the mood for all different kinds of pies like Apple Pie,Cracker Pie, Strawberry Cream Pie, andGerman Chocolate Pie.

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Recipe Ingredients

You know when a recipe was created to make something out of nothing, it’s going to be simple on the ingredients.

  • A deep-dish pie crust (see tips for success at the bottom of this post).
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Vanilla extract

Helpful Kitchen Tools

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Begin by pouring water into your deep dish and unbaked pie crust, which should be in a pie dish. You can either use a pretty ceramic one like this or a disposable one doesn’t have to be boiling water, either – just straight from the tap is fine.

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In a small mixing bowl, stir together flour and sugar.

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Sprinkle the flour mixture over your water in the pie shell. The original recipe called for doing this with a spoon so I’m showing you that way but I usually just use my hand to sprinkle it because I feel like I can get it more even that way.

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This is our water with flour/sugar sprinkled over. Don’t stir.

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Drizzle vanilla over this. Don’t stir.

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Place pats of butter on top.

Place your pie pan in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce temp to 375 and cover the edges of the flaky crust if need be to prevent burning. Cook for another 30 minutes once you have reduced the temp.

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The pie will be very watery in the center when you remove it from the oven. Allow to cool completely and then refrigerate for several hours before cutting.

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Enjoy this creamy buttery pie recipe that came about from good-hearted cooks wanting to bake up something sweet for their loved ones during hard times!

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You can store pie leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.

Recipe Notes

  • I use a Pillsbury all vegetable frozen deep-dish pie crust, unbaked, for this recipe. I suggest a store-bought deep-dish pie crust because homemade pie crusts in your own dish are going to vary in terms of depth and may result in the filling not getting fully done in the prescribed amount of time.
  • Before you begin making this pie, tear off a piece of foil large enough to cover your pie dish. Cut an X in the center and peel back the X. This will make it quick and easy to cover your pie should the edges begin getting too dark and will keep you from losing valuable heat during the baking process.
  • The pie will be bubbly and could be watery in some spots when you pull it out of the oven. It will gel fully as it cools. It is best if you allow this pie to cool completely and then cover and refrigerate until chilled before cutting.

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Recipe FAQs

What is the difference between a water pie and a Sprite pie?

A Sprite pie is basically a modern-day version of the water pie. It became famous in 2020 when TikTok took the world by storm. They both taste very similar, like a delicious sugar cookie. If you’d prefer to make a Sprite pie instead of a water pie, simply substitute the water for 1 can of Sprite. Follow the same instructions and ingredients in the recipe card and voila, you have yourself a Sprite pie!

Because you can never have too many great pie recipes:

Mint Oreo Ice Cream Pie

Triple Chocolate Brownie Pie

Impossible Lemon Pie Recipe

Peanut Butter Pie Recipe: Made the Old Fashioned Way

Apple Pie

Perfect Pecan Pie Recipe

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Water Pie

Water Pie is a depression era recipe that turns bare bones ingredients into a delicious buttery pie!

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour hour

Total Time: 1 hour hour 15 minutes minutes

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: American

Keyword: pie

Servings: 4

Calories: 178kcal

Author: The SouthernPlate Staff


  • 1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust, unbaked
  • 1 1/2 cups water (that is one and a half cups)
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons butter, cut into 5 pieces


  • Preheat oven to 400 and set empty pie crust on a baking sheet.

    1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust, unbaked

  • Pour 1 + 1/2 cups water into the pie crust.

    1 1/2 cups water

  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the water in the crust. Don't stir.

    4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 cup sugar

  • Drizzle the vanilla over the water in the pie crust. Place pats of butter on top of this.

    2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 5 tablespoons butter, cut into 5 pieces

  • Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and cover sides of crust if needed to prevent burning. Continue cooking for an additional 30 minutes.

  • Pie will be watery when you pull it out of the oven but will gel as it cools. Allow to cool completely and then cover and place in the fridge until chilled before cutting.


Calories: 178kcal

Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!

Water Pie - Recipe from the Great Depression (2024)


What is water pie made of? ›

The pie is made by adding water mixed with sugar, flour and butter, and sometimes some spice such as vanilla or cinnamon, to a pie crust. The starch in the flour makes the mixture set and thicken, thus acquiring a custard-like consistency. Soft drinks such as Sprite may be used in place of water.

What does depression era water pie taste like? ›

I think you'll really enjoy the simplicity of this water pie. It has a creamy buttery taste, similar to a custard pie or warm vanilla cookie once it's chilled and sliced. Half the thrill will be telling your family the name and that the main ingredient is water!

What unusual dessert became popular during the Great Depression? ›

A common depression cake is also known as "Boiled Raisin Cake", "Milkless, Eggless, Butterless Cake", or "Poor Man's Cake". "Boiled" refers to the boiling of raisins with the sugar and spices to make a syrup base early in the recipe. However, some bakers do include butter.

What does water do in pie crust? ›

How to make a tender pie dough that can stand up to rough handling? Doughs need moisture for a supple texture, but moisture activates gluten, the protein in wheat that makes doughs tough.

What does a water pie taste like? ›

What does water pie taste like? Without a lot of ingredients competing for your tastebuds' attention, water pie's flavor profile can be described as “sweet.” The custard filling is gelatinous and translucent, with a texture not unlike the one in chess pie.

Where did water pie originate? ›

But that's not the case with water pie, also known as hard times pie, a recipe born out of the Great Depression, per Atlas Obscura. A pie filling composed mainly of water might sound nutty, but it made sense during the harsh economic times of the 1930s.

What is Elvis Presley pie? ›

Chef Paula Haney shares with Duff the bakery's recipe for the Fat Elvis Pie, which was inspired by Elvis Presley's love of peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches. The pie includes chocolate pastry cream, peanut butter filling and slices of banana in a crust made of graham cracker crumbs, dry roasted peanuts and pretzels.

What is black peoples favorite pie? ›

What is the favorite pie of Black people? African-Americans today have continued the tradition of sweet potato pie with holiday dinners. So yes, sweet potato pie is a Black thing – easy enough for anyone to make, and everyone to love!

What is the most eaten dessert in the world? ›

  • Mar 31, 2023, 08:13 PM IST. 10 Most Popular Desserts in the World. ...
  • Apple Pie. This traditional American dessert is popular due to its flaky crust and sweet apple filling. ...
  • Tiramisu. ...
  • Baklava. ...
  • Crème Brûlée. ...
  • Panna Cotta. ...
  • Cheesecake. ...
  • Mochi.
Mar 31, 2023

What tasty treat was created during the Great Depression? ›

Water Pie. Water pie — made with just six ingredients: water, flour, sugar, vanilla extract, butter, and a pie crust — may seem like a fun hack today, but during the Great Depression, it was simply a dessert that reflected the circ*mstances for many Americans.

What did slaves eat for dessert? ›

During the week, if there was a dessert, it would be a piece of corn bread with some molasses poured on top or some fruit. In addition, slave cabins rarely had the cooking equipment or appliances necessary to adequately bake a pie.

What does adding vinegar to pie crust do? ›

The acid in the apple cider vinegar tenderizes the dough by slowing the gluten production in the dough. This prevents it from getting tough and elastic like bread dough. Love me tender. If you've ever bitten into a slice of pie with a tough crust, you know the value in a tender, flaky pie crust.

Is pie crust better with Crisco or butter? ›

The pros: Butter has the best flavor. A butter pie crust forms light, lofty, flaky layers while it bakes. The flakiness comes partially from the water content of butter, which evaporates as the pie bakes and turns to steam, separating and puffing up the layers in dough.

Why do you put vodka instead of water in a pie crust? ›

The vodka works for two reasons. First, it makes the dough feel way more moist and easier to work with. Second, the ethanol in the vodka stops the gluten in the flour from binding, making for a more tender end product.

What is hot water pastry made of? ›

Hot water crust is traditionally used for producing hand-made pies. As the name suggests, the pastry is made by heating water, melting the fat in it, bringing the mixture to a boil, and finally incorporating the flour. This can be done by beating the flour into the mixture in the pan, or by kneading on a pastry board.

What is hot water crust pastry made of? ›

Hot water crust is made up of flour, salt, fat, and water. Unlike my favorite all-butter pie dough, the recipe for hot water crust usually calls for a mixture of all-purpose and bread flour.

What is fidget pie made of? ›

Shropshire fidget pie is a hearty, traditional British bake made with gammon, cooking apples, onions and potatoes. No one knows exactly where fidget (or fidgety) pie comes from, but there are different versions of it in most of the counties around The Midlands.

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