Pies are a classic dessert. There is nothing quite like the crispy yet tender crust, the delicious filling, and everything coming together in harmony to make a sweet, delicious treat. But making a pie is not as simple as it seems.
Even seasoned kitchen veterans can easily screw up a pie, leaving it less than satisfying and providing wonder as to where things went wrong. The last thing you want to do in the kitchen is provide a subpar dessert.
One of the more common occurrences is in the pie filling. The exterior of your pie could look great until you actually cut into it and find the filling, which is supposed to be thick and moist, is running out in a watery, juicy mess.
But instead of dealing with what is essentially pie soup, there are ways to not only fix the issue, but also ways to recognize where the problem may have occurred.
Why Your Pie Isn’t Right
There are two common culprits when the filling of your pie is too runny in nature. The first is that your pie may not have had enough time to cool. When you go to serve pie, it should be served at a temperature that is just above room temperature.
If your filling is too hot, there is a possibility that the filling won’t have time to set. When you pull your pie out of the oven, put it on the window sill and let it cool down; this should take around three hours or so. If you’re using a ceramic pan, it can take longer to cool down than a standard metal pie tin.
On the flip side, your pie may have not gotten hot enough in the oven or had enough time to properly boil. When the pie filling bubbles, this is what activates the natural gelatin that is in fruit and any thickeners that you might have added to your pie.
The goal here is to see thick, syrupy bubbles before you take the pie out of the oven for good. If you don’t see those bubbles, give it a few more minutes to let your pie properly heat up.
How to Fix Your Runny Pie
Should your pie filling not look quite right, there is no need to fear. There are some easy steps that you can implement to get your pie filling looking the way that it was meant to look. This way, you can get that same great flavor without having to eat pie soup with a soggy crust.
Since there are so many different options, it really is up to you to decide which one you go with. Some are easier than others, but all should make a fairly effective solution for getting your pie filling nice and thick like you expected it to be.
1 – Cornstarch
All it takes is a teaspoon of cornstarch for every cup of fruit that you have in your pie. Generally speaking, a 9-inch pie should be able to hold around six cups of filling or so, which means that you would need six teaspoons of cornstarch.
Cornstarch is a natural thickening agent and should be able to give body to your pie filling without altering the taste in any way.
2 – Flour
This is one of the less-preferred options. Some do not like adding flour to their pie filling because it can make the appearance of the filling look a bit cloudy in nature. But if it is all that you have on hand, it will work all the same.
For every cup of fruit in your pie, you need two teaspoons of flour. The key here is that you need to sprinkle the flour into the mix because if you pour it all in at once, it can clump up and make your filling gross in texture.
Flour should be the option when there are no other options; it is all too easy to add too much flour to your filling and wind up with a goopy, clumpy filling.
3 – Instant Pudding
Instant pudding is actually a favorite among veteran pie makers. This is because adding a package of instant pudding is not only a great way to improve the overall texture of your pie filling, but it can improve the flavor of your pie. It does this by giving the pie a bit more complexity and by utilizing the gelatin in the pudding to allow the filling to set.
Using lemon instant pudding is a great way to thicken your pie filling because lemon goes well with most other fruit fillings. So, not only can you strengthen the thickness of your pie filling, you can get a far greater depth of flavor as well.
4 – Tapioca
No, not tapioca pudding; tapioca flour. Instead of using the granules to thicken up your pie filling – which can take a long time to fully hydrate and can make your pie filling still runny, but also gritty – try using tapioca flour instead.
Depending on what kind of tapioca flour you get, the directions can differ, so be sure to read the package carefully before adding tapioca flour. When you’ve mixed in your tapioca flour and stirred thoroughly, let it sit for 15 minutes or so, giving the tapioca flour the opportunity to dissolve.
5 – Draining the Juices
This is a bit more complicated, but if your filling is still watery, you can actually take it from the pie and mix it into the bowl with a pinch of salt and lemon, mashing the fruit a bit to get more of the juice out. When you have finished mashing, pour this mixture into a colander so that the sugary juice can pass through.
It is important to let it drain naturally, giving it 30 to 60 minutes to do so. Simmer the juice until it turns into a syrup and then mix it back with the filling. Put it back in the pie and you should be good to go!
Have leftover pie crust? See my suggestions on how to use it!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.
Sunday 6th of November 2022
While I appreciate the suggestions? There are no instructions on how to do the thickening. Add cornstarch. Great. But when, how, re-heat again? Add with what? Milk, water, what? Thicken with pudding. Great. How? What are the processes. Please have people answer questions from step #1 to the last step! Not someone to give obvious suggestions without a conclusion!
Friday 31st of December 2021
Do I need to heat the filling while putting the thickener in, or can it be done cold? You don't say anything about how to do it!
Monday 23rd of August 2021
my filling did not thicken enough how do i fix it now
Tuesday 10th of August 2021
How much lemon pudding do you use? And I'm assuming you add it before baking.
Wednesday 28th of July 2021
How do you correct the runny pie with lemon pudding? I know this sounds dumb but do you remix it and cook it again?
Tuesday 26th of July 2022
@Michele, you would add it in place of corn starch or other thickner. My issue is how much per cup of fruit?