Apple pies are a classic holiday dessert that’s sure to please a crowd. After all, who wouldn’t like a flaky, light crust filled with juicy, caramelized apples?
The best part is that you can find numerous delicious, easy apple pie recipes. The only problem you might face is missing one of the key pie ingredients, like butter.
Don’t worry, though. This article will walk you through five alternatives so that you can make apple pie without butter. So, stick around!
Aside from tasting delicious, butter is the ingredient behind a super flaky, tender apple pie.
It all starts when you cut in butter to make the pastries. Those small pieces of fat coat the flour proteins.
That process stops the formation of gluten when you add water. As a result, you get a tender crust instead of a tough, chewy one.
Additionally, the fat melts inside the oven, creating air pockets. That steam puffs the pastry, resulting in the desired flaky texture.
Yes! You want to look for ingredients that give you flaky crusts like butter.
Luckily, several fats can substitute butter in apple pies without compromising texture or flavor! Those include vegetable and nutty oils. You can also use shortening and margarine.
Greasing the pan for apple pies is optional. You can skip the former process if you’re using a non-stick pan.
However, if you’re concerned about your dough sticking to the pan, you can spray the container with non-stick spray or oil. Alternatively, you can rub butter.
That said, don’t go overboard with this step. Pie crusts contain enough fats already, so you shouldn’t need much grease.
Let’s delve deeper into five butter alternatives!
Shortening might be the closest option to butter. In fact, shortening might be a better option for apple pie if you’re looking to do some fancy decorations on the upper crust.
You see, shortening has a higher melting point than butter, thanks to its high-fat content. That’s because the former ingredient results from vegetable oil hydrogenation, which helps it stay solid at room temperature.
So, what does the high melting point do?
High melting temperatures allow the dough to set in the oven before the shortening melts. Consequently, the fat won’t escape the crust in the oven, maintaining the pie’s structure.
Not only does shortening help apple pie crust hold its shape, but it also contributes to flakiness.
That’s because, once baked, the vegetable oil fat product creates more air pockets inside the dough. As mentioned earlier, those steamy pockets make the crust light.
That said, butter still wins if you’re looking for a tender, crumbly crust. While shortening pastries are flaky, they’re slightly sturdier than butter doughs.
Additionally, shortening lacks flavor. So, you might notice slight changes in the crust’s taste besides the texture.
The good news is that substituting shortening for butter is pretty simple. Just cut it into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or your fingers.
Repeat the above process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Then, add cold water gradually until the dough comes together.
Make sure not to overwork the dough to prevent gluten formation, which makes the crust tough.
Similar to shortening, margarine is also made from hydrogenated oils. However, flavor additives, water, and milk ingredients go into the mix. So, it’s basically butter but made from oil instead of cream.
Margarine is also lower in fat content than shortening. The lower the fat content, the softer the margarine is.
That’s why you can find several consistencies for this butter-like fat, like soft spreads or solid sticks.
You want to use solid margarine with a fat content higher than 70%. If you use soft or liquid margarine, chances are you’ll get a dry, tough crust from all the excess water in the fat.
To use margarine, cut it into cubes and mix it into the dough as you’d normally do with butter. Just make sure the margarine is cold before working with it.
It’s worth mentioning that both margarine and shortening contain trans fats due to the hydrogenation process. Those lipids are unhealthy, as they can increase bad cholesterol and cause heart diseases as well as inflammation.
For that reason, opt for trans-fat-free margarine and shortening to reduce health risks.
Instead of butter-like products, you can use oil to make the pie crust.
You can find several recipes using different types of vegetable oil. The process is straightforward. Just mix the ingredients in a food processor.
As you can see, oil crusts are easy to make, so they might be a good option for beginners. That’s especially true if you had unfortunate results when cutting butter or shortening into flour.
What’s more, vegetable oil is an excellent alternative for those looking for a dairy-free, vegan crust.
The question is this: which type of oil do you use?
As a rule of thumb, you want to use oils with a smoking point similar to the oven temperature. If the oven is too hot, the liquid fat will start smoking, eventually affecting the crust’s taste.
Since oils don’t add much richness to the dough, you don’t want to make the crust taste bitter by smoking it.
Aside from vegetable oil, you can use coconut oil for a tastier and healthier alternative.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. That means the aromatic oil has a high melting point, so you can rest assured the pastry won’t taste sour.
Additionally, coconut oil is 100% fat, which ensures the crust is tender. Not to mention how well the coconut flavor complements the apple filling.
What’s more, coconut fat provides various health benefits, like reducing seizures and boosting skin health. Still, fat is fat. While coconut oil is relatively healthy, it’s still high in calories.
That said, crusts made of oils tend to be a bit crumbly. As a result, you might have a hard time rolling the dough and transferring it into the pan.
Adding nut oils in place of butter can take your apple pie to a new level. That’s because those oils add a rich, nutty flavor that’s different from traditional apple pie.
Peanut is one of the great nut oils you can incorporate into your apple pie recipe. The former fat source has a high melting point and would give similar texture results to other oils.
Combine the crust with a peanut butter and apple sauce filling, and you can expect your pie to taste even better!
You can also substitute peanut oil with other nut oils, like sesame. However, check the smoke point before choosing the oil alternative.
So, how do you make apple pie without butter?
You can use margarine and shortening instead of butter to get a similar crust texture. However, the former alternatives lack flavor compared to butter.
Alternatively, you can use vegetable, coconut, or nut oils. The previous ingredients produce a slightly crumbly, less flaky dough.
The above substitutes may give you different results than butter apple pie recipes. However, they’re still equally delicious!
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.