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What to Do When Pastry is Too Crumbly (Fix in 5 Simple Steps)

What to Do When Pastry is Too Crumbly (Fix in 5 Simple Steps)

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You want to make a perfect pie crust. You read the recipe, you measure and mix and everything is looking great.

Then, you go to roll the dough out on your work surface, and it just falls apart. The dough is no longer a nicely blended mass but instead a pile of crumbly pieces.

You dejectedly stare at the sorry state of your once-promising pie crust. What can you do? Start over? But you’ve used up the last of your butter, and you barely have enough time to make another from scratch. 

Unwrinkle your brows and don’t panic. You can fix that dough, and I’m here to show you exactly how!

Why Does Dough Get Crumbly?

Child'S Hands Kneading Dough On A Wooden Table

Pastry dough becomes crumbly mainly when it is too dry. If there is not enough moisture to hold the dough together, it will just fall apart. Simple as that!

Okay, I lied there a teensy bit. It’s not actually quite so simple as there are a wide variety of reasons why the dough becomes dry in the first place.

Understanding what caused your dough to dry out and crumble will help you repair it and get that pastry dough back to a nice smooth ball!

Here are the biggest reasons why dough gets crumbly: 

Adding Salt To A Bowl Of Dough

Too Much Flour

If you add a little too much flour, your dough will be crumbly. It doesn’t take a lot of excess flour to make a dough fall apart. 

In fact, just a tablespoon or more than the recipe calls for and your dough will be falling apart at your fingertips. 

Make sure you measure the flour accurately to prevent the dough from drying out.

Too Much Salt

Salt absorbs water so when it is used to make pastry dough, it will suck up some of the water inside the dough. 

If you add too much salt, it will absorb a lot of the moisture in the dough, therefore drying the dough out and—you guessed it—causing it to crumble. 

Measure the salt accurately and don’t add too much (you don’t want salty pastry dough anyway!).

Not Enough Water

Once again, measuring is key to getting a perfect pastry dough. If you skimp on the water, your dough will be dry and crumbly for sure. 

Of course, too much water will do the opposite, making a sticky dough. 

Measure your ingredients accurately, especially the water, to avoid a crumbly, sticky scenario!

Old Dough

If your dough has been sitting around for a while, you may take it out of the fridge to find that what was once a nice smooth dough is dry and crumbly. 

Old dough has a tendency to do this as the fridge will dry out your dough quickly especially if the dough is not wrapped tightly. Dry dough equals crumbly dough!

Not Mixed Enough

If you don’t mix your dough fully, the gluten in the flour which holds the dough together will not be developed. 

Without mixing and letting that gluten get firm, your pastry will be crumbly.

Wrong Flour Type 

If your recipe called for all-purpose flour but you opted to use whole wheat, your dough may turn crumbly. 

Different types of flour absorb water at different rates and whole wheat flour will absorb water rapidly, drying out your pastry dough and making it crumble. 

Always stick to the type of flour your recipe calls for or search for a recipe that utilizes the flour you would like to use.


If you are making your pastry dough on a dry, cold winter’s day, your results will be much different than if you are making it on a hot, humid summer’s day. 

The moisture level in the air can make a huge difference in the texture of your dough. You may measure your ingredients the exact same way each time you bake but on a dry day, your pastry may crumble much easier.

Chef Kneading Dough On A Wooden Table

How to Fix Crumbly Pastry Dough

Once you have diagnosed the reason why your pastry is crumbly, you’ll know how to fix it. 

For example, if you did not mix the dough enough, just mix it for a little while longer to get a nice smooth pastry.

However, one method of fixing crumbly dough that works for almost any dry dough issue is adding more water.

Now, you don’t want to just start pouring water over the dough and hope for the best. 

If you pour water willy-nilly, you’ll go from having a crumbly pastry dough to a wet, sticky pastry dough. 

Then you would have to add more flour, then more water, then more flour…you’ll end up with something that is inedible and not even close to the pastry dough you wanted!

Chef Adding Water To Crumbly Dough

To properly bind your pastry dough with water, use the following technique:

  1. Get a small bowl of cold water and dip your fingers into the bowl.
  2. Flick some water over your dough using your fingers and then lightly mix the dough. You should essentially be adding about a teaspoon of water to the dough.
  3. Assess the texture and see if the pastry is no longer crumbly.
  4. If the pastry is too crumbly still, dip your fingers in the water and spray the dough again.
  5. Lightly mix once more and assess.

By adding a small amount of water at a time, you’ll fix the problem of the pastry being too crumbly without ruining the dough.

Water is a powerful ingredient and a tiny bit can work miracles. It can fix your crumbly dough but it can also give you the opposite problem of a wet pastry dough. Slowly but surely you will win the race!

Final Thoughts

When pastry is too crumbly, it can be frustrating—you just want a dough that is soft and holds together, surely that isn’t too much to ask for? 

Being aware of why your pastry crumbled and the method to fix it will solve all your crumbly pastry problems. 

Once you know why your dough crumbled, you can take steps to fix it the next time you bake (AKA, don’t leave the pastry uncovered in the fridge or try to avoid baking on really dry days!).

If your pastry is still too crumbly, a little water will help solve your problem. Just remember to go slow and add just a splash at a time. 

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Wednesday 10th of August 2022

Thank you for the tip. What I did was when the outside temp was 110 degrees, and inside my kitchen was 84, the butter melted too fast because I used my hands to toss the dough. I added two tablespoons of ice water( usually takes 4 to 6) and the dough got a tad bit wet. I wrapped it plastic in plastic, refrigerated it ,took it out to roll, and it crumbled. So, I rolled it very softly and gently until I had it large enough to work with, brushed it with ice water, folded it, sealed it back in plastic, then refrigerated it. Then I put in the freezer, left it over night. Now I’m about to try it again. I’ll let you know what happened next as soon as I remove it from the freezer. I’m a bit nervous.


Friday 5th of August 2022

Thank you so much for this article. I bought paper-thin pastry which requires folding to cook my recipe. It is a bit brittle. I brushed with oil but it didn't become easy to fold. Any suggestions please?


Friday 3rd of June 2022

I have made baked Bannock which turn out to be too salty 😭😭😭 HOW DO I FIX THIS, and the dumbest thing is it's already done.

Sarah B.

Tuesday 7th of June 2022

Hi Steph!

If you're willing to try again, you could always cut back on the salt a little bit! Depending on how salty it was, try to use 3/4 of the amount or 1/2 of the amount. Hopefully you have better luck the next time!


Tuesday 8th of February 2022

I'm so thankful for this article. It was exactly as you said-- I was following directions exactly, and then I couldn't get the dough to stick together. I was so afraid to overwork the dough that I had undermixed it, AND it was slightly dry. I think in retrospect, I still underworked the dough and it was STILL too dry-- but your article gave me confidence to add water, and it was at least workable enough to make my pie and the crust was very flaky. So thank you, and next time I will have more confidence that it's okay to get the gluten working enough to stick the dough together!


Thursday 27th of August 2020

Thank you Sarah, your suggestion to dip fingers in water and light sprinkle worked a treat, you saved my pie! Thank you ever so much. Kind wishes, Anne