The exact origins of fried pies are unknown, but in Texas, there are a lot of dishes that may have inspired it. Some say that it may have been a cross of the Kolache that Czech immigrants brought and the Mexican Empanada. Some say that it was inspired by pierogi that Polish immigrants introduced to the local Texan cuisine. Whatever the source, fried pies have been a Texas favorite for as there have been pies. They were typically made with pie dough scraps and filled with the extra filling and fried and consumed as a snack before the pie was done.
Fried Pie Trivia
- The first dessert that McDonald’s served was a fried apple pie.
- A hand pie can be a fried pie, but it can also be baked.
- Fried pies were also known as “Crab Lanterns”. This was due to the crab apple filling and the slits that made the pie resemble a lantern.
- A lot of fast-food chains offer some sort of fried pie as a dessert choice.
- There was a song made about fried pies, it was titled “Fried Pie Blues” and it was recorded in 1934
Fried Pie Buying Guide
As a rule of thumb, we don’t recommend purchasing those ready to fry or easy reheat fried pies from supermarkets. These “convenient” fried pies are loaded with preservatives to keep them shelf stable for extended periods of time. Aside from that, the fillings for these fried pies will more often than not contain more artificial flavors, coloring, and fillers than actual fruit. Even those products that are marked as containing real fruit will contain a lot of fillers and stabilizers.
One more thing we have noticed with commercially mass-produced fried pies is that it’s mostly air inside and the fillings are unnaturally bright colored and over-sweet. If introduced in a blind taste test, you’ll probably have a difficult time identifying what the fruit filling was supposed to be.
Fried Pie Production & Farming in Texas
In Texas, you can find fried pies almost anywhere. And when we say anywhere, we mean anywhere. From convenience stores, gas stations, to roadside stalls. Now don’t get us wrong, if you have a hankering for fried pies then these are quick fixes.
If you want to get honest-to-goodness fried pies then you won’t be at a loss for choices as well. There are a lot of small bakeries that specialize in handmade fried pies that use locally sourced fruit as fillings. How do you determine if the pies are handmade? Well, one look at the exterior should be enough. Mass-produced pies all look the same as they are stamped, molded, and filled by machines. Handmade fried pies are distinctly different from each other.
Another thing to take note of is that the fillings for these pies will usually be seasonal, using fresh fruit in season.
Preservatives and Chemicals:
We’ve gone over some mass-produced fried pies that are readily available from supermarkets and have collected the additives that were listed.
- Modified Food Starch – Modified food starch is used as a binding agent and it has no nutritional impact on the food whatsoever. People with wheat or gluten allergies should take care when consuming food with modified food starch unless the package is labeled as gluten-free.
- Sodium Benzoate – This is a preservative that’s commonly used in acidic foods. Some studies raise questions about the safety of sodium benzoate, but nothing conclusive so far.
- Sodium Propionate – This is a preservative added to prevent mold from growing in processed food. There is a risk in handling sodium propionate in its pure form, but it is generally safe when used in commercial applications.
- Red 40 – Have you ever wondered why fillings are unnaturally bright? Well, there’s your answer. Food colorings.
- Dextrose – This is basically liquid sugar.
- Natural and Artificial Flavoring – Why would fruit filling need additional flavorings? This is because they have been processed to oblivion and pasteurized to a level that the natural taste of the filling is gone. These are also added to ensure that the taste is consistent throughout the product line.
- Calcium Carbonate – This is usually added to fortify the food with calcium so that the labels can boast that it is high in calcium. It’s better to get your calcium requirements from real and whole foods.
- Mono and diglycerides – These are emulsifiers that maintain the integrity of the pie crust during storage. While these are recognized as safe by the FDA, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good for you. Another thing to take note of is that these may be sourced from animal fat, so if you’re avoiding animal-based foot for one reason or another, then you might want to avoid food with mono and diglycerides.
- Sorbitan Monostearate – This is added as an emulsifier to make sure that all of the stuff they put into the pie doesn’t separate while being stored.
Now with all those “Extras” in mass-produced fried pies, wouldn’t it be better to just make your own or purchase some handmade fried pies from the local bakery?
Commercial fried pies are usually sold in boxes and are displayed in the frozen section of supermarkets. Locally made fried pies are packed in wax paper sleeves.
Enjoying Fried Pies
Fried pies are best consumed a few minutes after frying them. This ensures that the shell or the crust is still extra crispy and the filling piping hot. Of course, they’re also good when cooled down, but for the best experience, freshly cooked is best.
If you have leftover fried pie, you can store them in the fridge for a few days once they have cooled down. They can be reheated in the oven for 3-5 minutes to heat them through. You can re-fry them, but that usually results in the pie being too oily.
Make your own fried pies:
There are no hard and fast rules for fried pies. It can use any type of crust. So if you have a favorite pie crust or dough recipe then you can use that.
For the crust:
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup milk
For the filling:
4 cups fresh fruit of your choice. (Check what’s in season.)
1 cup granulated sugar
Water enough to cover the fruit
To make the filling, mix everything in a saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the texture becomes thick and syrupy. Let cool.
In a mixing bowl, sift in the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder together. Cut in the shortening and dump in the milk.
Quickly mix the flour mixture and knead until it makes a thick dough.
Let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes
Cut the dough into circles and add in a couple of tablespoons of your filling, be careful not to overfill.
Fold over and crimp with a fork (or use one of those dumpling presses)
Fry until lightly golden and allow to cool on a rack or paper towels. Enjoy!