I made a fantastic pecan pie last weekend - and it just happened to be vegan. You heard that right - an egg-free and dairy-free pecan pie. It was quite good. Just as sweet and flavorful as the original!
Why Make a Vegan (or Egg- and Dairy-Free) Pecan Pie?
We had Friendsgiving over the weekend, and one of our friends is vegan. She requested that I make a vegan dessert.
What is vegan? Simply, our vegan friend doesn't eat meat, eggs, or dairy - nothing at all that came from an animal. Some vegans will eat honey (it comes from an insect, which is pesky); some will not (honey comes from something living and animate). Many also won't wear leather, or use things made with animal byproducts.
I'm picky and don't like eggs or cheese, so I know that if I eat something vegan, it won't have those things in it. But honestly, there's a lot more dairy and egg allergies out there than we realize, so it's nice to accommodate them, even if they're not vegan.
While I enjoy simplicity, I don't always go the easy route. Vegan desserts aren't necessarily hard to find. Add a little sugar and topping to fruit, and you've got a dessert. I thought about a fruit pie or cobbler, which is pretty easy to veganize, but if I wondered, what is something that my friend wouldn't usually be able to have?
Pecan pies came to mind. It's easy to substitute shortening or oil for butter in a recipe to make to make it dairy-free, but the eggs that go in pecan pie would be much harder to replace.
How to Make a Vegan Pecan Pie
I came across this Best Vegan Pecan Pie recipe over at My Vegan Cookbook, and without trying other recipes, I suspect that it might actually be the very best. It has a half-whole wheat crust and a filling that you boil on the stove briefly, and then bake. Without eggs, what thickens it? Applesauce, cornstarch, and a secret ingredient - saltine crackers.
Here's how I'd make it again.
This was a very good pie - and it happened to be vegan.
I was skeptical that the saltines would work, but they really disappeared into this pie. The filling was surprisingly smooth - not lumpy as I feared it might be, and certainly not goopy like traditional pecan pie can be. If you don't like the goopy texture of pecan pie, you might like this.
The filling was vaguely caramelly from the brown sugar and bit of honey I added, and it was very sweet, as pecan pie has to be. The original recipe had you caramelize the pecans separately, but honestly, I just ended up with caramel sticking to my pan. The pie will be plenty sweet, and easier to make, if you just fold the plain pecans into your filling.
Flour: I did not have whole wheat pastry flour and so used plain whole wheat that I whirred alone in the food processor to make finer. The plain whole wheat made the crust a little wheaty. I was not a fan, but I only noticed that when eating the fluted crust. Milder white whole wheat flour would have helped; so would whole wheat pastry flour. I would probably only use ¼ cup plain whole wheat flour if that's all I had. I would also consider using only all-purpose flour. I liked making the crust, though, because it had less fat in it than a normal pie crust and was easy to work with.
Vegan butter sticks versus spread: the recipe specified spread, while I found sticks when I was shopping. It didn't make a difference in the crust, but the sticks did leave a sheen on the pie that wasn't very pretty (as you can see above). I think it's because the sticks have a little more saturated fat than the spread, and a different combination of thickeners. Whenever I make this pie again and all I had were the butter sticks, I might try cutting back on the butter by ½ tablespoon and increasing the cornstarch or applesauce a tiny bit to compensate. That said, it was only an aesthetic concern; it didn't affect texture or taste.
One thing I really liked about this pie was not having to worry about it being done. I've made lots of pecan pies (almost every year) that I've had to bake extra time to get the filling to set. This one I did bake this pie long, maybe an extra 5 minutes, just to be sure it was set because I use a glass pie pan and think it might bake slow. But you can see in the picture below how the filling stays on the pie!
I would make this pie again, and not just if I was having a vegan guest over. It was a great pie overall.
Want a different vegan dessert? Try Fudgy Bourbon Balls (which you can also make with apple cider instead of bourbon), Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes, Vegan Orange Cupcakes, or these shortbread cookies made with vegan butter.
Like this recipe or have questions? Leave a rating or comment below!
In the past:
One Year Ago: Espresso Biscotti
Two Years Ago: Small Focaccia, Cocoa Fudge Cookies
Three Years Ago: Pecan Squares
A delicious pecan pie that happens to be vegan - egg-free and dairy-free!
- ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread (although I used sticks here)
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup cold water
- 10 saltine crackers
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon water
- 2 ½ tablespoons Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread (although I used sticks here)
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup agave syrup, honey, or corn syrup (I used 3 tablespoons agave, and 1 tablespoon honey)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 ½ tablespoons applesauce
- 3 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 ½ cups pecan halves
To make the crust, combine flours, butter, salt, and baking powder in a food processor and pulse 7 times or more, until the butter disappears into the flour and makes crumbs. Add water and process on high until a dough forms.
Sprinkle a surface with flour and roll out dough until it is about an inch wider in circumference than your pie pan. Lay gently in pie pan and shape. Tuck the overhanging edges of dough underneath themselves and crimp with your fingers to form a fluted edge. Prick dough with a fork and bake at 325F for 5 minutes.
Crumble the saltine crackers and soak in water. Stir to combine after a few minutes to make sure everything is soaked well.
Combine all ingredients except for pecan halves in the food processor. (I was lazy and didn't wash mine before this; a little flour from the crust didn't hurt anything!) Process until everything well combined, about a minute. It's okay if there's little specks of butter along the top.
Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. The little butter specks will melt and the filling will become smooth. Pour into the pie shell and top with pecans (or mix the pecans in if you prefer).
Bake at 325F for 55 minutes. Cover the crust if it begins to get too brown before the pie is done. (Mine did not get too brown.) Let cool for at least 3 hours before serving. Pie will be fine left on the counter for a few days.
Using vegan butter sticks, instead of spread, will reduce the sheen on the top, making the pie look more like a traditional pecan pie. This is an aesthetic consideration only.
Adapted from My Vegan Cookbook
(Originally posted in December 2013. Slightly updated and reformatted text and recipe in October 2018.)
is there a binder i can use besides saltines to make this gluten free?
Leona Konkel says
If I couldn't find gluten-free and vegan saltines or other crumbly crackers, I would try to find unseasoned gluten-free panko. You want something that will soak up the liquid nicely.