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.
We had Friendsgiving over the weekend, and one of our friends is vegan. She requested that I make a vegan dessert, and while I enjoy simplicity, I don’t always go the easy route. 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, but the eggs that go in pecan pie would be much harder to replace.
I came across this Best Vegan Pecan Pie recipe, and without trying other recipes, I suspect that it might 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.
You can check out the original recipe via the link above. Here’s how I’d make it again.
Vegan Pecan Pie
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread (although I used sticks here)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cold water
10 saltine crackers (I used unsalted tops; the recipe called for multigrain saltines, but I didn’t find any)
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp water
2 1/2 tbsp Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread (although I used sticks here)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup agave syrup, honey, or corn syrup (I used 3 tbsp agave, and 1 tbsp honey)
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 tbsp applesauce
3 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 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 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.) Let cool for at least 3 hours before serving. Pie will be fine unrefrigerated for a few days.
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. 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 above how the filling stays on the pie!
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 1/4 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.
A note about 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, I might try cutting back on the butter by 1/2 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.
I would definitely make this pie again, and not just if I was having a vegan guest over. It was a great pie overall.