This recipe for old-fashioned vinegar pie will make you feel like one of those hardy pioneer bakers who were able to make something delicious from almost nothing.

It is so good and easy to make! If you’re a fan of old-fashioned desperation pies, another favorite to try is a classic Indiana sugar cream pie.

For ease of browsing, here are all of my pie and tart recipes in one place. Thanks for stopping by!

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A partial shot of a whole vinegar pie in a metal pie tin.

Watch my vinegar pie web story here.

Vinegar Pie, At a Glance

✔️Skill Level: Beginner
✔️Skills: Lining a pie tin with dough, whisking
✔️Type: Pie
✔️Number of Ingredients: 6
✔️Prep Time: 10 minutes
✔️Cook Time: 35 minutes
✔️Yield: 8 servings

Related Recipe: Pate Brisee
Jump Straight to the Recipe

Freaking awesome pie! Good thing Pioneer days included lots of hard manual labor or else everyone would have weighed 400 pounds if this was the pie of choice. Very rich, sweet and just satisfying. Going into my regular rotation of pies. Love old pie recipes and this one will be one that is turned to time and again.

Reader Scott

Pies in Time of Desperation

Sometimes, you just need something sweet. Something simple to throw together with a few pantry staples, something soul-satisfying and made with love. Sometimes you just need pie.

These days, most Americans are very fortunate to have ingredients handy to make fruit pies or chocolate pies whenever we feel like it, but back in the days before refrigeration, before huge supermarkets with all their bounty from all over the world, our pie-loving forebears had to be pretty creative in order to have pie in the dead of winter.

These pies relied on staples that were almost always available. Flour, butter from a cow, and water = pastry, and the fillings were based on other pantry stand-bys like:

Eggs were almost always available because most people had chickens.

And there you had it: pie whenever you needed a sweet pick-me-up between the distant memory of bright crimson and golden leaves and the much longed-for buds of May.

If you know this is a pie you want to make, you can skip straight to the recipe.

But Vinegar Pie? Really?

A whole pie in a fluted pie crust on a blue-striped napkin with a pie server.

I hear you. I mean, of all the desperation and “pioneer pies” I’ve ever heard of, old-fashioned vinegar pie seems to be the most desperate kind of pie, you know?

The pie is like an answer to a challenge.

Two pioneer women talking about what they could make out of nothing, and then one says to the other,

“Oh, yeah?! How ’bout you make a vinegar pie, Marjorie!”

And Marge pushes up her sleeves, adjusts her bonnet, tightens her apron strings and is all “Hold. My. Beer, Blanche.”

I think you’ll get over the weirdness once you realize the pie isn’t made mainly of vinegar. It’s not like a sliceable sweet and sour sauce.

The vinegar in this pie is used as a flavoring agent. Like vanilla. There’s just enough of it in the mix to bring a nice tartness to round out the sweetness.

It reads as a “lightly lemon pie,” not as a pie full of vinegar.

The rule “you catch more flies with honey (or in this case, sugar) than you do with vinegar” is still true.

Nobody is going to eat a pie that has a cup of vinegar in it, least of all me.

If you’d like to read a bit more about the history of vinegar pie, you can jump down to that section.

How to Make the Most Desperate of the Desperation Pies

A close-up shot of a slice of pale beige pie with a broiled top.

Growing up in the UP, Michigan. The depression and snowed in for weeks this was a favorite recipe we loved. They baked from memory. So, I’ve tried so many times to be disappointed. This was it! The brown sugar was the key. Took me back to childhood! Perfection.

Pinner PJ

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make vinegar pie.

If you’re comfortable with making pie, you can jump straight to the recipe.

Collage of ingredients for making vinegar pie.
  • pie crust: feel free to make your own, or use frozen store-bought. I use pate brisee which is an all-butter crust.
  • eggs: you can use 3 or 4. Using four eggs will give you a firmer, more easily sliceable set. If you use 3 eggs, your pie will be a bit softer and creamier. There is no wrong answer here–it all depends on your taste. But there are no substitutes here. You need the eggs.
  • brown sugar: brown sugar provides sweetness and a bit of flavor from the molasses. You can use honey if you prefer, but just remember that this will add more liquid to the pie, so don’t go crazy with it. And in this case, I’d go with the four eggs.
  • melted butter: adds richness, helps to carry flavor, and assists with browning. I give two amounts of butter. You can use more or less, depending upon your taste. Please note that the butter may seem to separate out of the pie and make the top look slick, but it will reabsorb as the pie cools.
  • salt: brings out all the flavors and counteracts any bitterness you might get from the apple cider vinegar
  • apple cider vinegar: provides the acidic flavoring of this pie so that it reads as almost a lemon pie. And yes, you could absolutely top this with meringue to make a “desperation lemon(ish) meringue pie.” Or just step into the modern world and make a lemon meringue tart.

Procedure

A slice of vinegar pie on a beige-speckled plate with a fork.
  1. Make a pie crust (optional. You can also buy one)
  2. Whisk the brown sugar, eggs, salt, butter, and apple cider vinegar together.
  3. Pour the filling into the pie crust, and bake.

For those of you who are thinking, “It can’t be this easy,” trust me. It is that easy.

A bite of vinegar pie on a fork with the rest of the slice on a plate.

Do I Need to Blind Bake?

Jenni Says: I am pretty sure the pioneers didn’t take time to parbake or blind bake their crusts, but to ensure browning on the bottom of the pie, you may want to do that. Here’s how to blind bake a pie crust.

I hope I’ve made my case for the tastiness of this pie.

As I said in the recipe, I used brown sugar rather than white. I figure a pie “seasoned” only with a bit of salt and vinegar (chips! No, not chips) might need the additional flavor of molasses.

Anyway, I hope you give it a try and that you enjoy it very much.

As unlikely as it sounds, I think this homey pie will win you over with how easy it is to make and how easy it is to eat!

Serving Suggestions

Vinegar pie is a simple pie and can stand on its own.

If you do want to serve it with something, stick with simple garnishes. A light dusting of powdered sugar would be welcome, or consider spooning on a bit of hand-whipped cream and maybe a handful of berries.

Questions?

If you have any questions about this post or recipe, I am happy to help.

Simply leave a comment here and I will get back to you soon. I also invite you to ask question in my Facebook group, Fearless Kitchen Fun.

If your question is more pressing, please feel free to email me. I should be back in touch ASAP, as long as I’m not asleep.

A Note About Measurements

My recipes are almost all written by weight, including liquids, unless otherwise specified.

For accuracy and consistency of results, I encourage you to buy–and use–a kitchen scale.

I promise that baking and cleanup will be so much quicker and easier.

This is the scale that I recommend for home use. I have owned and used one for years.

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07/22/2024 07:15 am GMT

Love Vinegar Pie? Please Rate and Review. Thank you!

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a slice of vinegar pie on a beige plate

Old-Fashioned Vinegar Pie

Jennifer Field
Many of the early American pioneers, who really came from all over the world to live here, were masters of making something delicious out of next to nothing. The humble and unlikely sounding vinegar pie is one of these pies made out of the desperate want of something sweet, even in the dead of winter. This is an easy to make, comforting pie that tastes very similar to a lightly flavored lemon pie. Enjoy!
4.43 from 200 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Pies and Tarts
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 313 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 crust for a single crust pie your favorite recipe or store-bought
  • 3-4 large eggs at room temperature (three will give you a softer set)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar* packed
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt I used Morton’s (yes, that much)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter 3/4 sticks**, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Instructions
 

For the Crust

  • Line a 9″ pie pan (not deep dish) with your pastry. Crimp however you’d like.
  • Line the crust with parchment or a large coffee filter and then fill it with beans or other weights. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F.***
  • Carefully remove lining and weights and set aside. Brush crust all over with egg wash (1 egg beaten well with a pinch of salt). Prick the bottom crust well with the tip of a sharp knife, and then bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the bottom of the pie crust looks dry. If the crust bubbles up at all with air pockets, carefully press them out.**
  • Remove the crust from the oven and set aside. The crust will be pale. It’s okay, it will bake some more once you put the filling in.

For the Filling

  • Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt until well combined and smooth. 
  • Drizzle in the melted butter while whisking constantly.
  • Whisk in the apple cider vinegar.
  • Pour into the crust and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the pie is 165F. The filling will rise up and be nicely browned on the top. It will sink back to level as it cools.
  • Remove pie from oven and cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled from the fridge. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Did You Make Any Changes?

Video

Notes

*Most recipes I researched call for white sugar. I think brown sugar is more likely since it was probably less expensive than white sugar. I also think Ma Ingalls could have possibly sweetened her pie with maple syrup. You can do that too, if you want. 
 
**A reader made this and had an issue with some of the butter leaking out. If you are concerned about this happening, you may cut back the amount of butter to 4 Tablespoons, or half a stick. Generally speaking though, the butter will reabsorb as the pie cools.
 
***You do not have to blind-bake your crust if you don’t want to, but it will take a few extra minutes to bake it through. In that case, once the filling is a nice golden brown, loosely tent the pie with foil so it can finish baking.
 
****For more wonderful, old-fashioned pie recipes, including another tried and true recipe for vinegar pie, please check out Nancie MacDermott’s Southern Pies, linked above in the recipe card.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 pieCalories: 313kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 4gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 276mgSugar: 26g
Keyword old fashioned pies, pie, pie recipe, vinegar pie
Did you make this recipe?Please tell us what you loved!

History of Vinegar Pie

Okay, so maybe my “hold my beer” scenario is pure fiction. Over on Instagram, I even wrote a one-act play about how vinegar pie was invented and featuring everyone’s favorite pioneers, Charles and Caroline Ingalls and their kids, Mary and Half-Pint. More fiction?

Well, according to Carissa from the blog Pretty Hungry, Laura Ingalls-Wilder wrote about this pie and a bunch of other crazy/awesome desperation pies her mom used to make in that little house on the prairie or in the big woods or wherever they were living at the time Charles would look over at her in January, and say, “Hey, hon? Make me a pie!”

It is my feeling that the history of vinegar pie is the same history as all the other desperation pies.

Someone, somewhere wanted pie.

And that someone decided they were going to make pie out of whatever was available.

I am not sure there was a single person that invented this pie.

It was probably a bunch of able and creative (and desperate) home bakers who all said something along the lines of “I have eggs, sugar, and vinegar. I’mma make a pie. Hold my beer.”

And that’s it, friends. I hope you give the pie a try, and I really hope you love it.

Thanks for spending some time with me today, friends. Take care, y’all!

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99 Comments

  1. I came across this recipe randomly and can’t wait to try it. Just wanted to say that it really warmed my heart and renewed my faith in humanity to see how you responded so kindly and generously to all the commenters here, even the inexplicably rude ones! ❤️

    1. Hey, Amanda! I’m so glad you’re here and that you’re excited to try the recipe. I really hope you enjoy it. 🙂 And, even if my first, knee-jerk reaction is to respond with snark, I just tell myself “It costs nothing to be kind.” Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Love the idea of this! If one were to use all lemon juice instead of vinegar, it be the same amount or would there need to be an adjustment? Thanks

    1. There’s no hard and fast rule that you can’t, but this recipe won’t really fill a deep dish pie. Maybe if you multiply it by 1.5. If spilling is an issue, put the unfilled pie shell on a rack and then pour in the filling before gently pushing the rack in. Much less chance of spilling that way. Enjoy your pie!

  3. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I wish I hadn’t ruined it! Somehow mine was a burnt scary wreck. But the filling tasty soooo good before pouring it in the crust. I will try again, but maybe in my convection oven. Haha

    1. Yikes, I’m so sorry your oven betrayed you! Grab an inexpensive oven thermometer at the grocery store and make sure it’s heating accurately. I hope Round 2 works out well for you!

    1. Interesting, but it probably worked out okay. 175 isn’t too too far off. Do you know if your oven is accurate? Did you use the convection setting? Either of these variables could affect the bake time. Let me know. Happy to help troubleshoot.

  4. Freaking awesome pie! Good thing Pioneer days included lots of hard manual labor or else everyone would have weighed 400 pounds if this was the pie of choice. Very rich, sweet and just satisfying. Going into my regular rotation of pies. Love old pie recipes and this one will be one that is turned to time and again.

    1. Custard pies, or in this case, an egg-set pie, don’t freeze as well as fruit pies. You can do it, but the pie will probably weep some when thawed and the texture may suffer. You can bake the pie a day ahead or up to 3 days ahead. For best flavor, cut slices and let them come up to room temperature for 30-45 minutes before serving. Hope that helps!

  5. Thanks for the recipe! I may have to make this again with some variations because I really did not enjoy it. I followed the recipe perfectly, but something didn’t work out. The flavor was just okay, but the “custard” was very firm and eggy, despite not overbaking. It was still liquidy when it came from the oven but tasted like a chewy omelet when it had cooled. I will try using three instead of four eggs next time. Otherwise, it was a very simple recipe. I did like the vinegar, as it added a little tang and was the perfect amount for the pie.

    1. Yes, I suggest if you want a softer set to use 3 eggs, so it all depends on what texture you like. If you have an instant read thermometer, check the pie’s temp in the center and take it out when it hits 165F.

      1. Thank you for the wonderful recipe. My aunt was telling me about her mother’s favorite pie and how she would love to have some. When she told me it was a vinegar pie I was like” WHAT DID YOU SAY, gross” lol but WOW what a great little slice of heaven this pie is. I used 3 eggs and I made one change, I added a little vinilla extract to mine and because of the moist cold weather we are having a few extre minutes in the oven but other than that I followed the recipe exact and a perfect pie, let me tell you, I watched my aunt go back in time one bite at a time and for that thank you very much

      2. Oh, Ron, I am so glad you were able to give your aunt a slice of memory–that’s the best kind of baking possible, and I am so happy I was even a small part of that. And not that you need it, but I 100% support your modifications. Also, I’m really happy to hear that the texture with 3 eggs is so good. Next time I make this, I will use 3 instead of 4 also. I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday, and thank you for this comment. It’s like a little Christmas gift.

  6. Hi Jennifer!

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. Seems pretty easy to follow. I wonder if you can offer any advice or opinion on what your thoughts are if I were to use balsamic instead of ACav? Do you think it’ll work?

    1. Hey, Sha! Yes, this is a very easy whisk-everything-together kind of recipe. You *could* use balsamic, but I’d use white balsamic, just for aesthetics sake, because I think using dark balsamic would make the pie a pretty odd color. The tang of ACV cuts through the sweetness of the pie really well, so maybe consider using a mixture of the two, for that particular, rounded sweetness of balsamic with enough ACV for a little pucker factor. Whatever you decide to do, please let me know how it turns out for you!

  7. This website on my phone is terrible. The social media buttons on the left and the favorite and search buttons on the right make anything on this site difficult to read. As if those buttons weren’t enough, there are more social media buttons on the bottom too. I had never heard of a vinegar pie and I tried reading here but I could only read the far left on the bottom of my screen and the far right on the top and middle of the page. It’s simply too much work scrolling up and down to read what I should be able to read just leaving my screen put for 30 seconds. I’ll search vinegar pie and go to another site to learn about them. Sorry.

    1. Thanks for letting me know all of that. I guess if your screen is small, it could be really crowded. Sorry you had a hard time, and I’m sure you’ll find another good vinegar pie recipe at a different site. Take care, and be safe.

  8. My 9-year-old learned about vinegar pie in school and asked that we try it out. She has some odd food allergies so we subbed coconut sugar for the brown sugar and ghee for the butter. I think the texture was perfect. The flavor needs work. In general, coconut sugar has a great caramel taste but is just not as sweet as brown sugar.

    Lily couldn’t handle the texture (“epic fail, mom!”). Hubby would have liked it sweeter. We’ll try again — maybe using maple syrup next time.

    Thank you for posting this recipe so we could try it out. I truly appreciate being able to find interesting recipes online 😀

    1. Oh wow, thank you for commenting! I’m glad you consider a written recipe as a basis for experimentation. No recipe is one size fits all. Lily might like the texture more if you go with 3 rather than 4 eggs. Would love to hear how your continued experimentation goes, and I think the maple syrup idea is excellent!

  9. I just watched someone win the Thanksgiving cooking contest on Food Network with a meal that included a pie similar to this.

    The differences are that he used honey to sweeten it and, more important for my purposes, he also used a graham cracker-pretzel crust. I’ve been reading all the questions about pre-baking the crust on this page, and I thought maybe for those of us who are less than stellar bakers, it might be easier to avoid the regular pastry crust altogether, and just go with the easier pressed-crumb crust.

    1. I *wondered* why everyone and their brother found this pie recipe last night! Mystery solved, Terri! And yes, you can absolutely use a Graham crust, especially if you are not super comfortable working with pie dough. You have now inspired me to develop a honey vinegar pie to go along with this one. I really hope you make one, and if you do, please let me know how you and your family enjoyed it, Terri! Thanks so much for commenting!

  10. If I buy a store bought crust (pillsbury brand)..do I have to bake it first before putting the custard in? (that crust normally says to bake at 425*F) Or can I just put the filling in the unbaked crust and bake it all together? (At 350*F as your recipe states)?

    1. Hey, Tracy. You can bake it straightaway, but since the box calls for a much higher temperature, I think you’ll be happier with the crust if you blind bake for a few minutes first. Line the crust with parchment or a large coffee filter, pour in pie weights or dry beans and bake the crust for 10 minutes or so at 425. Remove the parchment/filter and beans, make sure to prick the crust well with the point of a knife, and bake an additional 5 minutes before turning down the heat, adding the filling, and baking the pie. If the edges appear to be getting too dark before the pie is done, tent the pie loosely with foil. I hope you enjoy it!

4.43 from 200 votes (196 ratings without comment)

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