11 Pies You Need to Try

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There’s so much more to the world of pies than apple, blueberry, and pumpkin. Broaden your pie horizons with a history lesson on (and recipes for) these 11 regional favorites from around the U.S.

1. KENTUCKY DERBY PIE

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You might not guess it, but pie culture is fraught with drama and controversy. Such is certainly the case with Kentucky Derby Pie, a dense pecan pie made with bourbon and chocolate chips. According to NPR, the owners of Kern’s Kitchen, a restaurant in Louisville, have trademarked the term “Derby-Pie” and are serious about enforcing it: The Kerns have sued other restaurants for using the term.

Get the recipe here.

2. KEY LIME PIE

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The official pie of the state of Florida has been around for a long, long time. Pie historians believe key lime pie may have originated after the Civil War, when canned condensed milk became widely available. It may also have been a creation of Key West sponge fishermen, who commonly kept limes, eggs, and condensed milk onboard during their voyages. Wherever it came from, this tart, fluffy concoction is here to stay.

Get the recipe here.

3. AND 4. CHESS PIE AND VINEGAR PIE

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Vinegar pie’s roots can be easily traced back to the pioneers of the 1800s. Chess pie is similar but uses a cornmeal crust. There are many stories about how this Southern classic got its name: Some people say it came from “cheese,” a reference to the pie’s custardy texture. Others say the pies were kept in a pie chest (it was a "chest pie"). Still others say it was so plain that bakers would shrug it off: “It’s ‘jes pie.”

Get the recipe for chess pie here, and the recipe for vinegar pie here.

5. MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE

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The origins of this pie's name are clear as—well, you know. The gloppy, super-sweet pie is more or less chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate (sometimes with ice cream!), and bears some resemblance to the roiling, opaque waters of the Mississippi River. There’s no official recipe; any pile of chocolate on a chocolate cookie crust is generally fair game.

Get a recipe here.

6. WHOOPIE PIE

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The whoopie pie war is one for the ages. Nobody’s arguing that the cushiony little cookie-cake sandwiches are actually pies. No, this debate is about ownership. New Englanders and Pennsylvanians both lay claim to the dessert, and Maine has gone so far as to make the whoopie pie its official state treat (not to be confused with the official state dessert, which is, of course, blueberry pie).

Get the recipe here.

7. SWEET POTATO PIE

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Edible pumpkins are hard to grow in the South, and so, historians believe, early American cooks in the lower part of the U.S. turned to sweet potatoes. The slaves who later prepared the pies on plantations passed the recipes down through their own families. Their descendants would disperse across the United States, bringing their recipes with them and making sweet potato pie a staple of African-American cuisine.

Get the recipe here.

8. SHOO-FLY PIE

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This cakey molasses pie was born and bred in Pennsylvania Amish country, where it remains a must-eat for tourists. The name derives from the pie’s intense sweetness—so sweet that bakers had to shoo away the flies. 

Get the recipe here.

9. ATLANTIC BEACH PIE

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Made famous in a restaurant on the North Carolina coast, Atlantic Beach Pie is similar to key lime pie with two major differences: a saltine cracker crust and a topping of whipped cream instead of meringue. It may sound a little strange, but those who try it say the risk is worth it. “I think the only reaction I had was, 'Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’” cookbook author Katie Workman told NPR

Get the recipe here.

10. STRAWBERRY PRETZEL PIE

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The Technicolor dessert known as strawberry pretzel salad is a relic of the “salad” days of the 1950s and '60s, when cookbooks would label literally anything a “salad” if it had Jell-O in it. Strawberry pretzel salad may be a common sight at potlucks throughout the Southern United States, but it seems to be falling out of favor; one blogger called it a “culinary crime against humanity.” Strawberry pretzel pie, on the other hand, is having its day. The fresh, sweet, slightly salty pie is a toned-down, classier version of its predecessor.

Get the recipe here.

11. BOSTON CREAM PIE

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New Englanders must enjoy calling everything a “pie.” The official state dessert of Massachusetts is most definitely a cake—a rich sponge cake oozing with custard filling and topped with chocolate glaze. If you’ve only had a Boston cream donut, you’ve got to give the pie a try.

Get the recipe here.

January 21, 2016 - 12:00am
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