Depression Era Water Pie

In the midst of the Great Depression, when resources were scarce and every penny counted, creative home cooks had to make do with what they had. It was during these challenging times that Depression Era Water Pie, a simple and ingenious dessert, was born. This frugal yet surprisingly delicious pie defied the odds, proving that even in the face of adversity, a little creativity can go a long way. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the history and preparation of Depression Era Water Pie, so you can savor a piece of nostalgia and discover the charm of this humble dessert.


For the Crust:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp ice-cold water

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg


1. Prepare the Crust:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  2. Cut in the vegetable shortening with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Gradually add the ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until the dough comes together.
  4. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Roll Out the Crust:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C).
  2. On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough into a circle to fit your pie dish.
  3. Gently place the dough in the pie dish, trimming any excess and crimping the edges decoratively.

3. Prepare the Filling:

  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Gradually stir in the water.
  3. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens and comes to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and butter.

4. Assemble and Bake:

  1. Pour the hot filling into the prepared pie crust.
  2. Sprinkle a pinch of ground nutmeg over the top.

5. Bake:

  1. Place the pie in the preheated oven.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F (220°C), then reduce the temperature to 350°F (175°C).
  3. Continue baking for an additional 30-35 minutes or until the pie is set and the crust is golden brown.


While Depression Era Water Pie is delightful as it is, you can put your own twist on it to suit your taste. Here are a few variations to consider:

  1. Lemon Zest: Add the zest of a lemon to the filling for a citrusy kick.
  2. Chocolate Chips: Sprinkle chocolate chips over the filling before baking for a gooey, indulgent twist.
  3. Coconut Flakes: Mix in some shredded coconut into the filling for a tropical twist.
  4. Cinnamon Spice: Add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the filling for a warm and comforting flavor.


  • Chill Your Ingredients: Ensure that your water is cold, and your butter or shortening is well-chilled to achieve a flaky pie crust.
  • Don’t Rush the Filling: Be patient while preparing the filling; it needs to thicken and come to a boil to achieve the right consistency.
  • Serve Chilled: While you can enjoy Depression Era Water Pie warm, it tastes even better when chilled in the refrigerator.

Depression Era Water Pie may have originated in tough times, but its simplicity and charm have stood the test of time. With just a handful of basic ingredients, you can create a dessert that’s not only budget-friendly but also surprisingly delicious. The nostalgia and history behind this pie make it a fascinating addition to your culinary repertoire.

As you savor a slice of Depression Era Water Pie, take a moment to appreciate the resourcefulness of those who came before us, turning meager supplies into moments of joy. It’s a testament to the resilience and creativity that can flourish even in the face of adversity.

So, the next time you’re seeking a comforting dessert that tells a unique story, give Depression Era Water Pie a try. It’s a taste of history, a hint of sweetness, and a whole lot of charm in every bite.

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