Vegan Gluten-Free Beautiful Apple Hand Pies to wow your guests this holiday! You only need 8 ingredients total to make this and it’s vegan, gluten-free and no butter or oil!
The only thing more delicious than a regular pie, is a hand pie. One that you can carry around and eat, no utensils needed. It’s not so easy creating a vegan, gluten-free pie crust that has no butter or oil and actually TASTES good and tastes buttery and crispy……ya know, how a pie crust should taste! This recipe inspiration came from one of my most loyal readers, Estee. She makes so many of my recipes and shares them with so many people, so I’m honored to create something for her when she requests it. I’m honored to create anything for you guys, actually. I love getting the requests, it’s super exciting. And today, I’m going to show you how to make some amazing vegan, gluten-free, oil-free Apple Hand Pies!
She sent me this recipe of Apple Pie Bites and requested that I make a healthy, vegan version. Challenge accepted. Soooo, these are obviously, COMPLETELY different, haha. Not exactly the same, they are pies, more than croissant bites. But sometimes, a recipe speaks to me, it really does, and this one was just screaming hand pies. I tested many different flour combos for the crust and none of them made me very happy as a pastry/croissant type of crust.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A VEGAN APPLE PIE?
I did manage to create an absolutely, delicious “buttery” pie crust though. It’s like those handheld pie crusts, but oil-free and gluten-free. This is not a fat-free dessert though. I have tried fat-free crusts and it is like eating cardboard….horrible texture, too chewy and not crispy…I personally don’t like eating cardboard.
So with lots of trials later, we have these amazing, hubby-devoured-them-super-fast Vegan Gluten-free Apple Hand Pies. Yes, please. My husband’s very favorite dessert I make, is my Apple Cinnamon Pecan Crisp. He absolutely loves baked apples in any form, so if he gave these mini hand pies a giant mouthful thumbs up, it’s a winner!
I also created an amazing just 2 ingredient flour combo! That’s basically unheard of for a gluten-free pie crust, as they usually alone are 4 or 5 flours. My combo is simply tapioca starch and white rice flour (not brown). The magic is the ratios. After many fails of crumbly, too dense, too chewy, too dry or too this and that, this was the winning combo. These flours CANNOT be subbed. Tapioca becomes like glue once it’s wet and so does rice flour and white rice flour binds better than brown rice.
HOW DO YOU MAKE AN OIL-FREE PIE CRUST?
Pecan butter! Pecan butter was a secret I discovered while winging it in the kitchen 3 years ago when I created these Pecan Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. They make those cookies soooo darn buttery and crispy, that I’ve been obsessed with pecans ever since.
Pecan butter is crucial to use instead of just ground up pecans into a flour, because the pecan butter specifically is very smooth and light and creamy and acts as the oil here with the flours, as opposed to oil or butter. We are looking for an actual, workable gluten-ish pie dough, not just a crumbly type texture. The pecan butter also helps to bind the dough. Also, no other nut butters will work, so don’t even think about subbing. Pecan butter is naturally the oiliest of all nut butters, is much softer and lighter, as other butters are too stiff and dense. I tested both cashew and almond butter and they failed.
Now, I’m going to take you on a not-so-traditional gluten-free pie making tutorial. Contrary to every typical gluten/butter pie recipe out there, you do not need cold water or chilled fat to make this dough. In fact, my process is the opposite, as you need hot water. Why? Well, since there is no gluten in my recipe, I needed to make my flours (I only used 2!) work to their maximum power. Adding hot water to rice flour and tapioca makes them gluey, as opposed to just cold water. The whole dough itself is not like traditional, it’s thicker, stickier and looser, but once it chills, it becomes magically firm and much easier to make little pies.
Now, because I love making things easier for you, I took a whole lot of photos to give you all a visual step-by-step photo tutorial to make it easy for you all. I know it is very beneficial…so here we go! Lots of pics, but I wanted to show each detail.
PHOTO STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL:
First, make the pecan butter using raw pecans. It only takes about 10 minutes. You can make this the day before making the pies and keep it stored at room temperature. Add 2 cups raw pecan halves to a food processor and process into a flour. Scrape down the sides and process for about 10 minutes or so until it is very, very smooth and creamy. You will need to scrape down the sides a couple of times during. Do not stop processing once it is a paste, you need to keep going until it is very soft and smooth. Think, the consistency of a very soft buttercream frosting. It feels softer than it looks too. It should be smoother than almond butter, almost oily. If it’s not, then it won’t moisten the dough enough in the next step. Store at room temp before making dough.
Next, make your dough. This step only takes 10 minutes. Add the tapioca starch, rice flour, coconut sugar and salt to a clean/dry food processor. Use a scale for accurate results. Pulse just to blend together. Measure out only 1/2 cup of the pecan butter. Make sure you completely level this off of the measuring cup for accuracy in the dough. Add the 1/2 cup pecan butter, 6 tablespoons hot water (I warmed my water for 30 sec in the microwave) and vanilla. Process until it all comes together into a really sticky dough, resembling stiff, thick peanut butter, a few seconds. Scrape the sides and process once more for a few seconds until all flour is blended. It should look like the above photo, if it is crumbly, then you mis-measured or forgot the water or your pecan butter wasn’t smooth enough. It should be very gooey. It will not look like a traditional pie dough yet, it will be more sticky and loose, but will firm up magically in the chilling step. Do not be tempted to add extra flour!
Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and shape into a ball. Scrape all of the dough out of the processor and place in the freezer for 2 hours. It will become magically firm and easy to roll out and make your crust shapes. If you are making this the day before you are making the actual pies, then just store the dough in the fridge instead.
Make your apple pie filling. While the dough is chilling, make your filling. This can also be made the day before you are baking the pies, to save time. Just store in the fridge. Peel and chop up 1 granny smith apple into 1/2 inch cubes. These are more sour than other apples and I find they work best in the pies.
Cook your filling. Add the spices, sugar and water and turn to medium heat. Once it starts to sizzle, immediately turn to the lowest heat, cover and let cook for just 5 minutes. This is only to slightly soften them, so they are fully cooked after baking. Let completely cool before making your pies.
Pie making time. Remove your chilled dough from the fridge. Seeeeee, I told you it would magically firm up and look just like regular dough! Use the cold dough immediately so it’s easy to work with. You don’t want to remove it from the fridge until you are ready to use it.
Roll out the dough. Place the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Place another piece of paper on top and roll out into a large round-ish shape, 1/8 inch thick. Do this easily by rolling out from the center of the dough, to the edges, repeatedly. You don’t want it any thinner than 1/8 inch or the dough can break. You also don’t want the dough too thick, or you won’t have enough for 10 pies. The dough is delicate, but works amazing. Your dough should be fine after chilling that long, but if it’s too sticky, freeze a bit longer.
Cut out your pie crusts. Using a round 3 inch cookie/biscuit cutter, make 20 circles. I used a biscuit cutter that is 2.75 inches. Place 10 of them onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan that you will use to bake them on. It helps to remove the circles by peeling away the surrounding dough around it first, then they are easier to pick up. Keep reusing and re-rolling out the dough until you have 10 pies (20 circles). See recipe below for full instructions.
Form your pies. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of the apple pie filling onto the center of each bottom piece, spread out, leaving a little space (about 1/4 inch) to seal the edges. Be careful about overfilling them, or the tops will break and ooze out. Add a few of the pecan pieces as well. You should have just enough filling for 10 pies.
Add the tops. Place the tops on gently and press down the edges with your fingers. It sticks very easily together. Use damp fingers if necessary. If any of the dough slightly cracks, just dampen a finger and smooth it back out. For decorative edges, you can crimp them with a fork. Tap around the edges in quick motions with the fork if it’s sticking at all, this makes it easier. Lastly, with a sharp knife, cut a tiny slit opening on the tops of each pie, this will allow a little steam to escape. The slit should only be about 1/4 inch.
Decorate the tops. Lightly dampen a pastry brush with water and brush the tops of each pie, just to moisten them, so the sugar will stick. Sprinkle extra apple pie spice or cinnamon and raw sugar (or coconut sugar) all over the tops. Don’t be shy with the sugar. The pies themselves are mildly sweet, so this is where the nice sweet bite comes from.
Bake the pies. See Recipe below for details on baking. Then you will end up with these beauties!
And, of course, we need an inside shot of that deliciousness!
Phew, that was a lot of work sharing a photo for each step, but I really wanted to help you all out with detailed photos and instructions. These are really simple to make, just a little prep work, which I think is worth it for the holidays!
Vegan Gluten-Free Apple Hand Pies
- 1/2 cup raw pecan butter see directions
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons tapioca starch 136 g, other starches do not work here
- 1/2 cup white rice flour 80 g, performed better with both taste & texture than brown rice flour, I used this one
- 7 tablespoons coconut sugar 63 g
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons hot water helps make the rice and tapioca flours become like "gluten"
- 1 granny smith apple peeled & chopped (you'll need about 1 1/4 cups of 1/2 inch cubes, 130 g)
- 4 tablespoons coconut sugar 36 g
- 1 teaspoon apple pie spice storebought blend, or see note below for sub
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/4 cup chopped pecan pieces
- 1 tablespoon or so of Raw sugar and extra spice for sprinkling the raw sugar gives a wonderful presentation and crunchy, sweet bite, but you can just use coconut sugar if you don't want the extra ingredient, but we LOVED the raw sugar
NOTE: As always, use a scale for accurate results with gluten-free baking, to avoid room for error. This is the scale I use. I tested these pies with different starches and flours (with many fails!) and this is the best combo. It's crispy, buttery and has good structure. Therefore, I do not recommend subbing whatsoever. Both tapioca and rice flour perform very differently in dough form than other flours and are crucial. The pecan butter is crucial, as it's much more oily than other nut butters, which make it work in this crust. Another nut butter will not yield the same results, I tested.
APPLE SPICE BLEND: If you can't find the apple pie spice, then just combine 3/4 teaspoon quality cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- Time saving tips: You can make both the pecan butter and the dough the day before you bake the pies, then it all comes together really fast. You can even make the filling the day before as well and just keep stored in the fridge.
- First, you need to make the pecan butter. Don't fret, it only takes 10 minutes. Storebought does not work, it's too oily. It is important to use raw pecans and not roasted, because the roasted are too oily. Add 2 cups raw pecan halves/pieces to a food processor and process into a flour. Scrape down the sides and process for about 10 minutes or so until it is very, very smooth and creamy. You will need to scrape down the sides a couple of times during. Do not stop processing once it is a paste, you need to keep going until it is very soft and smooth and the consistency of a soft buttercream frosting. It should be smoother than almond butter, more oily. If it's not oily enough, then it won't blend properly with the flours! You will have extra, but will only need 1/2 cup for the dough. Clean and dry out your food processor before the next step. The pecan butter should be cooled and at room temperature before the next step, so that's why I recommend making it earlier.
- Next, make your dough. Add the tapioca starch, rice flour, coconut sugar and salt to a clean/dry food processor. Pulse just to blend together.
- Measure out only 1/2 cup of the pecan butter. Make sure you completely level this off of the measuring cup for accuracy in the dough. Add the pecan butter to the food processor, with the 6 tablespoons hot water (I warmed my water for 30 sec in the microwave) and vanilla. Process until it all comes together into a really sticky dough, resembling thick peanut butter, a few seconds. Scrape the sides and process once more. It will not be like a traditional pie dough, it will be more sticky, truly like peanut butter, but will firm up a lot in the chilling step. Do not be tempted to add extra flour! Refer to photo for texture. If your dough is not like a sticky peanut butter, you have mismeasured or left out the hot water or your pecan butter was not smooth enough before adding.
- Scrape out your every bit of dough onto plastic wrap. Wrap it up and form a ball and place in the freezer for 2 hours. The dough will be too sticky to use immediately. If wanting to store the dough overnight, store in the fridge instead of the freezer. Do not remove until ready to use right away.
- While the dough is chilling, make your apple pie filling. Add your chopped apples, apple spice blend and coconut sugar into a small pot and stir around to coat all the apples. Add the 1 tablespoon water and stir. Turn the heat to medium. Once it starts to sizzle, immediately turn to the lowest heat, cover and let cook for just 5 minutes, just until the apples have began to soften and is looking syrupy. You just want to slightly cook them, so they will be fully cooked after the oven baking step. Let the filling cool off.
- Preheat an oven to 350 degrees and line a metal sheet pan with parchment paper.
- After the dough has chilled, remove and unwrap. Use the cold dough immediately so it's easy to work with. Place the dough on a large piece of parchment paper, add another piece on top of the dough and roll out into a large round piece at 1/8 inch thick, rolling out from the center of the dough, to the edges. Follow above photo tutorial as a guide. You don't want it any thinner or the dough can break. You also don't want the dough too thick, or you won't have enough for 10 pies. Using a round cookie cutter or glass about 3 inches in size, cut out 20 circles. I used a biscuit cutter that is 2.75 inches. There will be enough dough for 10 hand pies, which means you should get 20 circles total by reusing all the dough up. It helps to remove the circles by peeling away the surrounding dough around it first, then they are easier to pick up. Keep re-rolling out the dough until you've made 10 pies. You may have a little leftover.
- Place each bottom dough piece onto the parchment lined pan that you will bake with. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of the apple pie filling onto the center of each piece, spread out, leaving a little space to seal the edges. Be careful about overfilling them, or the tops will break and ooze out. Add a few of the pecan pieces as well. Place the tops on gently and press down the edges with your fingers. It sticks very easily together. Use damp fingers if necessary. If any of the dough slightly cracks, just dampen a finger and smooth it back out. For decorative edges, you can crimp them with a fork. Lastly, with a sharp knife, cut a tiny slit opening on the tops of each pie, this will allow a little steam to escape. The slit should only be about 1/4 inch.
- Lightly dampen a pastry brush with water and brush the tops of each pie, just to moisten them, so the sugar will stick. Sprinkle extra apple pie spice or cinnamon and raw sugar (or coconut sugar) all over the tops. Don't be shy with the sugar. The pies themselves are mildly sweet, so this is where the nice sweet bite comes from.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes, just until the tops are firm and no longer soft. Mine were perfect right at 15 minutes, but your oven may take a minute less or more. Just keep an eye on them and feel the tops for a crisp touch. Set your timer so they don't burn. Remove and immediately transfer to a cooling rack. Eat while warm. These hold up perfectly, just like a gluten-filled pie crust. They hold together well and are super easy to hold! Enjoy! Keep leftovers in a sealed container. Reheat them in a low heat oven just until warm and crispy again. They will not be crispy if reheated in the microwave, but soft & chewy, but still delicious.