These are possibly the best fried pies you may ever eat♡. Fried to perfection, this light and flaky buttermilk dough is filled with homemade sweet cherry pie filling and dusted with powdered sugar with a hint of cinnamon. The “secret ” ingredient in the dough makes these cherry hand pies superiorly crispy and bubbly on the outside. And let’s talk about the cherry pie filling for a minute — you’ll never find anything like this in a can. It’s sweet, tart, and bursting with fresh cherries in every bite (and you know exactly what’s in it). For those of you new to making pastry dough or fried pies, we’ve included step-by-step photos at the end of the post for you to use as a guide.
Where Do fried Pies Originate From?
Fried pies filled with fruit or creme mixtures are a traditional southern dessert and ubiquitous throughout the American south. In fact, my home state of Arkansas is synonymous with this dessert. They’ve been a part of the culinary heritage there for well over a century (check out what Saveur had to say about it). And everyone’s granny, Mama, or aunty swears they have “the best recipe” which of course is only sometimes true. When made well, fried pies can be one of the best desserts you’ll ever eat, or they can be dry or greasy, and often made with low-quality ingredients, and overly sweetened. For me, the very best fried pies start with fresh seasonal local ingredients like summertime peaches, strawberries, cherries, wild blackberries, and of course fall apples. This recipe might just be one of the best things to ever come out of the south. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of eating a genuine Southern fried cherry pie (from scratch), give them a try. You’ll be happy you did♡.
Best Ever Homemade Fried Cherry Pie Ingredients
This traditional southern dessert is 100% made from scratch (and it’ll grab your heart and never let go). Made with just a few basic ingredients, it’s hard to believe how delicious they are and fairly simple to make. Fried Pies typically use the best of what’s in season at any given moment, so feel free to load them up with peach pie filling, strawberry-rhubarb, or even Nocciolata (the original Nutella before Nutella existed).
for the dough
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (225g)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pure cane sugar, or granulated sugar (23g)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (2g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup lard, pinched off into small pieces (95g)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (88-121g) *see notes for buttermilk substitution
- 2 to 3 cups neutral vegetable oil for frying (450g-675g)
- powdered sugar for dusting fried pies
- a pinch of cinnamon (optional, but recommended)
for the pie filling
*I use 00 flour when I’m in Italy for this recipe (and King Arthur flour when I’m in the States), and the weight of different flours varies based on the humidity content and absorption potential of the flour you’re working with. Just be sure to use the ‘scoop and level’ method to measure your flour into measuring cups and spoons and the recipe works perfectly every time.
How to Make the Best Southern Cherry Fried Pies
This dough comes together quickly using just a fork. And it only takes 10 minutes to make homemade cherry pie filling. If you happen to have a dough cutter or food processor to create the dough, feel free to use them. But it’s not necessary because the fat in this recipe is combined at room temperature which makes it really easy to get everything blended properly with a fork. If you have kiddos they can definitely help with this part.
- Mix the dry ingredients. Add the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add the lard. Pinch the lard off into 1/2″ (1cm) pieces and add them to the dry ingredients. Use a fork (or dough cutter) to cut the lard into the flour mixture until you have pea-sized crumbles.
- Add the buttermilk. Next, slowly add the buttermilk to the mixture approximately 1/4 cup (40g) at a time, stirring the mixture with a fork to incorporate the buttermilk into the flour until the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl. Form the dough into a disc and turn it out onto a floured surface and sprinkle it with a little more flour. Fold the dough over itself 3-4 times. Wrap with plastic wrap and rest the dough in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
- Roll out the dough. After the dough has rested, remove it from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into an 8×7 inch (20x17cm) rectangle approximately 1/4″ thick.
- Cut the dough and fill. Using a 3-4 inch (7.5-10cm) round cookie cutter, cut circles out of the dough and fill with 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling.
- Seal the dough. Fold one half of the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape and press down using your fingers to seal the edges. Use a fork to crimp the edges and ensure the pies are sealed. Set filled pies aside on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan and if they start to get too warm, place the filled pies into the fridge to keep them cool while you fill the remaining pies.
- Fry the dough. Preheat oil to 350°F/176°C and fry the pies in batches, add pies one at a time very carefully to the hot oil. Cook the pies for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until light golden brown turning the pies over every 30 seconds or so to ensure even browning.
- Dust pies with powdered sugar. Remove pies from the oil onto a cooling rack or paper towel-lined platter and lightly dust with powdered sugar. After the pies have cooled for about 10 minutes sprinkle them once more with powdered sugar and serve hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!
How to Roll Out and Cut the Dough for Fried Pies
When rolling out this fried pie dough be sure to dust the surface of the countertop (and the rolling pin) with a little flour to keep the dough from sticking. Try not to add too much flour. Roll out the dough using even pressure until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Once you’ve got it rolled to the desired thickness, use a floured 3 or 4-inch round cookie cutter to cut circles. If the dough circles become too warm while you’re working with them, place them on a floured or parchment-lined tray, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and pop them into the fridge for a few minutes to chill and firm up slightly before adding the filling and sealing the edges. Keeping the dough nice and cool or cold but still, malleable is key to being able to easily fill the dough without it becoming too messy.
Do Not Over-Fill Fried Pie Dough — Too Much is Really Too Much
As tempting as it is, do not overfill the pies. It’s easy to want to put in “just a little more”, but don’t do it. If you overstuff the dough, it can tear and split apart when you’re sealing it or while it’s frying. The goal is to get a good dough-to-filling ratio and be able to fill it without the cherry pie filling seeping out. A little filling goes a long way. Once you have the dough filled, close the circle by pressing down with your fingers to close. Then use a fork to create a seamless seal. This process can be a little messy but it’s still quick and easy.
What Makes the Crispiest Flakiest Best Fried Pie Dough?
Baking powder is my “secret” ingredient in this fried pie dough recipe. It’s a leavening agent that when combined with a liquid in a flour-based recipe, allows for the escape of carbon dioxide gas adding lightness and unbeatable crispiness to the final fried pies. You can see from the photos how light, bubbly and crispy the fried dough is. These bubbles equal crispy-crunchy flaky goodness.
Oil Temperature is Key to Fried Pie Success (Make Sure the Temperature of the Cooking Oil is Just Right)
Always make sure the oil is at the right temperature before frying. If the oil is too hot it’ll brown the outside before the inside has time to cook through. If the temperature is too low, the pies will absorb too much oil and become greasy. The temperature should stay between 350°-375°F (176°C-190°C) when you first drop the pies into the oil. Try to maintain an oil temperature of 325-350°F (163-176°C) throughout the duration of the fry.
Also, don’t overcrowd the pies while cooking. Doing so can lead to a rapid drop in oil temperature which leads to greasy fried pies. If you’re new to deep-frying, test-fry one pie or a small leftover piece of dough to get the hang of it first, or buy a cheap thermometer. You can always check to see if the temperature of the oil is ready by placing a wooden chopstick into the hot oil being sure the chopstick touches the bottom of the pan. If you see bubbles coming up around the chopstick, the oil is ready.
Homemade Fried Cherry Pie tips + tricks + FAQ’s
- Can I freeze fried pies? Yes, you can freeze filled and uncooked fried pies for up to 6 months before frying. After filling the pies and sealing them, lay them out in a single layer (not touching) on a sheet and pop it into the freezer for about 1 to 2 hours, or until the pies have firmed up. At this point, they may be placed inside an airtight container or freezer bag and sealed. When you’re ready to fry the pies, remove them from the freezer for about 15 minutes to allow some of the chill to come off. Alternatively, you may place frozen pies in the refrigerator for 2 hours before freezing which also helps take the chill off. Fry them for about 8 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown.
- If you don’t have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon (13g) of freshly squeezed lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup, then pour in whole milk until it reaches the 1/2 cup mark on the measuring cup. Stir the mixture and allow it to rest at room temperature to thicken for 5 to 10 minutes before adding to the flour mixture.
- This recipe can easily be doubled. Wrap the extra dough and seal it in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.
- How do I know if my dough is ready to form it into a brick? You’ll know the dough is ready to be formed into a ‘brick” when you can squeeze a handful of dough together and it holds. If the dough crumbles, add just a bit more buttermilk a teaspoon (6g) at a time until the mixture just holds together. Avoid adding too much buttermilk or the dough will be wet and sticky and never add all of the buttermilk all at once. Instead, add it in increments so you can be sure to use just the right amount.
- Substitute vegetable shortening for the lard if you prefer. You may also use a mixture of half butter and half lard. Using butter only will yield a slightly different texture and wonderful flavor.
- Let the pie dough rest. Do not skip this step. It’s very important to let the dough relax so that it’s more pliable and easier to roll out.
- Use a scale to weigh the ingredients for more consistent measurements. . Use measuring cups and spoons if that’s what you have.
- I use a 4-inch round cutter for this recipe. But feel free to make the pies smaller or larger. For a 4-inch round cutter, I fill the dough with no more than 2 tablespoons of filling. Doing so helps ensure the pies will seal and fry properly. If you make larger or smaller pies, be sure to adjust the amount of filling. Whatever you do, resist the urge to overfill them or they may bust open while frying.
- Dust the pies with powdered sugar twice. The first time is right after they finish frying. This allows the sugar to melt into the hot pies. Then I dust them a second time after about 10 minutes.
- Add extra flavor to the powdered sugar by adding a pinch or two of cinnamon to it before dusting the pies. This is especially good for peach, cherry, and apricot fried pies.
- Use this pie dough with other fillings. Try chocolate, peach, cherry, lemon cream, apricot, vanilla-bean cream, wild blackberry, sweet potato, pecan, or even coconut.