Water Pie – Recipe from the Great Depression

Discover the magic of water pie. A Great Depression era recipe, it takes simple ingredients to create this deliciously creamy and buttery pie. You won’t believe one of the main ingredients is water!

water pie slice

Water pie is one of those magical recipes that came out of the depression era where cooks with little to nothing figured out how to make delicious dishes for those they love. This Depression era pie recipe was shared with me by Kay West and I published it in my third cookbook, Sweetness: Recipes to Celebrate the Warmth, Love, and Blessings of a Full Life.

This Depression era water pie recipe belonged to Kay’s grandmother, who had eight children and made her family of 10 three meals from scratch every single day. During leaner times, she developed this recipe so that her family could still enjoy dessert from time to time, no matter how hard their days were. These recipes are such a special treasure to us! 

I think you’ll really enjoy the simplicity of this water pie. It has a creamy buttery taste, similar to a custard pie or warm vanilla cookie once it’s chilled and sliced. Half the thrill will be telling your family the name and that the main ingredient is water!

Ingredients for Water Pie - Recipe from the Great Depression

Recipe Ingredients

You know when a recipe was created to make something out of nothing, it’s going to be simple on the ingredients.

  • A deep-dish pie crust (see tips for success at the bottom of this post).
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Vanilla extract

Pouring Water for Water Pie

Begin by pouring water into your deep dish and unbaked pie crust, which should be in a pie dish. You can either use a pretty ceramic one like this or a disposable one like this  doesn’t have to be boiling water, either – just straight from the tap is fine. 

Sprinkling Mixture for Water Pie

In a small mixing bowl, stir together flour and sugar. 

Sprinkling sugar over Water Pie

Sprinkle the flour mixture over your water in the pie shell. The original recipe called for doing this with a spoon so I’m showing you that way but I usually just use my hand to sprinkle it because I feel like I can get it more even that way. 

Water Pie - Recipe from the Great Depression

This is our water with flour/sugar sprinkled over. Don’t stir. 

Vanilla poured into Water Pie

Drizzle vanilla over this. Don’t stir. 

Pats of Butter on Water Pie

Place pats of butter on top. 

Place your pie plate in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce temp to 375 and cover the edges of the flaky crust if need be to prevent burning. Cook for another 30 minutes once you have reduced the temp. 

Fresh Baked Water Pie - Recipe from the Great Depression

The pie will be very watery in the center when you remove it from the oven. Allow to cool completely and then refrigerate for several hours before cutting. 

Sliced Water Pie

Enjoy this creamy buttery pie recipe that came about from good-hearted cooks wanting to bake up something sweet for their loved ones during hard times! 

Pretty Slice of Water Pie


You can store pie leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.

Recipe Notes

  • I use a Pillsbury all vegetable frozen deep-dish pie crust, unbaked, for this recipe. I suggest a store-bought deep-dish pie crust because homemade pie crusts in your own dish are going to vary in terms of depth and may result in the filling not getting fully done in the prescribed amount of time. 
  • Before you begin making this pie, tear off a piece of foil large enough to cover your pie dish. Cut an X in the center and peel back the X. This will make it quick and easy to cover your pie should the edges begin getting too dark and will keep you from losing valuable heat during the baking process. 
  • The pie will be bubbly and could be watery in some spots when you pull it out of the oven. It will gel fully as it cools. It is best if you allow this pie to cool completely and then cover and refrigerate until chilled before cutting. 

Try Some Water Pie - Recipe from the Great Depression

Recipe FAQs

What is the difference between a water pie and a Sprite pie?

A Sprite pie is basically a modern-day version of the water pie. It became famous in 2020 when TikTok took the world by storm. They both taste very similar, like a delicious sugar cookie. If you’d prefer to make a Sprite pie instead of a water pie, simply substitute the water for 1 can of Sprite. Follow the same instructions and ingredients in the recipe card and voila, you have yourself a Sprite pie!

Because you can never have too many great pie recipes:

Mint Oreo Ice Cream Pie

Triple Chocolate Brownie Pie

Impossible Lemon Pie Recipe

Peanut Butter Pie Recipe: Made the Old Fashioned Way

Apple Pie

Perfect Pecan Pie Recipe

Water Pie

Water Pie is a depression era recipe that turns bare bones ingredients into a delicious buttery pie!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pie
Servings: 4
Calories: 178kcal
Author: The SouthernPlate Staff


  • 1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust, unbaked
  • 1 1/2 cups water (that is one and a half cups)
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons butter, cut into 5 pieces


  • Preheat oven to 400 and set empty pie crust on a baking sheet.
    1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust, unbaked
  • Pour 1 + 1/2 cups water into the pie crust.
    1 1/2 cups water
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the water in the crust. Don't stir.
    4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 cup sugar
  • Drizzle the vanilla over the water in the pie crust. Place pats of butter on top of this.
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 5 tablespoons butter, cut into 5 pieces
  • Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and cover sides of crust if needed to prevent burning. Continue cooking for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Pie will be watery when you pull it out of the oven but will gel as it cools. Allow to cool completely and then cover and place in the fridge until chilled before cutting.


Calories: 178kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!

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  1. My Mom used to mention a pie like this, but she never made it that I can remember. She and my Dad married during the height of the Great Depression. Boy, that took some guts to do, but they did and survived to raise 4 healthy children. I wasn’t born until after WW II, so I don’t recall the hard times, but my older brothers and sister sure remember. One thing my Mom taught me was how to take nothing and make something out of it. I mean there were times I can remember looking into the refrigerator and thinking to myself that tonight there would be nothing good to eat. But Mom always came through and managed to put a hot, filling and delicious meal out of absolutely (in my opinion) nothing. She taught me many things, to put God first, never forget to tell someone you love them when they were leaving because it could be the last time you may see them, never go to bed angry, be willing to apologize if you are wrong, I could go on and on, but one of the best thing she taught me was how to economize and make do with what was in the pantry or refrigerator. If not for that, my husband and I would have gone hungry when we were first married because he was in the Army and at that time the pay was a very small amount and only once a month.
    Thank you Christy for letting me ramble and for sharing this recipe and as I have all your cookbooks, I remember reading about this recipe. Your stories are always an inspiration to me and I look forward to opening your email everyday. May God continue to bless you and your family.
    Claudine in Fort Worth, TX

    1. I loved your comment and the story you told. My grandmother always had a story for nearly every recipe!

    2. Oh my goodness Ms, Claudine. What a wonderful post. My grandmother grew up in the Depression and I remember her saving every little left-over, no matter how tiny. I think I got that from her. At 53, I still will take the kids uneaten food off their plate for lunch before I throw it away. My granddaughters cleared their places the other night and threw their food in the trash and my heart stopped.
      In the early 50’s, my dad was in the Air Force. My parents were 19 and 16. My dad’s pay was messed up so all they had for a few months was my mom’s allotment of $23 a month. The cheapest thing they could buy was tuna. They made tuna everything. And in all my years, I seldom saw them eat another tuna sandwich. lol
      I love your story. It makes me remember where I came from. ♥️

      1. My father was second oldest in a family with 7 children during the Depression. He would catch fish which my grandmother would clean and my father would sell to make money for the family. My grandmother cleaned so many fish she said she could never stand to smell or eat another one after the Depression.

    3. I was born just after WWII, but my parents were married during the Depression. Having lived during both those hard times, the lesson I learned was that you never waste anything. You eat what you have, use and make do with what you have. I grew up with that and it left an impression on me that I create recipes with leftovers, make things with scraps, repair broken items, and re-paint and reuse everything. Thanks for this great recipe. I’m very interested in our history and I can’t wait to try it.

  2. I am a Depression-Baby of 92 years, enjoy cooking & creating new recipe’s. I’ve never heard of Water Pie, but am anxious to try it. I cook for my 65 yr. old son EVERY day — & will ask him to GUESS the KIND of Pie I’ve served him. Thanks for recipe!

    1. Your son is sooo lucky, Marilyn! Your enthusiasm to try new things is infectious! Thank you for leaving your lovely comment!
      Best wishes,

    2. God bless you Marilyn. I’ve been COOKING for my 45 year old son EVERY day for the last 45 years. He is the apple of my eye, what a blessing. I know that you’ve been making apple custard pie because we are kindred spirits. And that is my darling Berty’s favourite kind. God bless!

  3. Wow!!! Who knew?? Yes I inherited a ton of recipes from my Grandmother, but I’ve never seen this before!!! Thank you for sharing!

    1. My mom always called this “Poor Man’s Pie.” She would use the bits of raw pie crust not needed from whatever other kind of pie she was making, press it into a pan the best she could with such little crust 🙂 sprinkle a bit of flour, sugar, cinnamon or vanilla, sprinkle water, or milk, onto the crust, and dot it with butter. It was my favorite part of the pie making because you got to eat it immediately. I’m sure she got this from her mother who was a teen during the Great Depression. 🙂

    1. Calories? YES, how about that cup of sugar also flour and butter.

      I make the oatmeal pie frequently, is an Amish pie and they serve it for breakfast

      1. I am a 88 yr old depression baby of a family of 6 kids, so Mom made a feast out of nothing. She made vinegar pie which is very good, I have several cookbooks from that era and enjoy just reading them like a novel,one was printed in 1930 and is hand written.

        1. Just now reading this. My grandmother and mother made vinegar pies too! So good and it’s one of my sons favorite also. When I mention it to others especially younger folks they will make a face and say eww! They don’t even know.

          1. Vinegar pie is Also called Chess pie, I’ve always loved this pie. It’s really easy to make

      2. Wow! Im just looking for a water pie recipe. I came across these comments. Im probably not going to linger, or come back.
        Janel I originally heard about this recipe on Paula Dean’s posts. I dont care for Paula Dean so I came looking for a “second opinion”!!
        Though Im not a fan, Ms Dean said of this pie:
        Consider adding lemon zest, lemon juice, almonds, almond extract, cinnamon and more suggestions.
        I think as long as the chemistry is not disturbed you should get a good set on the filling. Paula Dean was worried about hers. I dont think she cheated but her first one was perfect.
        The gluten in the flour absorbed the water and thats what gets the gel. You might get good results with an alternative flour, but low gluten flour usually has poor results in recipes needing those long gluten strands. Even artisan, low gluten wheat flour could be a problem.
        This recipe should accommodate an alternate base nicely. I use almond flour to bake with vegetable matter added to the matrix. For example, almond flour makes kick-butt muffins with egg and mashed sweet potato. Even picky little boys eat it.
        The subtle flavors of butter and vanilla wont tolerate much interference, though, so if it were me, i would add at least part of an envelope of unflavored gelatin to my almond flour recipe. It might not work!!! But then it might get spectacular results without changing the flavor.
        Pay no attention to those women behind the curtain. They are jealous of your creativity.
        Btw I think there are algae extracts at the health food store you can try, and make it nearly vegan. I wouldnt omit the butter!

  4. Holy Cow…. I just can’t wait to make this !!!
    I have a few books from the depression era & some of those recipes are just amazing…. you sit there thinking — no that can’t work– and then when you make it you tell yourself — I can’t believe how good this really is !! Thank You so much for sharing this recipe

    1. I’m wondering about an old recipe my mother remembers her mother making. (My mother is 97 years old, so this was long ago!) It was a skillet dessert that her mom called “Frog Bellies.” Grandma would throw it together and cook it in a skillet. It wasn’t a cookie and it wasn’t a cake, but it was a small cake-like dessert that she spooned into a small “pile” in a skillet. I believe mom remembered that she might cook 2 or 3 at a time in the same skillet. When it cooked, it puffed up in the center like a frog’s belly. My mom said it was sweet and cake-like; they ate them warm from the skillet with no frosting or syrup or anything. I think they were about the size of a pancake, but like I said, it would puff up in the center. My mom loved to cook and she said she simply never paid any attention when her mom would make these. Has anyone ever heard of anything like this? I’ve asked all my cousins who might remember their moms mentioning this and none of them had ever heard of them. Anyone?

      1. To me they sound exactly like Dutch babies. Also known as a German pancake, a Dutch pancake, a big baby. It has a lot of different names but it is cake-like and it definitely puffs up in the oven and it’s delicious so it definitely could be eaten without any toppings and still be delicious. But I’ve always made them as one big pancake and a cast iron skillet and then cut it for everyone to get a piece. But, I did a little research after reading your comment and apparently they can be made small like individual pancakes. They are then called poffertjes.

      1. This recipe looks similar to Hutterite sugar pie, I’ve also heard of something called milk pie that is supposed to be similar.

        1. Thank you for posting this.
          I had a copy of it from Taste of Home Magazine (from the 1990s) but had lost it in the move.

          1. Just wondering, will the pie crust cook fully with all the water? I always have a problem with that. Thanks

          2. Exactly like a milk pie or “shlek pie” instead of water you use milk, pa Dutch recipe.

      2. Thank you for the aluminum foil tip with the “x”!! In all my 67 years, that’s a new one on me, and also the water pie! We learn something new every day!

        1. I agree! Thanks so much for the ‘x’ aluminum foil pie crust tip! Will benefit from that forever. 🙂

      3. 5 stars
        This pie is so good! I added sugar on top and torched it like creme brûlée and it blew me away!!!!! Thank you so much!!!

    1. check out almost any Amish site. I bet you find it there. I have made this. Its almost identical to pecan pie only has oatmeal on top instead of pecans. If I made it again I would be tempted to use both. Tastes like a oatmeal cookie to me! Good Luck in your search! Sheree

      1. I liked this pie, but there was a layer of hardened butter on top once the pie cooled. Maybe if I made it without the butter?

        1. Yes I didn’t like the solid butter on top didn’t think it would do that didn’t look appetizing so I scraped it off


      1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
      3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
      3/4 cup milk
      1/2 cup sugar
      3 large eggs, beaten
      3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
      1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      1 unbaked pie shell

      Preheat oven to 350º F and line a pie dish with unbaked pie crust.
      In a large bowl, stir together brown sugar, oats, sugar and salt, then stir in
      milk, beaten eggs, butter and vanilla extract. Continue stirring until fully
      Pour mixture into pie shell, then place in oven.
      Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until pie is cooked through.
      Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes, then serve with ice cream or
      whipped cream.

      1. 5 stars
        I made this pie for a brunch at school and added mini chocolate chips….everybody LOVED it and couldn’t believe it was oatmeal!

    3. Have you ever tried this recipe with tea instead of water? I feel like that would be an easy way to incorporate some fun flavors.

    4. 4 stars
      This is so not a depression recipe. That much sugar and butter was super scarce. You would not waste it on water pie. You would more likely use apples.

      1. You know what is funny? My grandmother used to always talk about her childhood and those rare occasions when they got to have baked apples. It was one of her favorite treats but they hardly ever had them, usually only when eating at a farm where they were picking cotton, if ever. I asked her once why she hardly ever ate apples since she loved them so much and she looked at me in surprise and said “we didn’t have an apple tree!”. So for her, butter and sugar were easier to come by, apples were the rarity. Just another reminder to us that there are many facets to every gem.

        1. Reading your comment is somewhat ironic to me. My Mother grew up in the depression and ate so many baked apples as desserts that she swore she would never eat another one the rest of her life.

      2. I disagree that this is not a Depression Era delight. My mother grew up during the Depression and while things were scares, more often the problem was rationing. She said her Mom would set aside a portion of her sugar ration and then would have a good deal of sugar available for birthdays and holidays. My Mom said her birthday cake for years was a Cast Iron Skillet Burnt Sugar Cake. A cup of sugar was melted in a cast iron skillet over a hot flame and then a cake batter was poured on top and then into the oven. When you turned the cake over, the caramelized sugar poured over the sides of the cake like Flan. That sounds so delicious!

        1. so true

          and if you were.lucky enough to have a milk. cow..like my Grandmother

          you had Cream.and she made her own butter ..the depression Era had women being very very creative with their ingredients ..everything could become.something else !!!

          1. According livinghistoryfarm.org …. Sugar, coffee, meat, fish, butter, eggs, and cheese were the main foods rationed during The Great Depression. Other foods and things were rationed as well. These things were rationed in order to prevent hording, prepare for war efforts, and to try and help stabilize the economy.

    5. Hi. That oatmeal pie is often called mock pecan pie. Tastes like and looks like pecan pie but with oatmeal instead of nuts. My Family’s little one ask for it.

    6. How can something be too sweet and too bland at the same time? Bland is when something is tasteless, but if it taste sweet or anything else in the favor section then it is not bland.

    7. Hi there, if you scroll through the comments you will see many comments from those who have made the pie. And I can answer any specific questions you might have. Just let me know. It may take a bit of time though as there are quite a few posts and comments that I get each day but I do my best to answer as many as I can. We also have lovely people who have made the recipe as well comment. I hope you have a wonderful day.

      1. Hi!! I made this water pie recipe twice in two days. Both times, following the recipe to the letter, the pie came out with a pool of butter on top. I cooled the pie like the recipe and it turned to creamy soup. Yesterday, I put 5 pats of butter on top. Today i cut the butter into smaller parts to put on top. It seemed somewhat better today but still not baked into the pie. Any ideas??

        1. Its hard to say for sure but could be the oven temperature in your oven is different than mine. Also id you cool and then cover and refrigerate while covered, would do that overnight and see how it turns out? That helps the gel solidify.

        2. It may not be you doing anything wrong. I read recently that farmers are feeding cows feed that has palm oil in it. Not only is palm oil bad for us it makes butter hard to spread. It also makes me angry that the box doesn’t list this as an indirect ingredient and is deceiving. If you leave your butter on the counter, like I do, you may have noticed that even in warm weather it’s still pretty solid and when you butter toast or bagels the butter takes a long time to melt and doesn’t spread as easily as it used to. I thought it was my imagination until I read this several times on line in a few different places.

    8. Look up Mock Pecan Pie or Depression Era Pecan pie. They are the same thing, just different names. They are made with oatmeal & very good!

    9. 5 stars
      I do. 3/4 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 t salt, 3 eggs beaten, 3/4 cup milk, 3/4 cup coconut, 1 t vanilla, 1 unbaked deep 9 inch pie shell. Combine white and brown sugar and salt. Stir in eggs and milk. Mix well. Add oatmeal, coconut and vanilla. Bake at 350° 35-40 min until done.

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