Water Pie – Recipe from the Great Depression

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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! Once you have had this pie you are going to be in the mood for all different kinds of pies like Apple PieCracker Pie, Strawberry Cream Pie, and German Chocolate Pie.

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

Helpful Kitchen Tools

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 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 pan 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. What a fun and interesting pie. I’ve never heard of it, but it looks fantastic!

  2. Saw this recipe and was intrigued. We tried it and it was surprisingly VERY GOOD! It was brought to work and was gone in no time. It made me think about back in that time when this was probably such a great treat for them. I really liked it! Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Thank you for commenting after actually making the pie. Based on your experience, I’m looking forward to trying it.

      1. I actually made it, too 😉 But I appreciate and welcome all of the comments, regardless of whether or not they’ve tried a recipe, just like your comment here. Y’all are what make this a community and a conversation and that makes it all the more worthwhile. <3

        1. My late mother used to make a pie that sounds similar. It was called “Poor Man’s Pie”. Is this the same pie?

        2. Love these recipes. I have made the water pie about a year ago & I really liked it. Think I’ll try it with the coconut water & coconut the next time I make it. I’m so glad the lady suggested it. I never thought about that. So many great ideas. I scrolled down to the bottom of the post & saw the address where your business or home is & you are less than five miles from me. Small world. Looking fwd to more delicious recipes.

  3. Going to try this for a luncheon my apartment building is having next week. This is a senior citizens building, so I know there will be many comments about it. I’ll let you know what I hear.

      1. My mom will be 91 next month. Still drives locally and does her own shopping now that I’m sick. She said grandma (mother of 14!!!) made a similar pie to water pie but used vinegar instead. Only a couple of tablespoons. She said it tasted like lemon pie to them, which they only got at Christmas.

        1. Vinegar pie. My older sister mentioned this to me. She said it was delicious. I found a recipe online, but have not made it yet.

  4. This looks and sounds incredible. I can’t wait to try it. I’m a newbie here and found you while looking for an Alabama white sauce. I lived in Harvest for a couple of years back in the early nineties. There was a restaurant on Hwy. 72 called Thomas’ BBQ that had THE BEST white sauce…to me much better than “the infamous” in Decatur. I don’t think it’s there anymore. I have tried numerous recipes, but can’t find anything I like as much as theirs. I don’t think Thomas’ used horseradish in their white sauce, so I was excited when I ran across your recipe. Excited to grill some chicken this weekend and try yours out! And maybe have some Water Pie for desert. 🙂

    1. OH GIRL!! I LOVE THOMAS’S! We used to live down the road from it and there was nothing at all like it. It did close, was bought out by a local chain, Rick’s. Rick’s struck a deal and on a handshake promise said they’d keep the employees, name, etc. The day after they signed they came in and fired everyone, generations of families had worked there. It was tragic. I have a few Thomas’s recipes on the site, well they are my copycats but they taste just like it! I have Smokehouse Chicken and their Mashed Potato Salad. You and me have the same taste in White Sauce so I think you’ll like it! So excited to meet another kindred spirit!

      1. I love all the love on this site! So many people sharing family stories as well as recipes. Thank you for creating this site.

      2. Oh my gosh, your story about what happened to Thomas’s is heartbreaking, and infuriating. To lose a family business that lent so much to the uniqueness of the local community is tragic. Shame on Rick’s. Glad you’ve been able to preserve some of that heritage through your copycat recipes.

      3. 5 stars
        I made this pie and found if you cut the butter into thinner pats it spreads more evenly over the pie. It was very good and a great conversation starter. My family loved it.
        I also made it using coconut water and added shredded coconut. Very good!

        1. 5 stars
          I saw something like this on another website and the lady made it with a can of Sprite instead of water also she shredded the butter like cheese to spread it better, I had a good time reading the comments on her site because everybody thought it was a hoax or a joke they honestly thought this was fake!

  5. Hi Christy: OMG water pie! I thought she was kidding however my Mississippi maternal grandmother said ‘in the old days’ she made a H2O pie. occasionally when she had one, she would beat one egg in with the water. From the late 1920s to about 1945 they were tenant farmers; that was a hard life. She managed somehow to have a sewing machine, taught herself how to sew & traded making clothes for eggs, sugar & flour. Wow how times have changed! I have all her recipes along with my Mom’s. I do so cherish those.
    Thanks for your stories, humor, wisdom & sharing your recipes.
    From one southern gal to another. Kate

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