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

Storage

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition

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

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270 Comments

  1. Omigoodness! I’m almost 73 and you’ve just transported me back in time to when I was baking in the kitchen with my paternal grandmother. Nanny visited each of her 4 grown children & their families for 6 months at a time, so it was a couple years between each visit. She had run a boarding house earlier -yes, during the DEPRESSION – and was a fantastic cook. She taught me to make little water pies out of her “extra” pastry (I think she deliberately made extra for me!), a tradition I carried on with my own kiddos. A couple shakes of cinnamon on top before baking is tasty, too. I learned more about cooking from Nanny than from my mum, who was a
    “Thoroughly Modern Millie” – cans & boxes. Thanks so much for the memories!

  2. 5 stars
    Freakin’ genius! I imagine you could change things up by using vinegar, lemon juice, or other flavourings instead of or as well as vanilla. Maybe a cinnamon mix. It’d be fun to experiment.

    Hats off to Kay’s grandmother. This is like alchemy.

    Robin
    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit.

  3. 5 stars
    Wow, what a great story! I’ll never forget a friend telling me about his immigrant grandmother raising nine kids during the depression. She would sit outside with a piece of bread and entice pigeons and sparrows into her lap for the crumbs. They made a nourishing soup. We do what we have to.

    1. I remember my Mum telling me how the fried chicken at The Chicken Inn got smaller and smaller until it was obvious to everyone that it was pidgin. Nobody said anything tho Luv from Southwestern Canada

  4. I’m definitely going to have to try this one. A tip about the foil. I find putting it on when I first make the pie and then removing it half way through baking is the way to go. No burnt fingers trying to form it around the crust.

  5. 4 stars
    I made this today, and it turned out awesome ! I even used a vegan butter (country crock plant butter) in substitute of dairy butter and it turned out perfect. I will absolutely be making it again. Next time I’d like to see if I could reduce the sugar a tad because it is a little sweet for my taste. Though I’m sure some tart fruit paired along with it could help with that !

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