transparent logo

Should you be adding vinegar to your pie crust?

February 26, 2022

Vinegar is pungent and sour, often used in pickling and savory dressings.

So using vinegar as a pie crust ingredient? That sounds weird!

What does it do? And why do so many people rave about it? In the world of baking, we hear and read so many things about pie crust, from how to make a perfectly tender crust to how to prevent overworking the dough.

As the holy grail ingredient for many issues people might experience when making pie crust, vinegar is thought to offer several benefits to creating the perfect dough. But how true is this? Let’s find out. 

Why do pie crust recipes call for vinegar?

If you’ve ever looked up a pie crust recipe, you’ve probably come across vinegar as a key ingredient. Have you ever wondered why?

Here’s the most common answer: Vinegar keeps gluten from forming, which makes for a tough crust, or so people say. However, even if adding vinegar to your pie crust reduced gluten formation, the difference probably isn’t that noticeable.

So where did this theory come from? And what other benefits does vinegar offer in a pie crust recipe?

Vinegar is thought to make pie crust more tender

There’s a common belief that acidic environments can prevent the formation of gluten. And if there’s too much gluten, it can create a tough and leathery pie crust.

Therefore, adding an acidic ingredient, such as vinegar or lemon juice, is thought to keep the crust more tender. 

In reality, the opposite is more likely to be true. Adding a small amount of acid to pie crust can make it tougher, not more tender. 

To achieve a true tenderizing effect, you’d have to add a lot more acid, which can completely ruin your crust. For example, too much vinegar can make the crust too wet and more difficult to work with. It can also give the crust an unpleasant, sour taste. 

Vinegar might make it harder to overwork your dough

So, if vinegar isn’t useful for making a more tender crust, what else can it do? Why is it such a staple in pie crust recipes? Well, it turns out that vinegar can act as a safeguard for overworking your dough. 

As you’re probably already aware, overworking your dough can result in a tougher crust. But vinegar can help you achieve a super tender and flaky crust. That’s because the acidity helps minimize the risk of overworking the dough.

Vinegar prevents your dough from oxidizing 

Another benefit of using vinegar is that it keeps your dough from oxidizing. The oxidation process can cause the dough to turn gray and make it kind of slack and sloppy. 

As a result, the dough will likely be difficult to work with and unable to hold its shape when baking. The acid in the vinegar helps to prevent this oxidation process.

So, the question isn’t whether vinegar is a helpful ingredient to add to your pie crust recipe. The question is whether you really need it. 

The answer? No. You don’t have to add vinegar to your pie crust, especially since the main reason why people swear by it—to create a more tender crust—is likely to be a myth. In fact, there are other factors that are more important in achieving the perfect crust, such as having the right ratio of ingredients and using proper technique. 

Pie recipes you'll love

Great Grandma's apple pie

Peach rhubarb pie

Coconut cream pie

Unlock unlimited ad-free recipes

Enter your email to claim your free 3-month trial.

* indicates required
Get in touch