From selecting the right crust to assembling a mouthwatering filling your family and friends won’t soon forget, here’s your overview of pot pie mastery. 

By Tiffany Stevens
May 23, 2020
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement

Unlike bunches of grapes, pot pie isn’t usually a culinary delight that we associate with Ancient Greeks and Romans. And yet, perhaps we should picture Caesar savoring a delicious pot pie dinner, because the dish does indeed date back to those olden times. Humans have decided to eat meats, vegetables and delicious sauces in pie form since we have known how to make pastry and pie tins, and our skills have inarguably improved with centuries of practice. 

Pot pies have remained popular, in part, because they are so versatile and easy to make. No matter what kind of dish you’re craving, you can likely find or create a pot pie variety. With our guide, you’ll find it even easier to put together a comforting pot pie, regardless of whether you’re revamping an old family recipe or wowing the table with something new. You’ll also find plenty of ideas for creative presentation styles, ensuring that this historic staple dish will never grow old. 

Photo: Greg Dupree; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey and Elise Mayfield; Prop Styling: Kay Clarke and Laura Evans

Step One: Choose Your Crust

The pot pie’s crust may technically be used to complete the dish, but it deserves your consideration from the start. Of course, you can simply buy pre-made pie crust (or even pizza dough); it makes for a fine pot pie. But there’s almost as many ways to top a pot pie as there are to fill one, so unorthodox toppers may merit some consideration. Southern cooks may prefer biscuits on top, for example; Parmesan, black pepper and other herbs can further complement those biscuits, as can making them out of different flours, like spelt. If you really like crust, then you can feel free to add a second one to fully encase the filling, as shown in the Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie listed above. Cornbread, mashed potatoes and grits can also make for great crusts, as can slices of French bread with Gruyere or garlic butter melted on top. If you prefer crispy dough, then a Phyllo-topped pie might be your best bet. 

When choosing your crust, be sure to consider whether you want your pot pie to simply have a crust on top, or if you want to do a double crust. Most pot pies with double crusts will need to be pre-baked for a few minutes before the filling is added. You can also cover the crust with aluminum foil until the last few minutes of baking, if over-browning is a concern. 

If you plan to make you pot pie in a traditional pie pan, using a deep-dish pie plate is ideal (to hold in all of that bubbly and delicious filling!). We love this one from Fiesta—and the fact that it comes in a variety of fun colors doesn't hurt either.

Photo: Alison Miksch; Food Styling: Mary Clair Britton and Kady Wohlfarth; Prop Styling: Prissy Lee

Step Two: Choose Your Protein

Now that you’ve selected your pie crust, it’s time to decide what type of protein or meat might go best in your dish. There’s always the classic choices of beef, chicken, turkey or pork, but if you’re a fan of seafood, it might be worth trying out a slightly unconventional protein, like oyster or lobster. Vegetarian and vegan pot pie fans might decide to use tofu or seitan, instead. Jackfruit can also be used as an alternative to shredded chicken. Of course, if you’d rather not include a protein, you can simply make a vegetable-based pot pie and skip the (substitute) meat altogether.

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Amy Stone

Step Three: Choose Your Other Fillings

With your protein selected (or not), you can now decide what other fillings you might like. The typical choices here are a mixture of root vegetables, like carrots, onions and potatoes, or maybe some hearty cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. Really, though, the choice of filling is only limited by your tastebuds. For example, if you’re fond of hard-boiled eggs, you can always chop some up and add them in. Apples might go well with a savory pot pie, too, as shown in our Turkey Onion and Apple Pot Pie. Feel free to experiment with seasonal vegetables and herbs to find the fillings that best satisfy your cravings.

Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Step Four: Choose Your Sauce

A pot pie’s sauce often defines its overall flavor profile, regardless of which fillings the pie contains. An alfredo chicken pot pie, for example, provides a far different experience than one made with thickened chicken gravy. When making your pie, feel free to play around with different sauces to find the best pot pie variations on your favorite recipes. Coconut milk, red curry paste and ginger can make for an incredible Thai-inspired pot pie, for example, whereas marinara sauce might make a good pizza pot pie base. Changing up a pot pie’s sauce can easily renew the dish, making it a fun format for favorite recipes and new experiments alike. 

Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Lydia Pursell; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Additional Pot Pie Styles

How to Dress Up Your Pot Pie Crust

There’s no shame in going with a plain pie crust for your pot pie, but if you have the time, you might as well have fun with your toppers. If you’ve never attempted a lattice crust before, a weeknight pot pie can be a good opportunity. You can also use cookie cutters to imprint a design on your dough, as shown in the boneyard chicken pot pie, or to cut out shapes to place on top. Spare bits of crust can also be used to decorate the top with various shapes, and fork tines are a classic way to impart a simple pattern onto your crust. Feel free to make your crust as plain or as elaborate as you’d like. 

How to Make Mini Pot Pies 

Besides being cute, mini pot pies are an easy way to serve out individual portions of pie (or to pack them away for later). For mini pot pies, you’ll either want small pie tins or oven-safe ramekins. Then, fill your containers as you would for a larger pie and bake according to your recipe’s instructions. The resulting pot pies will go over great at your next party, and will definitely be a hit with kids, who will delight in having their own personal pie to dig into.

How to Make Pot Pie in a Skillet

Get the Recipe: Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

If you don’t have time for an entire pot pie to bake in the oven (or if you want simpler clean-up) then you can shorten the process somewhat by skillet-cooking your filling and sauces. Then, top your skillet with pie crust or biscuits and put the pie in the oven. In a few minutes, the crust will be browned and you’ll have a one-pot pot pie that’s ready to serve.

How to Make Pot Pie Soup

Soup is often as comforting and delicious as pot pie, so why not combine the two? If you have a crockpot on hand, you can put in your normal pie fillings, plus a little extra broth or liquid. Cook some biscuits separately, and you’ll have the perfect topper for this hybrid dish.

How to Make Upside-Down Chicken Pot Pie

Get the Recipe: Upside-Down Chicken Pot Pie

Everyone knows that a pot pie’s crust goes on top—but does it have to? This recipe gives you the option to try a slightly different pot pie, one where the biscuits line the bottom, allowing it to soak up whichever delectable sauce you’ve chosen to complement your fillings. If you’re not feeling like fussing with a traditional crust, an upside-down pie is a great way to serve a stylish dinner without much effort.