Should You Cook Pie Filling Before Baking?

Kitchen Knowledge Lifestyle | Published November 5, 2022 by Mimi Council

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Pie season is here! And as you sift through recipes to make, you may be wondering why some recipes call for the pie filling to be cooked and some do not. So, should you cook pie filling before baking? I'm explaining it all, so read on!

If you want to level up your pie baking, check out some of my other posts like my All Butter Pie Crust, How to Roll Out a Pie, or my Tips for Golden Brown Pie Crust.

apple berry pie

With pie season here, you may be looking at a slew of different pie recipes! And you may see some that tell you to cook your pie filling before baking it, and some that tell you to just mix it up and add it in raw. So that may be confusing! And it may just leave you guessing, does pie filling need to be cooked?

Do you need to cook pie filling? What is right or wrong? Why are some people cooking pie filling beforehand and some aren’t? But more importantly, why would you do more work for a recipe if you don’t really need to? So, should you cook pie filling before baking? We are going to dive into that today! So, if you want to know, does pie filling need to be cooked, and why or why not, then you’re in the right place.

I even have pie recipes on my site where some call to cook the filling, and some call to just dump it in raw! So, what’s the difference? For this article we will assume we’re talking about fruit pies, as that is the main type of pie where some filling is cooked, and some isn’t. So, for the purposes of this article, I’m only talking about fruit pies.

orange blossom honey apple pie

Does pie filling need to be cooked?

The short answer is no, for the most part pie filling does not need to be cooked before baking. Pies bake for a while, usually an hour or more. And that is plenty of time to cook fruit enough to be eaten, and to melt and cook the sugar into a sweet fruit filling.

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Should you cook pie filling before baking?

So, if pie filling doesn’t need to be cooked, then why do recipes call for it to be cooked? And should you cook pie filling before baking? You may be wondering this, as why the hell would anyone create more work for themselves in the kitchen if they didn’t have to? And I feel you there.

While most fruit pie fillings do not need to be cooked for the fruit, they can be cooked to cook down and reduce sugar, so it doesn’t just run out of the pie! This is the difference!

While fruit pie fillings can cook in the amount of time that the pie crust bakes, a fruit filling is full of fresh fruit! And fruit is made up of mostly water and sugar. Have you ever cut into a pie and had the fruit juice just pour out if it? Or maybe it bursted through the vent in the oven and leaked into the bottom of the pie crust, on your pie dish, or even worse – on the bottom of your oven! This is also why you should always put your pie pan on a baking sheet, just in case!

This is a pie disaster! So, putting raw fruit filling with sugar inside a pie has to be done with care. And there’s a couple ingredients that will help with this. The two main ingredients used inside pie filling besides fruit and sugar are flour and cornstarch. Both flour and cornstarch are thickening ingredients. So, when that fresh fruit pie bakes in the oven, the fruits explode and give off water and juices, and the sugar melts into a liquid. So the flour and cornstarch take those liquids and solidify them into a thicker fruit paste that won’t ruin your pie crust, pie dish, or oven!

Those fruit juices become a sticky fruit syrup inside the oven as your pie bakes, as long as the pie filling has a thickening agent (flour and cornstarch) and the right amounts! And some pies need more thickening agents if they are very juicy. This may depend on the type of fruit as strawberries are way juicier than apples. It also can depend on the amount of sugar in a recipe.

caramel apple pie

When do you need to cook pie filling before baking?

So, if a pie filling has a low sugar fruit like apples and it also has a thickening agent like cornstarch and flour, it usually doesn’t have to be cooked ahead of time as it will cook and solidify in the oven as the pie bakes. This is why I use both flour and cornstarch in my pie filling recipes. Using both of these ingredients allows me to use less flour, so it doesn’t compromise the taste of the filling. As too much flour in your pie filling will eventually taste of flour and not sweet apples.

But what about fruits with high sugar?

Say you have a ton of fresh strawberries and they’re really juicy and sweet. You may not be able to add enough cornstarch or flour to solidify them in the oven without having the filling taste of flour. So, that filling may call for you to cook the filling before filling the pie.

When you cook pie filling, the sugar melts in a pot and the fruit also bursts in that pot, so the juices evaporate in that pot as well. And the filling reduces, similar to the process of making preserves or jam. This cooks the filling ahead of time and prevents the juices from ruining your pie, such as giving it a soggy crust. Or worse, busting out through the vent and staining the top of your gorgeous pie, or baking onto the pie dish (which is impossible to get off). And it prevents these juices from dripping into your oven!

honey lemon apple pie

But you may be saying, but Mimi I’ve made your Honey Lemon Apple Pie before and there’s both cornstarch and flour, and it is an apple pie, and I have to cook it! Why? In that recipe I use lemon juice for flavor. That lemon juice needs to be reduced, as it’s too much liquid to add into a pie. So, I cook that pie filling to reduce the lemon juice for flavor in the filling.

You may see this in other recipes, depending on the ingredients in the filling. If there’s fruit juice or something else for flavor, it may call to cook it to reduce it down.

So, that’s the difference in cooking your pie filling or not cooking it! What it all comes down to are the ingredients in your filling. So, if you are feeling lazy and don’t want the extra step of cooking your pie filling before baking it, then find a recipe that allows the raw filling to be added in.

Try my Orange Honey Blossom Apple Pie, Vanilla Bean Apple Pie, Caramel Apple Pie, Apple Berry Pie, or Dutch Apple Pie. None of these pie recipes require you to cook the filling. Happy pie baking!

vanilla bean apple pie

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