Sweet & Savory Vegan Comfort Food

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Gluten-Free Crusts And Vegan Fillings

Given the number of requests I’ve gotten for gluten-free and vegan crusts, a lot of folks miss pie crust when they eliminate wheat and butter. Fortunately, there are many ways to create comfortingly delicious pies, both sweet and savory, while keeping the ingredients vegan. One fellow asked me about potato pie crusts, saying he’d tried one and it was horrible. The version he used involved grated potatoes, onions, and eggs, resulting in a gluey mess.

Here are a couple of potato skin crusts that are definitely more crisp than gloopy, neither involving eggs.

A Crispy Potato Peel Crust

Crisp on the bottom and gently puffed on top, this simple crust can be filled with anything savory. Try a toothsome blend of mashed potatoes, turnips, and carrots with green onions, or layer in fresh tomatoes and thinly sliced red onions, or sauteed mushrooms, onions, and zucchini… so many options!

Crispy Potato Peel Crust

1 tablespoon safflower or olive oil
1 teaspoon stemmed rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 medium organic baking potatoes (or any kind you like)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine oil with rosemary, salt, and pepper, set aside. Peel potatoes with a vegetable peeler. Lightly oil a pie dish, then gently rub oil over potato peels and press them thickly into the dish, covering the bottom and sides completely. Bake at 400 F until crisp and browned (20-25 minutes).

A Softer Potato Peel Crust

1 pound organic fingerling potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

With a paring knife, trim tops and bottoms off potatoes then cut off thick peels (you end up with rectangular potatoes). Pour oil into a pie dish and add the peels as you cut them. Toss with the oil to coat well and press them to cover the bottom and sides of the pan thickly, pressing a bit as needed. Bake at 400 F until crisp and browned (20-25 minutes). Meanwhile, cook peeled potatoes in water to cover with salt and garlic, then mash to desired consistency using cooking water. Pile into baked crust or use in potato pancakes or try this….

Vegan Potato Mushroom Pie

1 potato crust (see above)
4 peeled potatoes (from crispy crust above), chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cups sliced Crimini or any mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Boil chopped potatoes in water to cover with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic until tender and drain, reserving liquid (you can do this while the crust bakes). Mash potatoes, using cooking liquid to thin to desired consistency. In a wide, shallow pan, heat oil, remaining garlic, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt over medium high heat until soft (6-8 minutes). Add mushrooms, sprinkle with remaining salt, cover pan, reduce heat to low and cook until limp (8-10 minutes). Stir into mashed potatoes, then spoon mixture into the baked pie crust (it’s ok it it’s still hot), sprinkle with paprika and bake at 400 degrees F until lightly browned (10-15 minutes. Serves 6.

Sweeter Crusts To Try

For dessert pies and tarts, I often use a nut-based crust like this one, which can be modified in several ways. If you don’t like coconut oil, use safflower or walnut oil. For a sweeter crust, add some maple syrup or coconut sugar. Just be very careful if you try this with peanuts; it’s all too easy to make peanut butter!

Basic Nut Crust

1-1/2 cups almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, grind nuts to a coarse meal (not all the way to butter). Add salt and coconut oil and process for a few seconds to blend. Pat into a pie dish, covering bottom and sides evenly, and bake at 350 F until lightly browned (20-25 minutes). Let cool/set up for 15 minutes before filling.

A Dream Come True

This amazing pudding or pie filling tastes totally indulgent but is entirely vegan, and takes less than five minutes to make. Adjust cocoa powder, vanilla, salt and maple syrup to taste  to make it truly your dream pie!

Vegan Chocolate Dream Pie

1 package (14-16 ounces) organic extra firm tofu
1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2-4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 nut crust (see above)

In a food processor, puree tofu with cocoa powder, vanilla, sea salt, and maple syrup to taste. Pour into a cooled crust and chill for at least an hour before serving. Mixture will set up as it chills. Most people can’t tell that this is not a full-fat dairy pudding!

Sweet Potato Pie With A Self-Crust

To make a crisp, vegan, gluten-and-nut free crust for a sweet potato pie, try this:

2 large organic sweet potatoes, well scrubbed
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coarsely grate sweet potato peel, then rub a little coconut oil into a pie dish, then gently rub oil over sweet potato peels and press them into the dish to cover the bottom and sides completely and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400 F until crisp and browned (20-25 minutes).

Sweet Potato Pie Filling

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled (from crust above)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 organic orange, juiced, rind grated
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 sweet potato pie crust (see above)
1/2 cup coarse unsweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Chop sweet potato and simmer in water to cover until tender (10-15 minutes. Drain and mash while still hot with coconut oil, ginger, coriander, and vanilla. Heap into a cooked crust, sprinkle with coconut flakes and bake at 350 F until coconut is browned (8-10 minutes). Serve warm or cold. Serves 6-8.

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