Depression Era Water Pie

Because resources were so scarce during the Great Depression, people found clever tricks to make a little seem like a lot. Some of those tricks bordered on magic, like in this Water Pie, where water is the main ingredient and yet somehow you end up with a pie that’s creamy and sweet and totally indulgent. It uses just a few pantry ingredients but still manages to feel like a special treat.

When you saw the name Water Pie, you might have thought that it was cooked in a water bath, or that water was somehow involved in the cooking method, but no, water really is the main ingredient. It gets poured into a pie crust…

… and then a mixture of flour, sugar, and salt gets sprinkled over the top. A little vanilla gets drizzled over that…

… but the final flourish is a few pats of butter, which gives the pie a straightforward sweet and buttery flavor.

Even though you don’t stir anything together, as it bakes the ingredients come together to form a filling that’s creamy and almost custardy in texture. When there wasn’t enough to go around, this pie surely made the hard days seem a little sweeter.

Depression Era Water Pie

1 hour 15 minutes to prepare serves 8


  • 1 deep dish 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons butter, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place pie crust on a baking sheet and pour the 1 1/2 cups water into the pie crust.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle evenly over water in the pie crust, but do not stir.
  4. Drizzle vanilla over the pie, then evenly place pats of butter over the top.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F and continue baking for 30 more minutes. Cover crust with foil if browning too quickly.
  6. Pie will be watery but will set up as it cools. Allow to cool to room temperature, then place in fridge to chill before slicing. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Southern Plate.

Whizzco for LPE