8 Types of Pies You Should Know

Including a pie chart that has nothing to do with math.

By Sacha Madadian | September 16, 2019

What’s the difference between a cream pie and custard pie? What makes a galette a galette? If you want to master pies of every kind, it’s important to be familiar with the different types. Choose your favorite category or try making pies from each group to make your pie recipe collection complete.

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Pie chart

From left: Sour Cherry-Hazelnut Pie (double-crust fruit pie), Chocolate Cream Pie (cream pie), and Lavender Creme Brulee Pie (custard pie).

1. Double-Crust Fruit Pie

These are the pies you bake after going to the orchard in the summer or fall. Buttery, flaky top and bottom crusts encase mounds of perfectly stewed fruit in these quintessential American pies. Because the top crust shields the filling, the juicy fruit usually requires a thickening agent such as ground tapioca or cornstarch to keep it from being too soupy. The most traditional crusts feature sliced vents for moisture to escape, although some fruit fillings, such as cherry and peach, require more evaporation and often sport lattice-woven crusts. You can brush the top crust with an egg wash and, if desired, sprinkle it with sugar. Fruit pies take a full 4 hours to set up, so don’t slice them too soon. If you want a warm slice of pie with ice cream, you can always heat up individual slices. 

2. Cream Pie

Cream pies are filled with pastry cream—a cool, creamy, billowy custard that’s cooked completely on the stove and then spread into a fully baked pie crust before the whole thing goes in the refrigerator to chill. These diner-style pies are frequently topped with whipped cream. 

3. Custard Pie

Custard pies feature an egg-thickened filling that’s a bit firmer than pastry cream. A mixture of eggs, dairy, and sugar bakes until set within a single crust. Once cooled, the custard is a creamy, lightly eggy filling that coheres with the crust. A custard pie is done when the center still wobbles gently (165 degrees is typically the sweet spot for doneness). Overcooked custard pies can have rubbery, grainy fillings. Sometimes we cook the custard in a saucepan before adding it to the pie to give it a head start; this ensures it bakes quickly so the edges of the custard don’t overcook before the center sets. The custard can be infused with just about any flavor you can dream up. 

From left: Chocolate Angel Pie (meringue pie), Plum and Raspberry Fruit Tart (tart), and Strawberry Galette with Candied Basil and Balsamic (galette).

4. Meringue Pie

These pies feature a lofty plume of whipped egg whites that adorns the filling like a fluffy, sweet cloud. The meringue, which we whip up in a stand mixer and then bake briefly on the pie to brown, usually tops a custard- or curd-filled pie (but we also whipped up elderflower-flavored meringue for a pie filled with Cape gooseberries in a recipe for The Perfect Pie). Whipping the meringue until it just reaches stiff peaks ensures it doesn’t weep, and anchoring the meringue to the edge of the crust keeps it from pulling away from the sides during broiling.

5. Tart

Tarts are an elegant subcategory of pie. The pastry, which is typically baked in a short-sided fluted pan, isn’t flaky like a pie crust; instead it’s sweet and has a closed crumb, reminiscent of shortbread. The filling for tarts is often creamy and rich and can be baked with the tart shell, like in a Lemon Tart; added after, as with a Fresh Fruit Tart; and sometimes topped with fruit, like in French Apple Tart. 

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6. Galette

This pastry is a tart (it’s open-faced), but it’s also kind of like a pie in that it has a flaky crust and usually features a fruit filling that cooks during baking. It’s made free-form (which is why we use the names free-form tart and galette interchangeably) on a baking sheet, so it’s simple to pull together. Since the center is open, the fruit in these tarts essentially roasts, and their juices usually tighten up without the help of an additional thickener. 

From left: Rum Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (chiffon pie) and Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Pie (ice cream pie).

7. Chiffon Pie

A chiffon pie has old-fashioned charm. Its filling feels much lighter than cream or custard pies—almost foamy— yet still satisfying. The mousse is supported by custard, meringue, or gelatin, or a combination. They’re icebox pies that feature no-bake fillings (for the most part) that set up in the refrigerator. 

8. Ice Cream Pie

This one is pretty self-explanatory—and pretty delicious. Ice cream (or sorbet or gelato) is softened, maybe combined with mix-ins, and spread into a prebaked cookie crust for a sundae in sliceable form. 

Like what you see? Get all of these recipes (and lots more) in The Perfect Pie.

What’s your favorite type of pie? Let us know in the comments!