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Old-Fashioned Vinegar Pies (for pennies!)

1-Vinegar Maple Pie

Guest post from Carissa of Pretty/Hungry

I’m not sure what it was about this recipe that grabbed me as I thumbed through the hundreds in my Grandma’s recipe book. Maybe it was the odd name, Vinegar Pie. (Who ever heard of such a thing?) Or maybe it was the first ingredient listed: a quart of water!

Could Grandma Montgomery be serious? How could this recipe produce an actual, edible pie? An edible puddle maybe… but surely not a pie.


So in the hopes of resolving some of my confusion, I did what any respectable child of the internet-age would do… I posted a pic of the recipe to my Instagram account and asked people to enlighten me! And I was astonished to learn that this recipe was, in fact, legitimate.

One friend even told me that she and her children had recently read in Little House in the Big Woods that Laura Ingalls’s “Ma” would make vinegar pies at Christmastime. They were a perfect dessert for poor farming families who didn’t have access to fancy ingredients like cream. Eggs, water, vinegar, and sugar were always on hand!

That solidified it for me. I love the Little House books, so I had to find out what this pie would taste like! Besides, what did I have to lose? A few eggs and a quart of water weren’t going to break the bank if the recipe failed.

So I tried out the recipe, and color me shocked when this humble method turned out one of the creamiest, most luscious custard pies I’d ever tried! In my opinion, it rivals any custard or cream pie I’ve tasted. And the maple flavoring makes it especially cozy for wintertime.

Vinegar Pie is a dessert every money-saving mom should know about. You can make it when the cupboards are nearly bare!

Here is a recipe with a little more explanation than dear Grandma Montgomery gave me in the little slip of paper above. I hope you enjoy making it and feeling like “Ma” Ingalls, one of our country’s earliest money-saving moms!

Vinegar Maple Pie

Do you make any old-fashioned, penny-pinching desserts?

Carissa is a wife and mother of a sweet 1-year old girl. She loves the Lord, her family, and cooking! In recent years her family has made drastic cuts to their budget in order to start saving to build a home. Carissa blogs at Pretty/Hungry about all her kitchen creations!

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  • Kemi Quinn says:

    I always wanted to know what a vinegar pie looked like. I see these recipes all the time in my vintage cookbooks. Thank you for the visual.

  • vi says:

    Also, perfect for those allergic to dairy! Thanks for sharing!

  • Nisha says:

    Love the nostalgia! Never heard of vinegar pie, I will definitely have to give this a try. Thanks!

  • Elaine L says:

    I swear my mom used to make one that was similiar to a pecan pie, without the nuts. Gonna have to look for it now.

  • Andrea says:

    Historically speaking, vinegar pies were made in the days when citrus was a true luxury. It tastes similar to a lemon meringue pie, in my opinion. 🙂

    Awesome post!

  • Tara H says:

    I think I’ll have to try this. I’ve never heard of it. I won’t be able to tell my husband what it’s called or he won’t try it! 😉

    • andi says:

      =) I tend to not tell my husband all the ingredients also. he and my son liked the black bean brownies until they found out they had black beans in them now they don’t trust me lol!

  • My daughters and I have been watching season one of Little House on the Prairie and plan to start going through the book series this winter – this looks like a perfect pie to make to go with it. Thank you! This was a cute article 🙂

  • Dana Carroll says:

    Could this be made with apple cider vinegar?

  • Bettina Lowry says:

    I am definitely going to try this pie!! I am known for making unusual recipes and this really fits the bill!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Shari McCorison says:

    Try substituting the whole eggs with the yolks from 3-4 eggs and save the whites and make a meringue topping (Beat whites til stiff and slowly add white sugar until whites stay peaked. Spread on top of pie and cook in a hot oven 425 degrees for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.)

  • Meredith says:

    I have never heard of this and would love to try it. However, I may need to come up with more of a cleaver name because if I make a “vinegar pie,” there is no way the hubs or daughter will try it!

  • Jessica says:

    This is such an interesting recipe and the pie turned out beautiful. I will have to give it a try. Thank you!

  • Carol O. says:

    Cinnamon rolls are a SUPER easy and relatively cheap dessert that are ALWAYS appreciated. You only need homemade dough, brown sugar, raisins and melted butter, although other ingredients can be added. Prepare your round pan (layer cake size, 8 or 9 inch) by melting a stick of butter in the pan in your preheating oven. You will use this butter to rub on your rolled out dough.

    You need a nice fluffy yeast roll dough recipe. Any recipe for roll dough can be used if it is light and fluffy, prepare dough according to your usual process and after 1st rise do the following. You roll out a rectangle to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Rub melted butter across the surface, leaving about 1/2 inch of space around the edges. Sprinkle brown sugar and raisins onto the melted butter. Roll the dough across the shorter width, sealing the overlapping edge (no butter on it) to the outside of the roll. Now you have a long roll, layered dough with brown sugar and raisins in it. Use a piece of floss or thread, wrap it around the first 1.5 inch of the log, cross it, and pull firmly. This will cut your rolls perfectly without crushing them.

    Now that you have some butter left in the bottom of the pan, it is very important to add some more brown sugar to the melted butter. Next, put the roll ends with the cut side up. Then put the rest of the cut rolls into the pan, leaving a scant amount of room between. They will rise more and fill pan and cook against each other.

    Bake in oven according to directions for regular rolls, adding some time for the filling. (Sorry, it depends on dough and filling and oven as to how much extra time you will need). Once they are beginning to brown nicely, they SHOULD be done. You MUST let them cool on a rack for a while before taking them out so that the caramelized sugar in the bottom has time to set up and cool a bit. Turn the whole pan over onto parchment or waxed paper. YUM! They will pull apart nicely and you do NOT need a glaze or anything because the butter and brown sugar in the bottom glazes them beautifully.

    My grandmother has been making these for 60 years and they are family favorites. Enjoy!

  • Lana says:

    My grandmother dressed her coleslaw with something she called milk dressing. I believe it contained milk, sugar and vinegar with salt and pepper. Mayo was a luxury that she could never have afforded. I will have to ask my Mom for the recipe as I remember her making it when I was a child. I remember her making vinegar pies, too.

    • Kate says:

      My coleslaw dressing contains all those ingredients, but I do add mayo and a bit of mustard, too. This is also great on just lettuce when all you have left is lettuce but nothing else to make a salad. 🙂

  • Susan says:

    There is a Little House cookbook that has a lot of the recipes Ma, Laura, Mary, Carrie, and Grace made in the books — lots of fun! And the one I remember most is when Ma made green tomato pie and everyone thought it was apple pie — but there were no apples available! Talk about using what you have!

  • anne says:

    Vinegar pies are good !!! we love them – my husband and I. Gotta try one .. tart but sweet also.

  • Rachel says:

    Love it! I had heard of vinegar pie before, but never made one. Anything from the Little House series really appeals to me and you’re right, Ma Ingalls is a great example of a “money saving mom.” Really nice article on this.

  • Jiya says:

    Thanks for posting this — I’m reading Little House in the Big Woods to my kids and just last night we read the part about Ma making a vinegar pie for Christmas.

  • Merideth says:

    It’s not exactly a cheap dessert, but ricotta pie is one pf my favorites and on holidays (if we have money for it) syllabub is an extra special treat. I have an addiction to vintage cookbooks and an obsession with food history. I’ve never actually seen a vinegar pie, but it has been on my baking bucket list for ages now. Thanks for sharing!

  • Diane L. says:

    My mom made a pie similar to this recipe when I was growing up. Sometimes I would ask her to make this instead of a cake for my birthday because it was so delicious!

  • shannon says:

    Love this post! It made me smile. Fortunately, I can afford to make pies without water and vinegar, LOL, but what a great change and an opportunity to be thankful that we do have access to these ingredients year round. I would love to try this recipe!

  • Lesley says:

    This sounds delicious. I’ll have to try it out. Love making experiments in the kitchen. You’ll never know if you like it unless you try it, right? Have you ever made mock apple pie with Ritz crackers? I saw the recipe on the back of a box of crackers when I was little and couldn’t believe it would really taste like apples. I made it a few years ago as an April fools joke for my daughters. It really tasted like apples!

  • Angela Tilley says:

    I love seeing the old recipes. It hit me tonight looking at your recipe, since cursive is barely taught in schools, beautiful recipes written in cursive could soon be a thing of the past. Just another reason to treasure those that we find!

  • Jessi Grace says:

    I love vinegar pie! I had no idea that it was a rarity. I have even seen it in restaurants before. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

  • I love this! I just pinned it. I love thinking of the Little House crew making this! We are GF, but I think I could easily make it GF with some GF flour and a GF pie crust! Thanks for sharing!

  • Beth says:

    Homemade cream puffs are another frugal dessert…no expensive ingredients and you can fill them with whatever you have on hand (pudding, ice cream, fruit and cool whip, etc.). They look fancy and impressive, but actually they are easy to make.

    • Beth A says:

      I used to make homemade cream puffs when I lived in a dorm with what ingredients (& utensils) I could scare up. You’re right, easy, inexpensive and so yummy. Thanks for the memory!

  • Diane says:

    I helped my mother make this back in high school for my father. His hobby was Civil War Re-enacting and he was always wanting us to cook and taste old foods such as this. I will say it did taste quite similar to lemon pie the way we made it without any maple flavoring. However, if you were around during the cooking process it took some resolve to bring yourself to taste it as it smelled just like you were cooking mayonnaise not a lemon pie. We tricked some of our friends with it but after helping cook it we never could bring ourselves to completely get over the mayonnaise smell.

  • Whitney says:

    Is there a reason the egg mixture isn’t tempered with the boiling water before adding? That would remove the step of sieving the mixture, as tempering would negate the possibility of bits of hard cooked egg ending up in the final product.

  • angie says:

    I can remember my mother in law making this and she also made the chess pie that we all so love

  • doreen says:

    this is no surprise to me i use to make this in fact i sold them last year at my maple festival also you can put lemon extract in it and merigine on top taste like lemon merigune pie

  • Beth A says:

    I make my banana bread from an old recipe that can’t cost much more per serving than that. Over-ripe bananas, ~ a stick of butter, a couple eggs, sugar, flour, a little buttermilk and a couple of tsps. of leavening. I even mix it up in a blender, and it makes 2 loaves of the yummiest, moistest banana bread you ever tasted. Good for breakfast, a snack, dessert, something to share with a neighbor – pretty much whatever you need.

  • Kristia says:

    What a sweet story! I’ve never heard of vinegar pie, but our grandparents can teach us so much about frugal and simple recipes.

  • Steph says:

    I found a recipe for vinegar cookies in my Fannie Farmer cookbook. They were good. Never heard of vinegar pie but it sounds really good!

  • Heather T. says:

    I also have a Grandma Montgomery not sure if she has this recipe but her red velvet and scalloped corn are yummo.

  • Diana loves Ron says:

    I made this today…Ill let you know how it tastes.

  • emily says:

    this recipe looks interesting! what kind of vinegar do you use for it?

  • Valerie M. says:

    I wonder what this would taste like with a graham cracker crust? Hmmmm… lol

  • Mary says:

    I noticed you listed several different extracts that could be used. What about peppermint? I ask just because I have it on hand and thought it would be a nice, winter dessert. I’ve never tried the pie so I don’t know what extracts go (or don’t go) with it!

  • Janet says:

    Do you let the pie cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge?

    • Valerie M. says:

      I am. Mainly because I don’t want the heat from the pies to warm up the inside of the fridge, and make it work so hard to stay at temp. 🙂

  • Bobbi says:

    I have real maple syrup. Can I use that instead of maple extract?

  • Melissa says:

    My dad often talked about old-fashioned recipes he was raised eating. Vinegar pie was one of them. I also heard him mention eating sugar pie too. Another recipe I’ve made that he used to eat was vinegar taffy. I don’t have his original recipe, but I remember it being like this one:

    It’s amazing how innovative people can be who make the best out of tough times. My dad was raised around the depression era and his mother was a master of frugality from all I can tell. I wish I had a chance a to meet her.

  • Amanda says:

    I have never heard of this! Sounds like something I have to try!

    I recently started making my own vinegar, and was thinking that it might be fun to try it with a homemade fruit vinegar and vanilla extract! Thank you for giving me something to test!

  • Kelsey says:

    Can this be made with brown sugar instead of white? I don’t have white sugar…

  • Melinda says:

    The cheapest old fashioned dessert that I know of is Potato candy – a potato, confectioners sugar and peanut butter. It’s delicious! The potato part with the confectioners sugar ends up like taffy and you roll it flat, spread the peanut butter on it and then roll it up and slice – My grandmother used to make it for us. Tons of recipes on the internet and so, so easy!

    As for the milk dressing an earlier poster mentioned – my mom made a dressing with mayo, milk and sugar and put over a tossed green salad that was just lettuce and sliced bananas. It was so good!

  • Linda B. says:

    Vinegar pies are delicious! I have my grandmother’s recipe too only with a slight change…hers calls for a “lump of butter”, hence the name change to Vinegar Butter Pie. This is my son’s favorite pie.

  • Tonya says:

    I have enjoyed reading all these comments. I love vinegar as it has so many uses but I never heard of vinegar pie. Gonna have to try it…Thanks!!!

  • kristin says:

    My daughter has an egg allergy… Anyone have an idea for a substitute? Maybe making powder? We can’t use an egg replacement because those have traces of egg…

  • Valerie M. says:

    Oh, my!! Made this today, and it is DELICIOUS!! I didn’t use the maple extract or cinnamon, but rather lemon extract. It’s creamy, and not quite as tart as lemon meringue pie… but for me, that’s a bonus! Someone mentioned tempering the egg with boiling water – but frankly, didn’t want to take that extra step. I just followed the recipe and poured the filling through a sieve into the pie crusts. It really took no extra effort or time at all. 🙂

  • Megan S says:

    I am so happy to find this as we are on our 7th Little House book in the series and the 2nd book in the other Little House books written. I was so wondering what a vinegar pie was! My kids and I kind of turned our noses up and thought it didn’t sound good ourselves but we figured it was due to the fact they didn’t have other ingredients to use. In one of the books they made a pie out of green pumpkins (their garden had frozen early) which we also found less than appealing so if you find that recipe in your stash pass it on too! 😉

  • Tirzah says:

    On a whim I tried this pie. I used white vinegar and vanilla extract. It has a very strong vinegar and cinnamon taste. We do not like it at all. Hope others have better luck. I thibk this pie won’t be on a menu again.

    • Jessica says:

      White vinegar is not for eating, that is why it was gross. If you try again, try using a culinary vinegar (wine vinegar or Apple cider vinegar) rather than a cleaning vinegar.

      • Harley R. says:

        White vinegar is actually for eating! It’s used heavily in Filipino and other Asian dishes. I think it’s just a stronger vinegar and if you aren’t use to that taste it will just overwhelm your tastebuds. I use it in any dish that requires vinegar but doesn’t specify a certain kind of vinegar.

  • ashley says:

    I made this pie last night. I put it in the fridge around 11 pm and checked on it at 6:30am. Is it suppose to be giggly when its done?

  • Made this tonight. The initial taste (licked the spoon after filling the crust) was good.

    It only filled one pie crust though. Did I do something wrong?

  • Amy says:

    Just made this today for the family. I called it a “custard pie” because I knew they’d never go for vinegar pie!! Everyone loved it. I used white vinegar as well with vanilla extract. It was yummy. I think it took me 20 minutes start to finish.

  • Katherine says:

    So… I can’t get my pie to “set.” I followed the recipe exactly, even left it overnight. When I checked the pie this morning, it was still a liquid. Other recipes call for baking the pie 15-20 minutes. Tried that, too… Still liquid-y. Huh :/

    • Laura says:

      I thought it was hard to know when it was sticking thickly to the back f a spoon. I bet you didn’t cook it quite long enough.

    • Jackie Shadd says:

      Do not throw it away thats the best way to get it. Take white bread and pour it over layer after layer i would kill for it lol

  • Amanda says:

    Made this. I loved the consistency, but the flavor was much less than desirable. I sadly wasted a great pie crust. Maybe I could sprinkle some powdered sugar on top?

    • Judy R says:

      Try adding a half teaspoon of salt. Never make a recipe that doesn’t call for salt. Even desserts need salt.

  • margaret says:

    just created 2 pies from this . results are wonderful


  • James says:

    Don’t need the boiling water and i use 6 or 7 table spoons of dark vinegar.

  • nat.coco says:

    Came out fantastic!
    I prefer your no-bake version to all others I’ve tried. Thanks so much for the recipe, this was a real gem! (I called it “Vinny pie” when I served it haha.)

  • Eve says:

    I had never heard of a “vinegar pie” (sounds very questionable!!) . We went to a new restaurant here yesterday and (bravely) tried their Honey Vinegar Pie… O M G was it delicious! Tasted like creme brûlée on a homemade flaky pie crust! (They served theirs with a homemade vanilla bean whip cream-so good!!!) Had to get on Pinterest and see what I could find! Thank you for sharing! Plan to experiment now as soon as possible! =) Blessings!

  • Lauar says:

    I tried this recipe with lemon flavoring and it was very close to tasting like the bottom of a lemon meringue pie. I did use the 3 cups of water and ended up cooking it for about 8-10 minutes. I also tried it using vanilla flavoring, but liked the lemon better. The vinegar is barely noticeable. It isn’t a pie I would make for the enjoyment of eating, but was a nice experiment and it is kind of nice to understand what people ate years ago.

  • Lubica says:

    Can I ask you , have to prepare ” two pie dishes with a single crust pastry ” ?

    probably it s something everybody knows , but Im from Slovakia and want to try this recipy

    • mary billman says:

      bake 2 separate pie crust shells. this recipe makes 2 pies.
      there are 2 kinds of pies, one type has a pie crust that is filled with a fruit filling and another crust is put on the top of the fruit filling and baked. then the other kind of pie just has a crust on the bottom and filled with a pie filling. In this case, the above vinegar pie recipe. I hope this helps.

  • Kathy Grassley says:

    I would always use apple cider vinegar for anything like this. A note about curdling eggs….if you temper them before adding to the boiling liquid, they won’t curdle. Simply put a tablespoon or two of the hot liquid into the egg mixture before adding to the water will keep it from curdling. I usually will add up to 1/4 cup a tablespoon at a time.
    Try it and see if that doesn’t help.

  • Cheryl Gibbs says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I’m going to try it.

  • Kristian says:

    What kind of vinegar? White, Apple cider, or either one?

  • Jenn says:

    Wacky cake! Made during Great Depression. No eggs, butter, or milk! It was a family favorite passed down

    • Jordan says:

      It’s so cool to see what different families have called old staples like these and what unique twists they’ve put on them! -Jordan, MSM Team

  • Juju says:

    My mother made vinegar “pies” in the form of a cobbler. Yummmm!

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