15 Dreamy, Decadent Cream Pies
From Key lime pie to lemon meringue, and ice cream pie to banana cream, our best cream pie recipes satisfy down to the last crumb
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Above: Key Lime Pie; recipe and photograph by Ashley Strickland Freeman
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I love pie. I’d choose a slice over cake any day, especially cool and creamy pies like chocolate cream pie, lemon meringue pie, vanilla custard pie…you name it, and I’m a fan. It’s been especially hot this summer in Charleston, where I live. And while I do enjoy summer fruit pies served warm with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream, lately I’ve been craving cold, homemade cream pies.
So what are cream pies, and what makes cream pies different from other pies? Typically, they have a traditional flaky pie crust or cookie crumb crust. Fillings run the gamut from cold pudding topped with mountains of sweetened whipped cream or meringue, to fluffy mousse or chiffon styles, to no-bake ice cream pies.
But whatever the style, cream pies are all served chilled or straight from the freezer, so they’re the perfect dessert to enjoy on a hot day. They’re also the ultimate make-ahead summer dessert, because they need a few hours to set up.
Making cream pie recipes from scratch doesn’t have to mean a lot of effort, especially with some styles I’m going to share, though you’ll need a little patience while they chill. Let’s dive in with a few tips for success and some easy cream pie recipes.
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Tips and tricks for making cream pies
Are you new to making cream pies, or do you just want to improve your cream pie-making skills? Follow these hints and you’ll be a pro in no time.
1. Start with a sturdy pie crust
One of the keys to a cream pie that won’t ooze when you cut it is a solid crust. I prefer a cookie crumb crust base, like one made with graham crackers or vanilla or chocolate wafers. If you want to go the no-bake route, you can mix crushed cookies with melted butter, press the crust into a pie dish, and refrigerate until firm. But for the ultimate crisp pie crust, I take it one step further and blend in a little sugar and melted butter with the cookie crumbs. After I pop the crust into the oven, the mixture “melts” together to create a sturdy base that holds up to any filling.
2. Cool the crust before filling
After baking the pie crust, be sure to cool it to room temperature before filling. This is crucial, especially for custard pies with egg bases (no room for scrambled eggs here!) and ice cream pies. As you can imagine, if you add ice cream to a hot pie crust, you’ll end up with a melty mess.
3. Use two thickeners for a custard filling
When making a custard or pudding filling, I like to use both cornstarch and egg yolks to thicken the mixture. This ensures the filling will set and hold its shape once I slice the pie. And, a little food science lesson here — the cornstarch helps slow protein coagulation. In other words, the cornstarch helps prevent the eggs from curdling when heated.
4. Plan ahead
Once you’ve filled your pie, you need to refrigerate (or freeze) the pie to let it set up. As a general rule, you need 4 hours minimum, but I like to go overnight if I’ve planned ahead. For summertime get-togethers and potlucks, cream pies are super for entertaining since they’re made in advance.
5. Use stabilized whipped cream or whipped topping
Speaking of making ahead, I like to have my whole cream pie ready to go, so when topping with whipped cream, I’ll often use a stabilized whipped cream or thawed whipped topping instead of plain sweetened whipped cream with vanilla extract. For traditional whipped cream, this means adding a little Whip It to the cream to help it stay fluffy and not weep.
Cream pie Q&A
Making cream pie recipes from scratch doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are some questions I often get about homemade cream pies.
1. How to make cream pies that are easy?
The great thing about homemade cream pies is that there are so many types. If you’re looking for easy cream pie recipes, I’d opt for a cookie crumb crust made from vanilla or chocolate wafer cookies (like Famous brand), graham crackers, or even a pretzel crust. Mix the crushed cookies with melted butter and granulated or brown sugar. For the easiest cream pie of all, fill the pie crust with ice cream.
2. How to make cream pies silky instead of lumpy?
The key to a lump-free custard filling is to cook it over low heat and whisk constantly. I also use a combination of cornstarch and egg yolks to help prevent curdling. If you do see a few lumps in your custard filling, you can always pass it through a fine sieve to remove them.
3. How to store cream pie if you want to make it ahead?
To make a homemade cream pie ahead of time, fill the pie crust with the custard and be sure to place plastic wrap directly over the surface so a skin doesn’t form. Refrigerate it for 1 or 2 days, remove the plastic wrap, and top with whipped cream.
4. How long do cream pies last?
Generally, cream pies have a short shelf life. In the refrigerator, they’ll last 1 or 2 days. (Crumb crusts, in particular, start to get soggy after that time.) In the freezer, ice cream pies last 1 to 2 weeks.
5. Can you freeze cream pies?
Yes! For the best results, I like to freeze the pie crust and custard pie filling separately. (I don’t recommend freezing already assembled pies, except for ice cream pies — the liquid from the filling will make the crust soggy.) Wrap the pie crust in aluminum foil and then place it in a large zip-top bag. Spoon the cooled filling into its own zip-top plastic bag and be sure to remove all the air. When you’re ready to serve, just thaw both, fill, and top as you like.
3 easy cream pies for beginners
Now that you have some homemade cream pie tricks up your sleeve, you’re ready for a few recipes that I created just for Yummly. All of the pies feature a cookie crust base, so they’re super easy to make.
Chocolate cream pie recipe
Photo by Ashley Strickland Freeman
Silky chocolate cream pie has always been a favorite in our family. A homemade chocolate pudding filling and mound of fluffy whipped cream top a dark chocolate cookie crust. What’s not to love?
For my crust, I like to use chocolate wafer cookies (my grocery store sells these at the end cap of the ice cream aisle).
I combine the crushed cookies, melted butter, and a little sugar and then press the mixture into a pie plate using the bottom and sides of a dry measuring cup.
Into the oven the crust goes, where the sugar and butter “glue” to the cookie crumbs. The result is the ultimate crispy cookie crust. In case you pull the pie crust from the oven and discover that some of the crumbs have slid a bit, simply press the dry measuring cup into the hot crust to reposition it up the sides. As the crust cools, it’ll stay put.
After the pie crust has cooled to room temperature, I fill it with homemade chocolate pudding and then let it chill in the fridge until set. Then I top it with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls. To make the chocolate curls, I zap a bar of semisweet baking chocolate in the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds. Then I pull a vegetable peeler across the bar.
Banana cream pie recipe
Photo by Ashley Strickland Freeman
Next up on my best cream pies tour is a classic: banana cream pie. As a nod to banana pudding, crushed vanilla wafers make up the cookie pie crust for this easy cream pie. Combined with sliced fresh bananas, a homemade vanilla custard, and fluffy whipped cream, it’s sure to be a hit.
The key to infusing the banana flavor into the pudding is pouring the hot vanilla custard over the sliced bananas. As the custard cools, it soaks up the banana goodness and creates that iconic banana pudding flavor everyone loves.
In addition to sliced bananas on the bottom of this cream pie, I’m all for going big or going home, so I add bananas on top — they’re pretty and give an extra punch of banana-y flavor. Just remember to wait to add the bananas until right before you’re ready to serve so they won’t turn brown.
Key lime pie recipe
Last but certainly not least is my favorite cream pie of all time: Key lime. We used to live in South Florida and occasionally had the opportunity to travel down to the Keys. On the way (and sometimes on the way home, too) we would always stop and pick up a Key lime pie.
My version of the classic pie has a traditional graham cracker crust and a secret ingredient in the filling, sour cream, which makes it super creamy.
I’m able to find Key limes (also known as Mexican limes) at my grocery store here in Charleston, but if you can’t find them you can use the more common Persian limes instead.
Since there’s ample filling for this easy cream pie, I like to use a deep-dish pie plate and am sure to create a lip in the crust with my dry measuring cup method to ensure the filling stays where it’s supposed to.
No-bake and ice cream pies
These next three pies from the Yummly recipe community are the easiest cream pies of all!
Oatmeal cream pie cookies are a favorite treat of mine, so this homemade cream pie tops my cravings list. Crushed oatmeal cookies make up the crust and a no-churn ice creammade with cream cheese, whipped cream, brown sugar, and chopped up oatmeal cream pies creates the filling. All I can say is yummola!
This pie screams summer and is the perfect way to highlight sweet blueberries. Instead of creating a cookie crust, you’ll make a crushed almond crust for this ice cream pie. Then you’ll layer vanilla ice cream with a homemade blueberry sauce. It’s exactly what you’d want on a hot day.
I am a sucker for all things Oreo, so I was immediately drawn to this ice box cream pie recipe. Oreo cookies (or biscuits, as they’re referred to in this Aussie author’s post) are used in the crust and are also layered within the filling for a showstopping wedge of pie.
Why wait until turkey day when you're craving a Thanksgiving treat? Give this cream pie a try. Crushed gingersnap cookies are the perfect pie crust base for the frozen creamy pumpkin pie filling made with convenient canned pumpkin.
More cream pie flavors
Looking for a cream pie besides chocolate cream pie or banana cream pie? All of these are great options!
Convenience items make this homemade cream pie one of the easiest to prepare. A store-bought crust, instant coconut pudding, whipped topping, and toasted coconut are the key ingredients to this classic pie.
If you tend to steal all the chocolate peanut butter cups from your child’s Halloween haul, then this is definitely the peanut butter cream pie for you. Top the chocolate graham cracker crust with a silky cream cheese, peanut butter, and heavy cream filling, then load it up with peanut butter chips and cups.
Looking for a pretty make-ahead dessert? This easy strawberry cream pie keeps at least a week in the freezer so you can get a jump on prep for a party, or keep it on hand for when unexpected guests stop by — or a strawberry craving strikes.
Yes, a meringue-topped pie requires more time and effort than some cream pies, but one bite of the foamy, glossy, beautifully browned topping will convince you that it’s worth it.
Luscious and creamy, this lemon meringue pie gets top reviews. A sweet graham cracker pie crust pairs perfectly with the tart lemon filling and pillowy meringue. Step-by-step photos show you how to get the meringue texture just right.
S’mores aren’t just for campfires. Enjoy the classic combination of this summertime treat with a graham cracker pie crust, chocolate custard filling, and marshmallow meringue topping.
Rich butterscotch pudding is a match made in heaven when topped with sweet meringue. Refrigerated pie crust gives you a leg up on the prep.
Chiffon and mousse pies
Gelatin and egg whites are the secret ingredients to these fluffy cream pies.
Summer and watermelon go hand-in-hand, so this is the perfect treat to celebrate the juiciest fruit. Whipped egg whites give the filling just the right amount of fluff, and gelatin helps it retain its shape.
Crushed coconut cookies and a creamy passion fruit filling will take you to the tropics after your first bite of this homemade cream pie. As with most mousse pies, this one uses gelatin to help the cream filling set. Look for frozen passion fruit concentrate at grocery stores alongside smoothie supplies.
More favorite summer desserts
Still considering your dessert options? Check out these next articles and recipes from Yummly.