Break out of the boring routine of apple and pumpkin pies this holiday season, and bring something unique and exciting to the table. From wine-infused fillings to hearty kicks of salt to go with the sweet, these offbeat recipes mix modern innovations with strange traditions from days gone by. These pies will create a memorable experience for any holiday get-together, and since they are homemade, they don't cost a fortune. Be the guest of honor or the host with the most flair while sticking to a modest budget with these fun and quirky pies.
This puckery dessert uses just a few household staples along with seasonal fruit as the base. Unbeknownst to many, port wine, always a holiday favorite, doesn't stay fresh in the bottle forever and starts to decline significantly after the first week of being opened. This recipe makes excellent use of a recently opened bottle of port, or even last year's leftovers, rather than let it go to waste down the drain.
Avocado and chocolate create an indulgently creamy and nutrient-packed dessert in a sweet and savory pie. This rich treat can be served in small portions and is best when made with very ripe avocados. Luckily for those who love savings and chocolate, avocados on the verge of over-ripeness often go on sale, so check for those a few days in advance and stash them in the fridge to keep them fresh until ready to use.
Recipe: Oh, Holy Basil
This spicy seasonal pie is an exciting, flavor-packed departure from the ho-hum apple pie. Quince, a tart, aromatic, apple-like fruit with green or yellow skin and pink-hued flesh, adds a burst of acidity and floral scent, while a triple hit of ginger, fresh syrup, and jam adds a sweet and mellow spice throughout. Check local farmers markets for quince and the freshest ginger you can find, or look in the exotic-fruit sections of large supermarkets.
Recipe: Cravings in Amsterdam
This striking pie brightens up winter doldrums with its colorful appearance and invigorating flavor. Red food coloring enhances the lemonade's natural sunny flavor and gives the pie a bright pink hue that is sure to be stunning on the table. Another virtue of this light and fluffy pie is that it's made from cheap ingredients that are easy to find and store, such as frozen lemonade, condensed milk, and cream cheese.
Recipe: The Prepared Pantry
This pie comes out a pale green color with the texture and flavor of cheesecake. Avocados are a fruit with a subtle sweetness, so they play nicely in creamy desserts, adding natural richness to whatever they touch. This adventurous dessert is simple and inexpensive to make -- and generally an instant hit. Pretending the color comes from food coloring until after everyone has had a bite makes for a fun reveal.
Recipe: This Confetti Life
A few old-timers might remember this from childhood. Potatoes have been a staple for hundreds of years, and their natural creaminess and subtle, sweet earthy flavor lends them to use in desserts. Using a regular mashing potato is the best bet to achieve a silky and fluffy consistency.
Recipe: Pioneer Thinking
More appetizing than it may sound, vinegar pie has been around for almost 200 years. It's a simple custard pie that has its origins in simpler times when other pie fillings, including fruit, weren't simply a grocery store away. Made from household staples such as vinegar, eggs, and sugar, this is a handy go-to when strapped for time and/or cash. Taking advantage of present-day conveniences and garnishing with fresh fruit gives the pie a tasty modern update.
Recipe: Ann Arbor (Mich.) News
Chilies and chocolate may seem like a novelty that's popping up in contemporary cuisine, but it's actually an ancient tradition of Mesoamerican cultures. Chilies have a natural fruitiness that enhances the flavors of chocolate and vice versa. When combined with sugar, the flavor combination hits all the right places. This recipe makes use of jalapeños, although any chili of choice would work. Try serranos for a spicier kick, or red Fresnos for a milder heat index.
Recipe: Serious Eats
This indulgent mess of a pie is a shameless combination of so many good things. Peanut butter, bacon, and chocolate are often paired up in some combination, but not generally all together. If ever there were a time to bring this crave-worthy dessert out, it's for a special celebration. Spring for good-quality bacon so the savory flavor shines through.
Apples and apple butter are conventional accoutrements on a cheese plate, so restructuring an American classic to include these flavors is a less daring, albeit delicious, twist for those who don't want to stray too far from the familiar. Baking a high-quality cheddar into the crust of an apple pie adds a tangy and savory element that highlights the sweet filling. For those used to serving dessert and a cheese plate with wine, this all-in-one pie takes care of both at the same time.
Recipe: Cook's County
Persimmons are an underappreciated fruit that's bountiful for country-dwellers and in the exotic-fruit section of most supermarkets, where they can be bought firm and brought home to soften on the counter. The candy-sweet flavor and reddish-orange color create a silky smooth and gently perfumed pie that fits the season without being pumpkin- or apple-spiced.
Recipe: The Loveless Cafe
Move over, sweet potatoes and pumpkin, there's a new gourd on the pie scene. Any type of squash lends itself nicely to pie form, and much-loved butternut is no exception. Rather than serve it as a first-course soup, save it for a sweet, cinnamon-spiced dessert. Starting with fresh squash creates a depth of flavor that canned fillings can't match and saves money.
Recipe: Taste of Home
Navy bean pie is a U.S. tradition, though many folks may not have heard of it now that we live in an era when fresh and frozen fruit abounds any time of year. Flavored with traditional ingredients such as vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg, the creamy bean puree in this recipe creates a rich, custardy filling that most people would never guess had anything to do with beans. The case could also be made that this protein-packed dessert is healthy, so go ahead and have another slice!
The Pennsylvania Dutch are credited with creating this super-sweet pie, named for its reputation of attracting flies that would get stuck in its sweet, sticky mass. While the name and the pie's dark filling might not be the most appetizing at first, the luscious filling in this pie is made with familiar ingredients such as molasses and brown sugar, creating a rich dessert with layers of earthy sweetness.
Despite the current trend of incorporating actual grasshoppers into dishes, this chocolate-mint-flavored pie gets its name from its pale green color. This version of the pie is lighter than air, indulgent, and fluffy. Note that it needs a few hours in the freezer to set, which makes it a handy make-ahead option.
Recipe: Boulder Locavore
Graham crackers are typically used in homemade cracker crusts, but this simple lemon meringue pie gets a makeover with Ritz crackers in the crust. The salty, buttery crackers enhance the tart, lemony filling and accentuate its sweetness. The interplay between savory and sweet adds an interesting complexity to the end of a rich seasonal meal.
Recipe: Just a Pinch
Eggnog doesn't have to be just for drinking. It makes even more of a statement in this attractive pie that swirls the chocolate into the whipped topping for an intricate and unique pattern that sets while chilling in the fridge. This pie can be made up to two days beforehand and, for anyone with a nut allergy, be adapted with more crackers in lieu of chopped nuts to fill in the volume of the crust. A store-bought, ready-to-bake crust can be substituted.
Recipe: Midwest Living
Cranberries are a seasonal fruit that does well alongside savory main dishes and adds a pop of color and flavor to desserts. This recipe combines sweet-tart raspberries with the cranberries for a wintery treat that owes a lot to the modern innovation of frozen fruit. The hint of almond extract adds richness and aroma to round out the flavors for a fruit-packed end-of-the-meal treat.
Recipe: Midwest Living
If pumpkin pie is still a must at your holiday get-togethers, a salted-caramel version from the blog Baking Bites is a welcome twist on a much-loved classic. The salted caramel deepens the flavor profile and breathes new life into this holiday tradition. Since pumpkin spice has found its way into foods of all kinds these days, offering a new spin on the versatile flavor of pumpkin can be the start of a new tradition and encourage experimentation in the kitchen.
Recipe: Baking Bites
This pie is an unusual combination of tart pomegranate juice and creamy white chocolate. The result is a silken mousse pie that is decadent in flavor, texture, and color, with a lavender tone underneath white mounds of cream. To make this even more chocolatey, you could substitute the whipped topping with a mound of shaved white chocolate curls.