Surprise! Vinegar Pie … Oh, My!

Slice of Flaky Gluten-Free Vinegar Pie

Well, the cat is out of the bag now. The suprise ingredient in my dessert for our Gluten-Free Progressive Easter Dinner Party is indeed, vinegar. This vinegar pie is a recipe that I cut out of our local newspaper years ago and just adapted to be gluten free and crustless when the need arose. Yep, crustless (and often flourless) is often the gfe way. (Be sure to check out other gfe crustless pies like pumpkin, coconut, pecan, and apple.) This pie is definitely gluten free, but it’s certainly not free of anything else. It includes dairy and sugar (quite a bit actually), and, yes, it really does contain vinegar! Before you dairy-free folks get too disappointed, I think you can probably use non-dairy butter. Now for those who are refined sugar free, I’ll have to work on that adaptation in the future. This pie is definitely rich; a small sliver is all one needs. Bake it to serve your guests or share some with your neighbors. That way you get to enjoy some, but not too much.

Oh, what does it taste like? Have you ever had a chess pie? It tastes a lot like chess pie. In fact, some chess pie recipes do have vinegar as an ingredient. (You can read more about chess pie and the suspected origins of the name here.) Some folks say chess pie tastes like butterscotch … hmmm, not this vinegar pie. I sort of get a lemon-lime vibe from the taste—sweetness with a little bit of tartness. Most people actually think the surprise ingredient is lemon when I ask them to guess, but there’s no lemon. It is a bit reminiscent of a tart and perhaps even a lemon curd tart. The filling stays soft and liquid-like, but the crust that forms on the top and sides is flaky and sticky/gooey at the same time. It’s a wonderful pie, absolutely delicious actually. I’d forgotten how good this pie is … it’s been a few years since I made one. Because of the sweetness, some folks like to enjoy a piece with a cup of coffee to balance that out. Topping it with a milder, cold sweetness does the trick, too. You can top it with whipped cream or homemade ice cream (like my homemade vanilla version or honey cinnamon Grand Marnier) and you will have an award-winning combination. I’ve made this pie for Easter dinners in the past so it was the first thing I thought of when I signed up for dessert for this month’s Progressive Dinner Party. Oh, and guess what, it’s yellow (well, the center anyway) .. in fitting with my theme for my earlier GFPDP entries: Mom’s Deviled Eggs and Classic Corn Pudding.

The original recipe was called Dorothy’s Vinegar Pie. That’s worth noting in our family because Dorothy is the name of the totally amazing lady who provided day care for Son from the time he was an infant until he was ready to be home alone for short periods of time. She chuckled when I first showed her the recipe and said that she’d eaten vinegar pie a few times over the years, but had never made it herself. I took her family one once and they all really enjoyed it. Dorothy, better known as Mamaw Stevens, is now approaching her 86th birthday and will always be revered as my Son’s third grandmother. Although she has faced much adversity in her life, she has an indomitable spirit. She’s absolutely been a huge blessing in all our lives. She raised Son as much as we did and we will be forever grateful.

Back to the pie, or more specifically, the vinegar … let’s talk about that ingredient itself for a moment. While I don’t plan to give a gluten-free lesson in every post, based on the discussion in comments on my Deviled Eggs post, a discussion on vinegar seems to be in order. Just like there are urban myths that cell phones can pop popcorn and cactuses and biscuits can explode suddenly and wreak havoc (yes, all of those are untrue), there are gluten myths. The gluten myth that is most persistent is that vinegar contains gluten. Gluten-Free Living magazine and its editor, Ann Whelan, have expounded on this topic time and time again. The bottom line is that distilled vinegar is gluten free. First, many vinegars are made from corn now; so apple cider vinegar is often made from apples and corn versus apples and wheat. Surprisingly enough, Heinz apple cider vinegar is made from grapes and apples—who knew? However, even when vinegar is made using wheat, the distillation process removes the gluten from the final product. So distilled vinegar is gluten free. (Likewise, distilled alcohol is gluten free.) You can read more here.

Vinegars that are not gluten free include malt vinegar and possibly homemade, flavored vinegars that might be received as gifts. First, malt equals barley, which is one of the no-no’s for those of us who are gluten free. Remember and teach the mnemonic, BROW—Barley, Rye, Oats, and Wheat; those are the ingredients we need to avoid. (You can run your finger over your brow as you tell it to folks, so they will be more likely to remember.) Why are oats included? Only oats that are certified gluten free are safe for those who eat gluten free; read more on oats in my Flourless Oatmeal Cookies post and Melissa’s recent post (with recipe) on Oat Cakes. In regard to the homemade vinegars, the flavoring that is added after the distillation could include gluten. (When I haven’t been in the mood to educate or investigate, I’ve passed on flavored vinegars that I’ve received to others.) Finally, one type of vinegar that keeps popping up on unsafe lists is Heinz Apple Cider Flavored Vinegar. It’s listed as unsafe in Heinz FAQs shown here. Presumably, the flavoring added after distillation contains gluten. Personally, I have never seen this vinegar anywhere in my grocery shopping, but it’s worth mentioning in case some of you have. I admit that for a long time I was worried I was going to pick some up by accident, but again I’ve only seen the apple cider vinegar. Even on Heinz’s site, they do not show that vinegar on their products page.

To make the vinegar myth even more troublesome, because vinegar is contained in numerous other products, the myth has carried over to those as well. Items such as barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, pickles, and salad dressings have been thought to possibly contain gluten because their ingredients listing contained vinegar. Remember that if a product contains wheat, wheat must be shown on the label in accordance with the Food Allergen Labeling & Consumer Protection Act that went into effect January 2006. However wheat aside, as far as gluten-free labeling, manufacturers are not always well versed in what is and isn’t gluten free.

I’m not saying that is acceptable, but frankly, they can’t refer to an FDA-approved definition of gluten free because one does not exist yet.  Manufacturers are afraid of consumers who are ready to sue at the drop of a hat. Please understand that I am not dismissing the need for or serious nature of accurate labeling. But many companies refuse to say that their product is gluten free, for that reason alone. They may know their ingredients are gluten free, they may even know their product has no exposure to other gluten ingredients or products that contain gluten, but they are unwilling to label the product gluten free. Some manufacturers will label a product gluten free or list it in a listing of gluten-free items, but then add a caveat about cross contamination or lack of knowledge that every ingredient is 100% gluten free.

The overall issue of gluten-free labeling is not a black and white one, and not something I want to get into today, but please know that distilled vinegar is gluten free and any item should not be excluded from being considered gluten free because it contains distilled vinegar. So enjoy this pie! It’s the last of our gluten-free progressive dinner party meal. Did you notice that my recipes are all gfe? Not only that, but these recipes can all be made with ingredients that you are likely to have in your pantry and refrigerator all the time … no special trips to the grocery store—love that!

Vinegar Pie with Slice Missing Gluten Free Easily

Vinegar Pie with “Test” Slice Missing

Surprise! Vinegar Pie
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Vinegar pie is in the same Southern family as chess pie and buttermilk pie. Delightfully sweet and tart at the same time.
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 8 tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled (dairy-free butter should work)
  • 3 large or extra large eggs
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp flour (I used my gluten-free flour mix; see notes)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 9-inch pie plate very well.
  2. Melt butter. Set aside to cool slightly. While butter is cooling, add other ingredients to mixing bowl. Add butter.
  3. Using electric mixer, beat on high for one minute or until well blended and smooth. (It will look a lot like yellow cake batter.) Pour into greased pie plate.
  4. Bake at 300 degrees for about 50 minutes until top forms a golden crust (center should still be slightly liquid). Cool completely before cutting and serve at room temperature (or cold per preference).
~ Adapted from The Free Lance-Star

~ Using extra large eggs will yield a slightly higher pie that is a little less tart. Ensure that you grease the pie plate well (sometimes a failing of mine and that's why this pie stuck a bit). Allow pie to cool as directed before cutting. Otherwise, pieces will fall apart a little (or a lot). However, if your pieces do fall apart a bit, that's easily camouflaged with whipped cream or ice cream for topping. ;-)

~I can’t tolerate many of the healthier, gluten-free flours; e.g., sorghum, buckwheat. Therefore, my gluten-free flour mix is 3 parts Asian white rice flour and 2 parts cornstarch. I gently mix three one-lb bags of the Asian white rice flour and two one-lb boxes of cornstarch in a very large bowl and then store the mix in several airtight containers (like large glass jars). No refrigeration is needed. But feel free to use whichever flour mix you use most often for baking. If you’re not gluten free, you may use all-purpose flour.
Crustless Vinegar Pie Gluten Free Easily

The filling looks like cake batter before baking.

Gluten-Free Vinegar Pie for Easter

But then that batter turns into this lovely custard pie.

If you haven’t already, please check out our other gracious and creative GFPDP hosts and their recipes below.

Diane (The W.H.O.L.E. Gang) presented an amazing salad on Tuesday—Roasted Red and Yellow Beet Salad with Avocado, Oranges, Red Onion, and Toasted Pine Nuts. She promises this recipe will make you a roasted beet lover. She’s a convert now!

Katrina (Gluten-Free Gidget) shared a fantastic main dish yesterday—Crockpot Leg of Lamb with a Thai Sweet Plum Sauce. As I shared in my comment on her site, it’s a winner on so many levels—crockpot recipe–BONUS! lamb recipe–BONUS! (Diane’s secret ingredient for the Friday Foodie Fix last week was lamb), naturally gluten-free recipe–BONUS! and new ingredients and flavors to try (e.g., prune butter)–BONUS!


Not just gf, but gfe!

Not just gf, but gfe!

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19 Responses to “Surprise! Vinegar Pie … Oh, My!”

  1. Jenn on March 26th, 2010 2:58 pm

    wow this is so unique – I admit I have never had a pie like this! I must try it and see :)

    • Shirley on March 27th, 2010 7:09 pm

      Hi Jenn–Thanks! It’s very sweet, but yet that works with the vinegar. Still, I’d like to play around with this recipe more next time … maybe less sugar or use honey (which would also be in a lesser amount). I’ll be interested in your adaptation! ;-)


  2. Diane-The W.H.O.L.E. Gang on March 26th, 2010 3:23 pm

    Wow, I love you! Thank you so much for the information on vinegar. I’m forwarding it to a local chef that I recently had a conversation with around vinegar. You are such a wealth of information. Thank you for sharing with us and always working to keep us informed and healthy. Oh, and the pie looks delicious. Love the short list of ingredients. What a great week for Gluten Free Progressive Easter Dinner Party!

    • Shirley on March 27th, 2010 7:13 pm

      Hi Diane–Oh my goodness, that’s such a sweet thing to say—thank you! :-) Smooches back to you. ;-) I appreciate it when I get feedback because sometimes I wonder if folks want to just come here for a recipe and not hear everything else. LOL Maybe my next rendition of this pie will be naturally dairy free, too. I like the idea of it! Yes, the dinner party was a blast as always!


  3. Denise on March 26th, 2010 9:40 pm

    I have never heard of a vinegar pie. What a unique idea! And tasty, from what I gather. ;) Thanks for sharing!

    • Shirley on March 27th, 2010 7:16 pm

      Hi Denise–Welcome to gfe! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Maybe this pie can be made SCD compliant in the future by making a few tweaks. I’ll be back to check on your blog, Free to Feast, some more. ;-)


  4. Katrina (gluten free gidget) on March 27th, 2010 9:05 am

    Now THAT is creative! I never would have thought of this recipe! I love pie, but creating it myself is my downfall. I guess practice makes perfect!

    • Shirley on March 27th, 2010 7:18 pm

      Hi Katrina–Yes, I’m sure you’d have pies mastered in no time if you started making them more … you do so well creating so many other wonderful recipes! Thanks for the kind words on my surprise pie. ;-)


  5. Pam on March 27th, 2010 1:59 pm

    I love all these crustless pies…that looks like a slice of heaven…wholly yum!


    • Shirley on March 27th, 2010 7:27 pm

      Hi dear Pam!–You know if you love crustless, gfe is the place to be! ;-) It is a pretty amazing pie. Warning: Don’t allow yourself to be home alone with it!


      • Pam on March 29th, 2010 3:12 pm

        ha ha!….thanks for the tip!….lol!


  6. Iris on March 28th, 2010 7:43 pm

    Ooh, if you took out the vanilla and put in fresh lemon juice, it would be a delicious lemon pie!

    • Shirley on March 29th, 2010 8:27 pm

      Hi Iris–Thanks for the input. :-) I admit I’m a person who doesn’t usually like lemon pie … it’s often too tart for me. But, I love lemon bars and this pie that’s tart, but terribly sweet, too. Not something I want to indulge in very often. Still past history aside, I’d like to try this recipe with your suggestion. ;-)


  7. Alta on March 31st, 2010 3:45 pm

    I’ve never had this kind of pie before, but it looks as though it’s a lovely custard-like dessert. Yum!

    • Shirley on March 31st, 2010 9:48 pm

      Hey Alta–Yes, sort of like a natural custard with some texture vs a pudding custard. It’s decadent and hard to stay away from … that’s for sure. ;-) Thanks! :-)


  8. Kay Niedenthal on April 13th, 2014 8:07 pm

    I DO have all these ingredients in my pantry and fridge! And it looks appropriately decadent.

    • Shirley on April 14th, 2014 8:47 am

      Hi Kay–I love it when that happens! ;-) Hope you enjoy it, dear!


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