Salty Honey


I sat down to write this with Tradition! from Fiddler on the Roof in my head, which may or may not have something to do with Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapping this year. Bryan does a pretty mean Tevye, I suggest you ask him to sing Tradition next time you see him. He studied Russian for a semester in college, which adds a certain gravitas and authenticity to the performance. But I digress. Tradition!


I’ve mentioned before that I am not a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. In past years I have served chicken, beef tenderloin, or even lasagna. This year, I am breaking my own tradition by serving turkey! This means that my turkey will in fact be completely nontraditional. I am making turkey in part because Bryan likes it so much and complains to his mom every year that I won’t make it, and in part because it is Gabe’s first Thanksgiving and it seems like he should get the traditional experience for the first round. It also somehow just feels right this year. I am making turkey and mashed potatoes and friends and family are bringing vegetables and other good stuff.

But of course I am most interested in dessert. I am planning three pies for dessert (Tradition!). I am thinking of them as riffs on classics, and in lieu of pecan pie I am making this salted honey pie. I first made it a couple of weeks ago and it has become a favorite around here. It is one of those things that I find myself craving out of nowhere. It worked the same magic on Bryan. It is intensely sweet and honey-y, but that sweetness is tempered by a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt. It is the perfect balance, and one of my favorite pies. It is also a pie that can be made the day before and kept in the fridge. Does it get any better?!


I hope menu planning is going well for you and yours. I have lists and schedules forming. I’d love to hear what you’re all up to….

Salty Honey Pie (from the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book – which is probably the best-looking cookbook to be published in recent memory—that cover is perfect.)

Serves 8-10

  • 1 single-crust pie shell, frozen (use your favorite, or find theirs here)
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons flake sea salt (Maldon is great for this), for finishing
Have ready and frozen one pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan, crimped. Position a rack in the center of the oven; preheat oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, stir together melted butter, sugar, cornmeal, salt and vanilla paste. Stir in honey and eggs, one at a time, followed by the cream and vinegar.

Place the frozen pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve directly into the pie shell.

Bake on the middle rack 45 to 50 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, about 30 to 35 minutes through the baking time. The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed up high, the center is no longer liquid, but looks set, like gelatin, and is golden brown on top.

Let cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Sprinkle with flake sea salt. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 4 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

***My pie is a little dark, it didn’t effect the taste but next time I would pull it a shade or two lighter. Also, sprinkle a lot of salt on top of this pie. I used closer to the 2 teaspoons.


45 comments to “Salty Honey”

  1. This pie sounds like the perfect pie for my bizarre extended family who is opposed to cooked fruit. So, if you strain the filling what is the point of the cornmeal? I assume most of it gets caught in the strainer, so does it impart some sort of flavor before getting strained out?

  2. I have made this pie before… so amazing. Anyone who hasn’t tried this must make it.
    Thanks for posting this. Have always loved your site.

  3. This pie looks amazing. I just have one question – is the pie shell only frozen, not pre-baked?

  4. How can I resist a pie called Salty Honey? Looks wonderful.

    We’ll be in Iowa for Thanksgiving and Danny’s dad is smoking the turkey. I’m pretty excited about that! I plan on making a pumpkin pie and probably pecan, too. I think someone else is bringing apple. But really, we probably could use a fourth pie for 12 people, don’t you think? Hm. ;)

  5. I definitely need this pie in my life!! It looks unreal!

  6. Alex- I used fine white cornmeal and most of it made its way through the strainer. My guess is that the cornmeal adds some subtle texture, but I didn’t write the recipe so I am not sure what they intended. Maybe they’ll let us know…
    Laura- correct- frozen, unbaked pie shell.
    Ileana- do it!

  7. this. looks. incredible.

  8. My dream is coming true and I’m hosting my first Thanksgiving this year. All traditional and I’m making all of it so I was thinking of doing bakery bought desserts to preserve my sanity. Now I’m not sure I can do that because this looks damn good!

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

  9. I just ordered the book and cannot wait to have it in my hands. I agree with you – the cover couldn’t be more perfect!

  10. RA- So fun that you’re hosting! It is the best meal to host, you get three days off of work after (unless you work in retail, in which case- sorry for mentioning it). Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. Oh, this looks so good! That puffed crust, that dark, rippled custard. I’ll have to check out the book soon.
    I’m not hosting this year, but I am in charge of pie. What I make will depend on what I can find at the market this weekend, but I’m hoping to make a pear pie and that dutch apple custard one you posted about earlier this year!
    Good luck with your non-traditional but traditional turkey!!

  12. P.S. What is that other gorgeous-looking thing on the cooling rack in the second photo? Is it bread? Is it cake? It looks like something that I would want.

  13. Mmm, that looks delicious! I don’t know how that cookbook flew under my radar (no pun intended), but now I’m in the know. Thanks for the introduction…and for getting Tradition! stuck in my head. At least you didn’t say “Sunrise Sunset.” Happy holidays to you and Bryan. I’m off to make pie.

  14. This is inspired and I have to try it out. I have some wonderful honey here given to me by a friend so i know this is the recipe to use it in, thanks!

  15. ARGH! Tim, I am having such a hard time finalizing which pies to make and you just made my decision-making even more difficult!! :) It’s a good problem to have – I’m grateful. I was thinking about trying their maple buttermilk custard pie instead…but now you are wooing me with this one. And also planning on pumpkin and apple because those are mainstays for us. Though I spent a while thinking about the apple cider pie you introduced me too which I also love….sigh. so many pies.


  17. I played in the pit band (piano) of my high school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof! I read your post with that song in my head haha. Traditiooooooon tra-di-tion!

    And for salted honey—I’m very intrigued!! I’m afraid it’ll be too sweet, but I’m very curious about the salt cutting through the sweetness. Gorgeous photos =) Good luck with the turkey!

  18. Read this post and finalized what I will be preparing for Thanksgiving dessert. Not 15 minutes later I went for a run and saw you walking down Logan Blvd! I should have said hi, but didn’t want to creep you out as a superfan…but I am. Thanks for all your great posts!

  19. Aw, Morgan! You should have said hi! Next time!

  20. Thank you for sharing the recipe, the pie looks amazingly delicious!

  21. Wow this pie is absolutely gorgeous!!

  22. of all the pies in the book, this one intrigued me the most. I’ve got another dessert planned for thanksgiving, but I’m having friends over afterward–on friday–and may just have to make this! have a great holiday, tim!

  23. Looks and sounds heavenly! Hope you both, and Gabe, enjoy!

  24. This sounds like my idea of heaven (toast, honey, salted butter) in pie form!! Also it seems way too easy to make. This is dangerous. As is this pie book you speak of. Cheers for sharing and I think it looks particularly droolworthy baked dark!

  25. I’m nervous about the salty pie but it looks so good I think I’ll try it.

  26. Should we make this? I think we’re gonna! Can we talk thanksgiving menu please I just want to make what you are making.

  27. Can you use vanilla extract? Have not seen the paste,

  28. KMO- Yep!

  29. Just got everything to make this pie but had a question about vanilla paste, I’ve never seen it before? Can I pick it up at most grocery stores?

  30. This is funny. I think I used to have a variation on this as a kid in rural Michigan–sweet cornmeal pie–but w/out the salt, made with condensed milk. This looks great. I’m going to try it. By the way, great overhead shot looking down at the pie plate, servings, etc. Nice one! Ken

  31. Hi! I almost licked my computer screen just now. Question, though: won’t putting my frozen glass pie pan straight into a hot oven cause it to break? Should I pick up a metal or even foil pan just to be safe?

  32. This year, I’ve decided that I’m fed up with the traditional Thanksgiving foods, and this is just the inspiration I needed! Thanks for sharing!

  33. I’m in charge of turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and ham this year. My cousin is doing the pies — so I’ll put this in my back pocket for later this weekend! It sounds wonderful. Since I’m not big into uber-sweet, I’m just wondering if the salt cuts through enough to give it good balance?

  34. Hi! What if I have only yellow cornmeal? I want to try this pie! I’m so over pecan pie.

  35. Can.not.wait!

  36. Hey Jenny- Sorry to be responding so late. I have made this pie in a glass pyrex without trouble…but metal is definitely safer.

  37. I made this on Thursday. It was a hit!!! Thank you for always pointing out the most clever recipes. It will be in the rotation from now on.

  38. Hi Dina- Glad it was a hit!

  39. wow! looks delicious. i wanted to try and will definitely recommend this to my friends too! thank you for sharing!

  40. I made this pie last night and it was AMAZING. So, so, so good. I hugely recommend it!

  41. This pie looks wonderful,I’m gonna make it.But what if the pie shell is not frozen?

  42. Duygu- I’m not sure I understand the question. You should definitely freeze the pie shell.

  43. This pie sounds amazing! Especially during the winter when fruit options are so scant. If you don’t have Vanilla Bean Paste, what would you suggest as an alternative? I have vanilla beans… but I’m not sure of the ratio

  44. Hi Tabitha- Vanilla beans or vanilla extract would be fine. I don’t know the ratio either, but you can just wing it.

  45. Whoa… I have this pie in the oven RIGHT now, and it seems like there’s a variety of opinions (on other blogs) about whether the crust should be frozen/raw, partially prebaked, or totally prebaked! The book just says “frozen”, but I found a blog post from the Elsen’s where they explicitly say to prebake…. but it sounds like yours worked out well from a raw frozen crust. Hopefully mine comes out okay too! O.O

What do you think?