Monday, December 6, 2010

Southern Fried Hand Pies

Little fried hand pies made with fresh fruit or dried, your choice of pastry and either pan fried, deep fried or baked. No matter how you prepare them, they are a true Southern Classic!

Southern Fried Hand Pies

A reader over on the Facebook page asked about these little southern delicacies and we started chatting about everybody's favorites, and of course, impressionable me, decided I had to make some right away!

Some folks make these using biscuit dough, some canned biscuits, some fresh or store-bought pastry, and one reader even mentioned making them with tortillas! While I do enjoy them with the biscuit dough as pictured above, I am more in the pie dough pastry school of thought, since I like a hand pie to have the same kind of flaky crust that a regular pie has and love the final texture of the deep fried pastry dough, while the biscuit dough cooked in a skillet is more greasy.

I make homemade pie crusts most of the time, although I love Pillsbury refrigerator crusts too. You just can't beat those for consistent quality and presentation, unlike my homemade pies, which are always far from perfect. I've used boxed Jiffy mixes too, for those times that I'm feeling a bit lazy and don't feel like dragging out the food processor for a homemade crust. They are handy to keep in the pantry, and they produce a mighty fine pie crust with nothing more than the addition of a little ice cold water. You'll want to roll the dough out nice and thin for these and should get right at a dozen four-inch rounds from one box of Jiffy. Of course, feel free to substitute your own homemade pie crust or a box of Pillsbury - you'll need a two crust recipe - or make up your own homemade biscuit dough. I've included one in the recipe.

Speaking of that... {pulling out the ole soapbox} there are some southerners who will say the only "authentic" Southern hand pies will be made only with biscuit dough and only with dried fruit and only in a skillet. Bless their hearts.

That would be like saying the only way to wash clothes is still with a hand wringer washing machine! Can you imagine? By the way, I distinctly remember that my grandmother had one of those in the corner of her kitchen, even though more modern washers were certainly available by then. Funny. I can still see that washer in my mind's eye today as if I'm standing right in there, even though my Mama's Mama passed when I was a young child, and her house was lost long ago to Hurricane Camille.

Anyway... back in the day, that certainly would have been true of the way our great grandmothers would have made a hand pie. Not only did they not have the funds for the discretionary spending we have today, nor did they have access to convenience products, so yes, of course, they made up their own doughs. For hand pies that would have been in a pastry form, either flaky, same as when they made their pies, or, more biscuit-like if they liked a thicker texture on their hand pies. What they did not use, however, were rolls of canned biscuits or pie crust found in the refrigerator aisle of their local super-center.

Our great grandmothers also used fresh apples, peaches or other fruit that had been harvested in season, most often from their own or the backyard tree of a neighbor who was willing to share their harvest. Out of season, our great grandmothers used that very same fruit that had been preserved right there at home, intended for use throughout the season until the next harvest, often dried on sheets of tin or screens out in the hot sun. What our great grandmothers did not use, however, were little packages of preservative laden and frankly, budget busting, commercial dried fruits like we have on our grocery store shelves today. Sorry but that just ain't our great grandma's dried fruit. {tucks away the soapbox}

All that to say, what you do is not wrong, nor any less authentic, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Ever.

Absolutely, you can use a homemade crust or biscuit recipe. Or, you can use a roll of canned biscuits, a box of pie dough mix, or a refrigerated pie crust. Or tortillas! And, you can use freshly cooked fruit, or commercially dried pouches of fruit. A lot of people love the concentrated sweetness of the fruit and frankly, the memories associated with reconstituting the dried fruit that their mothers or grandmothers may have used when they no longer dried fruit at home. You should always do what is most meaningful to you.

Since we mostly aren't drying fruit from our fruit trees these days, and thankfully our year-round availability of fresh fruit is much better in these modern times, I prefer using fresh fruit for hand pies, especially when in season, abundant, and especially locally grown. It just is the best for my body and frankly, I think it tastes best.

Here's how to make some tasty fried apple pies.

The first thing to do is stew the apples down in nothing but butter and sugar. I like to use Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into chunks, and cook them covered, usually about 15 to 20 minutes or so. Any good firm apple that you like with do. You'll need about 2 cups of chopped apple, so how many will just depend on their size. A medium apple should give you about one cup of chopped.

Then remove from the heat and add in some brown sugar, cinnamon and just a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. If you make peach pies, peel and chop the peaches, and then let them drain in a colander for at least 30 minutes before proceeding.

Give them a good stir, a taste to adjust the sweetness, and set them aside to cool. They should be the consistency of a sort of chunky applesauce. One thing you do not want to do is to try to wrap hot apples in your pastry - it will melt it into a mess. While the apples are cooling, prepare the dough you're using, roll it out nice and thin and cut it into rounds. I usually use a small ramekin that measures 4 inches across to cut mine. A Tervis tumbler works pretty good too.

Once you have all the rounds cut out, sprinkle them lightly with a bit of granulated sugar and refrigerate them until you are ready to assemble the fried pies. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of apple filling onto each round. Depending on the size of your apples, and how large you make your pie circles, you'll probably end up with a bit of apple filling leftover. Just eat that with your oatmeal, on pancakes or mixed in some vanilla yogurt!

Fold them over, press the edges together and then crimp them with the tines of a fork so that they are well sealed. Place them on a plate that has been lightly sprinkled with flour and stick the plate in the fridge for about 10 minutes to chill the pastry.

Pan fry, deep fry or bake them, but fry in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan and cool the oil down. I prefer to deep fry, because for one, I have a good deep fryer, and also because pan frying them absorbs more grease, while deep frying fries them faster with much less grease absorption. By the way, they are also quite good baked.

Deep fried hand pies made with a pie crust dough.
Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with granulated sugar as soon as they come out of the fryer, or let them cool slightly and dust lightly with powdered sugar. Try not to devour the entire platter. Not that I would know anything about that.

Recipe: Southern Fried Hand Pies

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 30 min |Cook time: 5 min | Yield: About 12 Pies


For the Fruit:
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
For Homemade Dough:
  • 2-1/2 cups of self-rising flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • Yolk from one egg
  • 1/2 cup of ice water
  • About 1 cup of vegetable oil, for the skillet
  • Powdered sugar or granulated sugar, for dusting, optional

For the fruit, melt the butter and sugar together; add chopped apples and simmer covered, over medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon over the apples, stir, taste and adjust sweetness. Set aside to cool.

For the dough, cut the shortening into 2 cups of the flour. Stir in the sugar, egg yolk and ice water until dough is sticky. Turn out onto a floured surface and sprinkle more flour on top, working it in until dough is smooth. Roll out to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and cut into 4 to 6 inch circles. You may also pinch off golf ball-sized pieces and flatten individually by hand. Place about a half tablespoon of the cooled filling in the center of each round. Barely wet the edges of the round with water, fold over, lightly press down on the edges and the filling; seal the edges with the tines of a fork. Place all of the pies in a single layer onto a plate that has been lightly sprinkled with flour and refrigerate about 10 minutes.

Fry in a skillet, with about 1/2 inch of hot oil, until browned on both sides. Remove from the skillet, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with granulated sugar or dust with powdered sugar while still warm, if desired. Best served warm, but delicious cold too!

Cook's Notes: Oil must be hot (at least 350 degrees F) or dough will absorb too much grease and will disintegrate. Substitute canned biscuits, boxed pie crust mix (like Jiffy), or use a homemade or store-bought pie crust (Pillsbury recommended).  You'll need two crusts, rolled out a bit thinner to get 12 pies. Can also substitute other types of apples. You may have a little bit of extra apple left over, depending on the size apples that you use and how large you make the pies. You can add that to yogurt, or use over pancakes, French toast, over oatmeal, or as a side dish just like any stewed apple.

To Use Dried Fruit: Combine two small packages (about 7 ounces each) of dried fruit in two cups of water and one cup of sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Add seasonings and proceed. Can also use peaches, apricots, mixed or other dried or fresh fruits.

To Deep Fry: Preheat deep fryer to 375 degrees F and fry, in batches to avoid chilling the oil, for about 3-1/2 minutes, or until golden brown. Shake basket gently after about 30 seconds to avoid the pastry from sticking.

To Bake: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the mini pies on a greased cookie sheet or pan. Make a couple of small slits in the dough so the steam will vent out, brush the tops with the juice from the pan or with an egg wash over each pie if desired, and sprinkle tops with a bit of granulated sugar. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

For Peach Filling: For peach pies, or other juicy fruit such as pears, peel and chop ripe peaches, you'll want about 2 pounds. Set aside in a colander and let them drain for at least 30 minutes, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup of sugar before filling dough. It is not necessary to stew these softer fruits, so long as they are ripe, although you may if you prefer. Can also substitute any other stewed fruit for pie recipe.

For Strawberry Filling: Add 2 cups of hulled and mashed strawberries to a saucepan, add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Taste and increase sugar as needed, as strawberries will vary in sweetness. Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water and add to the mixture. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture thickens. Set aside to cool completely.

For Blackberry Filling: Add 1/2 pint of fresh blackberries or 1 (21-ounce can), drained to a saucepan along with 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Taste and increase sugar as needed, as berries will vary in sweetness. Add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of the zest. Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water and add to the mixture. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture thickens. Remove and mash the berries to desired consistency.

For Sweet Potato Filling: Combine 2 cups of mashed, cooked sweet potatoes, with 1/2 cup (1 stick) of softened butter, a cup of light brown sugar, packed, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, and enough milk to moisten. Also can be made with leftover candied yams and sweet potato casserole.

For Chocolate Filling: Combine 2 cups of granulated sugar with 6 tablespoons of cocoa powder (like Hershey's). Add in 1/2 cup (1 stick) of melted butter.


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©Deep South Dish
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  1. I can't remember the last time I had frid apple pie, but it's not because I don't love then. This smaller size would be just right for one dessert and the easier crust is a big plus - I'll have to suggest them to the family baker.

  2. One of these would go splendidly with my cup of coffee..perfect.! These remind me of the Amish Fry pies, theirs usually has what I think is a xxx sugar something or other so it is like a glazed donut..I may attempt....pies #&*^%
    and I don't hit it off..but I keep trying...

  3. Hi can I substitute Jiffy mixes? Thanks...I would like to taste these yummy pies!!!Hugs, ciao Flavia

  4. Oh my, this sounds so yummy. Here in the southwest we have something very similar. They are called empanadas. Little fried pies with fruit but also a kind of minced meat with meat, pinons & raisins. We only make these at Christmas time. Your way of doing the crust just rocked my world. It will save me tons of time with my empanadas and now some fried apple pies. Thanks darling, The Olde Bagg, Linda

  5. Mary, do you think I could brush these with a little dab of butter and bake them on a cookie sheet instead of frying them?

    1. Lisa did you get an answer or try baking them? How did they turn out?

    2. Baking instructions are in the notes of the recipe!

  6. Larry, same here! My problem of course even with these little ones is portion control LOL!!

    Faith, need to check those out!

    EliFla, a little further down in the Notes I mention that you can use a homemade or store bought piecrust. You'll need 2 to make 12, and you'll have to roll premade crusts out a bit thinner to get all 12 out of the storebought dough.

    Yes Linda!! Those Jiffy boxes are soooo easy and using a small ramekin beats the heck out of rolling out little balls.

    Lisa, these can be baked - I just need to experiment with temp and time. Let me know if you bake them!! You'll save me a few calories LOL!!

  7. I've never tried this before, but I sure do love a good apple pie! Sounds heavenly! :)

  8. One of my favorite memories is my Aunt Bernice's fried peach pies. She always used the dried peaches (which I can't even find anymore) and of course made her own pastry. I haven't made fried pies in a long time, but they're now on my to-do list! Thanks for the memory, Mary.

  9. Oh these would be sooooo good!!! Your pictures are very inviting;)

  10. Those apple pies look and sound sooo good!

  11. Those look great. I don't seem to have much of a knack with pie dough , but I have very successfully made these with a better grade of canned biscuit and I can thin them just by placing them on my cutting board and pressing them with theheel of my palm. No rolling needed. Complete as you so skillfully instructed. I do use a powdered sugar and water glaze or sprinle with white sugar.

  12. As usual, YUUUUMY Mary. Did you receive my adoption papers in the mail yet? LOL

  13. Hmm...I can't even imagine how you'd get a tortilla to seal together. These look just super! My mama always made fried chocolate pies...still miss 'em (and her of course :)

  14. First time I experienced a fried pie was in the south, of course! Have yet to attempt my own but the Jiffy sold me, thanks Mary.

  15. I can't wait to make this. In the dutch oven over the campfire!

  16. I have made these delicious lil pies with Jazz And Macintosh Apple and my family keeps asking for more. This recipe is definitely in my recipe box. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Thanks so much Marcy! Glad the family is enjoying these wonderful little hand pies - they are a southern favorite for sure!!

  18. Can you use pears, we have some now.

  19. I don't see why not! Just see the variation at the bottom since those are a bit juicier & you'll want them to be thick when you put them on the dough and not thin or watery. You'll need to adjust sugar according to the sweetness too, so you may not need as much sugar - start with a little then taste & adjust.

  20. These were always on my grandmother's Sunday table when my family was coming over. She knew they were my favorite and would always send the leftovers home with me. She used a biscuit dough and would stack them hot on a large dinner plate. The pie at the vey bottom was always a little soggy from the frying oil, but it never kept me from eating it.

  21. Oh Mary, yummy, I love fried apple pies, wish I had some rght now.

  22. Oh Piper, I miss my grandma so much too & I don't care how soggy these pies get they are still good to me.

    Joyce I think you must make some!

  23. My mother was famous for her "fried pies". She actually pan fried to brown them and then finished them in the oven. Yummy!

    1. I love that sort of "flash" frying but I haven't done that with these. I should try that, thanks Karen!

  24. Mary, have I died and gone to Heaven?? I have got to make these pies. I have never used pears in a pie, so I might even make a few using pears as well. You share the greatest recipes. I love your blog!!!!!

  25. We call them apple jacks where im from =)

  26. my husband still talks about the fried pies his mother use to make. I will give this a try, as I am sure it will bring back wonderful memories

  27. Hello,
    Thanks so much for posting this! My grandmother used to make fried apple and cherry pies all the time and I sure do miss them and her! This really brought back a lot of great memory's! This really is a great fried apple pie recipe.

  28. Hi just found your recipe for deep fried strawberry pies...sounds yummy !! What would I need to do to add cream cheese ? I asked for your advice because I have never tried strawberry fried pies before.Would appreciate your input.....Thanks Sandy

    1. Hey Sandy! Let's see... to add cream cheese I would mix 1/2 of a big (8 ounce) block of room temperature softened cream cheese, with some sugar - start with a couple tablespoons and taste as you go for sweetness before adding any more. Keep in mind that your strawberries are also sweet too though so don't add too much! Then smear a very thin layer on each disc before adding the strawberry & sealing. I think that will do it, but let me know if you try it!

  29. Hi Mary. Could I use fresh mangoes for a filling? My husband loves them but has never had fried pies and and mangoes are so available right now. Thanks so much for posting and sharing these awesome recipes.

    1. I sure don't see why not! Follow the basic instructions for stewing peaches - just start with a little bit of sugar, taste & adjust for sweetness.

    2. I should have said "macerating" the peaches. :) Now, again, if the mangos are underripe, you'll want to stew them to soften.

  30. I made these for my family and they were such a hit. I didn't make my crust from scratch I doubt I ever will. I did use the Pillsbury pie crust and it was a very good choice nice and flaky...I will certainly make them again.

  31. Mary, I'm sorry,but I'm confused. Am I missing something in the instructions? I read about stewing the apples or berries...then cooling before assembling. But the instructions for peaches or pears seem to indicate merely putting the chopped fruit in a colander to drain a while before putting into the dough circles. Do you not recommend stewing these fruits in the same manner as apples??

    1. Hi VK! So sorry about not being clear on that. If the softer fruits such as pears and peaches are ripe, you don't typically need to stew them for these hand pies, although you certainly could and should if they are underripe or if you want a more gooey filling like pie. Raw apples definitely need stewing to soften them, and berries, because we are thickening them with cornstarch. Hope that helps!

  32. Mary, It's cold here in Virginia today with 4-6 inches of snow predicted. My mother used to make fried apple pies in the winter when I was little. I saw your recipe & made these wonderful little treats. The dough was flaky & melted in your mouth. I added one teaspoon of cinnamon (we love cinnamon) instead of 1/2 to the apples & me, my husband, & grown son almost ate all of them at one sitting. I have a recipe for fried apple pies but I'm using yours from now one. By the way you were right, I had about two tablespoons of apples left over & we ate that too. :) Thanks for a fantastic recipe.

    1. I know what you mean Tricia! We've had a pretty big temperature shift here in south Mississippi too - supposed to be in the 20s overnight! I'm so glad y'all enjoyed the pies (I know what you mean about eating them all too!) & thanks so much for taking the time to come back by and let me know!

  33. Do you think I could use guava paste in these also? I love guava turnovers. What do you think?

    1. Hi Donna! Unfortunately I'm not familiar with that product, however, just about any filling that can be used to make a regular pie, can make a hand pie!


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