Thickeners for pies

There’s a whole range of ingredients that will help you thicken the delicious filling in your fruit pie, so you can slice it without any runniness or “slumping.” Each of these thickeners behaves a little differently, and has a different degree of holding power (or gel strength).

It’s important to mix thickener with the sugar and spices used to flavor the filling before adding it to the fruit. Not only does this ensure the thickener reaches every part of the filling; it prevents it from clumping up when it hits the fruit’s juices.

All-purpose and potato flour have the lowest gel strength; you’ll have to use more of them to obtain the same degree of thickening as the starches listed below. Both flours will give an opaque, cloudy appearance to filling.

Cornstarch has the most holding power for its weight, but lends a cloudy, semi-transparent look to filling. Some people can detect a “chalky, floury” taste, as well.

Modified food starch (Instant ClearJel) has plenty of thickening power, and will keep fillings thick through a great range of temperatures. ClearJel works well with pies that will be frozen after baking, then thawed, as it won’t break down when frozen/thawed, like other starches. It gives a hazy, semi-translucent look to filling.

Pie Filling Enhancer is a combination of modified food starch, superfine sugar, and ascorbic acid; it thickens fruit pie fillings the same way Instant ClearJel does. Its advantage is the added ascorbic acid (a flavor enhancer), and superfine sugar, which prevents it from clumping.

Arrowroot, tapioca starch flour, and potato starch all create a clear, translucent filling. Potato starch has the most holding power, followed by arrowroot, with tapioca flour third. Some people find these thickeners produce an unappealingly “gluey” texture in fruit fillings; others like this sturdy texture.

Quick-cooking tapioca works best if combined with the filling and given time to soften and absorb its juices before baking. It makes filling bright and clear, but also gives it a stippled (and for some, “gluey”) texture.

Signature Secrets is a pre-gelatinized starch that has moderate thickening power. It mixes into hot or cold liquids, straight with no clumping. Best used as a bit of thickening “insurance” for cooked or custard pie fillings.

~ thickeners for fruit pies ~
Fruit Thickener How much to use per cup of fruit
Apples

Need the least amount of thickener, since they are less watery. They are also high in pectin, which helps them set up as filling.

All-purpose or potato flour 1 1/2 teaspoons
Arrowroot, ClearJel, or quick-cooking tapioca 1/2 teaspoon
Corn or potato starch 1/4 teaspoon
Pie Filling Enhancer 1 1/2 teaspoons
Tapioca starch flour 1 teaspoon
Signature Secrets 1 1/2 teaspoons
Berries

Have a lot of liquid, and release even more if they’ve been frozen, so need more thickener. Blueberries have a lot of pectin, so will need a little less if cooked with lemon juice and sugar.

All-purpose or potato flour 1 1/2 tablespoons
Arrowroot, ClearJel, or quick-cooking tapioca 1 tablespoon
Corn or potato starch 2 1/2 teaspoons
Pie Filling Enhancer 2 tablespoons
tapioca, quick 4 teaspoons
Tapioca starch flour 1 1/2 tablespoons
Signature Secrets 1 1/2 tablespoons
Cherries

Fresh cherries will need slightly less thickener than canned or frozen.

All-purpose or potato flour 4 teaspoons
Arrowroot, ClearJel, or quick-cooking tapioca 2 1/2 teaspoons per cup
Corn or potato starch 2 teaspoons
Pie Filling Enhancer 1 tablespoon
Tapioca starch flour 1 1/2 tablespoons
Signature Secrets 4 teaspoons
Peaches, stone fruits

Don’t have quite as much pectin as apples, also more liquid.

All-purpose or potato flour 1 1/2 tablespoons
Arrowroot, ClearJel, or quick-cooking tapioca 1 tablespoon per cup
Pie Filling Enhancer 2 1/2 teaspoons
Tapioca starch flour 1 1/2 tablespoons
Signature Secrets 1 1/2 tablespoons
Strawberry/Rhubarb

Another juicy combination; needs as much thickener as berries do.

All-purpose or potato flour 1 1/2 tablespoons
Arrowroot, ClearJel, or quick-cooking tapioca 1 tablespoon per cup
Pie Filling Enhancer 2 1/2 teaspoons
Tapioca starch flour 1 1/2 tablespoons
Signature Secrets 1 1/2 tablespoons