Pie Filling Thickeners

Pie Filling Thickeners

Your guide to perfectly thickened fruit filling

Your goal: fruit pie filling that's firm enough to hold its shape, yet soft enough to yield easily to a fork. The following thickeners are listed in order from least inherent thickening power ("gel strength") to greatest.

  • All-purpose flour produces a somewhat cloudy filling; you'll use more of it than you would higher-starch thickeners. Learn more
  • Quick-cooking tapioca makes filling bright and clear, but also gives it a stippled (and for some, "gluey") texture. Filling mixed with tapioca needs to rest 15 to 30 minutes before baking, for the tapioca to soften.
  • Instant ClearJel keeps fillings thick through a great range of temperatures, making it ideal for pies that are frozen, before or after baking. Learn more
  • Pie Filling Enhancer thickens fruit pie fillings the same way Instant ClearJel does. Its advantage is added ascorbic acid (a flavor enhancer), and superfine sugar, which prevents it from clumping. Pie Filling Enhancer is about half sugar; so you'll want to reduce the sugar in your recipe as directed below. Learn more
  • Cornstarch has thickening power similar to that of Instant ClearJel. Like flour, it lends a cloudy, semi-transparent look to filling. It can also give filling a chalky or floury taste. For full effectiveness, make sure the pie filling is bubbling up through the crust before removing your pie from the oven.

For best results, premix

When making fruit filling, start by mixing the thickener with the sugar and spices in the recipe. Not only does this ensure the thickener reaches every part of the filling, it prevents it from clumping when it hits the fruit's juices.

Wait before you judge

Fruit filling thickens as it cools, so don't judge your pie hot out of the oven: wait until it's cooled to room temperature.

Thickeners for fruit pies
Fruit Thickener For 1 Cup of Fruit For 8 Cups of Fruit
Apples

Need the least amount of thickener, since they're less juicy. They're also high in natural pectin; pectin helps filling thicken.

All-purpose flour 1 3/4 tsp 1/4 cup + 2 tsp
Instant ClearJel 1/2 tsp 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Cornstarch 1/2 tsp 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Quick-cooking tapioca 3/4 tsp 2 tbsp
Pie Filling Enhancer 1 1/2 tsp
Reduce sugar by 3/4 tsp
1/4 cup
Reduce sugar by 2 tbsp
Blackberries & Raspberries

Are very juicy, and release even more liquid if they've been frozen; they need more thickener than apples.

All-purpose flour 1 tbsp + 1 tsp 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp + 1 tsp
Instant ClearJel 2 3/4 tsp 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp + 1 tsp
Cornstarch 1 tbsp 1/2 cup
Quick-cooking tapioca 1 tbsp 1/2 cup
Pie Filling Enhancer 1 tbsp + 2 tsp
Reduce sugar by 2 1/2 tsp
3/4 cup + 2 tsp
Reduce sugar by 6 tbsp + 1 tsp
Blueberries

These have a lot of pectin; they'll need a little less thickener than other berries.

All-purpose flour 1 tbsp 1/2 cup
Instant ClearJel 2 tsp 1/3 cup
Cornstarch 2 1/2 tsp 6 tbsp + 2 tsp
Quick-cooking tapioca 1 1/2 tsp 1/4 cup
Pie Filling Enhancer 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Reduce sugar by 2 tsp
1/3 cup
Reduce sugar by 2 tbsp + 2 tsp
Cherries

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

All-purpose flour 1 tbsp 1/2 cup
Instant ClearJel 2 1/2 tsp 6 tbsp + 2 tsp
Cornstarch 2 1/2 tsp 6 tbsp + 2 tsp
Quick-cooking tapioca 1 1/4 tsp 3 tbsp + 1 tsp
Pie Filling Enhancer 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp
Reduce sugar by 2 tsp
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Reduce sugar by 1/4 cup + 2 tsp
Peaches, stone fruits

Don't have quite as much pectin as apples; they're also juicier, so will require more thickener.

All-purpose flour 2 1/2 tsp 6 tbsp + 2 tsp
Instant ClearJel 2 1/2 tsp 6 tbsp + 2 tsp
Cornstarch 2 1/2 tsp 6 tbsp + 2 tsp
Quick-cooking tapioca 1 1/2 tsp 1/4 cup
Pie Filling Enhancer 1 tbsp + 2 tsp
Reduce sugar by 2 1/2 tsp
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Reduce sugar by 6 tbsp + 2 tsp
Strawberry/rhubarb

The juiciest fruit with the least amount of pectin; these will require the most thickener.

All-purpose flour 1 tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp 3/4 cup
Instant ClearJel 2 1/2 tsp 6 tbsp + 2 tsp
Cornstarch 1 tbsp + 1/4 tsp 1/2 cup + 2 tsp
Quick-cooking tapioca 2 1/2 tsp 6 tbsp + 2 tsp
Pie Filling Enhancer 2 tbsp
Reduce sugar by 1 tbsp
1 cup
Reduce sugar by 1/2 cup

Tips

  • Lattice-top fruit pies need less thickener, as more moisture evaporates from open-top pies as they bake. When baking a lattice- or open-top pie, reduce thickener by 1/4 teaspoon per cup of filling (1/2 teaspoon per cup for Pie Filling Enhancer).
  • Pies require longer baking than you think. The pie may be golden brown and the fruit bubbling, but chances are it still needs another 5 to 10 minutes to fully activate the thickener. This is especially true if flour or cornstarch are used.
  • With the exception of filling made with flour or cornstarch, fruit filling will continue to thicken for 24 hours after baking. Instant ClearJel will make filling about 15% thicker from day 1 to day 2; quick-cooking tapioca and Pie Filling Enhancer, about 30% thicker.
  • Frozen fruit releases more juice than fresh. When baking pie with frozen fruit or berries, increase the thickener by 1/4 teaspoon per cup of fruit or berries.