What can I use instead of pie weights when blind baking? Dried beans, lentils, rice grains, popcorn kernels, pasta, and marbles are among the list of possibilities.
Do they all work? Which is best? This might depend on what you have on hand and what you’re willing to sacrifice. Here’s what I discovered about pie weights substitutes…
Natural clay beads for baking blind crust – Made in USA and available at Amazon
Why do you need pie weights?
You need pie weights when you’re blind baking, i.e. when baking the crust or shell of the pie without the filling. If you don’t use these, the base crust won’t sit nicely flat on the baking dish as trapped air can cause the pastry to rise up in places during the baking. An alternative approach is to use the prongs of a fork to put holes in the pastry to allow the air to escape.
Other names for pie weights: Baking beads, baking balls, and baking beans.
Ceramic pie weights
The benefits of using ceramic baking beads is that they don’t absorb flavors or odors. They are hygienic and you can use them over and over again. Ceramic is a natural material and non-toxic.
If you’ve placed the beads over parchment paper or foil, lift them off and place them somewhere to cool before giving them a clean and then store for future use.
What can I use as a substitute?
Ceramic baking beads are the obvious pie weights when blind baking. But what if you don’t have these, what else can you use? Here’s a list of substitutes for pie weights that rate a mention.
Can you use rice instead of baking beans? Yes, rice grains can be used as pie weights. Just place enough grains to lay over the crust, making sure to add a good coverage and depth. The downside is that the rice won’t be edible after using it this way (even in a smart rice cooker), which is a waste. You can, of course, store the used grains in an airtight container for future use as pie weights.
Estimating you use 3 lb and have rice from Amazon for $0.07/ oz – cost is less than $3.50.
Dried beans – any beans – make good pie weights. Much like rice grains you can use dried beans in blind baking. Before baking, place enough beans on top of the crust to form a layer that covers it. Just be aware that the beans won’t be ideal for use in cooking meals after using them this way. Rather than waste them, you can store the used beans in an airtight container for future use as pie weights.
Estimating you use 3 lb and have beans from Amazon for $0.13/ oz – cost is less than $6.50.
Popcorn kernels can work as pie weights similarly to rice and beans. At a pinch, I’d use them. But as a proper substitute, I’d be worried about them popping in the oven. You could eat the popped ones, but any others won’t be edible. They are an economical buy however. But not the most reusable option.
Estimating you use 3 lb and have popcorn kernels from Amazon for $0.10/ oz – cost is less than $5.00.
Can I use lentils as pie weights? You can use lentils as pie weights much the same as for the beans and rice. Once again, the use of the lentils afterwards will be ideal only as pie weights.
Estimating you use 3 lb and choose lentils from Amazon for $0.14/ oz – cost is less than $6.80.
Pasta as a pie weight
Can you use pasta as a pie weight? Pasta can work as a pie weight substitute.
Estimating you use 3 lb and choose lentils from Amazon for $0.10/ oz – cost is less than $5.
You can use sugar as a pie weight substitute. I found this tip of using sugar in a baking subreddit. It is suited to blind-baking at 350°F for an hour, to avoid the sugar burning. It can be used as normal afterwards according to the subreddit user. It’s an economical choice and as a common pantry item, most of us will have it at hand.
Estimating you use 3 lb and choose white plain sugar from Amazon for $0.05/ oz – cost is less than $2.50.
Tips for blind baking
Tip: Press the pie weights up against the sides of your crust including to the top edge to keep the sides from caving in, i.e., shrinking or ‘sliding’ down.
Extra tip: Place aluminum foil or baking parchment paper between the crust and the pie weights that you use.
There are quite a few options for use as weights in blind baking. The cost of these vary widely with quality and variety but I’ve based costs as indications for budget buys only. I’ve used 3 lb to standardize the weighting but you may or may not need this amount. It’ll depend on the size of your pie dish for one.
To prevent the crust from bubbling up and forming air pockets and the sides from shrinking, consider using ceramic baking beads.
The following product is made of food-grade ceramic. The beauty of this is that that the beads can be used in the hottest ovens (up to 480ºF) without fear of them burning. You’ll have these for years of use. This many beads will suit a pie crust from 9 to 12 inch diameter.
The price might surprise you when you weigh up the service you’ll get from these over and over…