Pie weights are worth buying if you’re doing a lot of blind baking. But if your recipe is a one off, you might just want a quick and easy alternative that’s also a cheaper option.
Alternatives to using store bought pie weights include using no-weights (docking), dried beans, lentils, rice grains, popcorn kernels, pasta, and marbles. There are pros and cons to using these…
About pie weights
Pie weights are small balls or beads that you place on the base of a pie shell to stop air pockets forming under the crust during blind baking, so the base sits flat on the baking dish.
Other names for pie weights: Baking beads, baking balls, and baking beans.
Now onto what to use as pie weights (or not)…
So what to use if you have no pie weights? Here’s a list of substitutes for pie weights that rate a mention.
No weights (docking)
So you know…you can blind bake without pie weights. What you do is use the tines (prongs) of a fork to put many fine holes in the pastry. It allows trapped air to escape during the baking so you don’t get those pockets of air forming under the shell and lifting up the pastry.
I’ve done this many times. You can say it’s a tried and tested approach for economical home baking.
Some call this “docking” the pie. It means pricking the uncooked pastry base all over.
- Costs nothing
- Simple and doesn’t rely on having items on hand
- The sides can bubble out. Make sure to prick the pastry walls as well to avoid this.
- If your filling is extremely runny you may risk it seeping into the holes and adding to the crust.
Can you use rice as a pie weight? Yes, rice grains can be used as a baking beads substitute. Just place enough grains to lay over the crust, making sure to add good coverage and depth.
- Estimating you use 1 lb of rice as pie weight and have rice from Amazon for $0.07/ oz — cost is about $1.12.
- You can, of course, store the used grains in an airtight container for future use as pie weights.
- The downside to using rice grains as baking bean alternatives is that the rice won’t be edible after using it this way (even in a smart rice cooker).
What are the best beans for blind baking? Dried beans — any beans — are good as pie weights in blind baking. Much like rice grains you can use dried beans in blind baking. Before baking, place enough beans on the pastry base in a layer to cover the base and fill up to the top of the crust.
- You can reused them as pie weights. Just store the used beans in an airtight container for future use.
- Economical option. Estimating you use 1 lb and have beans from Amazon for $0.13/ oz — cost is $2.08.
- They won’t be ideal for use in cooking meals after you’ve used them this way.
Can you use popcorn as pie weights? 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.
- They are an economical option. Estimating you use 1 lb and have popcorn kernels from Amazon for $0.10/ oz – cost is $1.60.
- They are not the most reusable option. They will be hard and dry and best discarded rather than storing for future use.
- You could eat the popped ones, but any others won’t be edible.
Can I use lentils as pie weights? You can use lentils as a pie weight alternative much the same as you can beans and rice.
- Estimating you use 1 lb and choose lentils from Amazon for $0.14/ oz – cost is $2.24
- And much the same as beans, they won’t be ideal for cooking meals after using them as pastry weights.
Can I use pasta instead of baking beans? Pasta can work as a pie weight substitute.
- Estimating you use 1 lb and choose lentils from Amazon for $0.10/ oz — cost is $1.60.
- They are not the best to use for pasta dishes afterward
You can use sugar as a pie weight substitute. I found this tip of using sugar in a baking subreddit.
The sugar can be used as normal afterwards according to the subreddit user.
- It’s the most economical choice after the docking method. Estimating you use 1 lb and choose white plain sugar from Amazon for $0.05/ oz — cost is $0.80.
- As a common pantry item, most of us will have it at hand.
- If not done right, the sugar can burn and stick, ruining the pastry
This more detailed instruction on using sugar in blind baking, involves aluminum foil, you might find helpful (I opt for simple solutions).
Pie Weights Alternatives cost per use
Here’s the list of options to use as a substitute for pie weights with estimated costs. Each one costs less than the proper pie weights. But, factoring in that you can only use these as blind baking weights a few times or in some cases only once, the reusable ceramic baking beans are a good option.
|Substitute for baking beans||Cost*|
|Corn kernels (e.g. for making popcorn)||1.60|
|No weights (docking)||0.00|
Apart from the docking method, sugar seems one of the best pie weights substitutes going on cost per use, but you need to read the details. It’s not necessarily the best choice as a substitute for baking beans. Notice I don’t include marbles. There’s a reason, which I give in the FAQs.
If you don’t bake often, then using a baking beans substitute can be cost effective and it can get you out of a pickle of not having any. But, if you do blind-bake often, then consider investing in reusable pie weights like the ceramic beans recommended below.
Make sure to do this with these pie weight Substitutes
Press the pie weight replacements 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.
If you are going to store them for future use in blind baking, make sure to label them as “pie weights” or something similar. You don’t want to confuse them with the pantry stores for cooking.
Extra tip: Place aluminum foil or baking parchment paper between the crust and the pie weights.
Ceramic baking beads
The following product is USA-made using Vitrified ceramic that won’t absorb water or oil. Makers claim they won’t smell or go moldy.
Ceramic baking beads are great because they don’t absorb flavors or odors. They are hygienic and you can use them over and over again. Ceramic is natural and non-toxic, which is another reason ceramic makes for the best beans for pie weights.
Tip: When using these, try placing the beads over parchment paper or foil. Then, you can simply lift them off with the paper and place them somewhere to cool before cleaning. Once dry, store them for future use.
The beauty of this is that that the natural clay beads can be used in the hottest of ovens without fear of them charring. You’ll have these for years of use. This many beads will suit a pie crust up to 10 inch diameter, or two shells up to 7 inch diameter each.
The price might surprise you when you weigh up the service of these blind baking weights you’ll get from these over and over…
Natural clay ceramic pie weights made in USA
Available at Amazon
There are quite a few options for use in blind baking. The alternatives to pie weights that I covered above vary widely with quality and variety but I’ve based their cost as an indication only of budget buys. I’ve used 1 lb to standardize the weighting but the amount you use may vary. It’ll depend on the size of your pie dish and how many items you’re baking.