These gluten-free vegan hand pies feature an irresistible, spiced apple-cranberry filling and are made without oil or refined sugar. This versatile recipe is a healthier, holiday-worthy treat everyone will love!
If you're a fan of alternative, healthier versions of classic desserts, these vegan hand pies are for you! Who would've thought? Hand pies withOUT dairy, gluten, refined sugar, or oil of any kind?
It's not only possible, it's delicious! The apple-cranberry filling is lightly scented with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, and strikes the perfect balance of sweet and tart.
And the crust used for the mini pies is this reader favorite oil-free pie crust. It's made with almond, rice, and tapioca flours and is so dependable and easy you'll want to use it for everything from pot pie to pumpkin pie!
As you can see in the photos, the crust doesn't get flaky like a traditional crust. It is oil-free, after all! Expect an almost shortbread-like texture, with crisp bits around the edges and a more tender crust on top. The flavor of the crust is mildly nutty and wholesome.
If you love healthier versions of classic desserts don't miss these favorites (all vegan, oil-free and gluten-free):
- Oil-Free Lemon Bars
- Lightened-Up Lemon Tart
- WFPB Vegan Pecan Pie
- Oil-Free Banana Brownies
- Vanilla Maple Oat Milk Ice Cream
Here's what you'll need to make a batch of apple cranberry hand pies:
- Pie Crust - I tested this recipe with my Oil-Free/Gluten-Free Pie Crust. Feel free to use any pie dough that you like, but know that the cook time may be affected. I haven't tested the hand pies with a classic vegan pie crust.
- Cranberries - similar to making cranberry sauce, you can use fresh or frozen cranberries for the filling.
- Apples - I used 2 small gala apples; any sweet variety is fine.
- Maple Syrup - to keep the hand pies free from refined sugar, I've only tested this apple-cranberry filling with maple syrup, but I'm sure granulated sugar will work, too. If using cane sugar you may need another splash of water in the saucepan.
- Spices - the spice level in the filling isn't overpowering. Feel free to experiment with the spices and amounts.
Though this isn't a quick recipe, it's actually pretty easy skill-wise. I would even call it a beginner-friendly pastry recipe!
The first step is to prepare my easy vegan pie dough. Click the link to see the pie crust recipe.
- For five 3 ½ inch hand pies, follow the recipe as written, making a single crust.
- For ten hand pies, double the pie crust recipe.
Once you have a ball of dough, wrap it in plastic wrap to preserve the moisture, and set aside. Now it's time to make the filling.
- To make the apple-cranberry filling, combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan, and bring to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally. The cranberries will pop and the sauce will become more liquid.
- Continue to cook until the apples are tender and the sauce is thick, about 12 minutes.
- The filling is done when you can drag a spoon through and the compote stays in place (as shown above). There shouldn't be any liquid remaining.
- Next, if you made a double batch of pie crust, cut the ball of dough in half. Place dough on a large sheet of parchment paper, and use a rolling pin to roll into a circle roughly 12-inches in diameter (⅛ inch thick). Use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds of dough. Then gather up the scraps, roll out again, and cut more pieces. *You should get 10 rounds from a single pie crust, or 20 rounds if you doubled the pie crust recipe.
A Note on the Size of the Hand Pies
I opted for 3.5-inch cutters because that creates a hand pie large enough to hold a decent amount of filling, but not too large to be one serving.
I don't recommend making the hand pies smaller than 3 ½ inches because they can't hold enough filling; there's too much crust for the amount of fruit. But you could make larger pies, up to 4.5 or 5 inches.
- Arrange half of the dough rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of cranberry filling onto the dough (probably about 2 Tbsp). Eyeball it, and use your best judgment here. The filling should be slightly mounded.
- Cover the filling with the remaining rounds of dough. When placing the top pieces, it helps to be patient. Gently press the outer edges down, then crimp closed using the tines of a fork.
NOTE: the top pieces of dough will likely crack open on their own, as pictured above in photo 6. This is totally fine! If the dough doesn't crack open, use a sharp knife to cut two vent holes in the top of the dough.
Bake in a preheated 370 degree oven for 27 to 29 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the edges are crisp and lightly browned.
Sweetness - The apple-cranberry filling is pretty forgiving. If you prefer a sweeter dessert, feel free to add ¼ cup cane sugar to the saucepan. You'll likely also need a couple more tablespoons of water.
Glaze - Another easy way to add flair and sweetness to the finished hand pies is to drizzle the tops with this homemade vegan condensed milk. It's made with cashews (not coconut milk) and is maple sweetened.
Have fun with your vegan hand pies!! Try them filled with a variety of fruit compotes like apple, peach, plum, and pear, or other fillings like pumpkin or chocolate.
Choose fillings that are somewhat thick (not wet or runny) and very flavorful.
If you haven't made my almond flour pie crust before, as soon as you begin working with it you'll see that it's MUCH easier and more forgiving than tradition pie dough. As you're rolling it out don't be afraid to use your hands to patch holes and fix unevenness.
Roll out the dough to approximately ⅛-inch thickness. The crusts need to be thick enough (especially the bottom pieces) to contain the cranberry filling, but you don't want the crust to be so thick that the crust-to-filling ratio seems off.
Small variances in oven temperature can make a difference in recipes like this where the crust is against a hot pan. You can check your oven's temperature with an inexpensive oven thermometer.
More vegan cranberry desserts:
Apple-Cranberry Vegan Hand Pies (GF, Oil-Free)
- double batch Vegan Gluten-Free Pie Crust (tap for recipe) - I used coconut sugar for the sweetener and brown rice flour instead of white.
- 2 small sweet apples, cored, peeled and chopped
- 8 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen - about 3 cups
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup water
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- organic cane sugar, optional - for sprinkling on top
- First, prepare the pie dough but don't roll out yet. Wrap with plastic to preserve moisture, and set aside. Alternatively, prepare the pie dough later, while the fruit filling cools.
- Make the filling: combine the apples, cranberries, maple syrup, water, spices, and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stirring occasionally, cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the sauce has thickened. There should be no liquid remaining. Refer to process photos above as needed.
- Preheat oven to 370 degrees F (188 C), and line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment paper.
- If working with a double batch of pie crust (for 10 pies), cut the ball of dough in half. This will make it easier to roll out. Place one piece of dough on a large sheet of parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to roll into a circle roughly 12-inches in diameter (⅛ inch thick).
- Use a 3.5-inch biscuit cutter to cut rounds of dough (see Notes). Set the rounds aside, and gather up the scraps. Form the scraps into a ball, roll out again, and cut more rounds. *You should get 10 rounds from a single pie crust and 20 if working with a double batch.
- I find it easiest to assemble the hand pies on a work surface, then use a spatula to transfer them to the baking sheet(s). Scoop a heaping tablespoon of cranberry filling onto the dough (probably closer to 2 tablespoons). Eyeball it, and use your best judgment here. The filling should be slightly mounded.
- Cover the filling with the remaining rounds of dough. When placing the top pieces, it helps to be patient. Gently press the outer edges down, then crimp closed using the underside of a fork. Use a spatula to transfer to the baking sheet.NOTE: because the dough is gluten-free it is somewhat delicate. The top pieces will likely crack open as you crimp the edges (see process photos above). This is totally fine! If the dough doesn't crack open, use a sharp knife to cut two vent holes in the top of the dough.
- Optional sugar sprinkle: to help the sugar stick, wet your fingers and lightly dab the tops with water, then sprinkle on the sugar.
- Bake for 27 to 29 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the edges are crisp and lightly browned.
- Let the hand pies cool for a few minutes before serving. They're delicious warm or room temperature. See Notes for storage instructions.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.