Cream pies come in all flavors – from chocolate to coconut – but there is one flavor that you don’t see all that often: vanilla. While I will take a slice of cream pie in just about any flavor you would like to serve me, there is something simple and satisfying about a Vanilla Cream Pie that you just don’t get with other flavors. This particular vanilla-infused pie has a vanilla custard base that is cooked on the stovetop and is topped with a vanilla meringue that contrasts nicely with the smooth custard and gives the pie a little extra sweetness. It’s simple and, if you’re a vanilla fan, this is sure to hit the spot.
I used a vanilla cookie crumb crust for this recipe, baked and cooled in advance. Since the filling for the pie is not baked, you can use a no-bake crust recipe, if you prefer. You can also use a store-bought graham cracker or vanilla crumb crust. I think the homemade crusts might get an edge for flavor, but all of these crusts will work well and you should pick the one that best fits with how much time you have on hand to make this pie. It comes together easily, so that does make it a great candidate for storebought crusts that will save you quite a bit of time during your prep.
You can make this pie with vanilla extract or vanilla beans. Vanilla extract will give the cream pie filling a nice round vanilla flavor and it will help tie the filling in with the vanilla-kissed meringue topping. If you happy to have a vanilla bean in your kitchen, however, you can capture some of the more complex floral notes of the bean in the custard by scraping the seeds in while you are cooking it. Both versions are delicious in the end.
The pie is best within a day or two of baking, as the meringue may start to weep and become slightly sticky after that point. After the meringue is browned, I let the pie cool than refrigerate until I’m ready to serve. I’ll often prepare this pie in the morning and serve it in the afternoon, or simply make it the night before.
Vanilla Cream Pie with Meringue
1 9-inch vanilla crumb crust
2 large eggs
1 egg white
1 cup sugar, divided
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk (pref. whole or reduced fat)
1 tbsp vanilla extract, divided
or 1/2 vanilla bean + 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325F.
Divide the whole eggs, placing the yolks in a medium saucepan and the whites, along with the extra egg white, in a large bowl. Set the egg whites aside.
To the saucepan containing the egg yolks, whisk in 2/3 cup sugar and salt until smooth. Stir in flour, milk. If you have a vanilla bean, the seeds can be scraped out and added in along with the milk. Whisk until very smooth, then cook over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, until pudding comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring regularly, until pudding has thickened completely, about 3-5 minutes. Whisk in 2 tsp vanilla extract, if not using vanilla bean. Pour into prepared pie crust.
Take the bowl of egg whites and beat with an electric mixer until egg whites become very foamy. Gradually stream in remaining 1/3 cup sugar while beating the egg whites. Meringue should become smooth and glossy. Beat to soft peaks, then blend in 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Using a spatula, spread meringue evenly over the hot pie filling.
Bake for 13-16 minutes, until meringue is golden. Allow pie to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well-chilled, about 6 hours.
Makes 1 pie; Serves 8.