Whether you’re team pumpkin or team pecan, pie is by and large a sure bet for Thanksgiving dessert. It’s classic, it’s delicious, and it’s suitable for any season. And in slab pie form, it feeds a whole crowd of family or Friendsgiving folks.
Traditional pies can be a little nerve-wracking to assemble, especially if you’re not much of a baker to begin with. The pressure of rolling out an even circle of dough and getting it to fit neatly in the pie plate without slumping or tearing, not to mention crimping the edges or–cue cold sweats–weaving a lattice top for the picture-perfect finishing touch…it has the potential to overwhelm all but the most professional pie makers. Plus, your average pie only feeds about 8 to 10 people, unless they’re feeling especially demure (but even then, what host or hostess ever actually listens to those cries of “Really, just a tiny slice for me, like just a sliver“?).
Enter the slab pie. Baked on a jelly roll pan, it’s not quite so fussy, and it feeds up to 20-odd of your nearest and dearest–or fleeting acquaintances at Friendsgiving, for that matter.
Versatility and relative simplicity are great selling points, but the chief virtue of the slab pie is probably its size. Since the holidays are usually prime time for feeding crowds, the large-scale format comes in handy on dessert tables from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. That said, slab pies work just as well for bake sales, potlucks, company picnics, and family reunions–even farmers markets if you’re interested in entrepreneurship.
These vast pies are so big, in fact, you can line up multiple fillings in one slab, though that might defeat the purpose of making it easier on yourself. Then again, it’s totally in line with the general excess of the holidays, a good way to ensure everyone gets the flavors they like, and a nice compromise between a relatively puny round pie and the dessert answer to turducken, the Piecaken.
In the same way that bar cookies are less effort but no less appreciated than their drop-and-bake brethren, and sheet cakes are super simple yet so wonderfully generous, slab pies strike a balance between a certain folksiness and the impressiveness inherent in anything that’s handmade for other people. They’re more casual, but more communal too.
Since you do still have to roll out crust, whether the dough is homemade or purchased, assembling a slab pie may not technically be all that easier than making a standard round version, yet it feels so much more forgiving. There’s definitely no need to stress about perfect circles. If cracks do form, they’re easier to conceal. And no one’s going to expect a dessert with “slab” in the name to look utterly polished anyway, although you certainly can get as fancy as you’d like to.
Some of the simplest slab options, other than eschewing any embellishment at all, are using a crumb crust or streusel topping:
For a more traditional double-crust look, you can leave a little overhang on the bottom layer of dough so you’ll be able to fold it up over the sides of the top layer for an easy but appealing tucked-in look, or just crimp the top and bottom margins together with a fork or your fingers. Finally, if you’re fully embracing the rustic nature of the slab pie, simply make some slashes in the top crust for the steam to vent:
For something a little more advanced, you can use cookie cutters to stamp out shapes of any sort in the top crust before transferring it to the pan, like so:
You can even use alphabet cutters to send a message:
Or, invert that technique and use the cut-out letters or shapes themselves to top the pie–super doable, and so striking:
If you’re comfortable with weaving pastry, the classic lattice look is lovely too:
And if you need to go the extra mile (emphasis on the extra), you can go with cinnamon swirl dough that bakes up crisp like palmiers and inspires true awe:
But remember, slab pies by their very nature are unpretentious and need no gussying up to be enjoyed. And no matter what they look like, they’re going to be delicious (because, hey, they’re pies)!
True to their easygoing nature, they’re also highly adaptable–you can make pretty much any pie you want in the slab format. The basic formula for scaling up is 2 batches of standard double-crust pie dough plus 1 1/2 batches (or about 7 to 8 cups) of your preferred pie filling, although non-fruit fillings might scale a bit differently. And this formula assumes you want a double-crust slab pie; if you don’t, just double-check your starting pie dough recipe and adjust the ingredients accordingly:
1 batch standard single-crust pie dough = not enough for a slab pie
1 batch standard double-crust pie dough = 1 single-crust slab pie
2 batches standard single-crust pie dough = 1 single-crust slab pie
2 batches standard double-crust pie dough = 1 double-crust slab pie
Also be aware that in general, since slab pies are broader and flatter, there will be a lower filling-to-crust ratio overall, something to keep in mind when choosing your topping.
If you do start your slab using a standard pie dough recipe, in addition to increasing the ingredients to suit your needs if necessary, don’t form the dough into disks before chilling them, as usually directed. Instead, pat them into rectangles, since that’s the shape you’ll be going for when it’s time to roll them out.
You can also find slab pies made with puff pastry, hybrid slab pie-bar cookies gooey with chocolate and toffee, and even slab tiramisu. But don’t stop at dessert–if you need a brunch dish for a crowd, try a savory breakfast slab pie. Or still skew sweet but embrace the giant Pop Tart aesthetic for the morning hours:
When it comes to slab pies, there’s almost nothing they can’t do. So consider setting aside your rather prim pie plate this Thanksgiving and baking one of these capable crowd-pleasers instead. Here are some renditions especially suited to fall and winter entertaining.
There are lots of different pumpkin slab pies out there: low carb with cardamom candied pecans for a keto Thanksgiving, lightened up with a touch of cream cheese and decorated with little pastry pumpkins, marbled pumpkin-cheesecake slabs…but this one hews more closely to the classic pumpkin pie, just writ large (and rectangular). Get the Pumpkin Slab Pie recipe.
This is another classic spun into a slab, with a touch of buttermilk in the flaky dough and semisweet chocolate chips mixed into the pecan pie filling. Feel free to add a splash of bourbon if you’re so inclined. Get the Pecan Slab Pie recipe.
Apple slab pies are wonderful, whether you add maple icing or mix in ginger, rum, and cranberries. Or you can go simpler, as in this version with a touch of cinnamon and a whisper of glaze made from apple juice, lemon, butter, and powdered sugar. Plus, if you’re not up for making it all from scratch, there’s a nifty trick for improving purchased pie dough with…wait for it…animal crackers. Get the Apple Slab Pie recipe.
While pumpkin, pecan, and seasonal fruits might be the more obvious choices for Thanksgiving pies, it’s never a bad time for chocolate. This gorgeous slab of creamy cocoa pudding is light as a cloud from whipped cream folded in, and would be equally great in a graham cracker crust if you felt like switching up the classic pie shell. Get the Chocolate Cream Slab Pie recipe.
Gooey caramel and an easy brown sugar-oatmeal crumble top this cinnamon-scented apple pie in its tender, flaky crust. Get the Caramel Apple Slab Pie recipe.
The classic pumpkin pie–in slab form, of course–gets another little twist with a chocolate cookie crust and cinnamon-flecked whipped cream. Chocolate shavings on top don’t hurt, either. Get the Chocolate Pumpkin Slab Pie recipe.
While cherry pies may speak of summer, adding tart, seasonally appropriate cranberries to the filling is a great option for Thanksgiving if you want to try something new (or at least augment the classic array of desserts on offer). Get the Cranberry Cherry Slab Pie recipe.
Speaking of something new and different, consider quince, a cousin of the apple. It’s lovely poached in a dessert wine syrup with vanilla and warm spices, then folded into a sugared puff pastry crust (for another puff pastry slab, try this pear, honey, and ginger creation). This one is smaller than the average slab–almost dainty, really–but you could always double it and bake it in a bigger pan if need be. Get the Quince Slab Pie recipe.
Another melding of two classics, this pumpkin pecan slab pie is crunchy and creamy and the best of both worlds. You can always use homemade pie dough if you prefer, but no one will mind if you go with store-bought. Get the Pumpkin Pecan Slab Pie recipe.
Pears and maple marry beautifully with both fresh and crystallized ginger in this tender cream cheese pastry crust, which has a little texture from cornmeal and poppy seeds. Get the Maple Pear Slab Pie recipe.
The trio of apples, pears, and ginger makes for another festive fall slab pie (that also happens to be gluten free), but for a slightly more unexpected autumnal accent, try this caramelized pear and sage slab, which has a mod look from the circles cut out of the top crust, though you can decorate it any way you like–or not at all. Get the Caramelized Pear and Sage Slab Pie recipe.
Ready to try your pie in slab form?
Get equipped, and check out a couple cookbooks for more recipe inspiration.
Made in the USA from pure aluminum, this pan produces even browning and promises it will never rust.See It
From dessert to dinnertime, slab pies are always welcome.See It
More slab pies recipes, plus sheet cakes for when you want to switch it up.See It
Related Video: The World’s Fastest Pumpkin Pie
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Header image courtesy of Garnish with Lemon.