Hand Pies

Three apple hand pies in a row on red checkered napkin
Three apple hand pies in a row on red checkered napkin

Delicious, whatever you call them 

By Jim Walker 

On the “latest craze” radar for about 10 years, still cresting the popularity wave, and perfect for fall munching, hand pies have actually always been in food fashion. You just knew them as something else. It is said that hand pies, known as pasties, were favored by Cornish miners long ago. They could heat them in their lunch bucket over a candle, hold them by the pinched crust, eat the rest and toss the pinched part because it might have become contaminated by their dirty fingers. Whether that is fully true or not, what is true is that nearly every country has its own version of a hand pie – because they are convenient, delicious and satisfying. 

Though some hardcore purists have very strict definitions of what a hand pie is – “made with two, small, circular pieces of dough that are crimped closed to hold the filling,” or a “semi-lunar pastry with either a sweet or savory filling, formed by placing a dollop of filling onto a circular piece of biscuit-style dough and then folding it over and crimping it shut” – there really are no rules. For example, Martha Stewart makes some hand pies that look like little flat triangles, and others in a variety of puffy shapes. She even sells frozen kits for these latter. Hand pie shapes, fillings and types of crust are only limited by imagination and preference. 

Empanadas are actually small hand pies, as are pocket pies and, really, turnovers. So are Hostess fruit pies, McDonalds fruit pies and even Pop-Tarts. Our definition here will specify four characteristics: (1) It can be eaten while held in one hand, (2) Some sort of crust in some sort of shape, (3) Some sort of filling, sweet or savory – and, most important, (4) It must be delicious. 

You may already have a favorite hand pie shop in town, but, for the rest of us not so plugged in, know that if you search for “hand pies Santa Clarita,” you’ll get a list of pie shops and bakeries. However, further search might reveal that some of these businesses don’t normally offer pies that fit in your hand. Here is a case where old-school calling for information is better than the internet. For example, Daniella Bravo, manager at Jazmin’s Bakery in Newhall, revealed that they offer fruit tarts (which don’t quite qualify) and “empanadas that are sweet” (which do qualify). That isn’t obvious from their photo gallery. 

And while you can always get your mass-produced pastries at the grocery store, or seek them out at your favorite bakery or snack shop, why not get creative and make your own? Go savory, go sweet, fit a small hand or a big one. Make a flat or fluffy crust, bake, fry or air-fry. You might even invite your friends to a hand pie-making party. You can find recipes for anything you can imagine in the hand pie arena, but let’s start out with a basic, yet tasty one. 

EASY, Sweet, Air-Fried Apple Hand Pie 

The idea here is to gain confidence by making things as simple as possible. So, for your first time out, use refrigerated pie crust and canned apple filling. Cooking time will vary with the size and type of air fryer. (You can also bake these in a standard oven on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated, 400°F oven for 20 minutes.) This recipe makes six small hand pies. 


  • 14-15 ounce refrigerated packaged pie crust (2 crusts)  
  • 1/2 can (21 ounce can) apple pie filling 
  • 1 large egg 
  • water 
  • 3 teaspoons coarse sugar 


  1. Remove pie crusts from packaging and allow them to come to room temperature. 
  1. Roll out as necessary so you can cut the pie crusts into six, five-inch diameter circles. 
  1. Place two slices of apples (or two to three tablespoons worth) from the apple pie filling onto each of the pie crusts. With a little water, moisten the outside edges of the pie crust. Fold crust over the filling to form a half-moon, and then pinch the edges of the crust together, then crimp the edges with a fork to seal them. 
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg with a splash of water. Brush the pies with the egg wash all over the tops. 
  1. Sprinkle one-half teaspoon of the coarse sugar over each pie. 
  1. Make three slits in the crust on the top of each pie. 
  1. Preheat the air fryer at 350°F for five minutes. Spray the air fryer basket with nonstick cooking spray. 
  1. Place two pies in the basket at a time and air fry for about 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Carefully remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining pies. (If your air fryer basket is large, you can cook more than two at a time, as long as they are not touching.) 

You can dip these hand pies in your favorite sweet topping (caramel works), and you can substitute other types of canned fruit for the apple. 


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