I’ve always believed that the quickest way to understand a culture is through its food. And when it comes to Europe, nothing says tradition and comfort quite like a good pie. From the hearty shepherd’s pies of England to the flaky pastel de nata in Portugal, every corner of this continent has a pie worth trying.

In this journey, we’ll be exploring the diverse world of European pies, each brimming with history, culture, and of course, delicious flavours. So tighten your apron strings, grab your fork, and get ready to dive into the rich, buttery goodness of Europe’s best pies. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or a curious traveller, I guarantee this will be a culinary adventure you won’t forget.

Understanding the Interpretation of “Good Pie in Europe”

Diving into the dimension of what classifies as a “Good Pie” in Europe, it’s imperative to perceive that several qualifying factors play a crucial role in a pie’s appreciation. Furthermore, Europe’s diverse gastronomic culture births a plethora of pie varieties, each reflecting the region they originate from.

Factors that Define a Good Pie

Mastery over a pie’s balance, crust, and filling are the fundamental elements of a truly memorable pie. The crust must exhibit a flaky texture, robust enough to hold the filling while melting in your mouth as an example. Adding to the crust’s quality, the choice of filling in a pie stands paramount. For instance, a striking balance of flavours, attuned to the native palate, enhances a pie’s appeal.

Closely following the crust and filling, the aesthetic appeal presents an equally important factor. Vibrantly-browned exteriors, intricate lattice-work, or glossy glazes, examples abound for pie presentation. Coupled with the aroma, a pie’s visual appeal can induce anticipation of its taste before the first bite.

The last factor, deeply rooted in the cultural heritage, is the tradition that each pie carries. Pies like the shepherd’s pie of England or the Italian pizzagaina are savoured not only for their flavours but also for their historic backgrounds and tales. In essence, a good pie resonates with the history and culinary legacy of its birthplace.

Europe: A Land of Pie Diversity

Spread across Europe, variety weaves the common thread that connects all ‘good pies’. Each country prides itself on distinct pies, representing cultural norms, local ingredients, and diverse culinary styles.

For example, England boasts the ever-popular shepherd’s pie, a delectable tapestry of minced meat and vegetables topped with a layer of creamy mashed potatoes. On the other end of the continent, in Portugal, the pastel de nata reigns, with its light egg-custard nestled in a buttery, puff pastry.

Travelling into Greece, one savours the spanakopita, a spinach and feta-filled phyllo pastry, speaking volumes about Greek culinary culture. Equally notable, France gifts the world quiche, a savory pie with a rich range of fillings encased in a soft, buttery crust.

Voyaging through Europe, one discovers that the charm of ‘Good Pie’ is in its diversity, reflecting the continent’s rich cultural tapestry. In every ‘slice’ of Europe, a pie awaits, ready to delight the senses and connect us to its place of origin.

Traditional Pies in Different Regions of Europe

Exploring European pie culture, we delve into the regional traditions that shape its gastronomy.

The Savoury Pies of Britain and Ireland

Britain and Ireland boast diverse variations of savoury pies, a testament to a rich culinary tradition. One cornerstone of British and Irish pie heritage is the ubiquitous Shepherd’s Pie. Originating from Northern England, this comforting dish, often accompanied with a generous gravy, features a filling of minced lamb, layered with a topping of crisp mashed potatoes.

Similarly, the Irish steak and Guinness pie brings together succulent beef slow-cooked in Ireland’s globally lauded stout. This hearty meal is a favoured winter warmer in local pubs.

The Sweet Pies of Southern Europe

Moving south, the pie experience in Europe transforms from savoury to sweet, marking a fascinating shift in culinary styles. In Southern Europe, pies often take the form of sweet treats, a brilliant reflection of the sunny and vibrant cultures of the region.

Portugal’s Pastel de Nata is an absolute delight. These egg custard tarts have a deliciously flaky crust and a creamy filling that brims with sweetness. Another sweet sensation is the Italian Tiramisu Pie, a twist on the classic dessert, layering mascarpone, espresso and chocolate in a sweet biscuit pie crust.

Whether you’re in the mellow landscape of Britain and Ireland or basking in the vibrant atmosphere of Southern Europe, the sheer variety in the traditional pies of European regions serves to highlight the enticing diversity that spans the continent’s culinary narrative.

A Gourmet’s Guide to European Pie Tasting

Delving deeper into the gastronomic world of European pies, let’s scrutinise the common ingredients that give these pastries their distinctive tastes, and unravel the best drinks to pair them with.

Common Ingredients Found in European Pies

Spotting common ingredients in European pies can enhance one’s understanding of European culinary constructs. Key components typically include flour, a range of fats, localised meats, and seasonal produce.

  1. Flour, regardless of its variant, serves a crucial role in crafting the structure of the pie. For example, traditional Italian Tiramisu Pie utilises standard all-purpose flour.
  2. Fats contribute largely to the flavour and texture of the pies’ crust. A shining example is the ubiquitous presence of butter in a classic French apple tart’s pastry.
  3. Within the savory pies, localised meat selection primarily shapes the character of the pie. As seen in the British shepherd’s pie where lamb imparts an earthy, robust flavour, distinct to the region.
  4. Seasonal produce, combined with the baker’s flair, leads to varied sweet and savoury pies across seasons. Mirroring this, Portugal’s pastel de nata incorporates the creaminess of eggs, a staple of Portuguese agriculture.

Europe’s Pie-Pairing Beverages

Within Europe’s borders, discerning diners aren’t just enjoying their pies without any company! Different beverages play an essential role in pie enjoyment.

  1. Ale and stout cater to the palates of many in Britain and Ireland, complimenting the hearty fillings of pies like Shepherd’s Pie and the Steak and Guinness Pie. For example, British real ale, with its nuanced flavours, can cut through the richness of a meat-loaded pie.
  2. White wines, specifically those from Portugal, harmonise with the creaminess of their proud invention, the Pastel de Nata. A typical example includes the crisp, aromatic Vinho Verde.
  3. Teas, especially black tea, find their allure in partnering with a multitude of European pies. An English Breakfast tea, with its signature briskness, balances the sweetness of a typical apple pie.

Thus, from vital ingredients to perfect beverages, pies in Europe offer a rich spectrum of flavours and experiences for discerning gourmets.

The Pie Shops Not to Miss in Europe

Building on the exploration of the celebrated tradition of pie-making across Europe, I’d like to highlight some of the respected pie shops that pie aficionados should consider visiting. Each shop brings its own unique blend of traditional and contemporary flavours to the broad spectrum of European pies.

Renowned Pie Shops in London

In London, pie-making is an endeared tradition, and there are numerous pie shops that testify to this. Three such shops are certainly worth your visit.

  1. Goddards at Greenwich: Founded in 1890, Goddards at Greenwich offers authentic London pies, served with mash and liquor. The shop’s Pie and Mash, a legacy from the streets of Victorian London, retains its traditional charm and distinctive taste.
  2. Manze’s Pie and Mash Shop: With three locations in London, Manze’s serves traditional pies cooked to a recipe that dates back to 1902. The Pie and Mash, paired with the shop’s homemade liquor, is a must-try.
  3. Pieminister: Although a relatively new addition, established in 2003, Pieminister has become a beloved destination for pie lovers. Its inventive pies, like the ‘Fungi Chicken’ and vegan ‘Kevin’, showcase the influence of global flavours.

Must-Visit Pie Outlets in France

Venturing to France, the pie culture here pivots from savoury to sweet, particularly in Paris. Below are three pie shops that will guarantee a delightful gastronomic experience.

  1. Tarte Kluger: Known for its gluten-free options, Tarte Kluger offers a variety of unique tart flavours. The Tomato, Mozzarella, Pesto tart and the rustic Apple and Cinnamon tart offer a balanced blend of innovation and tradition.
  2. Les Tartelettes: This shop sticks to the basic principles of pie making, bringing out the best in simple ingredients. Try its classic Lemon tart or the unusual Raspberry and Red Pepper tart.
  3. La Tarte: For pie enthusiasts who love a classic French pastry, La Tarte offers pies revered for their aesthetic simplicity and unbeatable taste. Opt for its Pecan Pie, which is as scrumptious as it is beautiful.

The presented pie shops are but a taste of the pie-making legacy in Europe. The continent brims with numerous other stores – each a testament to its region’s love for pies, each with a unique story to tell, and each with their share of mouthwatering pies that deserve to be relished and savoured.

Pie Festivals and Competitions in Europe

Going beyond savouring pies at renowned outlets, there’s another aspect of Europe’s replete piesphere that can’t be overlooked: pie festivals and competitions. Through such events, the love for pie transcends from plates to public platforms, celebrating pie heritage, local flairs, and creative pie-making techniques. In this section, I’ll share details about some popular pie festivals and competitions in Europe.

The World Pie Eating Championship in the UK

In the UK, pies not only charm taste buds but also fuel competitive spirits. The World Pie Eating Championship, held annually in Wigan, typifies this. Originating in 1992, the tournament draws competitors worldwide, challenging them to eat a meat and potato pie as rapidly as they can. Based strictly on speed, it once rested on consuming as many pies as possible, but pivoted for health-conscious reasons. Residents and visitors, who participate, relish the jovial atmosphere and the opportunity to clinch the title of ‘World’s Fastest Pie Eater.’

Celebrating Pie: International Festivals in Europe

European pie appreciation also shines at the stage of international festivals. For instance, Melton Mowbray’s British Pie Awards in the UK spark a pie revolution, with bakers showcasing their baking skills and innovative pie recipes. Judges, comprising food critics, chefs, and pie enthusiasts, scrutinize each pie based on criteria like appearance, bake quality, texture, and taste. Another pie-centred delight is the Swiss ‘Cholera’ Festival. Despite the ominous title, it’s a culinary extravaganza where people convene for ‘Cholera’ pie — a puff pastry filled with potatoes, apples, onions, and cheese, named with a teaspoon of humor during a quarantine period. Such festivals not only create joyful memories but also amplify the grandeur of pies in Europe’s rich culinary tapestry.

Recipes: How to Make Good European Pies at Home

Who says you need to cross boundaries to enjoy the rich flavours of European pies? In this section, I’ll take you on a culinary journey in your kitchen, guiding you through two iconic pies: the warming British Shepherd’s Pie and the classic Italian Pizza Pie.

Easy British Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

This hearty dish, favoured in Britain during chilly winter months, involves simple ingredients, resulting in a wholesome, delightful savoury pie. Let’s venture into making a Shepherd’s Pie for four servings.

First, gather these ingredients:

  1. Diced lamb, 500 grams
  2. Chopped onions, carrots, and garlic cloves – one each
  3. Tomato paste, 1 tablespoon
  4. Beef stock, 500 ml
  5. Peas, 200 grams
  6. Mashed potatoes, 2 cups
  7. Cheese, grated as needed
  8. Butter and oil for cooking
  9. Salt and pepper for taste

Start by sautéing the onions, carrots, and garlic in butter and oil. Add the diced lamb and allow it to brown. Then, stir in tomato paste and beef stock, adding peas near the end. Once thickened, transfer the mixture into a pie dish, top it with mashed potatoes, sprinkle grated cheese, and bake until golden.

Authentic Italian Pizza Pie Recipe

Pizza, Italy’s gift to the world, can easily come to life in your kitchen with the right method. For an original Italian Pizza Pie, I’m focusing on the Margherita variant.

First, acquire these necessary items:

  1. Flour for pizza dough, 500 grams
  2. Yeast, 7 grams
  3. Luke warm water, 325 ml
  4. Salt and oil, as per taste
  5. Tomato sauce, 200 ml
  6. Mozzarella cheese, 200 grams
  7. Fresh basil leaves, a handful
  8. Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Begin by preparing the pizza dough; mix flour, yeast, water, salt, and oil, kneading until the dough becomes soft and smooth. Let it rest for a while. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and transfer it to a pizza stone or baking tray. Spread tomato sauce, scatter mozzarella, and place a few fresh basil leaves. Finally, drizzle the extra virgin olive oil before baking the pizza pie to perfection.

Recommendations: The Best Pies to Try in Europe

After exploring European pie heritage, recognizing top pie spots and revelling in fascinating pie events, it’s fitting to delve into specific pie recommendations. This section uncovers Europe’s acclaimed pies and distinctive local specialties that leave a lasting impression on pie enthusiasts.

Critics’ Choices: The Award-Winning Pies in Europe

I begin with those pies that have gained recognition from critics and awards panels. In the UK, the Steak and Ale Pie from John’s Deli stands out, grabbing numerous awards in the past years at British Pie Awards. Notably, their secret to success lies in the locally sourced prime beef and homemade shortcrust pastry, making it a pie indulgence you won’t forget.

Heading over to France, Tourte de Blettes, a sweet and savoury mix of chard, raisins and pine nuts encased in a crisp pastry crust, won the prestigious Le Championnat de France de la Tourte aux Blettes.

For those looking outside the UK and France, Strukli from Croatia, often found at the Restaurant La Struk, serves an incredible rolled pie praised by critics. Stuffed with cottage cheese and drenched in creamy sauce, it’s an unanticipated star in the pie constellation, gaining nods from international food critics.

Understand the Local Specialties

Every corner of Europe, in its unique way, contributes to the pie landscape. Let’s decode some regional delicacies.

In Spain, Empanada Gallega reigns supreme. Originating from Galicia in Northwestern Spain, the Spanish pastry pie bursts with flavours of tuna, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes encased in a golden crust. No visit to Spain proves complete without trying this local specialty.

Scotland brings forth Scottish Pies, often termed ‘Scotch Pies’. Laden with minced mutton and baked in a hot water crust, authentic Scotch Pies declare themselves a mouth-watering treat on every Scottish food trail.

As discussed earlier, Italy boasts its Pizza Pie. Nevertheless, another lesser-known wonder, Torta Pasqualina, merits mention. Deeply rooted in Liguria region’s culture during Easter, this puff pastry pie churns out an intoxicating mix of spinach, ricotta and multiple whole eggs, enveloping you in a blanket of absolute Italian delight.

These recommendations combust into an explosion of flavours and textures, celebrating European pie culture’s essence and diversity.


Europe’s pie culture is as diverse as it is delicious. From London’s pie shops to France’s innovative flavours, there’s a pie for every palate. Festivals and competitions across the continent celebrate this heritage, showcasing the creativity and passion that goes into every slice. Whether it’s the award-winning Steak and Ale Pie from John’s Deli, the Tourte de Blettes from France, or regional delights like the Strukli, Empanada Gallega, and Scottish Pies, each pie tells a story of its homeland. And let’s not forget Italy’s Torta Pasqualina, adding its own unique note to this symphony of flavours. So next time you’re in Europe, don’t just eat a pie – dive into a rich, culinary tradition that’s been perfected over centuries. You won’t be disappointed.

By Zara