With an almost unlimited number of options and a choice between savory and sweet, almost everyone likes pie. Moms usually make great pies, you can buy them in grocery stores in the bakery or the frozen food aisle, and you can order pie for dessert in most restaurants. If you love pie, then you should celebrate January 23rd, which is National Pie Day.

Pie History

different flavors of pie on a table

In the United States, pies came over with the pilgrims. However, they were not the fruit-filled pies we enjoy today, but they were meat-based English-style pies that are still sold in the United Kingdom, Australia, and other Commonwealth countries.

The first record of a pie recipe was written by the Romans in the 14th century and called for goat cheese and honey in a rye crust. However, the pie crusts, which were then known as coffyns, were not eaten, they merely held the ingredients while they baked.

The first fruit pies were invented in England in the 1500s, with the first cherry pie believed to have been made for Queen Elizabeth I. The pumpkin pie first appeared in a cookbook in 1675, but it didn’t become popular until the 1800s.

Pies were not made to serve as desserts in the colonies, but the crusts were used to preserve the meat inside of them. They were convenient to carry, so if someone had to go hunting or on a long trip, they may have taken a meat pie in their pack.

Sweet pies were not popular until the 20th Century. Only three types of sweet pies were listed in a 1796 recipe book, eight types were listed in a cookbook from the 1800s, but by 1947, 65 varieties of sweet pies were in the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. The pie is really a traditional American dessert.

Pie for Breakfast!

seven plates of pies of different flavors

Even though it is now a favorite dessert, pie wasn't always served after the evening meal. In most cases, it was served for breakfast. In the New England area, fruit pies became the breakfast food of choice for many of the colonists.

It could be made the day before and preserved overnight, and it consisted of fruit, sweetener, fat, and grains, which made it a nutritious and delicious morning meal. Pie was also a popular choice when Americans began to move west in the 1800s.

It was difficult to get fresh fruit on the trail, but pioneers usually had dried apples. So, the apples were baked into pies, which were eaten in the morning. Now, eating pie for breakfast is almost unheard, except the day after Thanksgiving when there are multiple pie options. However, approximately 113 million Americans have admitted to eating pie for breakfast.

With the evolution of pie from a meat-based meal to a dessert treat, it is now celebrated on National Pie Day every year. The day to celebrate pie began in 1975 in Boulder, Colorado. A teacher, Charlie Papazian, had such a love for pie that he would always have pie for his birthday instead of birthday cake.

In 1975, on his birthday, which is January 23rd, he decided to declare it a day to commemorate pie, and it stuck. Now, people across the country celebrate their love for pie on his birthday. One great way to celebrate would be to bake your favorite pie for dessert, or breakfast, and enjoy it with the family.

The Second Pie Day

close up shot of three plates of pies

If one day isn’t enough to enjoy your favorite pie, then you can also enjoy it on a second day. December 1st is pie day across the US, although the January 23rd date is the most popular date. This second date is during the holiday season, so that may be why it got the distinction.

To distinguish the two dates, some consider December 1st as National Fried Pie Day. A fried pie contains fruit in a pastry crust that is fried in oil. If they are made at home, many people fry them in a skillet. However, fried pies can be bought at restaurants that specialize in them or purchased in grocery and convenience stores.

These tasty treats may go back to the 1700s, where they were once called lantern pies because of their design. President Franklin Pierce enjoyed New Hampshire fried pies, and McDonald’s introduced their fried apple pies in 1968. However, you like your pies, fried, baked or chilled, and there are two days of a year devoted to them.

Pie Fun Facts

The easiest way to get a pie is to buy one that is pre-made from a grocery store or bakery. About 44% of Americans buy their pies instead of making them from scratch. Fewer households are setting their pies on window sills to cool off because only 26% make them at home.

By a wide margin, pumpkin pie is the favorite on the table for Thanksgiving. Pecan pies, edge out apple pies as being the second favorite on the table, but apple pies are by far the favorite throughout the year. While seven in 10 Americans prefer sweet pies, savory pies like chicken or turkey pot pie are often a winter favorite.

Shoo-fly pie is a delicious pie from Pennsylvania Dutch country with an interesting name. Although no one knows the exact history of the name, people assume it came from the fact that the pies attracted flies due to the oozing molasses from which they are made. Most ovens were outside, so that is where the baking was done and as they cooled, the flies would buzz around the pies.

Cream pies are often found in comedy skits with someone catching one in the face. The first time it was done was in 1909 in the film Mr. Flip. Ben Turpin, one of the actors in the movie, received a cream pie in the face and they have been a funny comedy prop ever since.

Past Celebrations and Discounts

close up shot of a pecan pie

There have been some unique ways to enjoy pie day at restaurants, stores, and even a sports nutrition shop. AI Sports Nutrition gave a discount to customers for buying their pumpkin pie-flavored whey protein on the last pie day.

Along with Americans who enjoy pie on this day, the unofficial food holiday has gotten the attention of a worldwide audience. A company that produces cooking and bakeware products, Emilie Henry that is based in France, has become aware of the day and had a pie contest every year. They offer a $250 gift card for the selected winner to use on their website.

Fionn MacCool’s in Alberta, Ontario Canada has gotten in on the celebration by offering a free meat pie. If you have an AMA, or Alberta Motor Association, card, you will receive the free pie at one of their Alberta restaurants. The Irish pub style locations offer:

  • Shepard’s Pie
  • Guinness Steak and Mushroom Pie
  • Veggie Pot Pie
  • Salmon Leek Pie

Many restaurants offered discounts or free slices of pie to commemorate the day. Marie Callender’s, a restaurant famous for their pies, offered a whole banana crème pie for $8.99. The Grand Traverse Pie Company in Traverse and Lansing, Michigan gave customers a free slice of pie with any purchase they made.

The Aliante Casino on Las Vegas sold pieces of pie with coffee for $2.99, the Little Pie Company in New York City had a pie giveaway, and the Reed Memorial Library in Ravenna, Ohio gave out free pie for three hours to library patrons.

Pie Day Events 2019

six different flavors of pies to celebrate national pie day

If you’ve missed out on celebrating pies this year, you will have another shot at it in January. So, make your plans now. Consider a visit to Maine if you love pie to attend the 15th Annual Pies on Parade. The event takes place in Rockland and runs from January 25 - 29, 2019.

This event helped raise money for their food pantry last year and made $25, 746 from the sale of tickets for guests to go to each venue to eat pie. They served 14,000 pieces of pie, and there were 45 types from which to choose. There are several pie events and a silent auction scheduled for the upcoming celebration.

Although it isn’t held on January 23rd or December 1st, the American Pie Council (APC) holds a pie making contest every year. Amateur and professional pie makers and bakers from the US and Canada compete for the National Pie Championships in Orlando, Florida at the Pie Learning Center. In 2019, it will be held on April 11-13 if you’re interested in entering.

Of course, the favorite pie in the US among men 18 to 34 is baked, and it is savory. While apple pie was chosen in a Harris Poll as the favorite overall pie in America with 12% selecting it, the pizza was a close second with 10% of those surveyed picking it. However, sweet pies were the clear winner over savory ones.

On the next National Pie Day, look for specials on pies in your area or make a pie for you and your family to enjoy together.