Culinary Arts

Pastry Fundamentals: What's the Difference Between Pies and Tarts?

Written by MasterClass

Jun 14, 2019 • 2 min read

Whether you’ve got it in your head that a pie might just be a giant tart—or is a tart just a fancy, snazzed-up pie?—here’s a few ways to see beyond the crust.


What Is a Pie?

Pie is a baked dish featuring a fruit filling encased in dough, which is called a pie crust once baked. Pie doughs can be made into a double-crust (filling is fully encased), single-crust (open top, with a single blind-baked bottom crust), or somewhere in between (fancy lattice-top crust).

Pie recipes can be savory or sweet. Basically, if something tastes good outside of a pie, it probably tastes really good inside one (think, apples in classic apple pie, to mixed berries and roasted butternut squash). Be sure to keep moisture content in mind, especially with meat-based preparations: no one likes soggy, undercooked crust, which is exactly what you’ll get if you bake raw meat. Brown it off in a pan before adding it to your crust.

What Is a Tart?

A tart is a freestanding shallow open-faced pastry, often baked in a tart pan with a removable bottom, with fluted or straight sides. Smaller tarts are occasionally referred to as tartlets, which fit very adorably in the palm of your hand.

They are typically served with unbaked fillings, like French pastry cream and glazed fruit or layers of salted caramel and dark chocolate ganache, or lightly baked fillings, as seen with pastel de nata or Chinese egg custards.Texture is key when it comes to tarts: too heavy and the delicate shell might shatter. Airy, smooth, creamy fillings are your best bet. Prop up some precision-cut fruit and you’ve got a tart that’s ready-made for a French pastry case.

What Are the Differences Between Pie and Tarts?

Flaky, firm pie crust is made from flour, fat (like butter, shortening, or lard), cold water (occasionally including vinegar or vodka), and salt. Tart shells, on the other hand, are made with a conventional pastry dough: flour, butter, water, and occasionally sugar, which results in a more crumbly, “short crust" when baked. (See Chef Dominique Ansel’s vanilla sable tart crust recipe, as an example

Tarts are generally the more delicate and composed of the two, featuring intricate patterning and less forgiving textures, though some variations use a crust more similar in form to a rough puff pastry. Pies are often considered more humble and rustic—presented in their pie dish and paired with a scoop of ice cream for pie à la mode. Whereas picture-perfect tarts are often carefully removed from their tart pan and served on their own.

How Are Pies and Tarts Similar?

At their core, both pies and tarts are built as a showcase for their filling. Both crusts feature flour and a fat interacting to create a buttery starch, a perfect complement to everything from sweetened fruit to traditional savory preparations.

Learn more about pastry fundamentals in Chef Dominique Ansel’s MasterClass.