James Beard’s Tomato Pie

Article first published as James Beard’s Tomato Pie on Blogcritics.
Pies are supposedly the next dessert trend - what do you think? For me, I like a good pie. Fruit pie, cream pie, custard pie, there's so many out there but most would probably think of something sweet first, right? I know I do. However, when my friend Cathy prepared and brought this James Beard’s Tomato Pie to share at a recent get together, I've opened up to savory pies. Sure, there's always savory quiches but this was different. Made with a buttermilk biscuit crust, layers of fresh basil and tomatoes are topped with cheese and mayonnaise before baking to perfection. Stick with me here, especially those who are anti-mayo! This is a savory pie I'm still craving days later. Yes, it's that good!...

So you have biscuits, tomato, mayo and cheese. Just as is, it's pretty delicious. But when I make this, I'll be adding some crumbled bacon and serving this with a tossed green salad. Then it's just like a bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich in pie form! (With the lettuce as part of the salad, that is.) The recipe is ridiculously easy and since it's from Ruth Reichl, former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, you know it's going to be amazing...

James Beard’s Tomato Pie

recipe by Ruth Reichl

2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
3/4 cups buttermilk
4-6 ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs), sliced 1/4-1/2 inch thick
2-3 basil leaves, thinly shredded (chiffonade)
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups real mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Begin by making the biscuit crust. Combine flour, baking powder, baking powder and salt.

Cut in the butter until it’s the size of peas, and add parsley.

Stir in buttermilk until the dough holds together, turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few minutes. Pat it into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.

Cover the biscuits with tomato slices then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the basil over the tomatoes.

Combine the cheese and mayonnaise in a small bowl and spread the mixture on top of the tomatoes.

Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.


  1. What a great looking pie!!
    I just love it, especially with the basil leaves in it.

  2. I just hate the idea of buying a premade crust, but I am really handicapped... I just suck at pie doughs. Yours looks fantastic, I am daring to dream

  3. My husband is crazy over tomatoes and I am sure he will love this. Your pictures look amazing-thanks for posting this savory recipe-yum!

  4. I have to admit, this combo did not sound tasty to me - and I love mayo - but I'll take your word for it.

  5. How many pounds of tomatoes do you think you used? I have some beautiful farm stand tomatoes that would be perfect, but no way would 6 of them fit in a 9" pie pan with all the other ingredients.

  6. Kelly, I wasn't sure what to expect either when I got a slice, but if you like BLT sandwiches, you'll definitely like this pie (with the addition of bacon).

    Julia, I want to say it was about 1 1/2lbs and I've updated the recipe to reflect it. Thanks for asking!

  7. I love tomato pie! People always look at me funny when I say tomato pie but it is just so delicious...I discovered it about 2 years ago and have been making it ever since!

  8. I'd be thrilled if pie were the next trend, it's my favorite dessert!

    This looks like a great dish to showcase my garden tomatoes. Last year I branched out and made the scalloped tomatoes on your blog, this year it may be this pie!

  9. Tomato pie is one of my favorite things to eat in the summer. Yours looks DIVINE!!!!

  10. Looks delicious! Too bad my boyfriend does not like tomatoes...I'll have to make it when he's not around! :)

  11. I love this pie, but I make a few changes. First, I use a premade crust. Brush it with egg white before baking and it won't get soggy from the tomatoes. Next, I slice the tomatoes, salt them and place over a cooling rack over my sink to get rid of some of the water in the tomatoes. In addition to the tomatoes and basil, I add a layer of sliced spring onions (green parts also). My topping is a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and a cup of shredded mozzerella cheese mixed with a cup of mayonnaise. It is sooooooo yummy!! I would probably love yours also but I am definitely "dough challenged".


  12. This recipe was outstanding. A very easy dough to make and the rest of the recipe is simple as pie! Will make again and again. Got rave reviews. I first read this recipe in Ruth Reichl's book "A Kitchen Year" and again on this site. Hd to make it, it sounded so good....and it was!

  13. I have tried several different recipes for tomato pie, but this one is my favorite by far. I add a little pepper to the biscuit crust.