Who wants to completely deprive themselves of the gooey goodness of Aunt Edna’s beloved pecan pie? No one we know! That’s why we’re showing you how to shave the sugar and calories off the classics, while still keeping the flavors you love. 
Credit: Photo: Justin Walker

Like many of you, the idea of healthier homemade pies sounds great—in theory. But will they really look—and more importantly, taste—as good as the original? We think so, and we're sharing some of our tried-and-true secrets for creating next-level sweets.

1. Feature New Flours

While there's a host of health reasons you should consume more whole grains, they also add nutty flavor and rich texture to your pies. You can generally substitute up to 50 percent whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour in your favorite recipe without adding unwanted weight, but we prefer recipes designed with whole grains in mind. We favor oat flour in the crust of our Pecan-Date Pie for its milder flavor, which delivers the traditional benefits of whole grains without masking any of the traditional flavors.

Credit: Photo: Justin Walker

2. Use Smart Swaps

Dates makes a great alternative to sugar in your favorite pies. This sticky fruit helps us cuts nearly 60 percent of sugar in our Pecan-Date Pie. They lend sweetness to the filling and still give it the smooth texture we all know and love. The versatility of dates makes them a great option to mix with apple and pumpkin too. We also brown the butter here to amplify butter's inherent richness, so we can use less while still adding deep, buttery flavor. To further slash sugar, we passed on high-fructose corn syrup for its moderately healthier cousin. Dark-colored corn syrup is 100 percent glucose, making it a better choice when consumed in small amounts, plus it imparts a richer taste.

Loading our Chessame Pie with sesame seeds and tahini allows us to use less sugar than traditional chess pie recipes. For the tender layers of flaky crust, we like to use a mix of butter and vegetable shortening, which has less saturated fat than butter. However all shortening is not created equal. Unlike most other shortenings, Spectrum All-Vegetable Shortening is made from non-hydrogenated (sustainably sourced) palm oil, meaning it contains no trans fats.

Credit: Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

3. Boost Nutrients

We're passionate about using naturally sweet vegetables such as carrots and beets to give desserts a vitamin boost. Carrots are as sweet as pumpkins or sweet potatoes and arguably creamier than both once steamed and pureed, making them absolutely perfect for pie. They get spiced up in our Chai Carrot Pie with the makings of chai tea for a treat that gives pumpkin pie a run for its money. Beets are sugary, yet there's a depth to their sweetness. They're buried, but once you unearth them and wash away the dirt, they're violently beautiful, which we showcase in our Can't-Be-Beet Tart with Goat Cheese.

Credit: Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez