Sweet and tart wild Montana huckleberries are surrounded by flaky pie crust in this homemade Huckleberry Pie. If you don't have fresh or frozen huckleberries on hand, I've got a hack for you as well so you can enjoy huckleberry pie too!
My husband has always dreamed of living in Montana. It's not a reality for us at the point in life, but this past summer we were lucky enough to go spend two weeks there at a fantastic AirBnB on 12 acres where we saw dozens of wild turkeys and deer, had a creek with trout on the property for nightly fly-fishing and wading with the girls, and even had a grizzly encounter with a bear in the backyard on our first day!
It happened to be the start of huckleberry season so the girls and I armed ourselves with bear spray and buckets and after getting a few tips from the owner of the house we were renting set off to see if we could find a huckleberry patch and pick some for ourselves.
It was a total bust and we only found two shriveled up huckleberries.
I knew huckleberry picking was hard and locals hold their favorite huckleberry picking places as closely guarded secrets. That didn't stop me from coaxing and cajoling random Missoulians from a server at a restaurant to the friendly grocery store clerk to see if they couldn't point me in the right direction.
I really wanted to include huckleberry recipes to represent the foods that Montana is famous for in my American Eats series though, so I persisted and came up with some solutions. We're skipping ahead a bit here to cover Montana while it's fresh in my mind after our wonderful 2 week trip!
Where can I find huckleberries?
As someone visiting Montana from California, I had so many questions about huckleberries! The first of which was where to find them. From what I understand, they grow best in partially shady areas with acidic soil and can be found across the northern United States and Canada in places like Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Michigan, New York, and even parts of Northern California.
The season for picking huckleberries is typically mid-July to September, although it can vary from year to year depending on lots of environmental factors like rainfall and heat.
While we never had any luck finding them in the wild, we found some alternatives that worked while we were there and I have a few ideas for anybody who doesn't live in huckleberry country (or for when they are out of season).
Try a local farmer's market
Fortunately, we had the smart idea to go to the farmer's market in Missoula on a Tuesday night. I showed up right at the start of the farmer's market and was second in line at the only table with about 20 gallon-size bags of huckleberries. But I about panicked when the lady in front of me proceeded to almost completely clean out the seller of all her huckleberries!
I leaned around and asked her if she was going to leave any of the bags and she sheepishly said that she was going to leave 2 of them for someone else. So I got one of the bags and so did the person behind me. Everybody else in the line was furious and I was stopped more than once as I was heading out and asked how I got lucky enough to snag one of the bags of the much coveted jewel-like berries.
As I was walking out of the farmer's market, I noticed the girl who had bought all of the huckleberries stuffing them under a table at another booth where she sold homemade huckleberry jam so I stopped to talk with her. She told me that even though she has a personal "huckleberry picker", the dry year had resulted in a much smaller crop than usual while demand for huckleberries and jams was at an all-time high, so she had resorted to snatching up as many huckleberries as she could wherever she could.
Later in the week I went to the Saturday farmer's market in Missoula and there was actually 4 or 5 booths with way more huckleberries that morning, so I didn't feel too bad buying two more bags. At $65 a bag, they are expensive berries! But considering that it takes about an hour for a picker to fill a gallon-size bag and huckleberries can be extremely hard to find if you don't know where to look, it makes sense.
Also, you get a LOT of huckleberries from a gallon-size bag. With one bag, I made a pie, a cheesecake, a batch of lemonade, and two batches of ice cream. And that's after we enjoyed a few handfuls each of the fresh berries.
Order frozen huckleberries online
They will cost a pretty penny, but you CAN find frozen huckleberries from sellers online. A quick google search will come up with quite a few results, but Northwest Wild Foods has Idaho grown huckleberries for sale. And Oregon Mushrooms has coastal and mountain huckleberries available for sale year round. Whole Earth Harvest looks like another option that you could try.
It's still definitely cheaper to pick them yourself or buy from a farmer's market, so you might want to stock up on huckleberries when you find them and freeze extras yourself so you can enjoy them all year long, even when it's not huckleberry season.
Use huckleberry jam instead
A much more economical solution to finding frozen or even frozen huckleberries is to simply buy huckleberry jam and use it instead. Most of the huckleberry recipes I have made from pie to cheesecake to lemonade to ice cream, can all be made using huckleberry jam on its own or with blueberries as a replacement for fresh or frozen berries.
You will find jars of huckleberry jam all over the place in the rocky mountain region and it's also readily available to order online through Amazon and other sellers.
- Pie crust: I always use my favorite homemade pie crust. While I made a double-crust version this time, I think it would be just as delicious with a crumble topping. I'll leave instructions in the recipe notes!
- Huckleberries: Fresh or frozen huckleberries are a must for the truest huckleberry pie. However, if you don't have enough for the full 5-6 cups of berries that the recipe calls for, you can absolutely make up the difference with blueberries, especially the smaller frozen Maine blueberries which more closely match the size of most huckleberries. The much stronger huckleberry flavor will take you the rest of the way. Also, keep reading for a cheater version in case you don't have fresh OR frozen huckleberries.
- Instant tapioca: I don't use tapioca as often as cornstarch for a pie thickener, but in this case it works beautifully and gives really consistent results so you don't end up with a soupy pie. However, if you like a less firm, filling, you could just replace the tapioca for flour and have a bit saucier slice!
- Sugar: All you need is some granulated sugar to sweeten up your huckleberries. Taste them first and if they are especially sweet, you could cut back on the sugar just a bit. If they are super tart, you might want to add a little bit more. But generally speaking, I think 1 cup is a good amount so that the filling isn't overly sweet.
- Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice adds brightness to the filling.
- Ground cinnamon: This is optional but it does give some nice warmth to the pie without being overwhelming.
- Egg: A beaten egg brushed over the top crust gives it a beautiful golden brown coloring once the pie is finished.
How to Make a Huckleberry Pie
- Make the pie crust: Start by cutting butter and shortening into a mixture of flour, a little sugar and salt. You can do this with a food processor or by hand with a pastry cutter or by simply rubbing the butter into the flour until it is about the size of small peas. Add enough ice cold water until the pastry dough comes together, then divide it into two discs and wrap it in plastic wrap. At this point, I like to stick it in the fridge for 1 hour so it is easier to work with or place it in the freezer until I'm ready to use it.
- Roll out the pie crust: On a lightly floured surface, roll out your bottom pie crust using a rolling pin until it is slightly larger than a 9-inch pie pan. Carefully transfer the crust to your pie pan, leaving some of it overhanging and keep in the fridge until you are ready to fill it with your huckleberry filling.
- Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss the huckleberries with the sugar, tapioca, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cinnamon, if using. Let this sit for 20-30 minutes so the tapioca can soften before adding to your pie crust.
- Fill pie crust: I like to brush the bottom of my pie crust with some of my egg wash before filling it as extra protection against it getting soggy from the filling. Dump your huckleberry filling mixture into the pie crust, then dot with small pieces of butter on top. Cover with a either a flat top crust or lattice pie crust (or wait and add a streusel topping after the first 20 minutes of baking, if you decide to take that approach) and tuck the edges under. Crimp the crust for a decorative finish and brush the crust with the remaining egg wash before sprinkling it with a little coarse or granulated sugar and sticking the pie in the oven.
- Bake: Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F, then decrease the oven temperature to 375 degrees F without opening the oven door. Continue to bake for another 30-35 minutes until the filling is bubbly and the pie crust is golden brown. You may need to check the pie and cover the edges with a protective foil shield if it is browning too quickly. If using a streusel topping instead of a top crust, add that after the first 20 minutes when you decrease the oven temperature.
- Let the pie cool: This is always the hardest part! But the pie really needs to cool for at least 3-4 hours so the filling has time to set up all the way. If you slice right into a hot pie, the filling will be a runny mess.
Huckleberry Jam Hack
If you don't have fresh or frozen huckleberries but you DO have huckleberry jam, here's what I recommend. Use 5 cups of blueberries and the entire jar of huckleberry jam (should be about 1 cup) to mimic a true huckleberry pie. Because huckleberries have a unique flavor, they will dominate the blackberries and make a pretty good imitation of an all-huckleberry pie, especially if you are using Wild Maine blueberries that you can find in the freezer aisle at the grocery store.
Everything else about the recipe can stay just the same and chances are, most people won't even really be able to tell the difference!
- Storage: Leftover huckleberry pie should be kept covered at room temperature on the counter or in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Freezing: You can freeze your huckleberry pie either before or after baking! If you want to assemble and freeze the pie before baking, you don't need to thaw before putting it in the oven to bake. Instead, just increase your bake time by another 30-40 minutes and watch the crust so it doesn't burn. If you want to freeze the pie after it has been baked, I recommend slicing it into individual pieces and freezing those first, then wrapping them in plastic wrap so you can thaw and enjoy only as many slices as you want at a time. The pie can be frozen for 2-3 months either way.
More Pie Recipes
- Fresh Peach Pie
- Raspberry Cream Pie
- Apricot Pie
- Rhubarb Pie
- No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie
- Best Homemade Cherry Pie Recipe
- Old-Fashioned Banana Cream Pie
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Montana Huckleberry Pie
- 5 to 6 cups fresh or frozen huckleberries
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon optional
- 2 Tablespoons cold salted butter cut into small pieces
- 1 egg beaten
- Sugar for sprinkling on top
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Prepare you pie crust and roll out the bottom crust on a lightly floured surface until it is slightly larger than a 9-inch pie plate. Transfer the pie crust to your pie plate and keep in the fridge until ready to fill.
- Combine huckleberries, sugar, tapioca, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cinnamon, if using, in a large bowl. Toss to evenly distribute the sugar, then let the mixture sit for 20-30 minutes so the tapioca can soften slightly.
- Add the filling to the pie crust, then dot with butter. Roll out the top pie crust and set it over the huckleberry filling. Fold the edges under and crimp in a decorate manner. Brush the top of the crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with a little sugar.
- Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes. Decrease the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for another 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top and the filling is bubbly. You may need to cover the edges of the pie with an aluminum foil shield to protect it from getting too dark.
- Cool for 3-4 hours to set up before slicing and serving.
- Variations: This pie is also delicious with a crumb topping instead of a top crust. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¾ cup chopped walnuts, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Add 6 tablespoons of melted, salted butter and stir to combine until evenly moistened but crumbly. Bake the pie for 20 minutes without the crumb topping, then sprinkle over the pie and finish baking for the last 30-35 minutes until done.
- Thickener: If you don't have instant tapioca you can use an equal amount of cornstarch instead. An equal amount of flour can also work, but the pie filling won't set up quite as much.
- Huckleberry substitutions: If you don't have the full amount of huckleberries, you can make up the difference with blueberries instead and do a part huckleberry, part blueberry pie. Or use all blueberries mixed with 1 cup of huckleberry jam.
- Freezing: An assembled, unbaked pie can be frozen for 2-3 months. Bake directly from frozen, increasing the baking time by another 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. A baked pie can be for 2-3 months, then thawed in the fridge overnight and warmed in the oven or microwave a bit before serving.
Recipe adapted from The Missoulian.
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