HOWTO bake an apple pie with no apples

Stephany Aulenback tried out a recipe for "Chemical Apple Pie," a beloved science experiment that uses cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) to trick the human tongue into tasting apples, though no apples are, in fact, used in the pie. The pie tasted pretty good, and Aulenback unearthed a lot of interesting history of the dish:

Further searching revealed that it is an even older recipe than that, dating back at least to the mid 1800s. Recipes for it have been found in the Confederate Receipt Book in 1863 and Mrs. B. C. Whiting's How We Cook In Los Angeles (1894) in which she referred to it as "California Pioneer Apple Pie, 1852" (if you follow that link, choose Mock Apple Pie from the menu on left). It's certainly easy to imagine that, historically, apples were difficult to come by out of season, at the end of a long journey across the prairies, or in an poorly supplied army camp. (As Mrs. Whiting is quoted saying, "The deception was most complete and readily accepted. Apples at this early date were a dollar a pound, and we young people all craved a piece of Mother's apple pie to appease our homesick feelings.") Presumably crackers—or the cracker-like foods of the time—kept better, and one sometimes needed to dream up new, more interesting ways to force oneself to ingest them yet again.

Apparently, the Nabisco company appropriated the recipe in the 1935 when they printed it on the boxes of their fancy new Ritz crackers; today, most people who are familiar with Mock Apple Pie associate it with Ritz. You can still find the recipe on their site, where they warn you to watch your serving size. Probably because of the calorie and fat content, not the muscle toxin.

(via MeFi)


  1. I have long been looking for the recipe for an apple pie with no apples, just crackers, that I had heard about in my childhood. Thank you :)

  2. Not exactly a Depression buster, but I’ve made a mock apple pie with zucchini and cream of tartar that mirrored this recipe.  Couldn’t tell the difference and a great way to use up that excess summer zucchini.

    1. My mother does this also. She has a vegetable garden and frequently has more zucchini than she knows what to do with them. I’ve never had the Ritz cracker mock apple pie, but the zucchini version is reasonably convincing.

  3. I can see the depression having an effect on the price of apples, but in general it’s not hard to keep them out of season, especially if you are just making pie filling.  It wouldn’t take much to turn the standard pie filling into a can-able recipe, and viola apple pie year round.

  4. A similar recipe could be found on every box of Rits crackers in the early 70’s (maybe earlier. Andy Griffith was still pitching them —”mmm mmm. Everything’s better when it sits on a Ritz.”). My mom made it. Getting us to eat it was the trick. It tasted like mealy apples.

  5. Speaking of speaking of creating the universe, the song “Glorious Dawn” by Colorpulse mixes clips from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and begins with that quote.

  6. my mother is a renown trixtrix, and this is her favorite of all time.
    when people tell her that it is the best apple pie they’ve ever had,
    she smiles, says, thank you, and that she’s glad to have made them happy.

    ..april 1st was always hell in our house.

Comments are closed.