Compact and travel-ready, these Mini Mixed Mushroom, Pea, & Gruyere Picnic Pies are the perfect savory complement to your next potluck, picnic, or friendly get-together. With a buttery crust and a hearty vegetarian filling, these little handpies are sure to impress!
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Picnic & Potluck Planning
It’s summer, and that means picnics, potlucks, camping, and other activities that take you out of the house and away from your kitchen. It means you need recipes for things that can be made ahead and brought along with you. I personally love sharing food wherever I go, so these kinds of “picnic foods” are some of my absolute favorites. Even then though, sometimes finding the right recipes can feel like a chore.
Everybody has different things they consider to be perfect picnic foods, but for me, the recipe should fit three criteria:
- Utensils optional. While I won’t stop you from using a fork, you should be able to eat a proper picnic food with your hands if you want to.
- Ability to be made ahead of time. Whether you need to make a large batch to feed a crowd or you need to get on the road early in the morning to get to your destination, a good picnic food should be able to be made at least the day before. I hate having to exhaust myself making a ton of food the same day I’m travelling unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- And speaking of travel, the right picnic foods have to be able to hold up to a journey. Picnic foods are often stuffed into a cramped cooler and taken for a distance, be it long or short. Since I want the food coming out presentable on the other side, anything too delicate just isn’t going to work.
Depending on your style of picnic or potluck, you might have other criteria. Except for beach picnics, I usually have the ability to use an oven on the other side of my travel. If that’s not an option, a recipe that can be eaten at room temp or cold might be a fourth requirement to keep in mind.
Mini Mixed Mushroom, Pea, & Gruyere Picnic Pies
Cue these little handpies, which fit all three criteria and can even fit the optional fourth if you aren’t traveling far. Perfectly compact, utterly transportable, and so delicious I kept eating them well past the point of being full, these Mini Mixed Mushroom, Pea, & Gruyere Picnic Pies are full of flavor and class. Made using a muffin tin and left “open-face”, they are probably closer to a tartlet, but I loved the alliteration in the name “picnic pies” so I went with it!
In making these little guys, I was inspired by a recipe for Honeyed Chicken Handpies from Chelsea Monroe-Cassel’s Game of Thrones-inspired food blog. I’ve made her honeyed chicken recipe in the past (to die for), so this seemed like an excellent option for me to bring to a large group gathering I was attending. One type of pie wasn’t enough though – I knew I wanted something meatless as well for my vegetarian friends. Foraged mushrooms have been hugely abundant at the local markets, so the idea for some kind of mushroom and cheese tartlet was born.
Let me tell you about this recipe: The buttery pastry is flaky and tender; the mixed mushroom filling is textured and hearty; the green peas bright and fresh; and the gruyere cheese is perfectly gooey without overpowering the other flavors. Lastly, as per the perfect picnic food criteria, the mini pies can be made ahead, frozen, and stored for whenever you need to pack them up and bring them to your next party.
Making Pies in Muffin Tins
In a more traditional free-form handpie technique, you fold and crimp circles of dough to make individual crescents full of pie filling. As an alternate technique, this recipe takes advantage of a standard muffin tin to shape the dough instead. I love this muffin tin technique because it’s relatively simple to execute and a little more fool-proof if you don’t have a lot of experience making other kinds of handpies or stuffed pastries. You still have to make a pie dough (or maybe you don’t, nothing is stopping you from buying one pre-made), but you don’t have to worry about crimping all your edges perfectly or even with being too delicate as you work.
The most important thing to remember? Make sure your dough stays chilled as much and for as long as possible by working in batches. The colder the dough when it goes into the oven (and more specifically, the colder the butter in the dough), the better your final crust is going to be.
As you can see in the photos, I made the Honeyed Chicken Pies as per Chelsea’s recipe with “lids”, so that they look like miniature double-crusted pies. The Mini Mushroom, Pea, & Gruyere Picnic Pies are left open-faced like a tart, leaving the filling visible in order for the discerning guest to tell them apart.
Speaking of dough, in order to make a big batch to feed a lot of people, you’ll need a good amount of it. I recommend using your favorite double-crust pie dough recipe and doubling it, as if you were making two double-crusted pies. I personally love this Part Butter/Part Shortening Easy Pie Dough from Gesine Bullock-Prado, and I think it worked really well with this filling.
Two standard muffin tins will make 24 mini picnic pies. You can halve the recipe to make only 12 pies if you’d like, but for me, I like the idea of getting a whole big batch made in one go. Once I have the mess of making pies started (flour out on the counter, all over my hands, and likely covering every other surface around me despite my best laid plans), I figure why not go all in. Let’s make a ton. The recipe freezes well, so even if you don’t need all 24 at the moment, you can keep some at home for a quick, fun dinner.
My favorite part of this recipe? You can make these well ahead of time, freeze them, and transport them a long distance without damage in a cooler. As long as you have oven access at your destination, you can heat them up in no time at all for perfectly beautiful, totally delicious Mini Mushroom, Pea, & Gruyere Picnic Pies. If you are picnicking nearby, it’s even easier. These picnic pies can be eaten warm or at room temperature, so you can heat them up at home, wrap them in some foil, and enjoy them upon arrival wherever you go.
Oh, and since there is no meat, it’s a heartier idea for vegetarian friends who might be looking for something a little different. This is a perfect picnic food in my book.
Looking for more portable stuffed pastry ideas? These Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Pops look positively adorable! You also can’t go wrong with a batch of Chorizo and Potato Empanadas or Chicken Curry Puffs for your next picnic or potluck contribution.
Mini Mixed Mushroom, Pea, & Gruyere Picnic Pies
Buttery pastry surrounds an earthy mixed mushroom, bright green pea, and gooey gruyere cheese filling in these compact and travel-ready vegetarian picnic pies!
- A double batch of your favorite double-crust pie dough (enough to make two double-crust pies). Recipe suggestion below.
- 2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
- 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)
- 2.5 lb mixed mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used a 1 pound button, 1 pound cremini, and a half pound Portobello)
- ½ tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1/3 cup dry sherry
- 2 cups gruyere cheese, thickly grated
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
- 2 tsp pepper
- 1 egg, beaten (for the egg wash)
Prepare the Dough
First, prepare the dough as per your recipe, and keep chilled in the fridge until used (you can do this the day before if you’d like). You’ll want the dough to stay as cold as possible throughout the process of assembling the pies, so only take out as much as you can work with at a time, returning unused dough to the fridge to keep chilled. I divide the dough into 4 portions, and work with one at a time.
Make the Filling
Heat the oven to 375°F.
In a large pan or skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter and saute the fennel with a pinch of salt over medium low heat until soft and slightly crisp (about 15 minutes).
Add another tablespoon of butter, giving it a moment to melt. Add all of the mushrooms, the thawed peas, and the thyme. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid evaporates, about 20-30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the sherry to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the delicious brown bits and mixing them back in with the filling. Continue to cook over medium low heat until the liquid evaporates, stirring often. Remove from heat, stir in the gruyere cheese, and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Prepare the Mini Pie Crusts
As you allow the mushroom mixture to cool, you can start your mini pie crusts.
First, prepare two regular-sized non-stick muffin tins by giving each cavity a spritz of non-stick cooking spray. While completely optional and a little time consuming, you can ensure easy removal of your mini picnic pies by cutting out strips of parchment paper about ½ an inch wide and 6 inches long, and using them to line each cavity so that the ends stick up on either side. Once done, the parchment ends can be used as handles to lift out the pies.
Working with one ball at a time on a large, lightly floured service, roll out the dough into an oblong shape, 1/8th – 1/4th inch thick. Using a 6-inch round cookie cutter, cut rounds from the dough and set them into the muffin tin so that they line each cavity. Once the first muffin tin is full, transfer the whole thing back to the fridge to say cold, and repeat the process to fill the second muffin tin with rounds of pie crust.
Using a slotted spoon to avoid transferring too much liquid to the pies (which could result in a soggy bottom crust), fill each muffin cup with the cooled mushroom-gruyere filling. Crimp the top edges of the crust inward so that it slightly folds over the tops, leaving the very center open so that you can see the filling. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until done. Let them rest 5 minutes, and then carefully lift the picnic pies from the muffin tins. You can serve these immediately or at room temperature. If making these ahead to store, follow the instructions below in the Recipe Notes.
Pie Dough Recipes: You can use a double-batch of any double-crust pie dough recipe you prefer for this recipe. I suggest using one that is all or part butter, like this Part Butter/Part Shortening Easy Pie Dough from Gesine Bullock-Prado.
Single Crust vs. Double Crust Picnic Pies: For this recipe, the pies are made with a single crust (no lid), leaving the filling exposed like a tart. This is mostly to tell the vegetarian pies apart from any non-vegetarian pies. If you’d like to make picnic pies with a more traditional double crust look, follow the instructions in this recipe. Note that you will need to increase the amount of dough you make to do this.
Freezing & Storing: Once your picnic pies are cooked, let them come to just about room temperature on a cooling rack. Transfer the pies to a single baking sheet, and freeze individually (about 2 hours). Stack the rock-solid frozen pies into freezer-safe containers or gallon bags and keep stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Transportation & Re-Heating: When ready to head to your picnic or potluck, place your gallon bag(s) of pies in a cooler along with any other foods and your ice pack(s). You can store these in the fridge on the other side of your journey so that they thaw a bit once you arrive, or pop them immediately into the oven when you get there. Bake in a preheated oven set to 375°F for 15-20 minutes (check and add a little more time if coming straight out of the freezer to the oven). Tada! Delicious, “freshly baked” mini picnic pies for guests and friends to enjoy.