How to make a homemade graham cracker pie crust & other delicious crumb crusts like they did in the 50s, 60s & 70s

Graham cracker crumb pie crust photo by Click Americana

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Pie crusts are the unsung heroes of the dessert world, but if you’re tired of the same old flour and butter routine, then it’s time to switch things up!

When we delved into the archives of various vintage recipe collections, we found some delightful alternatives in the form of crumb crusts. And here’s the deal — they’re surprisingly easy to make, pack a ton of flavor, and add a fun twist to your favorite desserts.

Digging back into a 1971 publication, we found the quintessential graham cracker pie crust, and have that recipe for you below. This classic crumb crust makes a versatile base that’s equally tasty in a creamy cheesecake or a tangy key lime pie. And its popularity has never waned, securing it a timeless spot in many of our kitchens today.

Buttered crumbs to make pie crust or cheesecake crust (Photo by Pichai Cheawsarikit/Dreamstime)
Buttered crumbs to make pie crust or cheesecake crust (Photo by Pichai Cheawsarikit/Dreamstime)

But the world of crumb crusts doesn’t stop there. In 1953, the notion of crusts made from crushed breakfast cereals (particularly cornflakes) started to gain traction, opening up a world of possibilities for dessert lovers.

Riffing off of these vintage crust concepts, the possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing crumbs for your crust. For instance, instead of graham cracker crumbs, you can use Nilla wafers, vanilla or chocolate sandwich cookies, saltines, Ritz-like crackers, shortbread, pretzels, or even coconut (alone or in combination). Each option lends a unique flavor and texture profile that can elevate your dessert to new heights.

Lemon cheesecake pie retro recipe at Click Americana
Get this lemon cheesecake pie retro recipe here!

A final tip? Don’t be afraid to experiment. The best part about these crusts is their versatility. Baked or no-bake? Your call. Plus you can mix and match flavors, play around with crumb sizes, or tweak the sugar and butter ratio to your taste. (Some simple variations: Use some or all brown sugar instead of white, and if you’re not going to bake the crust, try using cooled browned butter in place of softened butter.)

The goal is to find the perfect balance that delights your taste buds and adds an extra layer of deliciousness to your favorite cheesecake, pie or tart.

Lemon pudding cheesecake pie and graham cracker crumb pie crust at Click Americana
Get this lemon cheesecake pie retro recipe here!
Pie crust causing trouble? Try graham cracker varieties (1971)

Adapted from The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) April 14, 1971

“I just can’t make a good pie crust,” is the complaint of many cooks. That is until they try their hand at a crumb crust which is about infallible. Graham crackers were the first cookies to be converted into crusts for pies, and the graham cracker crust remains the most popular. We give you specific directions for making this old standby, plus some variations to make it more suitable for special fillings.

You can start with prepared crumbs or you can make your own from graham crackers: 14 square crackers (or 7 large rectangles) will make about 1 cup of crumbs.

You can place the crackers in a sturdy plastic bag and roll them lightly to break them into small pieces, then roll them to make coarse crumbs. Or if you have a blender, it is great for making crumbs, too.

Crushing graham crackers in a plastic bag with a rolling pin to make crumbs
Crushing graham crackers in a plastic bag with a rolling pin to make crumbs (Photo by Candice593/Dreamstime)

Softened rather than melted butter or margarine is recommended because it produces a firmer crust.

It’s very important to press the crumbs firmly into place. The easy way is to place an 8-inch plate inside the 9-inch one. Many recipes do not specify baking, but baking definitely produces a crisper, firmer, more golden crust.

Graham cracker crumb pie crust photo by Click Americana

Basic graham cracker pie crust

Yield: One 9" pie shell
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 13 minutes

This delicious and simple classic cracker crumb crust recipe comes from 1971


  • 1-1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter or margarine


  1. Crush 17 or 18 square graham crackers using a plastic bag and rolling pin, food processor or blender.
  2. Mix the cracker crumbs with granulated sugar and softened butter or margarine.
  3. Pour crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie plate; press firmly against the bottom and sides.
  4. Bake the crust in a preheated 375-degree oven for 8 minutes. Cool.


Cut crumb-crusted pies carefully, and be gentle when removing the first piece.


Chocolate: Add 3 squares (1 ounce each) of semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped, to the Basic Crumb Crust ingredients. Prepare and bake as directed. Cool.

Suggested filling: vanilla pudding, lemon pie filling, orange or lime chiffon.

Butterscotch: To the Basic Crumb Crust ingredients, add 2 ounces of butterscotch-flavored morsels. Prepare and bake as directed. Cool.

Try filling it with chocolate ice cream or apple pie filling.

Mincemeat: To the Basic Crumb Crust ingredients, add 3 ounces of instant condensed mincemeat, crumbled. Prepare and bake as directed. Cool.

Fill with egg custard, eggnog cream, or vanilla ice cream.

Graham-molasses: To the Basic Crumb Crust ingredients, add 1/4 cup of chopped pecans or blanched slivered almonds and 2 tablespoons molasses. Pour the crumb mixture into well greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake as directed. Cool.

Fill with coconut custard cream or peach pie filling.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 135Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 58mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 0gSugar: 19gProtein: 0g

Click Americana offers approximate nutrition information as a general reference only, and we make no warranties regarding its accuracy. Please make any necessary calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe, and consult with a qualified healthcare professional if you have dietary concerns.

Breakfast cereals make good in pie crusts (1953)

By Dorothy Dean in The Spokesman-Review (Washington) June 12, 1953

We doubt whether the early New England housewife would recognize some of the pies made today. A pie was a serious business, with two sturdy crusts to keep the filling from drying out.

Pies were baked on baking day, enough of them to last a week. They were kept in a cool cellar and brought out as demanded, all during the week. Pie was a favorite breakfast food.

Homemade lemon filling in a graham cracker crumb crust
Photo by MargJohnsonVA/Envato

Today we reverse the situation and use breakfast food for making pie. That is, we use crumbled cereals for making crumb crusts for pies. We use other crumbs, too — bread crumbs, graham cracker crumbs, and even shredded coconut, which serves somewhat the same purpose as a crumb crust.

Any crumb crust, except one made with uncooked cereal, like oatmeal, can be chilled [no-bake] instead of baked. Baking develops a different flavor, and if you start with uncooked cereal, baking is really needed to bring out that toasty taste.

Beautiful homemade crumb crust in a tart dish
Photo by Pichai Cheawsarikit/

Classic graham cracker shell/crust

One of the earliest crumb crust recipes we can find in our file is the following:

Roll 32 graham crackers very fine to make about two cups of crumbs. Mix well with 1/2 cup melted butter. Press firmly into the pie pan to make a thick crust. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

For a thinner crust, use 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, two tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 cup melted butter. This one is supposed to bake at 375 degrees for eight minutes.

Retro cheesecake with crumb crust and toffee bits on top
Picture by chasbrutlag/Deposit Photos

Basic classic cornflake crust

  • 4 cups cornflakes
  • 1/4  cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

Crush cornflakes into fine crumbs by rolling them on a pastry board with a rolling pin. Mix them with sugar and melted fat, Press evenly and firmly around the bottom and sides of the pie pan. Chill.

Peanut butter crumb crust

A variation of cornflakes crust calls for some peanut butter and for baking.

  • 4 cups cornflakes
  • 2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon flour 
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Crush flakes into fine crumbs. Add flour and honey; toss together. Blend in peanut butter and butter, using a fork or a pastry blender. As soon as mixed, press evenly and firmly around the sides and bottom of a greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for seven to 10 minutes.

ALSO TRY: 20 delicious retro recipes for old-fashioned peanut butter cookies

Graham-coconut crumb crust recipe

  • 20 graham crackers rolled fine
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine

The method of mixing and packing into a pan same as for any crumb crust. This one calls for 15 minutes in a 325-degree oven.

Coconut pie crust recipe (1984)

Combine 7 ounces of flaked coconut and 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine. Toss with a fork until the coconut is evenly moistened. Press against the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake in preheated 300 F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack before filling.

More filling ideas

What to put in for filling? Well, crumb crusts are rather rich and sweet, so the filling should be airy — something that needs only chilling. after it goes into the crust. Chiffon pie and cream pies come to mind. Here are more than a dozen different vintage recipes you can try!

Delish dessert recipes with crumb crusts

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