Recipe: Peanut Butter Custard & Meringue Pie

NOTE: This is NOT your typical restaurant Peanut Butter pie. That is usually a peanut butter pudding or cream, not custard, and almost always will have whipped cream instead of meringue. This pie is significantly lighter in weight but richer in flavor. Which means your taster gets a wallop without making you feel overstuffed from the whipped cream. 

This was a family recipe. I got it from my mother, she got it from her mother. It won 1st place in the 1970 Kansas Restaurant Convention though I'm not sure if it was Grandma or her friend that submitted it. 

Updated 5/31/2015 ... for awhile this page had my approximation of the recipe from memory. However my grandmother found the recipe cards over the holidays and I've updated the post to correct a couple of thing. I've kept some extra notes regarding sugar grain sizes, alternate stabilizers for the meringue, etc. If you prefer to use your own sweet pie meringue recipe feel free, meringue is actually pretty darned easy, don't let my detailed notes make you wary.

It is an EXCELLENT pie. Period :)

If you don't want a very detailed recipe and you're comfortable with the basics on cooking custard and meringue, just look at my Grandma's recipe cards :) The longer version that I've made below includes a couple of tweaks that I've added as well as detailed instructions to let a beginner do their first custard and meringue pie. 

  • 2 tbsp. UNsalted butter, cubed, softened
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (or leave out if using SALTED butter)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter (use something like Smuckers / Reeses, etc ... no sugar needed in the peanut butter and the oils from the natural peanut butters will help mixing)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (any size grain is fine)
  • 2/3 cup white sugar (separate measurement for meringue, caster sugar or icing sugar works best but normal granulated will work with patience)
  • 5 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp cream of tartar OR 1 fresh lemon juice OR white vinegar (see note in Merigue section)
  • 3 egg yolks, separated ... FARM FRESH or organic eggs for best yolks
  • 3 egg whites, separated ... the fresher the eggs the stiffer the meringue
  • 2 cups milk, scalded
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 (or two, see note below for stretching the recipe) baked pastry pie shell

Peanut Butter Crumbles:
Mix powdered sugar and peanut butter until in small (small pea to buckshot sized) crumbles. Using a large whisk or potato mashed to smash the peanut butter into the powdered sugar and then stirring it all together with a strong wooden spoon works best. Reserve 1/3 cup (1/2 cup for 2 pies) of the crumbles. Deposit the rest in the baked pie shell. 

If you have a helper, they can be making the meringue while you cook the custard. Don't try to do them both by yourself at the same time. If solo, do the custard first. 

Make sure the milk has already been scalded and you have 2 cups (scald it by bringing it to a high boil while constantly stirring and then removing from heat, stirring until it no longer tries to stick to the pan). This saves you time when cooking the custard. 

Beat egg yolks gently until smooth in a bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan / dutch oven whisk together salt, sugar and cornstarch. Then slowly add scalded mix while stirring to mix evenly. Warm on medium/medium-low to a simmer (don't boil). Take 1/4cup of heated mixture out and slowly stir into bowl of egg yolks to temper. Pour yolk mixture into custard pan and simmer for until custard thickens, constantly stirring to keep custard from sticking to pan. Turn off heat. Whisk in softened butter and 1 tsp vanilla (less if you prefer). Pour into pie shell over peanut butter sugar crumbles and allow to cool while making the meringue. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Make sure all of the items you use to whisk the meringue (bowl, whisk, spatula, spoon, etc) are clean of all oils. Oil will make it much harder to get the right consistency without over-whisking. 

Use a beater on medium to high to mix eggs, [optional] 1 tsp vanilla extract and stabilizer (cream of tartar or per egg 1/4 tsp white vinegar or 1/4 tsp lemon juice). Don't add the sugar yet. Whisk or machine whisk on medium the whites until they have started to foam but not truly thick. Now while still gently whisking slowly add 2/3 cup white sugar (caster/icing sugar if possible, finer grains absorb faster). Now whisk quickly until stiff peaks form (takes awhile, don't give up). The meringue is stiff enough when you can pull a wooden spoon out and have a large puff of meringue stick to the spoon with no dripping. STOP WHISKING. If you go too far you will break the protein changes that you spent time building. 

Place the meringue (1/2 of per pie if doing 2 pies, see "stretching" below) in a tall lump in the middle of the pie. Spread the meringue with a soft spatula evenly from center to the edge, sealing the edges. Use the spatula or a large spoon to pull up peaks in the meringue by gently pressing the flat of the spatula on the meringue and pulling straight up while twisting a 1/4 turn sidways (this is not just for looks, the peaks will hold the remaining peanut butter sugar crumbles). 

Top with the reserved peanut butter sugar crumbles by sprinkling over the meringue peaks.


Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until meringue is browning on the peaks but still white in the valleys. 

Allow to cool on counter for at least 90 minutes so everything can set. For a full set, chill for a couple of hours (or more) in the refrigerator ... BUT ... while this makes for a cleaner pie serving (won't fall apart) it tastes better warm or at least not chilled. You might want to set it out at room temperature in a pie dish or under glass/tupperware (to keep dust, bugs and fingers out) before serving. 

Store pie in refrigerator to keep the sugars in the crumbles from separating as quickly. BUT, if you plan to eat the pie within a couple of days, you can leave it out. The way the sugars permeate the crust and meringue and separate into a "peanutbutter honey" can be the best part if you don't mind a little mess. 

Stretching the recipe:
The amounts above will make 1 TALL pie (which is what it won the award with) or 2 shorter pies. An absolutely easy way to get the 2 full pies shown in the picture is to stretch a few ingredients. This is how I make it these days so we have 2 pies as I usually only make it on holidays. It also helps mellow the pie a bit because it is RICH.

Stretched ingredients:
5 egg whites (instead of 3)
5 egg yolks (instead of 3)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (instead of 1/3)
1/2 cup white sugar (instead of 1/3)
1 cup white sugar (instead of 2/3 for meringue)
5 Tbsp cornstarch
2 baked pie shells

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