Recipe: A new, fresh take on million dollar pie

Recipe: A New, Fresh Take On Million Dollar Pie
Sahara Bohoskey/TNS

This retro pie pairs a crunchy graham cracker crust with a rich, creamy filling studded with sweet pineapple, toasted pecans, and coconut.

Rich and creamy million dollar pie (aka millionaire pie) is the perfect no-bake dessert. With a crunchy graham cracker crust and a decadent filling made from freshly whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk, toasted pecans, shredded coconut, and pineapple, it’s luscious and decadent — hence its expensive name.

A pie with an ingredient list like this would seem like it can easily become overly sweet. But this one is incredibly balanced, thanks to salt and lemon juice and zest. And although it has many elements, it’s a super-easy, foolproof recipe that guarantees your guests will ask for a second slice.

The history of Million Dollar Pie

It’s a bit difficult to trace the exact roots of million dollar pie, but the Southern pie is said to have roots in South Carolina and likely became popular in the 1940s, just as more home kitchens were getting refrigerators and icebox pies were becoming very en vogue. As for the name, the consensus across food blogs and cookbooks seems to be that it was born from the pie’s inherent richness.

What makes this Million Dollar Pie the best

  • Caramelized pineapple: In the traditional Million Dollar Pie, you don’t caramelize the pineapple. But I really hope you do! Briefly cooking the pineapple guarantees a rich, fruity flavor that gets rid of the tinny taste of canned pineapple. Plus cooking the pineapple draws out extra moisture, ensuring a thick and creamy filling.
  • Salt: I’ve also added salt to help balance out the sweetness from the condensed milk, caramelized pineapple, and graham crackers. When paired with the whipped filling, the salted graham cracker crust is truly magical.
  • Height: Last but not least, a springform pan is my no-bake pie vessel of choice for an extra-tall slice. But two standard pie tins can be used as well.

Million Dollar Pie

Serves 9, Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

For the graham cracker crust:

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces graham crackers (about 19 full sheets)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the caramelized pineapple:

  • 1 (20-ounce) can pineapple rings in juice
  • 3 tablespoons packed light or dark brown sugar

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (4 ounces)
  • 1 cup raw pecans halves (4 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • Whipped cream and maraschino cherries, for serving (optional)

Make the graham cracker crust:

1. Cut 2 sticks unsalted butter into a few pieces and melt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue cooking, swirling the pan occasionally until browned and nutty smelling, 10 to 13 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place 10 ounces graham crackers in a zip-top bag and crush until you get coarse crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl (reserve the bag).

3. Scrape the browned butter into the bowl with the cracker crumbs. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and mix until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 30 seconds.

4. Transfer to a 9-inch springform pan. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and up the sides 2 to 2 1/2 inches. Refrigerate while you make the caramelized pineapple and filling.

Make the caramelized pineapple:

1. Pour off and reserve 1/4 cup of the juice from 1 (20-ounce) can pineapple rings. Drain off the remaining juice.

2. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the pineapple juice and 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar and stir to combine. Add the pineapple rings in an even layer. Cook undisturbed until the bottom of the rings are browned and caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the rings and continue to cook until the second side is caramelized, about 5 minutes more.

3. Transfer to a cutting board. Once cooled, coarsely chop into 1/4-inch pieces.

Make the filling:

1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350 F.

2. Place 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut and 1 cup raw pecan halves on a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake, keeping a close eye and stirring a few times, until toasted and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes total.

3. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Transfer to the reserved zip-top bag and lightly crush the pecans and coconut with a rolling pin or bottom of a pan until the pecans are a little larger than pea-sized.

4. Finely grate the zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 tablespoon) into a medium bowl. Halve the lemon and squeeze the juice into the bowl (about 1/4 cup). Add the pecan-coconut mixture, chopped pineapple, 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir until combined.

5. Place 1 cup cold heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add the condensed milk mixture and fold together with a flexible spatula until just combined.

6. Transfer into the graham cracker crust and spread into an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Top with more whipped cream and garnish with maraschino cherries if desired. Remove the outer ring before slicing and serving.

Recipe notes: Leftover pie can be covered and refrigerated for up to three days.

(Sahara Bohoskey is a contributor to TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com.)