Egg Wash or Milk for Pie Crust: Which is Better?

When it comes to baking the perfect pie, the finishing touch can make all the difference. A golden, glistening crust is not only visually appealing but also adds a layer of flavor and texture. This is where the humble egg wash comes in. But is egg wash the only option, or can milk be used as a substitute? Let’s delve into the world of pie crust washes and explore the pros and cons of each option.

Egg Wash: The Traditional Choice

Egg wash is the classic choice for pie crusts, and for good reason. The protein in the egg yolk creates a thin, sticky layer that helps to seal in moisture and prevent the crust from becoming soggy. Additionally, the egg wash contributes to a beautiful golden brown color and a slightly glossy finish.

Types of Egg Wash:

  • Whole Egg Wash: This is the most common type of egg wash, made by whisking together one whole egg with 1-2 tablespoons of water or milk. It provides a moderate level of shine and browning.
  • Egg Yolk Wash: For a richer, more golden hue, use an egg yolk wash. Whisk one egg yolk with 2 teaspoons of water until smooth.
  • Egg White Wash: If you’re looking for a shiny but less colorful finish, an egg white wash is the way to go. Beat one egg white until frothy and brush it onto the crust.

Milk Wash: A Lighter Alternative

While egg wash is the traditional choice, milk can be used as a substitute, especially for those with egg allergies or who prefer a lighter finish. Milk wash won’t provide the same level of shine or browning as egg wash, but it will still help to seal in moisture and create a slightly crisp crust.

Types of Milk Wash:

  • Whole Milk Wash: This is the simplest milk wash, using just whole milk brushed onto the crust. It will result in a matte finish and a slightly crispy texture.
  • Heavy Cream Wash: For a touch more shine and richness, use heavy cream or half-and-half. This is a good option for scones and other pastries.

So, Which is Better?

The choice between egg wash and milk wash ultimately comes down to personal preference and the desired outcome.

Egg wash is the best choice if you want:

  • A golden brown, glossy crust
  • A slightly richer flavor
  • A more protective barrier against moisture

Milk wash is the best choice if you want:

  • A lighter, matte finish
  • A slightly crispier crust
  • An egg-free option

Here’s a table summarizing the key differences between egg wash and milk wash:

Feature Egg Wash Milk Wash
Color Golden brown Matte
Shine Glossy Matte
Texture Slightly richer Slightly crispier
Moisture protection High Moderate
Egg-free No Yes

Additional Tips:

  • Regardless of whether you use egg wash or milk wash, apply it evenly to the crust using a pastry brush.
  • For a sparkly finish, sprinkle sanding sugar on top of the egg-washed crust before baking.
  • Leftover egg wash can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and used for another batch of pastries.
  • If you’re using milk wash, make sure to use it immediately after making it, as it can spoil quickly.

Whether you choose egg wash or milk wash, remember that the final goal is to achieve a beautiful and delicious pie crust. Experiment with both options and see which one you prefer. With a little practice, you’ll be baking golden-brown masterpieces in no time!

What Is a Wash—and Why Pies Need One

Before baking, a wash is a liquid that is brushed onto the dough. Usually, heavy cream or beaten eggs thinned with water are used to make it.

Pies that have a lattice top or top crust usually require brushing the dough with an egg or cream wash. The baked pie will have a polished appearance depending on the type of wash you use. Additionally, it works perfectly as “glue” to hold seeds or sugar sprinkled on top of a loaf of bread.

How to Make an Egg Wash

is egg wash or milk better for pie crust

One whole egg that has been thoroughly beaten plus one to two tablespoons of water is the standard recipe for an egg wash. Adding more water will dilute the golden hue; alternatively, you can use cream or milk in place of the water to make the pie shine. Sometimes, just the yolks or just the whites are used in an egg wash to add extra color or shine.

How to Make and Use an Egg Wash | Baking Basics


What is the best wash for pie crust?

The general rule of thumb for an egg wash is one well-beaten whole egg plus one to two tablespoons of water. More water will lighten the golden color, or for a shinier pie, you can substitute the water with cream or milk. Sometimes, an egg wash is made with just yolks for extra color—or just whites for extra shine.

Can you use milk instead of egg wash for pastry?

If you don’t have any eggs, or you can’t be bothered making an egg wash, brushing your baking with milk or cream before it goes into the oven works great too. This technique is often used in scone recipes.

Is it better to brush puff pastry with milk or egg?

There is egg wash for bread like brioche and egg wash for pastry like hand pies as well as egg wash for pie crust like pumpkin pie and many other types that are used to help achieve a beautiful golden brown and professional glossy look. Egg wash for puff pastry is what gives the baked dough its pretty shiny finish.

Do you put water or milk in pie crust?

Some bakers use milk or buttermilk in their pie crust. Thanks to their milk solids, both will help crust brown and add a bit of tenderness. But the classic liquid in pie crust is water — ice water, to be precise.

Can you put egg wash on pie crust?

Yes, you can put egg wash on pie crust! Egg wash is a mixture of egg and milk or water that is brushed on the top of unbaked pies before they are baked. It helps to give the crust a golden and glossy color, as well as helps it to brown evenly. Egg wash also helps to seal the edges of the crust and prevents the filling from leaking out.

What are the healthier substitutes of egg in baking?

Egg is used for binding, leavening and moistness in baked recipes. The few alternatives of eggs are chia seeds which are used for their binding properties. Tofu is used to achieve the look of scrambled egg, a pinch of turmeric and yeast can be added to obtain flavor. Flaxseed gel with little baking powder is used in leavening the dough for moistness, mashed banana, applesauce, pureed avocado and garbanzo beans can be used.

Can you use egg wash on pie dough?

And remember egg wash isn’t just for pie; use it on any dough you’d like to give a nice shine to, including challah, brioche, and puff pastry. The classic egg wash is sometimes made with water or heavy cream, but most often it’s a combination of 1 egg to 1 Tbsp. milk, whisked together until smooth.

Does egg wash add color to pie crust?

This way you can brush an even thin layer on your pie crust, which will help it brown evenly. Water doesn’t add any flavor to your egg wash and will also not help add color. It will, however, help dilute the intensity of the yolk, especially when you are only using egg yolk.

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