If you want to make a delicious traditional Gluten Free Cornish Pasty, this is the recipe you need. It uses an authentic Cornish Pasty filling, encased with crisp, buttery, light and slightly flaky gluten free pastry, tried and tested for the BEST result. (Optional dairy free).
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Introducing my Traditional Gluten Free Cornish Pasty Recipe
My traditional Gluten Free Cornish Pasty recipe has been a labour of devotion to the cause. After a recent trip to Cornwall, where I had been endlessly disappointed by the gluten free pasty offerings I found, I knew I needed to make my own… That what I could make at home could and would be better.
It wasn’t the pasties per se that were the problem in Cornwall… far from it. The fillings were traditional and quite delicious. But the gluten free pastry just didn’t quite hit the mark (for me). And while I was super-grateful that I could find a gluten free Cornish Pasty at all, I was left wondering with each and every bite (as is so often the case with commercial gluten free pies), why the pastry was either too sweet, too dry, too ‘bendy’ or too crumbly. Sounds familiar?
And with that, the stage was set and the Gluten Free Cornish Pasty obsession at GFHQ began. Thank you to my enduring family for eating your body weight several times over in pasties… It’s taken 2 months of testing pastry after pastry and grading the results as a family to reach our best conclusion. But this… THIS Gluten Free Cornish Pasty is the stuff of Coeliac (Celiac) dreams.
What is a Cornish Pasty?
According to Historic UK, pasties have been eaten in Britain since the 13th Century, initially being the food of the rich and royalty. In the 17th and 18th Centuries however, they started to become a staple for Cornish miners and farm workers. These large pastry packets packed full of meat and veg made the perfect easy to carry, deliciously tasty and sustaining meal that could be eaten while working… Made with a circle of pastry, folded over the filling and crimped at one edge, they were robust enough to be eaten down the mine, held in hand, in darkness and damp.
Indeed, it is said that a good pasty could survive being dropped down a mine shaft. Whether that’s true, I have no idea… And while robust, the Gluten Free recipe shared here is not going for the ‘height drop’ award… Nonetheless, with the tin miners of history hooked, the humble Cornish Pasty was born.
What’s in a traditional Cornish Pasty?
Whether gluten free or not, a traditional Cornish Pasty is filled with seasoned beef, potato, onion and swede. And that’s pretty much it! ‘What about the carrot?’ I hear you cry… No. There is no carrot. Really! Although it now appears to have found its way into the interior of some pasties, the presence of carrot was originally the mark of inferiority.
And since my very delicious traditional Gluten Free Cornish Pasty is in no way inferior, neither does it contain carrot!
Is my recipe allowed to be a traditional Gluten Free ‘Cornish Pasty’?
Apparently, this is where things get controversial. When I recently shared my efforts in a gluten free Facebook group to let people know the recipe was on its way, one commenter told me in no uncertain terms that “it’s only a Cornish Pasty if it is made in Cornwall, otherwise it’s just a pasty… (it has) Protected Regional Status which means it can only be called Cornish if made in Cornwall.” Well, that told me!
In my defence… The recipe I have used for the filling is completely authentically Cornish. How do I know? Because my first bit of research came from a follower on Instagram, who shared with me her Cornish grandmother Muriel’s recipe for filling and how to make it. Muriel was raised in Victorian Truro knew her pasties well.
Unfortunately, in the information shared, the ratios and proportions of each of the ingredients were missing, so I took to the best available internet source for a genuine and traditional Cornish Pasty Filling that I could find… The Cornish Pasty Association. Who just happen to be all about protecting the ‘Regional Status’ of this delicious hand-held pie. And (excluding the pastry, which is the bit which makes it Gluten Free) that’s exactly where I further sourced and checked the recipe for the filling…
The Pasty Association’s recipe is very clearly headed ‘Make Your Own Genuine Cornish Pasty’ and that’s exactly what I have done. It didn’t come with any warnings that said, ‘if you make this outside Cornwall, you’re only allowed to call it a ‘pasty’’… And thus, I am more than happy to be sharing with you my Gluten Free version of a ‘Genuine Cornish Pasty’.
What I’ve learned about how to make a perfect Gluten Free Cornish Pasty
So, between my research into the right filling for a traditional Cornish Pasty and my totally obsessional testing of the best pastry for the job, what have I learned?
Filling ingredients for an authentic recipe
That the ingredients for a genuine Cornish Pasty need to be ‘just so’…
- Beef Skirt Steak – is the required cut of beef needed. It is soft and tender and easy to cut. And it cooks within the pastry to perfectly moist, flavourful and succulent bites of beefy deliciousness. I found mine in both Morrisons and the local butcher.
- Waxy Potatoes – The potatoes used MUST be of the ‘waxy’ variety, to ensure they hold their shape and bite when cooked and don’t break down into mush. I used the variety ‘Maris Peer’. However, Charlotte potatoes and Jersey Royals are good alternatives.
- Swede – Is a traditional part of the filling. This is the yellow-fleshed vegetable (not a turnip). Although to confuse the issue, may sometimes be called a yellow turnip or Swedish turnip and in North America, can be known as a Rutabaga.
- Onion – Use a good strong, eye-watering onion if possible, for the best flavour… A simple large brown-skinned onion should do the job nicely.
- Seasoning – Is essential to a good pasty. So, season well with salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper for the most delicious pie.
- A little Butter – A tip shared with me by my Cornish-linked Instagram follower. Her grandmother would always add a knob of butter to each layer of filling, which would melt and help the filling to cook, as well as add a gorgeous buttery flavour. I tried using both unsalted and salted butter and would definitely recommend the latter.
- Egg Wash – If you want a rich and golden pastry, be sure to glaze it with egg-wash. It’s the crowning glory of any pasty (Cornish or not…)
Cutting the meat and vegetables for the filling
Once the vegetables are peeled, the way you cut them and fill the pasty actually becomes quite important. Why? Because they need to be small enough to mix together with each other and with the meat, yet still with a good bite… And it needs to be possible to fold the pastry over the filling so that it is snug, but not pierced by sharp vegetable corners.
The Cornish Pasty Association instructs that the vegetables should be ‘diced’ and the meat cut into cubes. Muriel would cut the meat and veg into ‘little slithers about the size of your wedding finger nail’ and the onion would be chopped as normal, before layering with a little butter.
I have tried both directions and they work equally well… But be sure the cubes or slices of potato and swede are no more than about a centimetre square.
The pastry you use for a Gluten Free Cornish Pasty REALLY matters
I don’t say this lightly. I have tried making Cornish pasties with no less than 6 different versions of Gluten Free shortcrust to get the recipe I share here. Clearly… the robustness of the pastry is crucial to making a Gluten Free Cornish Pasty that will hold its own next to its wheat counterpart.
But using a ‘robust’ gluten free pastry is only half the story… My Cornish Pasties needed a pastry that was also crisp, yet not ‘drying’… buttery, but sill flaky… light and definitely not stodgy. Is it just me, or do some of the gluten free pasty recipes on the internet look decidedly dense and damp on the inside layer? Not here! This pastry makes a pasty that is more than match for standard wheat versions and you genuinely wouldn’t know it’s gluten free.
Getting the perfect flour blend to make gluten free pastry for the job
At the heart of making any great gluten free pastry is the flour blend that is used. Trust me on this one… Your bog-standard commercially-available supermarket-bought flour blends are not the best choice for a truly good pastry. And yes, I tried the old favourite ‘Doves – Freee’… just to be sure.
In the end, my ultimate pasty pastry used a combination of my home-mixed Gluten Free Rice Free Flour Blend B, with additional potato starch and gram flour. It handled superbly and baked to perfection. There was no textural ‘grittiness’ and it was robust enough to hold and eat in one hand (without a plate). And given the end result, I make no apology for the need to mix flours at home. This gluten free Cornish Pasty is in a different league.
It has a little xanthan gum and baking powder added, neither of which should be left out. And while it has been made by the traditional method of ‘rubbing in’ fat to flour before adding water and eggs (necessary for perfect binding and structure), I also used an (optional) process called ‘fraisering’ to give it the desired lightness, flaky layers and crispness. I have included instructions for fraisering on the recipe card below and definitely recommend you giving it a go… But essentially it looks like the following…
Fraisering pastry dough
For general tips on how to make gluten free Shortcrust Pastry dough up to the point it is fraisered (or if choosing not to ‘fraiser’), check out my Step-By Step Guide, but using the ingredients below for pasty pastry. Even if you are confident, here’s a few extra tips…
Tips for making sure your pastry is made at cold temperature (with or without cold hands)…
The best pastry makers apparently have super-cold hands. Easier said than done. But even if you are working in a warm environment or your hands are warmer than you want for pastry-making, you can still make great gluten free pastry. Here’s my best advice…
- Chill the bowl before you start. I use a metal mixing bowl and put it in the freezer or fridge for a while… The perfect way to retain a cold mixture
- Even better, put the dry ingredients into the bowl, before you put it in the freezer/fridge… That really gives your hands a head start…
- Make sure the butter and lard are chilled and cut into small cubes. This makes the job of rubbing into the cold flour/bowl quicker and easier.
- If the mixture has started to warm excessively after the fat is rubbed into the flour, re-chill it.
- Feel free to use eggs straight from the fridge and beat with the correct amount of ice-cold water before adding to the flour.
Unlike many gluten free pastry recipes, mine does NOT require chilling again before rolling, although it will benefit from ‘sitting’ for 10 minutes before fraisering (or kneading if you are taking a speedier route). This allows for the full absorption of moisture into the flour.
However, if you want to make the pastry significantly ahead of time, it is fine to wrap well and store in the fridge. Just make sure you let it stand a while at room temperature and gently work it with your hands to a rollable softness before making your Gluten Free Cornish Pasties. Alternatively, chill before the fraisering stage (when it has been brought together as a ball), to allow a natural blending and softening process with the fraisering.
The fat used to make gluten free pastry…
Unsurprisingly, the fat you use also matters when making the best gluten free pastry recipes. A combination of half butter (or hard ‘yellow’ butter alternative – Stork Baking Block is good) and half Lard (or Trex (solid ‘white’ vegetable fat)) give the shortest, lightest and crispest results. Although you can make the pastry with all butter/dairy free alternative if you prefer, it won’t be quite as ‘workable’ and the end result will be slightly different.
Can I make this Gluten Free Cornish Pasty recipe dairy free?
Yes… It is fine to make these pasties dairy free if you need to. Just be sure to sub the butter for a good, dairy free block alternative (such as Stork Baking Block). Try to use lard as the other half of the fat content. Or if you are making a veggie version without meat, use Trex vegetable fat.
Can I make these gluten free pasties without meat?
The recipe shared below is for a traditional meat and vegetable Cornish Pasty. However, if you don’t do meat, simply take the beef out of the ingredients list and sub the lard for vegetable fat. I then add a sprinkle of smoked paprika to the diced veg for extra flavour. Or alternatively, add some herbs – fresh or dried.
How to shape a perfect Cornish Pasty
This is the fun part… but it can take a couple of goes to get the hang of:
- How thin to roll the pastry (you’re aiming for about 4 mm)
- The amount of filling to use and how to arrange it on the pastry
- How to seal and crimp the pastry to turn it into the Cornish Pasty we all know and love…
Rolling and cutting the pastry
- Before you start, divide the pastry into 5 roughly equal pieces. This will help you to better gage how thin/thick to roll the pastry.
- Roll the pastry on well-floured baking paper to avoid sticking and dust the top too.
- The pastry is rolled to the size of a 9-inch cake tin or dinner plate for best results. I use the removable base from a loose-bottomed cake tin as a guide/cutting template.
- Once rolled, lay the circular template on the pastry and gently cut round it with a small sharp knife.
- Use a slice or palette knife to slide under the pastry and check it has not stuck underneath before filling.
Filling, folding and crimping the pasty
- Take a large handful of mixed filling and set it on the pastry circle just off centre on the side nearest to you. Be careful to try and judge the point where it is a goodly amount, but not going to be over-filled!
- Spread it slightly and poke a little butter into the pile, while checking the top for any veg pieces that are pointing sharply outwards. If you see any corners, rearrange so that the top is as even as possible, to avoid unwanted holes in the pastry.
- Make sure to egg wash the whole round edge of the pastry before folding over the filling. This will enable the pastry edges to be stuck together easily.
- Gently pull the far side of the pastry circle up and over the filling until it meets the opposite edge. If any filling spills out, either remove it, or (if there is room) gently poke it back in with your finger. But remember that you need a good wide edge to have the room to crimp it over.
- Press the edges to seal, before hand-crimping for a traditional finish. My crimping definitely needs more work, but this video I found on You Tube might help…
- I also found it helped with gluten free pastry to give a light egg wash on the edge before crimping to help it stick a little as crimping progressed.
- Make sure you make a couple of slits in the top of your Cornish Pasty with a sharp knife to let out the steam and remember to egg-wash the top for a golden finish.
- They’ll bake for about 50 minutes… But honestly, you’ll be able to smell when they’re done 😁👌.
Ready to make Traditional Gluten Free Cornish Pasties?
So, who’s ready to make my Gluten Free Cornish Pasty recipe? They may sound like a lot of work, but don’t be put off. They are more than worth the effort. Mr GF even said he thought they were better than any shop-bought wheat pasty he had had!
If you do make them, please let me know how it went. Leave a comment, rate the recipe (so other people can find it) and tag me on social media with your pasty pics. (Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
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Traditional Gluten Free Cornish Pasty Recipe
- sharp vegetable knife
- chopping board
- flat table knife
- palette knife/cake scraper
- 9 inch round template (eg cake tin/plate)
- large baking tray
- 400 g beef skirt cut into small cubes or slices about the size of a finger nail
- 300 g waxy potatoes eg. Maris Peer/Charlotte/Jersey Royals – peeled and diced (or sliced into finger nail-sized pieces)
- 150 g swede (rutabaga) peeled and diced (or sliced into finger nail-sized pieces)
- 150 g onion peeled and chopped coarsely
- salt and pepper to taste
- 10 – 15 g hard butter (or dairy free alternative) cut into small pieces (to add inside the pasties)
- 220 g Gluten Free Rice Free Flour Blend B GFA Blend B – See NOTES for individual flour ratios
- 110 g gram flour (also known as chickpea flour, garbanzo flour or besan)
- 110 g potato starch flour (additional to blend B)
- 2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tsp baking powder gluten free
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 110 g unsalted butter (or good dairy free block alternative) very cold and cubed
- 110 g lard (or Trex white vegetable fat) very cold and cubed
- 2 large eggs UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
- 5 tbsp very cold water
- extra flour for dusting and rolling I use GFA Blend B
- an additional egg and a drop of milk beaten together
- Dice or cut the meat and vegetables into small cubes, about 1 cm square (or slice into pieces the size of a finger nail) and mix together in a large bowl.
- Season well with salt and pepper. Do NOT add the extra butter at this stage.
- Set aside while you make the pastry.
- It helps to chill the bowl in advance to keep the ingredients cool when rubbing the fat into the flour.
- Weigh the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and mix together until evenly combined.
- Add the butter and lard/Trex to the bowl and rub into the flour mixture using finger tips, until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Optional : For best results, chill the flour-fat mixture before adding the liquid, especially if the weather/room is warm.
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the water and then pour into the crumb mixture.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the crumb mixture using a table knife until it begins to clump together.
- Once it is beginning to come together as a dough, leave the mixture to stand for 10 to 15 minutes to fully absorb the liquid.
- Finally, bring the dough together with your hands and press into a ball. If not 'fraisering' (see below), lightly knead the mixture between your hands until smooth.
Optional 'fraisering' of the pastry dough (makes extra flaky) – See PHOTOS main blog post
- Place the block of pastry on a clean work surface (do not dust with flour).
- Take a flexible palette knife or dough/cake scraper and cut into the front edge of the dough block. As it slices through, tilt the palette knife/scraper downwards so that the top of the blade tilts and pulls towards your waist.
- Press the dough down flat on the work surface and pull it across the surface towards you, in a smearing action.
- Smear the same cut of dough three times and then gather it up onto the scraper and place in a pile to the side.
- Continue this process until you have worked through all the pastry dough.
- Carefully push the pile of fraisered dough together (do not knead or ‘work’) and then gently lift and drop the dough ball on the work surface until it blends together into a soft, smooth pastry.
- You can use straight away, or wrap in cling film, flatten slightly and chill to use later.
- When ready to use the dough, take from the fridge if chilled and gently warm with the palm of your hand until it becomes more pliable and rollable.
Making the Pasties
- Prepare your egg-wash, by beating the eggs together in a bowl with a fork.
- Divide the pastry into 5 equal-sized balls. This will give you a guide on how thick/thin you should roll them.
- On a large sheet of well-floured baking paper (and with the dough also dusted on top), roll each dough ball into a circle about 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter. Use the removable base of a cake tin/appropriate-sized dinner plate as a guide. The rolled pastry should be about 4 mm in thickness.
- Using your template (gently placed on top of the rolled pastry), carefully cut round to make a clean circle shape using a very sharp knife.
- While there should be very little, set the 'discard' aside to be amalgamated together at the end with any other spare pastry.
- Gently lift the pastry circle with the help of a palette knife to check it has not stuck BEFORE filling.
- Place a large handful of filling onto the pastry circle, set just off centre towards you. Don't over-fill and be sure to leave a wide pastry edge for sealing and crimping.
- Push small cubes of the additional butter into the filling (3 to 4 per pasty), so that it is spread across the filling. This will help the cooking process and maintain moisture and butteriness in the final pasty.
- Carefully arrange and check the filling to ensure there are no sharp vegetable edges at the top that will poke through and pierce the pastry.
- Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the full outer edge of the circle with egg wash.
- Carefully pull the far edge of the pastry circle up and over the filling towards you until it meets the opposite edge as a semi-circle. If the filling starts to spill out, carefully remove the excess, or (if there is room) poke the stray pieces back into the middle of the pasty with your finger.
- Very lightly press down on the surface of the pasty to expel any excess air and then gently press together the two egg-washed edges to seal. If there are any accidental holes, simply 'patch' with a small, flat strip of dampened pastry and smooth with a wet finger.
- Lightly egg-wash the sealed curve, before carefully crimping. Crimping involves moving from one side of the pastry edge to the other in a pinching and folding motion to create a turned edge. This video that I found on YouTube might help…
- Gently transfer the pasty to a baking tray (lined with baking paper) using a fish-slice/palette knife as helpful (arrange so that you can fit other pasties on the tray too)
- Repeat the rolling and filling process for all the pasties.
- Bring any remaining pastry together and knead and roll into a single piece and fill as you wish with any leftover filling.
- Carefully cut 2 slits (about 2 cm long) in the top of each pasty with a sharp knife and then thoroughly glaze the top surface with beaten egg-wash.
- Chill the tray of uncooked pasties for about 30 to 45 minutes before baking.
- While chilling, pre-heat the oven to 170 Fan/180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Bake the pasties straight from the fridge for 50 to 55 minutes until golden(you will smell when they are ready!)
- Remove from the oven and eat straight away hot, cool slightly or enjoy cold. Cool on the trays. Can be reheated in the oven at 180 for about 20 minutes.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist