This Rich and Creamy 102-Year-Old Pie Recipe Has a Surprising Secret Ingredient

102-Year-Old Bean Pie Recipe

If you haven't seen a stylish man in a bowtie sharing pamphlets or selling baked goods on a city street corner, you've missed out on more than just a free sermon. You've missed the chance to taste a dessert popularized by the Nation of Islam in the 1930s and learn about self-knowledge. The bean pie, despite its unassuming name, is a flavorful dish with a rich history.

Originally introduced as an alternative to certain soul food dishes in the Black community, bean pies aimed to steer people away from sweet potatoes, as advised by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. This respect for Islamic dietary teachings is particularly evident during Ramadan. In honor of the holiday and just in time for Pi Day (March 14), I was curious to explore the bean pie recipe crafted in 1922 by Lana Shabazz, the esteemed cook for both The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Muhammad Ali. Here's what happened when I tried the 102-year-old recipe in my kitchen.

Get the recipe: Bean Pie

Ingredients for 102-year-old bean pie<p>Courtesy of Dante Parker</p>
Ingredients for 102-year-old bean pie

Courtesy of Dante Parker

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Ingredients for 102-Year-Old Bean Pie

Let us start with the crust. I grabbed a premade graham cracker crust to save some time, but if you're looking for a more authentic experience, you may want to opt for a homemade crust. If you're going that route, you’ll need whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, sugar and ice water.

For the pie filling, you’ll need unsalted butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cornstarch, salt, eggs, cooked navy beans (2 cans), evaporated milk, vanilla extract and the zest of one lemon.

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How to Make 102-Year-Old Bean Pie

If you don’t want to cheat the process by skipping this step like I did, start out by tossing together the flours, salt and sugar. Next, cut the butter into ½-inch chunks and add it to the mix. Using your hands, a fork or pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until the chunks are pea-sized. Pour in the ice water one tablespoon at a time and stir it together with a fork until the mixture becomes a shaggy mass.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and shape it into a disk. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, but preferably about 2 hours.

Prepping 102-year-old bean pie filling<p>Courtesy of Dante Parker</p>
Prepping 102-year-old bean pie filling

Courtesy of Dante Parker

Next, preheat the oven and get to work on the pie filling. In a food processor, blend the butter and sugar until it's combined. Add in the cinnamon, nutmeg, cornstarch and salt, and continue to mix until combined. Mix in your eggs one at a time, then add the navy beans and mix until smooth. Add in the evaporated milk, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Blend it all once more until the filling is smooth and combined.

Unbaked 102-year-old bean pie<p>Courtesy of Dante Parker</p>
Unbaked 102-year-old bean pie

Courtesy of Dante Parker

Lastly, pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for five minutes. Lower the oven temp to 325° and continue baking for 45 minutes, until the filling has fully set and is light golden brown on top. Let the pie completely cool before serving.

Related: 85 Amazing Pie Recipes For Every Occasion

102-year-old bean pie<p>Courtesy of Dante Parker</p>
102-year-old bean pie

Courtesy of Dante Parker

What I Thought About The 102-Year-Old Bean Pie

I have a strong disdain for fruit in my dessert, so it's not surprising that I hold a similar sentiment, if not stronger, regarding vegetables playing that same role. Perhaps it's the texture or the concept of incorporating mashed beans, but I may simply not have acquired the taste required to fully enjoy bean pie. It's worth noting that I also avoid sweet potato pie for similar reasons, though I can understand why others find this dessert delightful.

I will admit, however, that the bean pie wasn't 100 percent unpleasant. In fact, with a few more tries, I could see myself warming up to it. The blend of cinnamon and nutmeg is evident and complements the hints of lemon zest and vanilla. If I were to taste it blindly without knowing it contained navy beans, I might enjoy it even more. So while I may not be reaching for seconds, I'll keep this recipe handy should I start taking my diet more seriously or if I ever feel compelled to explore Islamic dietary practices.

Related: The 50 Best Ramadan Recipes For Suhoor, Iftar and Eid al-Fitr

Tips for Making The 102-Year-Old Bean Pie

  1. Make sure the pie has cooled before cutting into it. Otherwise, your slices won't be as clean!

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