Essence of Eats: No-Bake Chocolate Cream Pie

IMG_6157I’ve gotta be honest with you: If you’re looking for something super quick and easy to whip up for a Christmas dessert table or a holiday party, this no-bake chocolate cream pie isn’t the dessert for you, although it will look very handsome on any dessert table. I’ll give you some options, though!

I saw this no-bake chocolate cream pie recipe in Bon Appetit around Thanksgiving and had my heart set on making it for something this year. I noticed the custard, however, was made from scratch (something I’ve never attempted), it looked time-consuming and it looked messy. It was all of those things, but totally worth the time and effort.

  • For the chocolate cookie crust, I used Nabisco Famous Wafers, which some people commented on the original recipe that they had trouble finding. Typically they’re in the cookie aisle way down away from everything else, near the vanilla wafers.
    • I think this recipe would work well with chocolate graham crackers or regular graham crackers for the crust as well. Instead of the recommended 6 oz of wafers, I used all 9 oz in the package and an extra tablespoon of butter to account for them.
  • I substituted semi-sweet chocolate chips for the bittersweet chocolate, something I was pleased with.
  • I would recommend cutting down on the sugar in the meringue by at least half, maybe more. The meringue was so sweet that it nearly overpowered the custard and the crust.
    • The granulated sugar is used to stabilize the meringue, so you can’t lose too much of that, but I probably could’ve skipped the confectioner’s sugar altogether, or used maybe 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and a 1/4 cup of confectioner’s. IMG_6172

About the custard: I had never made a custard before, so the step where you add the hot cream, sweetened condensed milk, regular milk and cocoa to the egg and cornstarch mixture totally freaked me out! It looked like there were scrambled eggs in my mixture. This is totally normal!

The custard thickened, but not as much as I would’ve liked, so I whisked an additional egg yolk into the mixture over the heat. After cooking it all together, the scrambled egg-look considerably lessened, but was still there, so to remove the lumps, I used a fine mesh strainer. If you’ve also never made a custard, using a strainer is a standard step (I learned, thanks to Google!).

If you’re busy: You can still make a decent version of this pie and skip the custard steps to save time! Yep. Just buy a packet of Jell-O Cook & Serve chocolate pudding and all you’ll need to make from scratch are the crust and the meringue, both fairly quick steps. The cook & serve pudding takes about 8-10 minutes to make, and while it isn’t as thick as this custard, I’m confident it would still taste delicious. My mom uses the cook & serve pudding for her chocolate cream pie, which is a huge hit in our family.

If you don’t have a kitchen torch: I don’t either, but I still toasted the meringue. You can very carefully use a lighter or long matches to do this. I used a butane torch lighter. It gives it that toasty s’mores taste. It’s delicious.

That brown butter…Who has time to do that?! It takes 5 minutes, just watch your pan. Don’t skip this step! The brown butter adds to the flavor depth of the custard immensely. Trust me on this.


Brown that butter!

You ready?! 

What you’ll need:

For the pie

    • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 6 ounces chocolate wafer cookies
    • Kosher salt
    • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted, divided
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1½ cups heavy cream
    • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1½ cups whole milk
    • ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk

Meringue And Assembly

    • 4 large egg whites
    • ½ cup granulated sugar
    • ¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted

Special Equipment

  • A kitchen torch (optional)IMG_6110

Let’s make it!


  1. Cook butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until butter foams, then browns (be careful not to let it burn), 5–8 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Meanwhile, process cookies in a food processor until finely ground.
  3. Add 5 Tbsp. brown butter and a pinch of salt to cookie crumbs and mix until well blended (mixture should resemble wet sand). Transfer to a 9″ pie dish and press evenly into bottom and up sides of dish with a measuring cup (make sure to come up all the way to the top lip of the pie dish). Chill 20 minutes.

  4. Melt 2 oz of melted chocolate
  5. Brush the bottom of crust with melted chocolate; return to refrigerator.IMG_6111
  6. Whisk egg yolks and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Whisk cream and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan until no lumps remain; whisk in milk and sweetened condensed milk and bring to a bare simmer over medium heat.
  7. Whisking constantly, gradually add milk mixture to egg mixture, then, still whisking, pour egg mixture into pan. Cook over medium heat, still whisking, until mixture is considerably thickened with the occasional bubble rising to the surface (think chocolate pudding), about 4 minutes.
  8. If custard has lumps of egg, strain over another sauce pan over low heat until mixture is transferred and lumps are strained.
  9. Add remaining 6 oz. chocolate to custard and remaining 4 Tbsp. brown butter; whisk until smooth. Scrape into chilled crust and chill until custard is cold and set, at least 2 hours.IMG_6120

Meringue And Assembly

  1. Using an electric mixer on high, beat egg whites until loose and foamy, about 2 minutes. With motor running, gradually add granulated sugar and beat until stiff, shiny peaks form, about 5 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat another 2 minutes (meringue will deflate slightly when you add the powdered sugar but will regain volume).IMG_6143
  2. Spoon meringue over pie, swirling decoratively.
  3. Use a kitchen torch to toast meringue, if desired.

Keep pie refrigerated until ready to serve. Serves 8. Pie with meringue can be made 1 day ahead.


Adapted from Alison Roman for Bon Appetit Magazine


Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy this wonderful day with friends and family.

My mom and I on Christmas Eve enjoying some wine!

My mom and I on Christmas Eve enjoying some wine!

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