How to Make Classic Tourtière (Québec Pork Pie Recipe)

On Christmas Eve, we almost always head to a beautiful candlelight service at our church and then drive home through the falling snow (on the years that it snows, obviously) to enjoy a late supper of Tourtière – Québec pork pie. This is a tradition fondly practiced throughout Québec, whether preceded by a religious service or not.

At our home, the tourtière is homemade, and we enjoy it throughout the holidays, not just on Christmas Eve. As I write, six wrapped pies sit in my deep freezer, waiting to be baked to golden perfection.

Essentially, tourtière is a meat pie; lightly spiced ground pork layered between flaky pastry, and served with a chunky green ketchup. It’s total comfort food, loved by all and needs nothing save a tossed salad or bowl of steamed peas to make up a complete meal. It can be enjoyed warm or cold, for brunch, lunch, or dinner – and makes a splendid midnight feast.

The Best Tourtière Recipe

Recipes for tourtière vary from region to region and kitchen to kitchen. It’s been said that the best recipe is the one your grand-mère gave you, but as my Baba is Ukrainian, I’ve sourced my recipe elsewhere!

Friend, Montrealer, and fellow food enthusiast, Ryk Edelstein, did his tourtière homework several years back. He gathered a handful of recommended recipes from various Québec regions -try about eleven- and proceeded to make them all. Twice. Ryk used as many ovens as he could convince his friends and family to allow, and twenty-two meat pies later, he narrowed down the recipes to two or three favorites.

This recipe, passed along to me from Ryk, is straightforward, appealing to all, and lends itself well to large batches. It is from Montreal Gazette food editor Julian Armstrong’s cookbook, A Taste of Québec, and apparently was one of the winners in a tourtière contest put on by the Gazette.

It’s a winning recipe in my books. Both of my boys tuck into it enthusiastically, and not just because I allow them to slather it with ketchup. It also makes scrumptious little hand pies, if you have time for that sort of thing. Wrap one of them, warmed, in a cloth napkin, tuck it into your pocket, and you have the perfect portable snack for a sledding expedition.


Classic Tourtière or Québec Pork Pie
4.5 from 8 reviews
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Recipe type: Main
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: two 9-inch meat pies
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground pork, ideally organic & local
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 teaspoon dried savory
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • Pastry for two double-crust, 9-inch pies
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glaze
Instructions
  1. In a large, heavy frying pan, combine pork with cold water and heat to boiling point. It should be slightly soupy.
  2. Add onion, celery, pepper, bay leaf, savory, rosemary, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 1 1/4 hours; stir often. Add more water if mixture dries out.
  3. Halfway through cooking time, season with salt to taste.
  4. Stir in rolled oats and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bay leaf and allow to cool. Setting the entire pot in the snow bank speeds up this process!
  5. Meanwhile, line two 9-inch pie plates with pastry. When meat mixture is lukewarm, divide it between two pie shells and spread it out evenly.
  6. Brush around outer edge of pastry with the beaten egg. Place top crust on the tart and press gently around the edge to seal. Trim pastry, crimp edges and cut steam vents in top crust. Decorate as desired.
  7. Bake in preheated 425°F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375°F and bake another 25 minutes or until crust is golden.

 

Do-Ahead

Is there any point in making just one meat pie? Not really. They freeze beautifully; whether pre-cooked or frozen with raw pastry dough, which ensures that you can get a hot, filling meal during the busy days ahead.

I also make a few extra to give away. Friends who are adapting to life with a new baby in the house, or are going through a rough patch, can expect an edible gift of tourtière from my kitchen.

Pies can be frozen directly after assembly, with the dough still raw (this is what I do). Wrap them well in plastic wrap and freeze.

To cook:

  • Remove pie from the freezer and unwrap.
  • Brush the top with a little beaten egg and place frozen meat pie in a preheated 375°F oven.
  • Bake until golden and heated through, about 50 minutes.

Pies can also be baked and cooled, then wrapped and frozen. This is convenient when you really need an instant supper fix.

To serve:

  • Remove meat pie from the freezer a few hours before serving, if possible.
  • Wrap in foil to keep it moist and warm in a low (300°F) oven until heated through.

Whether you speak French or English in the home, celebrate Christmas or not, tourtière is an essential December dish around here.

What is your traditional Christmas Eve fare?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. Please where do I find green ketchup in Richmond, VIrginia.

  2. Finally a recipe with just pork as it should be. This is a New Year’s dish from way back when, but we start making them at Thanksgiving. I make 8 – 10 at a time. I do not use celery; ground pork, salt, pepper, onion, cinnamon and cloves. I render off the lard and use it for the pie crust by cooking the meat separately in a large kettle with just enough water to cover until it comes and stays to a rolling boil for 10 – 15 minutes. with no spices added. That is added after you pour the juices back in, less the lard, and cooked for about 10 minutes to soften the onions. I use cubed white bread for the binder. I do not and have never heard of Tourtiere from a true French Canadian, made with anything but ground pork.

    • I am a chef and I collect old cook books. Being a Canadian I especially love old Candian cook books. Historically you will find in Quebec many game animals were often added such as rabbit or hare along with the pork to stretch and use what was available. But alas most recipes are straight pork these days. I like yourself have my prejudices and do not care for the idea of adding beef. I feel beef is a British pot pie of sorts not a tortier.

  3. Marc Beauregard says:

    Grew up in in Los Angeles CA, to my French Canadian parents who would always have large Xmas parties with all of their French Canadians cohars living in So Cal. Like clockwork just after chrismus mom would start her yearly grind, Home Made Fruit cakes, Tourtiere, with Swet catsup,her home made chocolate fudge and of course Sacreleme not sure if spelled correct.
    my mom would make the pies by the dozen ( and since my dad had a part time ice bussness we had plent of room to freez them where Mom would dish out pies and jars of her catsup to those in attendance. My wife only got to meet and eat my mothers cooking and has always been after me to get her the reciept so she can try making these treats. Looking forward to remembering my Youth Love ou in Heaven mom

    • Hi Marc, just FYI , the word you were looking for is pronounced “sucacrem” which is really French Canadian slang for “sucre à la crème”, literally creamed sugar traditionally made using maple syrup as the sugar.

      • Oh yum! When I was a cook at the Convent of Notre Dame (750 kingston Rd. Toronto) One of the visiting nuns from Quebec intorduced me to this wonderful little pie- geared for those of us with a sweet tooth. Very Rich and Very Yum. I think I shall have to make one very soon!

  4. I couldn’t find green tomatoes, or green ketchup, and so I made a sauce with cranberry sauce (1 part), relish (1/2 part) and ketchup (1/2 part). It was delicious!

  5. We add cloves to our filling and it is truly the defining spice in the pie for my family.

    I’m now a vegetarian but really love and look forward to the tourtiere I grew up with every Christmas…so we came up with a delicious veggie version.

    I substitute tvp and mushrooms for the traditional meat filling. I cook and season it the same way except of course that we use vegetable broth for the tvp.

    It tastes the same and evokes all of the magical holiday nostalgia as the original.

  6. Terry Robert says:

    It isn’t only pork pie. My family goes back a long way, almost 400 years, and pork was part, and only part, of tourtiére but always included beef in my memory and originally a now extinct bird. In the Manitoba, game is also part and sometimes all of the meat and may have been for the original habitants.

  7. My wife still has cousins and cousinnes in Quebec, as far north as Rimouski. And here we are, living on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. A few weeks back she hired a lady to round out her office crew, only to find out later on that the lady ALSO has relatives in Quebec, and she ALSO bakes the meat pie at Christmas. So we had the tourtière for the first time in Oklahoma. My crusty (no pun intended!) US Army retired 76-year-old father-in-law (whose first language was French) wept openly.

    • Dan, Thank you for writing in. You made my Christmas! I really appreciate the feedback and your personal story. I’ve long known of the powerful connection between food and memories, and the holidays is always a particularly poignant time for making those connections.

      Happy holidays to your whole family, especially your father in law!

    • Awe that is very heartwarming to hear. that just blessed me hearing that. my father was French though I never knew him, and I have always had a love of Canada, and the northern territories. I HAD SOMETHING LOKE THE MEAT PIE SOMEONE MADE FOR ME. IT WAS CALLED A PASTY, AND SHE WAS FROM NORTHERN MICHIGAN OH, THET WAS JUS WONDERFUL, I LOVE THOSE. GOD BLESS. KATHRYN

      • Joyce Fowler says:

        I had those as a child a long time ago when we lived in Marquette Mi. I believe they are Cornish Pasties that originated for people who worked in mines to take to eat. So good! I think you can find a recipe for them. The crust is a little different than pie crust.

  8. Something seems wrong with the cooking times. The recipe header says “Prep time: 60 mins, Cook time: 55 mins, Total time: 1 hour 55 mins”, however step 2 says cook for 1 1/4 hours, then step 7 says to bake for 15 minutes, then additional 25 minutes. That’s a total of almost 2 hours of cooking time, unless the 1 1/4 hours was supposed to mean “one times one quarter of hour” instead of “one hour and a quarter”?

    • “This is a French Canadian recipe” is the reason for the time discrepancy. It’s always more about the end result being good rather than the apparent rationale (or lack thereof) of the steps taken to get there.

  9. I could actually see my grandmother putting these pies together in my mind as I read your page. I’ve looked all over for her recipe and I’m pretty sure this is spot on.

    Thank you !

  10. It was great to see the recipe for tourtiere. My family is from Quebec since the mid 1600’s. My great grandmothers recipe is pretty basic. In the OLD days they used ground pork, water, onion, salt, dried bread crumbs, sage, a little pepper and a dash of nutmeg. She had an old tourt (clay casserole dish) to make the pie in. FYI that’s where the name came from tourtiere. My family are Peloquin (pillow kay), and Bruette. Yoyeux Noel to you and yours.

  11. A note from a French Canadian American (my grand mother and grandfather are from Quebec), be sure not to over cook the pork, else it get a bit dry to the taste. No oats, no rice, no potatoes!

    Also, don’t over do the spices. Some of the best Meat pies have no spices besides salt and pepper, but a little allspice is good (although it flattens the flavor) and a tiny bit of cinnamon can sweeten, but not too much! You should be tasting the pork and veggie flavors all subtly but not be identifying “cloves” or “allspice” or “cinnamon” so be vary careful with the spices. Also as the mixture finishes cooking and cools the salt will enhance, so its wise to keep the salt a bit on the needing side until nearly done!
    A final note: Creton is made form this recipe, all you do it after the filling is cooked, run it through the meat grinder a fagain and add some spices to taste (allspice or cloves, or perhaps cinnamon if you must) but again, don’t over do the spices!

    Best Regards,

    Mike Lachance

    • Mike and all,
      My family recipe (6x-great-grandpere Jean Jolin emmigrated from France & was a miller for Ile d’Orleans from 1690) has only salt and pepper like yours, to let the meat be front and center. We do 80% pork, 15% beef, 5% potatoes and onions. We always boil the unground meat whole with the onions, potatoes separate as they cook faster. Then we grind it all together, mix in cooking liquid (now a great broth) and salt/pepper to taste. Important to leave a little (like 2-5%) fat in the ground meat for added flavor. I do like the idea of venison instead of beef, but would reduce to maybe 5-10%. Happy eating to all.

  12. It was great to see this recipe for tourtiere. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Hi Aimee, I just made this (recipe from BEJJ) for my husband for our Christmas Eve dinner. It was perfect and we are still munching on the leftovers for lunch for the past couple days. I even have a couple dozen hand pies saved in the freezer. Wishing you and your family all the best for a happy and healthy 2016.

  14. What a great recipe! I used pork, beef and chicken added one carrot. I omitted the pepper, added gumbo filé, tarragon, thyme and cut back on the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and rosemary. I added bacon – yummy! It turned out absolutely perfect and most reminiscent of any tourtière I’ve ever eaten in my home province of Quebec but not so plain (which is also great). A good pie-crust is a must. Thanks so much.

  15. I couldn’t rate this recipe when I left a comment – I give it 5 stars as a great basic place to start!

  16. This is a fantastic recipe. I love that the filling is cooked on the stove adjusting the spices midway through. This allows the spices to be perfected to each family’s taste. I found the recipe very easy to do and my family loved it. This will be my go to Tourtiere recipe now.

  17. Naomi Medendorp says:

    I just finished the filling made with pork. It’s delicious & I can’t wait to finish the pies. Our Girl Scout troop in Muskegon, Mi. USA, is having a party called world tasting day. Our individual troop chose Canada as our country. We each choose a dish from that country to bring. We have 12 girls, so we needed 12 Canadian dishes. I chose to make Tourtier. Can’t wait to see how it goes!

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