Carolina Pie


Makes 8 servings

Carolina Pie
  • 2 cups oyster cracker crumbs (about 5 oz)
  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 - 4 Tablespoons water
  • 2 lbs fresh tomatoes
  • 1 large onion (about 8 oz), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • kernels from 3 cobs of fresh corn
  • 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1½ cups shredded cheese (American, mild cheddar, or jack)
  • 1½ lbs medium headless, deveined and shelled shrimp (see notes)

Special equipment

2 qt casserole dish


Preheat the oven to 375° while you begin to work.

Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter and stir into the cracker crumbs. Reserve ½ cup of these buttered crumbs for the topping. Mix enough water in the remaining 1½ cups of buttered crumbs that you can line your casserole dish with them. Bake blind, that is, uncovered and unfilled, for 10 to 15 minutes in order to crisp up the shell.

Bring a small pot of water to boil to blanch the tomatoes so that you can skin them. We consider the peeling and seeding of tomatoes too high church, but in this case the dish is better off with peeled tomatoes. Otherwise the skins will separate while the dish cooks, papering your casserole with bits of tomato skin. But we understand if you want to skip this step.

Chop the tomatoes and reserve.

Meanwhile, in a deep saucepan, sauté the onions in the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter and oil over medium to medium high heat (the oil serves only to keep the butter from burning). When the onions are translucent, add the chopped tomatoes. Lower heat to medium, and sauté for about 15 minutes or until the juices have reduced. Now add the corn, stir, and cook for 5 minutes. Add spices.

Turn off the heat, stir in the shrimp (they will immediately begin to turn opaque), and then the cheese. Pour into the casserole shell. Top with the reserved crumbs and bake until nicely browned, about 30 minutes.


Make this only in July or August when the corn is fresh and the tomatoes are at their sweetest. Should you make this out of season with canned or frozen ingredients, you get what you deserve.

Medium shrimp (40 - 50 count per pound) work well here. Any larger and they distribute unevenly and fall off the spoon.

Whence Carolina Pie? Everybody says it’s a centuries-old tradition and points to Sarah Rutledge’s 1847 cookbook. But she never uses the term and indeed offers three different recipes for shrimp pies:

3.12 Shrimp pie: shrimp or seafood with wine [sherry?] in a pie shell of shredded bread

3.13 Baked shrimp and tomatoes: a layered dish of shrimp and stewed tomatoes in a crushed biscuit (i.e. crackers, not modern day biscuits) shell

5.19 Corn pie: tomatoes, meat (chicken, shrimp, veal or ham) baked in a shell of corn pudding (freshly grated corn kernels and eggs)

Ours is none of these and all of these. No wine, because the dish is dramatically sweet already. In fact, that’s why we rejected the common modern inclusion of Worcestershire: it made the pie even sweeter.


Put that bottle of hot sauce by the pie so patrons can spice it up to their tastes.

It is oh-so-tempting to Cajunize this dish with herbs, garlic, red and black pepper. Who could blame ya? It might no longer be Carolingian, but it’d be a damned fine pie.