Michigan pasties are a whole meal folded into a pastry shell. Most commonly they are filled with beef and root vegetables then baked until tender.
These handheld meat pies are popular with my Yooper neighbors to the north in the upper peninsula of Michigan who made these portable meals for Cornish miners. Although still closely associated with Michigan, the pasty has gained a foothold in northern Wisconsin as well where you can still find roadside pasty shops selling these treats.
Traditional Pasty Ingredients
Like any meal, there are a million different ways pasties can be prepared. However, the traditional Cornish pastry, first popularized in Cornwall, United Kingdom was primarily made with pastry dough, beef, potatoes, onion, and turnips.
Since crossing the Atlantic with settlers in Michigan, this dish has largely remained unchanged. It is still most commonly filled with beef, and root vegetables. However, it is not uncommon to see the variety of vegetables switched up on occasion.
In my recipe I go a step further and add fresh herbs (parsely and sage) to the mix, which I think livens up the flavor quite a bit. However, feel free to omit it if you wish to stay more traditional.
How to make it
Begin by making your pie dough by mixing the flour and salt, then cutting in butter with a pastry cutter. Finally, mix in water until it forms into a ball. Knead the dough a few times then let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. This will make it easier to work with.
Prepare your vegetables and herbs by chopping them into small pieces, then add to a large bowl and mix together along with the salt and pepper. Separately, crumble your hamburger into small bits.
Remove your dough from the refrigerator and cut into six equal pieces and then flatten them into ⅛" discs. Pile each round of dough with the vegetable mixture, then top with beef and one teaspoon of butter then fold the dough shut. Crimp the edges with a fork to ensure it remains closed.
Finally, beat an egg in a dish and then paint the exterior pie dough with the egg wash to add a glossy shine as it bakes. I also like to sprinkle on a little kosher salt.
Bake your pasties in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour, then remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes prior to serving.
Tips and Tricks
- You can substitute lard or shortening for butter in the dough.
- You can also use store bought refrigerated pie dough.
- You can mix all of your fillings together, but I find it works best if the meat is crumbled and added to the pasties separately. Otherwise, it wants to clump back together again as it is mixed.
- Adding butter to the pasty lends moisture and flavor, but it can be omitted to save calories.
The Michigan pasty was popularized by Cornish settlers in the upper peninsula of Michigan and consisted of a hand pie traditionally made with pie dough, beef, and root vegetables.
Pasty rhymes with nasty.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter
- ¾ cup cold water
- 1 egg beaten
- ¾ pounds lean ground beef
- ½ cup diced rutabaga
- 1 yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 cup chopped Yukon potatoes
- ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon minced sage
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Mix together flour and salt in a large bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry cutter until it is crumbled into small bits resembling breadcrumbs.
- Add cold water while mixing until the dough forms into a ball. Briefly knead the dough then set in the refrigerator for one hour.
- Prepare the filling by mixing the vegetables, herbs and seasonings in a bowl and crumbling the hamburger in a separate dish.
- Remove dough from the fridge and cut into six equal pieces then roll flat into rounds ⅛" thick.
- Build the pasties by adding equal amounts of the vegetable mixture to each one then top with crumbled ground beef and 1 teaspoon of butter.
- Fold dough shut and crimp with a fork to seal.
- Paint the exterior of the dough with beaten egg then sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Set on baking sheet and bake in oven for 1 hour.
I am wondering how I will “crumble” raw ground beef…I would rather cook my ground beef. Will it still be as good?
Fox Valley Foodie
Crumbling raw ground beef is simply breaking it into small pieces. It will cook as the pasties bake, there is no need to cook it twice.
I've been making pasties for years. This crust recipe is the best I've ever made. It was easier to work with after refrigeration and holds together very well after baking.
I visited the up frequently with my grandparents. I love pasties!
I have my grandmas recipe and it’s very very close.
Have tried to make it a little healthier and it doesn’t work.
I’ve been making pasties for over 40 years with a recipe from from Grandmother who was born in the U.P. In 1898. I use a short crust (2 cups flour, 1/2 cup Crisco, cut in 1/4 cup cold butter, 1 tsp salt, and add cold water to bring together). For the filling I use russet potatoes, sliced 1/8th inch thick, diced onion, and cubed round steak or even sirloin. I roll out the pastry, lay a layer of potatoes, cover with a few onions, salt and pepper lightly. Add steak layer, cover with more onions, salt and pepper and then I grate beef suet over the top. I also add a small pat of butter. Bake at 375 for 1 hour. Delish!
Lisa J Hildebrand
Just curious are you to cook the veggies and meat befor it goes in the pie dough or is it all raw? Thanks Lisa from Michigan but lives in Oregon.
Late to see your question, but no...you don't need to cook anything ahead of time. The baking in the oven will do that for you. Try to chop ingredients close to same size for equal baking time.
TU so much Susi My recipe handed down 2 me right from family in UP was burned in a fire
A lot of the magic is in the dough Hugs and Thx a Million
I have always used pork and beef large grind, live in the upper peninsula, stsple in my home.
James R Carlin
Do you cook the ground beef before assembly?
Fox Valley Foodie
Nope, everything goes in raw and then bakes in the oven.
We live in northern lower Michigan so we are trolls (people who live below the bridge) and when we travel to the UP we always stop for Pasties. We try different places each time just to compare. A good friend make his own Pasties but lives in Florida now, real good. I will definitely try your recipe as it seems to be spot on. Also remember, NO GRAVY.
I’m going to try this tomorrow with some leftover shredded pork. Thanks!!! You’re recipes are always great!
Thank you so much for your recipe. Sounds delicious. We love a good pasty. We will definitely try it. Thanks! Reba
If I want to freeze them, should I bake them first? Also, what would be the cooking instructions coming from the freezer?
I would like to know the answer to this as well. I hope they answer you soon.
I am a troll, lower Michigan native now living in Virginia and have made them all my life. Have several in the freezer right now. Your recipe is spot on. Only time our family ever changed the recipe was when there was fresh deer kill.
Awesome! My father grew up in Michigan and we enjoyed pasties every time we visited. Always looked forward to them. Thanks for the recipe! I love it. I might have to make a spicy version. =)