French Canadian Tourtière

Tourtière is a dish that I really only have once or twice a year, but it's one of my favorite meals. It's French Canadian in origin, but tourtières are eaten all across Canada, in the northern states bordering Canada, and frankly probably all over the world since good meals know no borders and have a tendency to travel far.

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 It’s essentially a meat pie with pastry crust on top and bottom, but there are so many variations and different ways to make it. 

A raw tourtière with decorative pastry.

This recipe is a hand-me-down recipe from my best friend’s mother, who happens to be Dutch but lived in Canada for years and years. It veers from tradition in that there is tomato incorporated into the meat filling, but I like the flavor that the tomatoes add and they help to keep the filling moist. Adding breadcrumbs helps keep the filling moist as well because they absorb any excess liquid and hold it. The result is a moist, but not runny interior.

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A cooked tourtière on a wooden table with a napkin around the pie dish.

I also love this recipe for pastry, using sour cream and an egg yolk as the liquid that brings the butter and flour together rather than water. Enhancing the dough with the grated Cheddar cheese is pretty (because you see the flecks of Cheddar in the finished dough) and the sharp Cheddar seasons the pastry so nicely. The two together – the luxurious pastry and the meat filling – is a match made in heaven.

Now you might be thinking that this is all too much for you to do, but it’s really not. The key is to make the components the day ahead of time. Make the meat filling on the stovetop. While the meat filling is simmering, make the pastry, wrap it in two round discs and pop it into the refrigerator. Then, transfer the filling to a container and cool it completely. Leave that in the refrigerator too. Do both of these steps the day before you want to make the tourtière. Then, when it’s time to put the two together, it honestly couldn’t be easier.

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A white plate with a piece of tourtière, some Le Sueur peas and condiments.
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The condiments that accompany tourtière - sour cream, chili sauce and pickles in little jars on a wooden table.

When I have tourtière, I serve it with a good chili sauce, some bread-and-butter pickles and a dollop of sour cream. My family also serves some Le Sieur peas (Le Sueur peas in the United States) along side. I know that is a bit odd – I don’t have canned peas any other time of the year, but there’s something about these peas that suits the meal. They are tender, petite, sweet peas that have a long history. The Canadian Le Sieur peas (“Le Sieur” literally translating to “mister”) have been traced back to a recipe from the 17th century, but the canned peas bear no real resemblance to that recipe (read more here). The American Le Sueur peas have been around for over 100 years and come from the fertile valley of Le Sueur in Minnesota. They, and the town they are from, are named after French explorer Pierre-Charles Le Sueur. Either way, the two cans are almost identical (save the spelling) and when there’s tourtière on my plate, I find them perfect and delicious.

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A white plate with a piece of tourtière, some Le Sueur peas and condiments.

I always have tourtière at Christmastime – usually on Christmas Eve and then leftovers (often even better) the next day. Christmas can be a busy time of year, but imagine how peaceful and relaxing it could be if your meal prep was done the day ahead of time and you just have to heat a can of peas as the side dish. Doesn’t sound glamorous, but believe me… it’s perfect!

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A white plate with a piece of tourtière, some Le Sueur peas and condiments.

Watch The Recipe Video

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Tourtière

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 1 h 10 m
  • Total Time: 1 h 30 m
  • Servings:
    8

Ingredients

Pastry
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup unsalted butter cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 egg yolk
Filling
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 ribs celery chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound veal ground veal
  • 28 ounce canned plum tomatoes juice drained and reserved and tomatoes chopped
  • ¼ cup juice from canned tomatoes
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon dried savory or thyme
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground cloves
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg lightly beaten

Instructions

  1. Make the pastry. Combine the flour, salt and cheese in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter chunks are the size of peas.
  2. Combine the egg yolk and sour cream in a small bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and pulse together in the processor until you are able to shape the dough into a ball. Shape the dough into two disks, wrap them well with plastic wrap and let the pastry rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (You can even make the pastry a couple of days ahead of time.)
  3. Make the filling. Pre-heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the vegetables are translucent, but not browned. Add the pork and veal to the pan and cook until the meats are no longer pink. Drain off any excess fat and then add the spices, tomatoes and tomato juice and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in breadcrumbs and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Let the filling cool while you roll out the pastry and pre-heat the oven to 375ºF.
  5. Roll out each pastry disk into a circle about 12-inches in diameter. Place one in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate, pressing the pastry up the sides of the pan and letting ½-inch hang over the edge. Brush the bottom of the pastry crust with Dijon mustard and add the cooled filling. Cover the tourtière with the second circle of pastry. Fold the edges of the top pastry under the rim of the bottom pastry crust and pinch the edges together in a decorative manner.
  6. Brush the tourtière with the beaten egg and decorate the top of the tourtière with any pastry scraps, brushing the decorations with more of the beaten egg as well. Transfer the tourtière to the oven and bake for 40 minutes until nicely browned.
  7. Serve with tomato jam, chili sauce and sour cream.
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Comments (13)Post a Reply

  1. Haven’t tried it yet but it reads wonderful. Thank you Meredith for all your excellent recipes and encouragement. Your rice pudding from the first book is am alltime favorite. Merry Christmas!

  2. I dont think you were clear on the juice from the tomato can. Are you squeezing the juice from all the tomatoes and using just the 1/4 juice from the can we reserved.?
    Not sure from your video if you squished sll the tomatoes.
    Be greatful if you answered this. Thank you

    1. Hi Sandy. No need to squeeze the tomatoes. I remove whole tomatoes from the can and chop them by hand. I add these chopped tomatoes to the filling and then add some juice from the can – sometimes just ¼ cup and sometimes more if needed. It depends on how much or rapidly you simmer the filling. Hope that helps explain it.
      ML

  3. Made this recipe. The thyme ruined the flavor. Will change all spices as I am French Canadian. Labor intense. Will also change crust.

    1. Well, I guess this is not the tourtière for you, Carol! 🙂 The French Canadian side of my family loves this version, but to each their own. As for the crust – it’s one of my absolute favorites, but we all have different tastes.

  4. This looks like a yummy recipe. Do you think switching the ground meats with others like beef, venison, or lamb would work if you aren’t a fan of one in your recipe? TIA

    1. Hi Patti. You can swap out the ground meats to suit your tastes. This year, I used beef instead of veal and it was delicious. Venison is more lean than beef so it will change the texture too. Lamb is very distinct in flavor, but if you like lamb, you could definitely substitute it in for part of the meat. Enjoy!

  5. 5 stars
    This recipe was so delicious! I made it exactly as written. The crust was especially good, flaky, and tender with the additions of white sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream and egg yolk. Following Meredith’s advice of freezing the butter and refrigerating overnight made this dough so easy to roll out the next day. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Thank you for this delicious recipe and helpful video.

  6. My grandmother was from Australia and made something similar. But she boiled her ground meat (she called it minced meat!). She boiled it the day before and poured the water and cooked meat in a bowl and placed in the fridge. The fat raised to the top so she could remove it all. I don’t remember anything else in her “meat pie”, but remember how much I loved it. I’m going to try yours as it is the closest to what I remember. Thank you.

  7. 4 stars
    I attempted this recipe during my quarantine time. The recipe was perfect. However, try as I might to flute my crust vertically, the butter spilled over and there was smoke everywhere. I have cleaned the oven and tried to salvage by returning the pie to the oven. This time I placed the pie on a rimmed sheet pan. Wish me luck!

  8. 5 stars
    Hi Merideth!

    I have made this from your recipe twice, and will be making it again tomorrow for dinner.

    It is absolutely delicious.

    Your French apple slab pie is amazing too!

    Thanks for sharing your recipes with us!

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