This National Pie Day, make MTN DEW Code Red Cherry Pie, a quintessentially American dessert

Product shot of MTN DEW CODE RED and its accompanying cherry pie [Image provided by MTN DEW]
Image: MTN DEW

When the MTN DEW’s official cookbook, The Big Bold Book Of MTN DEW Recipes, was announced last year, a statement from the beverage’s VP of Marketing was more earnest and rapturous than we could have imagined:

The relationship between MTN DEW and our fandom is the most exciting partnership, and we’ve continued to draw inspiration from these amazing people and to try to pay back the love they show us every single day. Our fans have been creating delicious, outrageous, and genuinely mind-blowing recipes with MTN DEW for years. In many ways, this is the long-overdue love letter to those beautiful edible creations and the people behind them.

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Suddenly, a cookbook that might have easily been written off as a cheeky gimmick now seemed a bit weightier in its aims. And if the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that we’ll take a little levity wherever we can find it, even in the pages of a novelty cookbook that uses a soda I haven’t sipped in 25 years as a central ingredient/organizing principle. So when The Takeout heard from the MTN DEW team once more via email this week, I found myself drawn in by the case being made for something called CODE RED Cherry Pie:

Saturday is National Pie Day and as always, MTN DEW has you covered! The CODE RED Cherry Pie, a fruity, flaky and sweet trifecta of deliciousness, makes your grandma’s delectable, four-decade, generational recipe look like something straight out of the supermarket discount section – NO JOKE!

Well, you’ll hear no arguments from me. Neither of my grandmas ever made cherry pie—and once I thought about it, I realized that I’ve never made one, either. So why not give in to the caps-lock-laden encouragements of the Mountain Dew marketing team and make a cherry pie that literally cannot be worse than any other cherry pie I’ve (n)ever made? Readers, I baked myself a Code Red pie.

Recipe for Code Red Cherry Pie [image provided by MTN DEW]
Image: MTN DEW

(Side note: I love the term “prepared pie crusts,” because I can absolutely interpret that as “store-bought” in the context of this recipe. Why build a beautifully buttery, flaky crust from scratch when the showcase ingredient is straight from the soda aisle? I had two Pillsbury crusts on hand. They thawed beautifully, as they were made to do.)

It quickly became evident—even to a cherry pie beginner like me—that this recipe is at odds with just about every other cherry pie filling recipe on the planet. In other recipes, you’re instructed to bring the ingredients to a boil, then drop the temperature down to a simmer and allow the mixture to thicken until it’s the gooey consistency of the canned stuff we all know and love. (At least, that was my reference point.) Giving this recipe the benefit of the doubt, I thought that the already syrupy nature of MTN DEW Code Red might compensate for the lukewarm cooking temperature. After several long minutes on medium heat, though, the frozen cherries and soda had done little more than thaw, and the addition of sugar and cornstarch over low heat resulted in a thin, pale pink mess. On the plus side, throughout this stage the soda was the dominant aroma wafting up at me from the saucepan.

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Much as I love following instructions to the letter, I eventually threw caution to the wind and cranked it up to a boil. The consistency of my filling immediately improved, and after a brief simmer, I was delighted by the rich, sweet goop that would fill my badass pie.

Speaking of badass: as unhelpful as the majority of the instructions were within this recipe, one step was far more specific than it had to be—the venting of the pie. “Cut out a lightning bolt in the middle of the crust to allow the steam to escape.” Not a slit, not a lattice, a lightning bolt. Did you forget whose cookbook this is?

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I used my Harry Potter muscle memory and carved a lightning bolt to the best of my abilities.
I used my Harry Potter muscle memory and carved a lightning bolt to the best of my abilities.
Photo: Marnie Shure

Aside from the oddly low (and presumably kid-safe?) temperature settings, which can be dispensed of, the recipe delivers what it promises. Once baked, the sweet and fruity filling no longer carries the scent or taste of Code Red, but if you pair a slice with a tall, cool glass of the stuff, you can pretend you pick up on notes of fizziness and awesome sauce. It’s a recipe that’s well worth adding to your repertoire, not only because it’s a fun game to have your taste-testers guess the secret ingredient, but because there are simply too few recipes out there that call for the carving of lightning bolts. We have to seize our opportunities to feel badass wherever we find them.

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Code Red bottle beside finished pie
How it started / How it’s going
Photo: Marnie Shure

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

DISCUSSION

Tart cherries for pie! Are they crazy?! If being extreme means using the wrong cherries in my pie, I am happy to be mundane.