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What is a Pasty & Where to Get Them in Helena

Updated: May 18, 2018

Storytelling by Lucy Ounanian

If you’re traveling through Helena, or perhaps recently moved to the Helena area, you may have heard and seen advertisements for something called a pasty. Let’s just clarify something right now, a pasty – not to be confused with something else bearing a similar name – is a folded pastry filled with a savory filling, such as seasoned meat and vegetables.

Here’s what to know about this delicious yet memorably named food item:

First, what the heck is a pasty?

As I previously mentioned, a pasty is a wonderful little pocket of dough, filled with meat, potatoes, and sometimes gravy. Local pasty bakers put a spin on the traditional fillings and offer popular flavors such as chicken cordon bleu, chicken pot pie, Philly cheese steak, and even sweet fillings like fruit and chocolate.

Where did pasties originate?

The history of the pasty is a little mysterious, but the general consensus seems to be that they originated in Cornwall, England (although apparently it has been debated enough that Cornwall passed laws to distinguish its traditional pasty from other deviations). These pastries made their way to the U.S., and into the southwest region of Montana, when thousands of men flocked to the area during the mining boom more than a century ago. The thick crust combined with the hearty filling made it a convenient and common food item among the mining community sprawled among the mountain sides between Butte and Helena, Montana.

How is a pasty made?

Like I mentioned, Cornish laws mandate that a pasty must be made in Cornwall, but the mining tradition brought it to Montana and more than a hundred years later, locals are still baking these pies. During the baking process, the dough is rolled out into a circle, then the raw ingredients are placed on the dough, which is then folded into a perfect, puffy half-moon shape and set in the oven to bake. The result is a golden, flakey crust filled with steaming, savory flavors. It’s common for a pasty to be served with a side of gravy, or for the gravy to be mixed in with the filling.

Where can I find a pasty in Helena?

Here in Helena, there is an abundance of places to find a delicious pasty to take home for dinner or pick up with your morning coffee.

  • Most local grocery stores carry locally-made pasties, usually near the meat/frozen foods sections.

  • Big Paul’s Pasty Parlor is at 1831 11th Ave and connected to the Sinclair gas station and offer a variety of pasties for dinner and lunch. Pick up a pasty and a side of gravy, coleslaw, and baked beans. Don’t forget to try one of their tantalizing desserts made from scratch daily! If you’re hosting a party and want a unique dish to include, you can place special orders upon request.

  • The Copperline Pasty Co., is off Custer just west of N Montana Ave. It’s a rad little, converted Airstream travel trailer with a drive-thru on one side and an outdoor sitting area on the other side. They offer weekly specials of a variety of pasty flavors, and they’re the only ones in town with a breakfast pasty. They also have a full line of coffee drinks and flavors, which are served with their trademark cinnamon bear candy on top of the lid.

Whether you’re in town visiting a relative or you’ve lived here for years and years, I encourage you to break away from the fast food drive thru and try something locally made with roots that go way back. Let us know about your own experiences by commenting below, or tag us on Facebook or Instagram when you visit a pasty shop. Tell us about all the fun things to do in Helena, MT.

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