This recipe for Pecan Tart embodies the classic American Pecan Pie most commonly served at Thanksgiving. A pecan filled custard-like filling is housed in an all butter tart base giving the old-fashioned classic pie a twist.
Surrounded by a strong American community whilst growing up in Hong Kong, it was only a short time before I fell in love with the classic, all-American favourite, Pecan Pie. It's comforting and cosy and perfect for the cooler months.
The Pecan Tart holds the same qualities of a classic Pecan Pie, flaky all-butter crumbly pastry with the ultimate caramel pecan filling. The only difference - the base is baked in a tart pan rather than a pie pan! That's it!
Alongside my Apple Pear Pie, and Caramel Pie, this Pecan Tart should take pride of place on your Thanksgiving dessert table or at your Holiday gathering this year. Who am I kidding - it's so incredible that we should eat it all year round!
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. Aside from Pecans, the other ingredients are pantry staples. But if you're baking this in Fall then I guarantee you'll have a big bag of pecans in your pantry.
- Simple to make. We make the pastry by hand and it comes together easily. The filling takes five minutes to bring together. This is one of the simplest tarts that you'll ever make.
- No special equipment needed. These use a very simple method of making a batter. No fancy tricks, no fancy equipment necessary.
- Unbelievable taste. The extra molasses in the filling intensifies the well rounded, caramel, vanilla forward flavours. Teamed with the heady nuttiness and buttery flaky pastry- the taste pops!
- Perfect make ahead dessert. This Pecan Tart actually tastes better if you make it the day before. Its best eaten at room temp and the flavours develop over time. No rushing around on Thanksgiving day!
🧾 Ingredients Needed
The ingredients needed for this Pecan Tart recipe are all easy to find. There are a few things to note and substitutions worth mentioning particularly seeing that this is written from the UK but I want to help out my US audience.
All-Butter Pastry Tart Base
- Butter - Use unsalted butter as the pecan filling has salt in it, and you don't want to overdo it. Make sure the butter is cubed and cold before working it into the flour.
- Water - The flour and butter need hydration to bring the dough together. Don't add it all at once, as you may not need it all. The water should be ice-cold.
The Pecan Tart Filling
- Brown sugar - Brown sugar adds so much depth of flavour catapulting the caramel notes with its molasses. Use light brown sugar as a substitute.
- Butter - I've used unsalted as we're adding in salt later on in the recipe to balance the sweetness. Go the extra mile for additional flavour and use brown butter.
- Eggs - use 3 large eggs at room temperature. Pop them in warm water for ten minutes if you forget to take them out of the fridge. They help bind all the ingredients together and create that custardy texture.
- Pecans - It wouldn't be a pecan pie without pecans. They are the star of the show. Use the best quality that you can find so that they can truly shine in the tart.
- Bourbon - Traditionally Pecan Pie is made with Bourbon. I've not included it in the recipe but add 1 to 2 tablespoons if you are a fan.
- Golden syrup - The golden syrup helps sweeten the pie but also prevents the filling from crystallising. Thicker than other liquid sweeteners, it helps bind all the ingredients together along with the eggs and once cooled, helps the filling to set.
Corn syrup vs golden syrup.
- In the UK, corn syrup isn't readily available. We have golden syrup (Lyle's being my favourite brand), which is our equivalent.
- In the States corn syrup is the common liquid sweetener to use. There you have light or dark corn syrup. The dark holds more flavour so I would recommend this. But Lyle's Golden Syrup can be found at Whole Foods or King Golden Syrup is a common US brand.
- Substitution. If you don't want to use golden or corn syrup then omit it entirely and replace with maple syrup or kart syrup. As it's a thinner substance, you'll need to add 1 tablespoon of plain (all-purpose flour) into the filling to help thicken it slightly.
- Using other nuts: I know it's called Pecan Tart - but really the filling lends itself to any nut you like such as macadamias, hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds.
- Chocolate Chips: Make this really indulgent by throwing in chocolate chips, or a chopped up chocolate bar into the pecan filling. They'll melt in the oven and you'll have chocolate melty packets in amongst the filling. Yum!
- Spices and Zest: Add in a teaspoon of cinnamon and orange zest to amp up the citrus notes and gentle taste of the cinnamon.
- Make Pecan Pie Tartlets instead. Use the recipe to make individual Pecan Tarts or mini pecan tarts - perfect for a bitesize dessert.
Can you substitute a storebought pie crust for homemade pie crust?
Here in the UK store bought pie crusts or tart bases aren't a big thing. You can occasionally find a pre-made tart base but more often than not, it's cracked or broken. So I've grown up making my own, and you can't beat homemade.
BUT! I know that sometimes time doesn't allow it. So I say go for store-bought. Particularly in The States where you seem to have SO much store-bought variety. You have two options:
- Store-bought pre-made pastry dough. Treat it like you would homemade dough. Roll it out and let it chill in the pan before par baking.
- Store-bought pre-made tart shell or pie crust. If you have them available and they're of good quality- go for it! You'll probably need to cover the edges in foil during baking as they may over brown otherwise.
👩🏻🍳 How to Make Pecan Tart
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Make All-Butter Pastry Tart Base
STEP 1. Rub the butter into the flour. Mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl, add the butter and toss through the flour (Image 1). Rub the butter between your fingertips until it's the size of large bread crumbs with hazelnut size pieces (Image 2).
STEP 2. Add the water and bring the dough together. Add half the water and, using your fingers, toss it through (Image 3). The dough will start to clump together (Image 4). Add more water sparingly, a teaspoon at a time, until a shaggy dough forms. You may not need all the water.
Bring the dough together with your hands, gently squeezing it into a ball and then shaping it into a disc (Images 5 & 6). Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
TIP: If your environment is warm, pop the whole bowl with flour in it into the fridge ten minutes before starting to make the dough. Run your hands under cold water too.
STEP 3. Roll dough out and line the tart tin. Roll the dough out to a rough 28cm (11-inch) circle (Image 7).
Fold dough over the rolling pin and gently lift and place it over a fluted tart tin with a removable base. Gently press the dough into the sides without stretching it (Image 8).
Trim excess dough by running the rolling pin over the tart tin and removing excess (Images 9 & 10). Refrigerate the base for 30 minutes.
TIP: To Par Bake or Not To Par Bake the Pastry Base!
I see many recipes that don't add in this extra step. And yes, the overall prep time is shorter but ...
The problem: The filling is very liquid and you run the risk of baking the filling perfectly but having soggy pastry bottom OR baking the pastry perfectly until crisp but over baking the filling.
The solution: Par baking the crusts adds on 20 minutes to your bake time but results in the perfect flaky, crispy base that all tarts and pies should have!! Plus a perfectly cooked filling. Win win. Well worth that extra time in my opinion!
STEP 4. Par bake base. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Remove the base from the fridge and dock with the tines of a fork (Image 11). Line the base with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (Image 12). These can be ceramic baking beans, rice, lentils, sugar or a combination.
Bake the tart base for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and pie weights. Brush the base of the tart with it (Image 13).
Return the base to the oven for another 5 minutes until lightly golden (Image 14). The base is now par-baked and once cooled, is ready to use for the Pecan Tart.
Make the Pecan Tart Filling and Bake
TIP: Toasting the pecans
If you want to add even more depth of flavour to your filling then toasting the pecans used in the filling is the way to go!
Lay them on a parchment paper lined baking tray and bake in a 160C (325F) oven for 8 to 10 minutes turning half way through. They're toasted once aromatic. Cool on the baking tray then finely chop.
STEP 5. Whisk the eggs then mix in remaining ingredients. In a large bowl whisk the eggs well (Image 15). Then add in the melted butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, molasses, vanilla extract and salt and whisk well till combined (Image 16).
STEP 6. Pour pecan filling into the base, decorate and bake. Pour the pecan filling directly into the tart base (Image 17). You may need to spread out the chopped pecans evenly over the base. Easily done with a teaspoon.
Decorate - place the remaining pecan halves all over the top - fanning from the outside in, or in whatever pattern you fancy (Image 18).
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F. I didn't want my crust to brown too much so covered it in foil (Image 19).
Simply cut a piece of aluminium foil into a circle a couple of cm's/inch larger than the tart, fold it into quarter and cut out the inside of the circle, unfold and place over the tart and bake. If the pecans look like they are browning too quickly, then tent the whole tart in foil.
How to know when the tart is ready?
The big question! The filling needs to be completely set all around the edges but the centre still needs to have the tiniest jiggle (Image 20). Plus it will puff up, crack and then deflate once removed from the oven. This is normal!
🥣 How To Serve
The classic Pecan Tart is best served when at room temperature. Honestly- you need to let it cool down completely before serving to allow the filling to set in place. Otherwise you'll serve up a gooey mess!
Serve a slice of this insanely delicious Pecan Pie Tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or drizzle of cream. The result is a tart that's sweet, buttery, nutty, soft, crunchy, crisp, gooey all rolled into one. It's such an elegant Holiday dessert.
Stylist Tip: Brush the pecans with maple syrup for a beautiful shine.
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- Cold ingredients. Cold butter and ice-cold water are imperative when making short crust pastry.
- Don't overwork the dough. Add just enough water for the dough to clump together and don't need it too much - this only activates the gluten and will cause a tough pastry.
- Refrigerate the dough when required. This allows the butter in the dough to be re-harden but also the flour to hydrate and the dough to rest. This helps with tender, flaky pastry.
- Blind bake the pastry. I know, I know- it's an extra step, but to have a crispy bottom tart rather than a sad soggy bottom is absolutely everything! There's no beating it and well worth the extra step!
- Go the extra step and toast the pecans that you're adding into the filling. This wee extra step really brings out their flavour. Don't have pecans- sub with your favourite nut.
📋 Recipe FAQs
If you want to cut neat, firm slices from the tart yes refrigerate it once cooled. Otherwise it can keep at room temperature and served as is.
Yes there are three large eggs. They are an essential part of the pecan filling as they add flavour, bind the ingredients and help set the filling once cooled.
Yes! That's what makes this the best pecan tart recipe. It's the perfect make-ahead dessert for Thanksgiving. It can be made 1 to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Just leave it out of the fridge at least 1 hour ahead of serving.
Yes it will. When removed from the oven the filling can be quite soft. As it cools the filling will set in place. Leave it for 20-25 minutes if you want to serve it warm, or for minimum an hour for it to cool to room temperature.
❄️ Storage and Freezer Instructions
To store: Pecan Tart lasts well at room temperature for two days. Or refrigerate wrapped well in plastic wrap for up to 5 days. The filling and tart base can also be made as individual components ahead of time.
To freeze: Let the pecan tart cool completely. Wrap well in plastic wrap and store in a freezer safe ziplock bag or freezer safe container. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
🍁 More Thanksgiving Recipes
If you tried this Pecan Pie Tart recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you!
Pecan Tart Recipe
- 23cm (9-inch) shallow fluted tart tin with removable base
All-Butter Pastry Tart Base
- 220 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 115 g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 45-60 ml water, ice-cold
- 1 small egg, lightly beaten
Pecan Tart Filling
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 60 g unsalted butter, melted
- 165 g brown sugar
- 120 ml (90g) golden syrup
- 30 ml (40g) molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ fine salt
- 110 g pecan halves, finely chopped
- 110 g pecan halves, to decorate
All-Butter Pastry Tart Base
- Rub the butter into the flour. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add in the cubed butter and rub the butter and flour together between your fingers until it resembles a bread crumb consistency with a few large pea-sized pieces of butter still visible.
- Add water. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in half the ice-cold water and use your hands to bring the dough together. Add more water sparingly if needed.
- Bring dough together and refrigerate. Bring the dough together with floured hands and shape into a flattened disc being careful not to overwork the dough. Wrap well in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Roll out dough. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and transfer it to a clean, lightly floured surface. Allow pastry to sit for about 10 minutes or so to soften ever so slightly. Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a coin (⅛” thick) and into a 12in (30cm) circle.
- Prepare dough in tart tin. Flour the base of a 9in (23cm) fluted tart tin. Fold the dough over the rolling pin and transfer to the prepared tin. Use your fingers to push the pastry onto the sides of the tin and into the grooves. Roll the rolling pin over the edges to trim off the excess dough. Refrigerate the prepared pastry shell for at least 1 hour to allow the pastry to relax further and butter to harden.
- Blind bake. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Once the pastry is chilled, prick the pastry base all over with a fork and then line with greaseproof paper and fill with pie weights or rice (or both) all the way up the sides. Blind bake for 15 minutes, then remove the greaseproof paper and pie weights. Brush the base of the pastry with the whisked egg. Return the pastry back to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the base is dry and a light golden colour. Remove from the oven and leave the tart base to cool fully.
Make the Pecan Tart Filling and Bake
- Whisk eggs. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add in the melted butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, molasses, vanilla extract, salt and finely chopped pecans. Stir together until well combined.Pour pecan filling into the par-baked tart base and spread out the chopped pecase evenly. Place remaining pecan halves in you desired pattern. Cover the edges of the tart with a tart shield if you are worried about the crust browning too quickly.
- Bake. Place Pecan Tart in the oven checking at 30 minutes. If the pecan tart crust starts to brown too quickly then tent with aluminium foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the edges are set but the very centre has the slightest jiggle.Note: the tart will puff up and crack and then deflate once removed from the oven. This is normal. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack in the tin for a minimum of one hour until the filling has set. Serve with vanilla ice cream or cream.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.