Rich, buttery and crunchy, this is a wonderful pecan pie option when you want a more sophisticated dessert. The filling comes together in 10 minutes and uses brown butter for a deeper and more complex flavor and no corn syrup. Serve it warm with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and turn it into a special dessert.
As much as I like the traditional pecan pie, through the years I found that there is another version that doesn't use corn syrups (or any type of syrup for that matter) because it has two very interesting additions: bourbon and brown butter. The first brings a caramel undertone that is simply wonderful and the latter adds a richness and complex flavor that I don't think can be achieved otherwise.
That said, let's get into the details of this pecan pie recipe that, as you can see, is not a tall pie but more of a tart, and I like it that way because it's very decadent and a sliver goes a long way.
The pie crust
The first layer is a homemade crust. Of course, you can substitute a store-bought one, the best quality you can afford.
I like very unassuming doughs when using sweet fillings and I have several recipes you can use:
- Flaky pie crust: our good old-fashioned dough with part shortening and part butter (image below). It never disappoints, especially during the holidays. It's the one I use for the Chocolate Pecan Pie also. Link to the Perfect Flaky Pie Crust.
- All-butter pie crust: this is a traditional and basic recipe, the one I use when only an all-butter pie crust will do. Link to the Basic Pie Crust recipe.
- Sweet pie shortcrust: my third option as it has a nice amount of sugar and I think it's too much with a pecan pie filling. It snaps when you bite into it as it bakes more like a sugar cookie. It's the one I use for the Pear Frangipane Tart and it works great. Link to our Sweet Shortcrust Pastry.
The filling ingredients are easy to get and maybe you already have them.
- Butter: we use unsalted butter for this recipe, and I personally take the extra step to make brown butter, as it exponentially enhances the overall flavor of this pie. If you make it in advance (all details in this step-by-step post on how to make brown butter) this pie comes together in less than 10 minutes. How's that for convenience? Of course, you can skip this step and use regular melted butter, but expect a less deep, rich flavor.
- Pecans: I like to use them toasted, but if you're short on time or whatever, you can use them as they come. Those on top will toast as the pie is baked.
- Bourbon: I use Jack Daniels, regular or honey, which most might consider too expensive for baking, but I think great ingredients deliver great results. Use whichever bourbon or whisky you like.
- Sugar: normally we use white granulated sugar but it's also quite amazing with light or dark brown sugar.
- Vanilla: I always favor pure vanilla extract or paste, but vanilla essence (artificially flavored) also works if that's what you regularly use.
- Eggs: large, fresh.
- Flour: all purpose or cake flour, both work.
Steps to make this tart
- Blind baking the crust: this is a necessary step so the crust doesn't turn out soggy. It's like pre-baking the dough (with weights)so that it doesn't shrink and creates a dry layer the prevents, as much as it can, the filling from seeping into it while it bakes.
- Easy filling: it comes together in minutes so prepare it while the crust is blind baking.
- Brown butter: it can be optional but it's very easy to make, so I highly recommend you don't skip this step. You can read the how to make brown butter post for more details.
Assembling the pie
- Jar or pitcher: I find that the easiest way to add the liquid filling over the pecans is with a pitcher. That way you can slowly fill the crust without altering the pecans too much so they retain the pattern.
- Pecans: any way you place them is fine. They will move around a little anyway. But they rise to the top in the oven so it's nice to have a pattern.
My top tips
- Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Pecans: they can be used lightly toasted or raw. Your choice.
- Bourbon: I find that good bourbons (I use Jack Daniels, regular or honey) make for much better flavor. But use any bourbon or whisky you like or have.
- Pan: if you use a smaller pie pan the tart will be taller or course, more in tune with traditional Thanksgiving pies.
- Baking: don't overbake the filling and don't undertake it either. I know! It should still be a little jiggly when you take it out and the pecans don't have to be burned. But make sure it's settled enough so it will firm up as it cools.
- Storing: I like it the day it is baked, but it keeps for a day or two at room temperature.
- Variation: walnuts can be used instead of pecans. And orange zest is a nice addition if you want to change it up a bit.
Frequently asked questions
It's probably undercooked. It takes a while for the eggs and syrups to cook and firm up. Follow the instructions in the recipe and also check to see if it jiggles in the center. It should move slightly, not be firm, but not too much. If you feel it needs more time, lower the temperature to 325°F and leave it a bit longer.
If what you want is another type of alcohol, you can use brandy or cognac. You can also increase the amount of vanilla extract and add some pure almond extract to complement it more.
Yes, it does. Bourbon is a type of whisky, which means it has high alcohol graduation.
Absolutely! Keep it for one day at room temperature, loosely covered.
Most, if not all of it, does. It depends on how long a pie takes to bake. In this recipe what remains is a deep, rich flavor that is wonderful.
They do when you add them to the uncooked filling. You can see in the image below that the pecans are spread in the crust and then the filling is poured. Yet, they rise during baking.
Yes, you can, and a sign that might be happening is that some pecans start to burn and the filling is too dry once the tart cools down. Follow the instructions on the recipe but also you might want to lower the temperature about ⅔ of the baking time if you see that the top is getting too dark. Or loosely cover the pie with a piece of foil until the pie is done. All ovens are different.
Related recipes you might like:
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For the dough:
For the filling:
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (35g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 ¼ cups pecans, lightly toasted
- 10 tablespoons (140g) unsalted butter (there is a whole post for how to make brown butter)
For the dough:
- Put ice 4 or 5 ice cubes in a measuring cup and fill with cold water to about a cup.
- In a food processor put flour and salt. Add cubed butter and pulse using on/off until the butter is the size of peas.
- Add about ½ cup of ice water and pulse a few times.
- Add ¼ cup more ice water and pulse until it barely comes together. Check the dough. Even though it's crumbly and dry, if you take some and squeeze it with your hand, it should come together. If it doesn't come together add a few more tablespoons water.
- Transfer dough to a barely floured surface and gather it together into a ball. Don't over work it or the dough will be tough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or up to 3 days.
- When you're ready to use it, roll it on a lightly floured surface, starting from the middle and making sure the size is at least 1 inch bigger than the pan you're using.
- Carefully place in the ungreased pie pan. Trim edges, prick the surface and refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for half an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF /180ºC
- Put foil and weights (I use dried beans) covering the dough surface and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Lift foil and weights and continue baking for 10 more minutes, or until it's dry and starting to color.
- Preheat oven to 375ºF / 190ºC
For the filling:
- To make brown butter, put butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Let it melt and continue cooking it. It will make loud noises at first, like an angry cat, but suddenly it will stop. That's when it will brown very quickly, so watch it.
- When it's a deep amber color and has a nutty aroma, remove from heat and let the bubbles subside. The browned bit will go to the bottom.
- While the butter is browning, put eggs, flour, sugar, bourbon and vanilla in a bowl.
- Add browned butter, leaving sediments behind in the saucepan. Do this a bit at a time so the hot butter doesn't cook the eggs.
- Put the toasted pecans in the bottom of the pre baked pie shell.
- Carefully add the butter mixture. I like to put the liquid in a measuring cup, put the pie in the oven and carefully add the liquid. That way I can fill it to the top without moving it.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
- Cool on wire rack.
- Keep leftovers at room temperature for 2 day, wrapped or covered. Then refrigerate leftovers in plastic wrap.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
Pecans: they can be used lightly toasted or raw. Your choice.
Bourbon: I find that good bourbons (I use Jack Daniels, regular or honey) make for much better flavor. But use any bourbon or whisky you like or have.
Pan: if you use a smaller pie pan the tart will be taller or course, more in tune with traditional Thanksgiving pies.
Baking: don't overbake the filling and don't undertake it either. I know! It should still be a little jiggly when you take it out and the pecans don't have to be burned. But make sure it's settled enough so it will firm up as it cools.
Storing: I like it the day it is baked, but it keeps for a day or two at room temperature.
Variation: walnuts can be used instead of pecans. And orange zest is a nice addition if you want to change it up a bit.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 30
- Category: Pies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: ⅛
- Calories: 719
- Sugar: 19.6 g
- Sodium: 323.5 mg
- Fat: 51.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 54.1 g
- Protein: 8.7 g
- Cholesterol: 168.9 mg
Keywords: bourbon pecan pie
Filling adapted from Room for Dessert, by David Lebovitz