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How to Make the Perfect Pecan Pie (and 10 Fun Spin-Off Recipes)

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

A perfect pecan pie

A perfect pecan pie

History of the Pecan Pie

Countless pies, cakes, puddings, puffs, and tortes were created centuries ago by bakers in Europe. Settlers in the New World brought those beloved confections with them, often adapting the age-old recipe to the local ingredients at hand. But the pecan pie is truly an American creation.

The pecan has the unique distinction of being the one nut tree native to North America and the pecan pie is unquestionably a Southern treat. However, despite the fact that pecans have been used in southern baking for ages, there is no record of a pecan pie until the late 1800s.

In Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History (1987), John Egerton writes: "We have heard the claim that Louisianans were eating pecan candies before 1800, and with sugar and syrup produced from cane at that time, it is conceivable that they were eating pecan pies, too, but there are no recipes or other bits of evidence to prove it....If Karo did not originate pecan pie, it certainly popularized the recipe as a rifle through twentieth-century cookbooks large and small quickly suggests. Nearly all pecan pie recipes call for Karo corn syrup."
—American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, Jean Anderson. Clarkson Potter: New York. 1997 (p. 384).

Classic Pecan Pie

Classic Pecan Pie

Classic Pecan Pie

Most recipes for pecan pie, even the "classic" from the Karo syrup company, begin with 3 eggs and one cup of sugar. Some cooks add their own "creative" spin by using light or dark brown sugar in the place of granulated sugar, and a few even swap out some of the corn syrup for honey or maple syrup.

Nevertheless, these subtle tweaks still result in a pie with a wobbly, gooey filling that can be cloyingly sweet. I've made the filling more firm by adding one more egg, and also correspondingly decreased the amount of sugar.


Ingredients for CrustAmountWhy?

All-purpose flour

1 cup

The foundation of any pie crust

Table salt (not Kosher salt)

1/4 teaspoon

Adds flavor

Unsalted butter

4 tablespoons

Flavor and flakiness

Sour cream

1/3 cup

Adds moisture and tang


1 tablespoon

Moisture to bind the ingredients together

Ingredients for Filling

Large eggs


Whole eggs create structure and build a firm (not jiggly) filling

Light corn syrup

1 cup

Sweet sticky yumminess

Dark brown sugar

1/3 cup

Sweet but bold caramel-like flavor

Granulated sugar

1/4 cup

More sweetness, but without adding liquid

Unsalted butter

4 tablespoons, melted

Butter adds rich, creamy flavor; always use unsalted butter to accurately control the amount of salt in your final product

Vanilla extract

1 teaspoon

Enhances the sweet, sugary flavors

Table salt (not Kosher salt)

1/2 teaspoon

Believe it or not, adding salt will not make the filling taste salty; it enhances the flavors


2 cups, toasted

The star of the show; I'm using more pecan than in the standard recipe. Toasting brings out their nutty flavor.

Instructions for Crust

  1. Place the flour, salt, and butter in the bowl of the food processor. Cut in butter using on/off pulses. The mixture will resemble coarse crumbs.
  2. Add sour cream and pulse until blended. Add milk and process until dough forms. Gather dough into a ball.
  3. Place a sheet of waxed or parchment paper on the work surface and flour lightly. Place one piece of dough in the center of the floured paper and turn it over to coat both sides with flour. Place a second sheet of paper over the top of the dough. (You now have a "sandwich" of paper, floured dough, and paper).
  4. Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough into an 11-inch circle. Remove the top layer of paper and then gently drape back on the dough. You are doing this to release the dough so that it no longer adheres to the paper. Quickly flip the dough/paper sandwich over and remove the other sheet of paper.
  5. Gently ease the dough into a 9-inch pie plate, being careful to not stretch the dough.
  6. Fold under the overhang to form a rim; crimp the edge with your thumb and forefinger. Chill the pie crust in the refrigerator while making the filling.

Instructions for Filling and Completing the Pie

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, sugars, butter, vanilla, and salt. (You don't need a stand mixer for this; in fact, using a stand mixer will incorporate too much air). Stir in the pecans.
  3. Pour into the prepared pan. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet in case there are any drips (no one wants sugar baked on the floor of their oven).
  4. Bake until the pie jiggles slightly in the center when shaken; about 60 minutes.
  5. Cool completely before serving.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

1. Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Traditional pecan pie is kicked up a notch with the addition of dark chocolate and bourbon. This chocolate bourbon pecan pie is rich, decadent, and strictly for grownups, but it's a cinch to prepare.

Vegan Pecan Pie

Vegan Pecan Pie

2. Vegan Pecan Pie

A classic pecan pie filling is made of eggs, syrup, and pecans. So, what is a good egg substitute for pecan pie? Interestingly enough, it’s tofu. Trust me, you won't taste the soybean curd; this vegan pecan pie is sweet and rich and (bonus) there's no cholesterol.

Pecan Cream Pie

Pecan Cream Pie

3. Pecan Cream Pie

Here's a different take on pecan pie—instead of a rich, custard-like filling, this pie is made with a light and airy whipped cream. This pecan cream pie would be perfect for a summer backyard gathering.

Pecan Pie Bars

Pecan Pie Bars

4. Pecan Pie Bars

There's an expression that something that's a snap to accomplish is "easy as pie." The Captain Obvious in me says whoever came up with that saying never made a pie.

I have a confession to make—I love making pie fillings, but the crust always gives me pause. There are days that due to humidity, phase of the moon (or perhaps menopause) I simply cannot get that pie crust to work for me. That is one of the reasons I like this recipe so much. These pecan pie bars have all the flavor of the traditional pie but without the potential pie crust drama.

Pecan Pie Cookies

Pecan Pie Cookies

5. Pecan Pie Cookies

These brown sugar pecan pie cookies would be a perfect addition to your holiday cookie platter. Shaped like a thumbprint cookie, the buttery chewy cookie base is adorned with pecan pie filling. I bet you can't eat just one.

Pecan Pie Bark

Pecan Pie Bark

6. Pecan Pie Bark

A "bark" is an easy-to-make candy/confection typically made of melted chocolate poured on a shallow baking pan and, before the chocolate firms up, dried fruits and/or nuts are scattered on top. When the chocolate is hard, it's broken into pieces, much like peanut brittle.

This pecan pie bark is in a way part candy and part cookie. Simply place a layer of graham crackers on your baking pan and then pour a buttery praline-like pecan filling on top. What could be better?

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

7. Pecan Pie Cheesecake

One complaint I occasionally hear about pecan pie is that it's simply "too sweet." Perhaps this pecan pie cheesecake is the answer to that problem. The tang of cream cheese is the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of the dark corn syrup.

This cheesecake provides (at least) 16 servings, so it would be great for a large gathering.

8. Pecan Pie Cake

This is such a pretty cake, I thought it was deserving of two photos. Tender brown-sugar layers of cake hold a rich pecan pie filling and then are covered with a luxurious, fluffy brown sugar frosting.

The recipe, as written, can be adapted to three 6-inch layers for a stunning tall presentation, and even made into cupcakes. From start to finish, preparing, baking, and assembling this pecan pie cake will take about 3 hours, but it's worth every minute.

Pecan Pie Bundt Cake

Pecan Pie Bundt Cake

9. Pecan Pie Bundt Cake

Some of you (especially if you live outside of the United States) might be wondering "what in the world is a bundt?" Here's the Carb-Diva version of the story:

In 1948 H. David Dalquist and his wife purchased the company Northland Aluminum Products, a manufacturer of Scandinavian bakeware. They renamed their product Nordic Ware. A decade later, a group of Jewish women from the Hadassah in Minneapolis, Minnesota wanted a baking pan similar to what they had used in the Alsace, France. They approached Nordic Ware with their request, and Mr. Dalquist fabricated the first bundt pan made of aluminum.

Some pans were made for the Hadassah group, and a few more were available for sale to the public. End of story? Yes, at least for a decade

In 1963 the New Good Housekeeping Cookbook hit the bookshelves; contained therein was a recipe for a cake . . . baked in a bundt pan. Suddenly everyone in America wanted one of those pans. They toyed with them; they baked and experimented. And in 1966 the Tunnel of Fudge cake was a finalist at the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.

This pecan pie bundt cake tastes almost identical to one my dear sister Florence used to make years ago. I've searched in vain for her recipe, but thanks to this post, I've "discovered" it once again.

Pecan Pie Bread Pudding

Pecan Pie Bread Pudding

10. Pecan Pie Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is such a simple (and thrifty) dessert to make. All bread puddings have basically the same format: dried bread and a custard sauce made from milk, eggs, and sugar. Add brown sugar and pecans to that mix and (ta-da!) you have pecan pie bread pudding.

It's warm, ooey-gooey goodness just waiting for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


© 2021 Linda Lum