Butter Tarts and I are making a 12-hour Midwest road trip, and only one of us is going to survive Iowa.
Hint: It’s probably not the personally-sized mini pies loaded with an ooey-gooey, buttery brown sugar filling.
Butter tarts are an old fashioned Canadian dessert that I can compare most directly to a pecan pie. Like pecan pie, the crust is flakey and tender, and the filling is buttery and sweet. Unlike a pecan pie, the tarts are always prepared in miniature, never in larger pie form, which allows them to be picked up and delicately (or not so delicately) devoured.
The Perfect Butter Tart Recipe
From here, butter tarts become controversial. Some sources argue that the butter filling should be nicely set; others advocate for a runnier texture. Some recipes include nuts (most commonly walnuts—pecans were less popular); others raisins or currants. I found some recipes with corn syrup, others with maple syrup, and a few with heavy cream.
I consider today’s butter tart recipe to be the peacemaker. I kept the essentials—miniature size, decadent filling, and an irresistible crackly top—streamlined the ingredients, and left the mix-ins as optional.
No special equipment is needed to make miniature pies—I baked these butter tarts in my old, beat-up muffin tin. Simply roll out your favorite pie crust recipe (you’ll need a double-crust amount) and use a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass to stamp four-inch rounds. For the filling, grab a single bowl and wooden spoon, and you are set. Easy as pie! Er, tarts.
Of all of the versions of butter tarts I tried, my favorite was the simple filling with no mix-ins at all. The brown sugar filling is flavorful enough to stand on its own and, while I do love nuts, I preferred the dessert without them. The lovely crunch provided by the crackly topping, which first rises, then crisps and falls back onto the creamy interior, provided to be just the right amount of texture.
Whether you’re looking for an extra treat for a Christmas party or sweet to sustain you during a long day of travel, butter tarts are a simple, uniquely homey, and satisfying dessert.
How to Store Butter Tarts
- To Store. Leftover tarts can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Freeze. Freeze tarts in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
More Mini-Sized Treats
- Mini Fig Goat Cheese Bacon Phyllo Bites
- Mini Lemon Cheesecakes with Gingersnap Crust
- Mini French Silk Cookie Pies
- Mini Quiches Caramelized Pears and Gorgonzola
hoping praying that, when combined with every available podcast episode of Serial, the Pandora 90s station, and a book of trivia, butter tarts will make our 12-hour drive a bit more pleasant (and Ben a little less critical of my driving). Bring it on, Highway 80. We’re ready.
Wishing you all safe travels and a wonderful holiday week!
- 2 9-inch pie crusts whole wheat pie crust, store-bought pie crust (thaw overnight in the refrigerator), or your favorite pie crust recipe
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup raisins* or chopped toasted walnuts or pecans or a mix
- 1 tablespoon bourbon optional
- 2/3 cup brown sugar light or dark
- 1/2 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup do not use imitation or “breakfast” syrup
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Lay the first pie crust out on a lightly floured work surface (leave the second crust in the refrigerator until you are ready for it). Roll it into a 12-inch circle, working from the center out. Grab 2 standard 12-cup muffin pans (no need to grease).
- Flour a 4-inch round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter (if you don’t have one, use a drinking glass). Stamp out 7 rounds from the pie crust (reroll the scraps if needed). Gently place each round into a well of the muffin pan and press the dough up the sides to create a tart shell.
- Repeat with the second pie crust, filling the remaining wells. Place the pans in refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes or cover and chill overnight. (If you only have one muffin pan, you can bake the tarts in batches. Be sure to let the pan cool all the way in between).
- Cut the butter into a few pieces and place in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave on medium heat, just until melted. Let cool to room temperature.
- When ready to bake, position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the raisins in a small, microwave-safe bowl and stir together with the bourbon. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Set aside.
- To the bowl with the butter, add the brown sugar and flour. Whisk to combine until smoothly blended (it will be thick).
- Whisk in the eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt until evenly combined.
- Scatter the raisins evenly over the tart shells. Divide the filling between the crusts, filling each well ¾ of the way to the top (use a small ladle or transfer the filling to a measuring cup with a spout, then pour it into the crusts).
- Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the top is dry, crackly, and set, the filling jiggles only a little in the center when you wiggle the pan, and the crust is turning golden. Rotating the pans 180 degrees F and switch their positions on the upper and lower racks halfway through. The easiest way to tell when the tarts are done is with an instant-read thermometer. The filling should register 200 degrees F.
- Place the pan on a wire rack and let the tarts cool completely before unmolding them. The filling will settle and crackle. To unmold, use a dull knife such as a butter knife to loosen the tarts from the muffin wells as needed. Gently lift the tarts onto the rack. ENJOY!
- *If using nuts instead of raisins, skip microwaving with the bourbon. Reduce the maple syrup by 1 tablespoon and add the bourbon with the maple syrup. You also can use nuts (or no mix-ins) and omit the bourbon entirely.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: Line the muffin tin with the crusts and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Combine the filling (except for nuts if using) up to 1 day ahead, cover tightly, and refrigerate. Fill the crusts just before baking.
- TO STORE: Keep leftover butter tarts at room temperature for up to 3 days. Enjoy at room temperature or warmed in the microwave (the crust will become somewhat soft) or oven (best option).
Add tip for what to do with the extra piecrust
- TO FREEZE: Freeze baked, cooled tarts for up to 3 months, tightly wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature prior to serving.
Join today and start saving your favorite recipes
Create an account to easily save your favorite projects and tutorials.Register