Pecan Pie Bars
Capital W-O-W, sky-high Pecan Pie Bars! Here to impress, to win you friends (and lovers), and to be the ideal representation of the kind of sweet, buttery indulgence we all deserve, especially this time of year.
These Pecan Pie Bars melt in your mouth. Every time I took a bite, I couldn’t believe a dessert this seemingly rich and thick could dissolve in my tongue as if by magic. Did you see the height on these bars? Believe me when I say, they are easy (dangerously easy) to polish off more quickly than you expect.
The crust is tender but sturdy enough to pick up with your fingers. It tastes like a cross between a pie crust and the most excellent shortbread cookie.
The filling is lush with maple and brown sugar and positively chock-a-bloc with deeply toasty, crunchy pecans.
A finishing sprinkle of flaky sea salt ties the whole shebang together and saves these pecan pie bars from many a classic pecan pie’s greatest transgression: being cloyingly sweet.
Whereas with traditional pecan pie, I find myself barely being able to finish a bite or two, these pecan pie bars are a true danger in the best possible way.
This recipe yields a big batch. You’ll have enough to serve them a party, give as gifts, or if you find them as easy to eat as I do, keep yourself in happy supply for as long as you can resist them.
How to Make Pecan Pie Bars
Let’s get this out right now: this recipe has a lot of butter—more than in any dessert I have ever baked. These pecan pie bars are WORTH IT.
The pecan pie filling is made with maple syrup (no corn syrup!), brown sugar, and plenty of vanilla extract.
I loosely based this recipe off of Ina Garten’s pecan pie bars, which call for a whopping three additional sticks of butter on top of all of the butter this recipe already uses. Ina’s bars call for far more sugar too. I read from many of Ina’s reviewers that the bars overflowed the pan, so I felt confident scaling the recipe down somewhat.
All I can say is whoa. The version of these bars I’m sharing with you today is beyond buttery and indulgent. The level of sweetness is just right. They’re mile high, yet manage to hold together without being runny.
These pecan pie bars taste magnificent to the point that (and, I do not say this lightly) I can’t actually imagine them with any more butter or sugar than they already have.
Further tweaks to Ina’s original version: this recipe bakes in a standard 9×13-inch pan, instead of the more specialty 8×12 that Ina uses. Ina’s version also calls for extra large eggs; I modified this recipe to use large eggs instead.
And then of course I had to tinker with the vanilla extract, swap in maple syrup (a heaven-sent pairing with pecans), and add that flourish of sea salt.
Result: the consummate pecan pie bars of my dreams.
This recipe is made with simple ingredients. You don’t need cake mix or sweetened condensed milk. While I would be exaggerating to call them healthy pecan pie bars, unlike many traditional pecan pie recipes, these pecan pie bars contain no corn syrup.
- Butter. Just do it. It’s worth it here!
- Sugar. I used a combination of sugar and brown sugar for the perfect amount of sweetness.
- Eggs. To bind the crust together, make it tender, and give it a shortbread-like consistency.
- Vanilla. A necessity in all pecan pie recipes.
- Flour. All-purpose flour helps create the perfect crust texture.
- Maple Syrup. The warm, rich flavor shines through and is a beautiful pairing with pecans.
- Lemon Zest. Unnoticeable on its own; it’s here to the filling pop and balance the sweetness.
- Heavy Cream. A necessity to make the filling rich, creamy, and caramel like. Do not swap milk or even half and half or the filling may seize.
- Pecan Halves. These bars are fully loaded for maximum pecan toastiness and crunch.
- Sea Salt. My secret addition that takes the flavor to the next level. A flaky sea salt like Maldon or fleur de sel work best.
These bars do take some time to make, but that’s more a product of scale than anything. Since the crust is made like a shortbread cookie in the mixer, they are far, far easier than pecan pie bars with pie crust (and you won’t be tempted to short cut the recipe and make pecan pie bars with store-bought crust either.)
- Line your pan with parchment paper and set aside. This is key to prevent sticking.
- Make the crust: using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Then, beat in the eggs and vanilla.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients, then add them to the butter mixture. Press the dough to the pan. (The dough will be very sticky.) Bake the crust for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F, until set. Let cool.
- Prepare the filling: in a large saucepan, combine butter, syrup, brown sugar, and zest. Cook over low heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Once melted, bring to a boil for 3 minutes, and then remove from the heat.
- Stir in the heavy cream and pecans, pour into the center of the crust, and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle salt over the top.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool, then cover the bars, place in the refrigerator, and let chill for at least 6 hours. Once chilled, remove the bars to a cutting board, and slice as desired. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed in the microwave (my favorite). ENJOY!
How to Tell When Pecan Pie Bars Are Done Baking
- When the pecan pie bars are done, the filling should still wobble a bit in the middle but not be too liquidy. It will continue to set as it cools at room temperature and in the refrigerator.
- Once the bars are ready, the filling should be a golden brown, and the pecans should look toasted.
How to Cut the Pecan Pie Bars
Heads up! These bars do need to be chilled completely before they are cut. Embrace them as a stellar make-ahead dessert.
- First, use a large, sharp knife to loosen the bars all the way around the edges of the pan. Then, lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper that’s hanging over the sides.
- The bars will be thick and heavy, so if your paper starts to tear, cut the whole pan of bars in half or quarters first, then with a spatula, lift it onto a cutting board in sections.
- These bars are rich, so I like to cut them into smaller pieces (even though I usually end up taking more than one!).
How to Store Pecan Pie Bars
- Should You Refrigerate Pecan Pie Bars? You do not need to refrigerate pecan pie bars, if you will be enjoying them within a day or two. These keep well at room temperature for up to 2 days and in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- How to Freeze Pecan Pie Bars. Lay fully cooled bars onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in the freezer until frozen solid. Then, place the frozen bars into a freezer-safe ziptop bag or storage container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To Serve After Freezing. If the bars are frozen, let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Let them come to room temperature prior to serving or warm them up a little in the microwave. If you do not have a microwave, you can try warming them in a low oven. Tent the pan with foil to keep the top from over browning.
- Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, Option 1. Add in chocolate chips before pouring the batter into the crust.
- Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, Option 2. Bake the recipe as directed, then drizzle the cooled bars with melted chocolate. Let the chocolate set, then slice as directed.
- Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars. Add 3 tablespoons of bourbon to the saucepan with the butter, syrup, sugar, and lemon zest.
- Gluten Free Pecan Pie Bars. Swap a gluten free 1:1 flour for the all purpose flour.
More Favorite Holiday Desserts
Recommended Tools to Make Pecan Pie Bars
- Classic 9×13 Inch Baking Dish. Simple and all you need. This one comes with a lid. This set of dishes (with lids) is a great deal.
- Parchment Paper. DO NOT SKIP THIS to make sure the bars don’t stick. I’m obsessed with these time-saving precut parchment paper sheets.
These pecan pie bars are good to the last crumb. After slicing them, I caught myself munching every stray bit of the brown sugar maple pecan topping that went astray.
Settle in with a serving and embrace the sweet indulgence of the season. You (and anyone lucky enough to share these larger-than-life bars with you) will feel like you’ve won the lottery!
Pecan Pie Bars
FOR THE CRUST:
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter - at room temperature (3 sticks)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs - at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
FOR THE FILLING:
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 1/4 cups brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest - about ½ medium lemon
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 pounds 20 ounces pecan halves, coarsely chopped
- Flaky sea salt - such as Maldon or fleur de sel (optional)
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 9x13-inch pan or line with parchment paper leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished bars out. Set aside.
- Make the crust: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium high speed, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla, just until incorporated.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, stopping as soon as the flour disappears. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Press it evenly into the pan, building it up on the sides all the way around by about 1-inch. The dough will be very sticky, so if it clings to your hands, use a sheet of plastic wrap to press it down and avoid sticking. The crust will seem fairly thick, but go with it. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until it is set but not yet browned. If it puffs up unevenly in the center, use the tines of a fork to prick it lightly on the surface. Set aside to cool.
- While the crust cools, prepare the filling: in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, and lemon zest. Cook over low heat, stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon, until the butter is melted. As soon as the butter melts, increase the heat to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes (set a timer!) then remove from the heat.
- Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Avoid the temptation to touch or eat the pecan filling, as it is very very hot. Pour the filling carefully into the center of the crust, then with the back of a spatula or fork, spread it into an even layer (some of the crust may show at the edges; try to avoid the batter seeping between the crust and the pan). Sprinkle a generous pinch of flaky salt over the top. It will be quite thick and fill the pan almost all the way to the top.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set at the edges and when the pan is jiggled, the center has some movement but does not seem excessively liquidy. Place on a cooling rack and let cool completely to room temperature, then cover the bars with plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. With a knife, loosen the bars from the sides of the pan, then lift them onto a cutting board (see blog post above for tips). Slice into bars of desired size. Enjoy at room temperature or slightly warmed in the microwave (my favorite!).
- TO STORE: You do not need to refrigerate pecan pie bars, if you will be enjoying them within a day or two. These keep well at room temperature for up to 2 days and in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- TO FREEZE: Lay fully cooled bars onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in the freezer until frozen solid. Then, place the frozen bars into a freezer-safe ziptop bag or storage container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- TO SERVE AFTER FREEZING: If the bars are frozen, let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Let them come to room temperature prior to serving or warm them up a little in the microwave. If you do not have a microwave, you can try warming them in a low oven. Tent the pan with foil to keep the top from over browning.
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