The best pecan pie recipe for the holidays! Enjoy irresistible slices of sweet and gooey filling with crunchy nuts in a flaky pie crust.
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Pecan pie is the ultimate decadent treat to serve during the holiday time. The buttery crust, nutty texture, and caramel-flavored filling satisfy any sweet tooth. The good news is this pie is simple to prepare. The dough can be made a few days in advance, making assembly easy on the day of your feast.
There’s a beautiful contrast of textures- crunchy chopped nuts suspended in a sweet and luscious filling. Eggs help set the bourbon-infused syrup, which nicely holds each slice together. For a stunning presentation, pecan halves completely cover the surface.
Pie dough selection
I use a traditional Pâte Brisée pie dough like my classic apple pie recipe. It consists of flour, salt, butter, and water. For this recipe, I also add freshly grated orange zest. Just a tiny amount of the natural oils from the citrus add a pleasant aroma and complement the nuts’ taste.
Prepare the crust
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, then break it into the flour until pea-size. When you roll out the dough and bake it, the crust will provide a sturdy base to support the filling yet still be crispy and tender on the edges.
I use my stand mixer to process the dough. However, a dough/pastry cutter or your fingers work too. The dough can be shaped into a flattened dish, covered in plastic wrap, and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.
Shape the pie crust
The dough needs at least 4 hours to rest in the refrigerator before rolling out. This time ensures that the flour’s proteins have time to relax, preventing a chewy texture. Roll the dough into a slightly thinner than a ¼-inch thick circle, then transfer to a 9-inch pie dish.
Trim the excess dough, but leave some overhang. The edges will be tucked under, crimped, and shaped into fluted edges. Make sure to “dock” or poke the bottom and sides several times. Freeze the formed crust for 20 minutes to firm up the butter and make the crust flaky.
Blind bake the crust
The pecan filling is high in moisture from the corn syrup and eggs. To ensure the crust doesn’t get soggy, it’s crucial to pre-bake the shell. Blind bake with some pie weights set inside a piece of parchment paper. The weight helps keep the dough from puffing up too much as it bakes and steams as the water heats up and tries to escape.
The pre-bake process takes about 15 minutes, then brush egg wash on the bottom and sides of the crust to create a protective film. You’ll bake again briefly to set the egg wash. This step creates a moisture barrier for the wet filling when combined.
Make a flavorful filling
The filling base consists of dark corn syrup to provide the characteristic caramel taste and deep brown color. Light corn syrup is flat in taste, and the results will lack the amber appearance. I also add a particular ingredient. Bourbon whiskey enhances the flavor of vanilla extract and syrup.
The bourbon adds a hint of aged oaky notes, which provides depth to the sweet taste. Don’t worry. The alcohol evaporates so that it won’t taste boozy. Melted butter in the filling also browns and delivers a lovely toasted flavor.
Preventing a runny filling
To thicken the corn syrup, I use flour and eggs. The starches in the flour will swell, then set as the pie cools down to room temperature. The yolks provide richness, keeping the center gooey. The albumin egg whites firm up into a strong protein matrix, holding the filling together while maintaining a soft consistency.
Bake the pie
The blind-bake step won’t entirely cook the pie crust, just partially. Add a generous amount of chopped pecans sprinkled evenly into the crust. Pour enough filling into the spaces between the nuts and just below the fluted edges. You want enough room to add the pecans on top and not have the sugar overflow while it’s bubbling and baking.
How to tell when the pie is done
Since you can’t see underneath the pecan topping into the pie, there are two ways to check. Gently shake the pie dish. The center shouldn’t wiggle. Alternatively, use an instant-read thermometer. Once the center reaches between 200 to 205ºF (93 to 96ºC), it’s ready.
Let it cool before serving
Cool the pie for at least 3 hours before serving so the filling can firm up. Otherwise, it will be too warm and fluid. If not serving the same day, then cover and refrigerate the pie. It contains eggs, so it’s essential to keep it chilled to prevent spoilage. I do not recommend freezing as the texture will not be as good.
What to serve this with
Frequently asked questions
Yes! Cool the pie completely, cover the top with plastic wrap, then tightly wrap aluminum foil. Store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator the night before. Let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. If you like it warm, bake it at 225ºF (107ºC) for about 20 minutes.
When storing a whole pie or leftovers, it’s best to refrigerate after baking and cooling. The filling contains eggs. Cover and refrigerate after two hours at room temperature to prevent food spoilage and illness.
You can substitute dark corn syrup for pure maple syrup. It’s not as thick, so I recommend adding some additional light or dark brown sugar to the mixture, about ¼ cup packed. This will also enhance the caramel flavor of the pie.
Why do you poke holes in the crust?
When blind-baking a shell, the tiny holes allow space for the steam generated to be released. If it doesn’t escape, the dough will puff up. The steam escapes first, then the egg proteins harden, creating a protective layer before adding the wet filling. This process prevents a soggy crust.
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- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon orange zest
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½" cubes, chilled
- ½ cup ice-cold water, chilled
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups dark corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon bourbon whiskey, optional
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten, divided
- 2 ¼ cups pecans halves, divided
- Prepare the Ingredients – Add ice cubes and water to a measuring cup. Cut the butter into 1/2" cubes. Place both items in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Break Down the Butter – In a stand mixer bowl, add the flour, salt, and orange zest. Mix using the paddle attachment on the lowest speed (stir) for about 10-seconds. Add chilled diced butter to the bowl. On the lowest speed, turn the mixer on and off quickly for a few seconds to coat the butter with the flour to prevent the flour from spilling.Continue to mix on low speed until the flour and butter resemble wet sand with coarse crumbles and pea-sized pieces remaining, about 75 seconds. Use your fingers to break up any large pieces. Do not over-mix. The dough should not bind together before the water is added.
- Hydrate the Dough – Gradually add 1 tablespoon of ice-cold water to the bowl. After each addition, turn the mixer on for 1 to 2-seconds. Add enough water until the dough looks lumpy and hydrated but not wet or sticky. It should just begin to clump together with small crumbles on the bottom of the bowl. All of the water may not be needed, about 5 to 6 tablespoons is typical. When the dough is pinched together, it should compress and hold, not be dry or crumbly. Do not over-mix. The dough will be pressed together before resting.
- Rest the Dough – Press the dough into a 1” thick round disc and wrap it in plastic, then place it in a resealable bag. Store in the refrigerator to rest for at least 4 hours, overnight, or up to 2 days.
- Roll the Dough – Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes to make it easier to roll. If it’s still too hard, let it sit at room temperature until more pliable.Dust the counter and top of the dough with flour. Rotate and dust with flour underneath and on the top to prevent sticking and make it easier to transfer to the pie dish. Roll the dough into about a 13 to 14-inch circle, slightly less than ¼-inch thick.
- Form the Crust – Place the rolled-out dough into a 9-inch pie dish and gently press against the sides and bottom. With a paring knife, trim the excess dough with a 1/2-inch overhang over the edge. Tuck the extra dough underneath the bottom edges. Crimp by pinching the dough using the pointer and thumb fingers.Using a fork, carefully dock (poke) the crust's bottom and sides about 1-inch apart. Place the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes. While the dough chills, make the filling.
- Pecan Filling – In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the dark corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon, and vanilla extract. Measure out ⅔ cup of beaten eggs and whisk into the syrup mixture. Save the remaining whisked egg to brush the pie crust. Add the flour mixture, and whisk to combine. Set aside.Coarsely chop 1 ½ cups (172g, 6 ounces) of pecan halves, and set aside—Reserve the remaining pecans for the topping, about 40 to 50 pieces.
- Preheat the Oven – Place the oven rack in the center position. Preheat to 375°F (190°C). Line a half-sheet pan with aluminum foil. Place the chilled crust on the sheet pan.
- Par-Bake the Crust – Place a piece of parchment paper over the crust and add the pie weights to cover just the bottom and sides, do not overfill. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment paper with weights from the pie dish and set it aside. It will not be used again. The bottom may puff up slightly, but it will deflate once it sits during egg washing.Lightly brush the egg wash over the bottom and sides of the parbaked shell. If desired, brush the edges for a shiner, more golden crust. Continue baking for 6 to 7 minutes, then remove from the oven. It will puff in the center. Use a spoon to lightly tap the crust, and it will slowly deflate until flat.
- Add the Filling – Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (177ºC). Evenly place the chopped pecans in the bottom of the pie shell. Slowly pour the filling mixture so it can settle around the chopped pecans. Fill the pie to just under the pinched edges. There may be extra. Garnish the top with pecan halves in a circular pattern.
- Finish Baking – Bake until the crust is golden brown, the center is set, and the filling reaches between 200 to 205ºF (93 to 96ºC), about 60 to 70 minutes.
- Cool the Pie – Let the filling cool for at least 3 hours before serving. If desired, serve slices with whipped cream or ice cream.
- No Stand Mixer: Use a dough/pastry blender or your fingers to break the butter into the dough.
- Storing: If making pie the day in advance but not eating until the next day, cool completely and cover with plastic wrap or foil and keep refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving. Wrap and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Reheat a Whole Pie: Remove the pie from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for about 1 to 2 hours before serving. Alternatively, bake at 225ºF (107ºC) on a foil-lined sheet pan and loosely cover with foil, bake until warmed through, about 20 to 25-minutes.
- Reheat a Slice: Place on a foil-lined sheet pan and reheat at 250ºF (121ºC) until warm and crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes.
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2 Comments Leave a comment or review
Can I use brown sugar or a some sugar combo to replace the corn syrup?
Jessica Gavin says
No, you need the liquid in the corn syrup to achieve the right consistency.