Classic Pecan Pie from Scratch
Thanksgiving deserves a traditional dessert and this classic pecan pie is just the thing. The filling is the perfect balance of gooey and crunchy while the crust is buttery and flaky. I make this pie every year and it’s always a hit!
Thanksgiving is coming up and if you are anything like my family, we are cooking up a storm and arguing over counter space and whose turn it is to use the oven. Early this morning, I took full advantage of the few hours the kitchen was actually empty and pulled out my best pecan pie recipe. I use it every year and it’s consistently a crowd pleaser.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Perfect texture. The balance of gooey almost caramel-like filling against the crunchy pecans is so satisfying.
- Buttery, flaky crust. I used my homemade pie crust recipe and partially baked it prior to adding the filling. This guarantees a sturdy (not soggy) crust!
- Traditional holiday recipe. This is a must-make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I bake one every year!
- Make ahead option. Pecan pie freezes really well, which is perfect for holiday prep!
- Homemade pie crust will guarantee a buttery and flaky crust. You only need one crust for this recipe. You can also use store-bought.
- Unsalted butter will add an underlying creamy flavor to the pie.
- Dark brown sugar provides a subtle molasses flavor, but light brown sugar may also be used.
- Eggs will help bind the ingredients (use large eggs)
- Corn syrup is what old fashioned pecan pie calls for. I use Karo light corn syrup.
- Pecans add all the texture. I like chopping them myself or in a food processor, but you can also buy chopped pecans. Pecan halves are optional for a decorative topping to the pie.
Refer to the recipe card for ingredient details and measurements.
Add a splash of bourbon. Omit the vanilla and substitute with 2 Tablespoon bourbon, whiskey or rum.
Sprinkle in some chocolate chips. When stirring in the chopped pecans, add 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
Add some toppings. I prefer homemade pecan pie with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle of cinnamon, but you can also serve it a la mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
How to Make Classic Pecan Pie from Scratch
- Make the pie dough. Whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter, then cut in the butter until crumbles form. Add ice cold water, stirring until larger crumbles form. Form the dough into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a pie plate and gently press into the sides. Crimp the edges and chill the crust for 30 minutes to 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line the pie crust with parchment paper and cover the bottom completely with pie weights.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until light golden. Make the filling while the crust bakes.
- For the filling, fill a saucepan with 1 inch water and bring to a simmer. Place a bowl on top so it doesn’t touch the water (makeshift double boiler). Add butter to the bowl to melt. Remove the bowl from the heat, stir in the brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Whisk in the eggs and corn syrup.
- Return bowl to the simmering water and cook until the mixture is glossy and warm to the touch, about 10 minutes.
- Remove bowl from heat and stir in the chopped pecans.
- Remove pie weights and parchment paper from the pre-baked crust. Pour filling into the hot crust. Garnish with pecan halves if desired. Bake pie at 275 F for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool completely before serving.
Chill the pie crust for 30 minutes before baking to prevent shrinking. If you have extra time, put the pie crust in the freezer for an extra 15 minutes after it’s been in the refrigerator (I use this trick for my quiche).
Pre-bake the crust. When a filling is liquid-y or custard, a raw crust will absorb the liquid and become soggy. Pre-baking the crust ensures a sturdy crust to hold the filling. This applies to blueberry crumble pie as well.
Use a makeshift double boiler to cook the filling. The steam from the simmering water will gently heat the bowl and warm up the mixture. This process helps thicken the filling.
Pour the filling into a HOT pie crust. This helps prevent the filling from separating and gets it baking right away.
Let the pie cool completely before serving. This is vital in order to let the filling set. Otherwise, the filling will by goopy and slices will be messy.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
Make ahead the pie and freeze it for up to 3 months. Let it cool completely, wrap the entire pie and dish in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.
Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days. Pecan pie is egg-based and requires refrigeration after baking and cooling.
It was likely not cooked long enough. Check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer. If you are consistently having trouble, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch to the filling when adding the brown sugar.
Corn syrup is thicker than other sweeteners and will help thicken the pecan pie filling. Eggs also work as a binding agent here. Be sure to let the pie cool completely to help the filling set.
It is done when the dish is gently shaken and the center jiggles only slightly (the edges, about 1 inch from the crust should be set). It will continue to bake as it cools.
It’s is best served either at room temperature or cold. You cannot serve pecan pie warm out of the oven because the filling will be too runny. The filling needs time to set.
Looking for more Thanksgiving recipes? Try these next!
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Get the Recipe: Classic Pecan Pie from Scratch
- 1 ½ cups (187 g) all purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2-4 Tablespoons ice cold water
- 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup (200 g) packed dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- ¾ cup (180 ml) light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (240 g) chopped pecans
- ½ cup halved pecans for decorative top, optional
- Make sure all your ingredients are cold. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Use a pastry cutter to cut the shortening into the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with bits the size of small peas. Sprinkle cold water, one tablespoon at a time, over the mixture. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix the dough until large clumps form.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and use your hands to form the dough into a 8-inch disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
- When ready to roll the pie crust, remove dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a circle that is 13-inches in diameter. Be mindful to add more flour underneath the dough (especially in the center) if it starts sticking to the work surface.
- Transfer pie dough to a lightly greased pie dish and gently press it into the bottom and sides of the dish. Use your fingers to tuck the edges of the dough under itself and crimp the edges (refer to video for visual). Place pie plate in the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes.
- While the pie crust chills, preheat oven to 375° F.
- Place parchment paper on the chilled pie dough and fill with pie weights so there is an even and generous layer on the bottom. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the edges start to turn color. While the crust bakes, prepare the filling.
- Melt butter in medium heatproof (glass or ceramic) bowl set in saucepan of water maintained at just below simmer (makeshift double boiler).
- Remove bowl from skillet and mix in brown sugar, salt and vanilla with wooden spoon until butter is absorbed. Beat in eggs first, then the corn syrup.
- Return bowl to hot water. Stir until mixture is shiny and warm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 cups chopped pecans.
- Remove pie crust from the oven if you haven't yet. Remove the parchment paper and pie weights. Lower oven temperature to 275° F. Place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack.
- Pour mixture into pre-baked pie crust and arrange 1/2 cup halved pecans on top (optional). Bake pie at 275° F on the middle rack for 55 to 60 minutes. The pie is done when the center feels set yet soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed. Shield pie with aluminum foil after 30 minutes to prevent excessive browning.
- Transfer pie to rack and let cool completely, at least 4 hours. Serve pie at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated.