How To Make Pecan Pie: The Easiest Method for the Best Result

updated Nov 3, 2022
christmas
How to Make Pecan Pie

We've streamlined the process of making a classic pecan pie to create this easier version that's just as delightful.

Serves 8 to 12

Makes1 (9-inch) pie

Prep30 minutes

Cook50 minutes to 55 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Of all the pie recipes out there, pecan pie is an American classic. Whether it’s enjoyed for a Thanksgiving feast or a 4th of July gathering, been a cherished pie for at least a century from north to south. Rich with brown sugar and a sweet syrup, it’s topped with rings of pecans, all encased in a flaky, crisp crust.

The very best pecan pie showcases the contrast of texture and flavor through a crisp crust, toasted nuts, and the soft, sweet filling. Our classic pecan pie recipe shows you how to achieve exactly that, homemade flaky pie crust included.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Make a Flaky Pie Crust

It takes just four ingredients — flour, butter, salt, and ice water — to make pie crust, but it’s how those ingredients are combined that make a tender and flaky pastry. We like to use the food processor for ease, but pastry cutters, two forks, and fingertips are all acceptable.

After combining the flour and salt, you’ll add half the butter, pulse until it’s in pea-sized pieces, then add the remaining butter with the water. Staggering the butter additions helps prevent you from pulsing it into uniform or tiny pieces — the smaller bits of butter make the crust tender, while larger pieces give it the classic flaky texture you expect from pie crust.

The liquid for the crust is ice water (not cold water, ice water — the goal is to keep the butter very cold). Although you can substitute a portion of that liquid with chilled vodka or bourbon, resist the urge to use only alcohol as the liquid, as that can result in a crumbly crust. 

Do I Need to Pre-Bake the Pie Crust?

Nope! After careful consideration and retesting, we’ve streamlined the original crust recipe and procedure to eliminate blind baking and the need for a foil ring. The updated recipe you’ll find below is based on our Easy Flaky Pie Crust recipe, but here, we are only preparing one crust for this single-crust pie.

Once the raw, chilled crust is in the pie pan, you’ll add the filling and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. This makes it easier to move the pie in and out of the oven. Baking the pie in the lower third of the oven puts the bottom of the crust closer to the heat source (no soggy bottoms here!) while keeping the sugary filling further from the heating element. If your oven runs hot or you notice rapid browning, feel free to cover the pie with a sheet of foil.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Should I Use Light or Dark Corn Syrup for Pecan Pie?

Light corn syrup is best for pecan pie. In fact, the Karo company claims that the recipe on the back of the bottle, invented by a Karo employee’s wife in the mid-20th century, is the original pecan pie. Historically, it’s entirely possible that Karo’s is the original recipe for using corn syrup. Without any doubt, it bakes up into the taste we grew up with. It is reliably sweet, simple, and clean-tasting.

What About Bourbon?

The base of this pantry-friendly filling requires only brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and eggs, but feel free to add a splash of bourbon, if desired.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Select Perfect Pecans

You will need unroasted, unsalted pecans that are plump and uniform. Some nut producers have freshness dates on the jar or bag, which is very helpful. If you buy shelled nuts in bulk, be sure that they are not limp or rubbery. Smell them, too — you want to avoid nuts that smell musty or rancid. Nuts can be refrigerated for up to two months and frozen for up to four months in airtight containers (not the bags you buy it in), but be careful when storing because they easily pick up wonky smells.

How Do I Know When My Pie Is Done?

Pecan pie is done when the filling is set (a slight wobble is OK) and has reached 200oF on an instant-read thermometer. This pie also happens to be the perfect make-ahead dessert, because you need to cool the pie completely before serving.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Serve Pecan Pie

Simple sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream are the usual accompaniments, but you can add a splash of bourbon- or brandy-infused whipped cream, dried fruit-studded ice cream, or a fresh ginger-spiked crème anglaise. It’s also equally good with unsweetened bitter espresso.

How to Make Pecan Pie

We've streamlined the process of making a classic pecan pie to create this easier version that's just as delightful.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 55 minutes

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

Serves 8 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

  • 4

    ice cubes

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons

    water, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces

    pecan halves (about 2 cups), divided

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 cup

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 3/4 cup

    light corn syrup

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon

    bourbon (optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 3

    large eggs

Equipment

  • Food processor

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Plastic wrap

  • 1

    (9-inch) pie pan (not deep dish)

  • Chef's knife and cutting board

  • Rimmed baking sheet

  • Large bowl

  • Heat-resistant spatula

  • Oven mitts

  • Cooling rack

Instructions

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  1. Cube the butter. Cut 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the crust ingredients.

  2. Prepare the ice water. Place 4 ice cubes in a measuring cup, then fill with cold water.

  3. Mix the flour and salt. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse to combine, 2 to 3 (1-second) pulses.

  4. Add half of the butter. Scatter half the cubed butter over the flour and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal mixed with pieces of butter no larger than a pea, 12 to 15 (1-second) pulses.

  5. Add ice water and the remaining butter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons ice water over the flour mixture, then scatter the remaining cubed butter over the top. Pulse 4 times to combine.

  6. Test the dough. Squeeze the dough in your hand to see if the dough holds together and feels tacky. If it crumbles and breaks apart easily, pulse in more water a tablespoon at a time. The dough should form large clumps with visible pieces of butter and should hold together when squeezed.

  7. Chill the dough. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Use the palm of your hand to quickly gather and press it into a 6-inch wide,1/2-inch thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 days, or the dough can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

  8. Roll out the dough. Dust a work surface and rolling pin liberally with flour. Unwrap the dough and place it on the flour. Working from the middle of the dough outward, roll it into a 12- to 13-inch-wide round. Use firm strokes and work the dough as little as possible.

  9. Transfer the dough to a pie pan. Sprinkle the dough and your rolling pin with a little flour. Lay your rolling pin on one edge of the dough round and gently roll it up around the rolling pin. Set the rolling pin gently on the edge of the pie pan and unroll the dough gently into a 9-inch pie pan (not deep dish), easing it into the corners and up the side of the pan and tucking it in well to form the crust.

  10. Trim the dough. Trim all but 1 or 2 inches of the pie dough from around the edge.

  11. Crimp the edges and chill. Crimp the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  12. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. While oven heats, chop the pecans for the filling. Coarsely chop 6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) of the pecan halves.

  13. Melt the butter. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, then set aside to cool slightly.

  14. Make the filling. Whisk 3 large eggs, 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar, 3/4 cup light corn syrup,1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon bourbon, if using, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and the cooled melted butter together in a large bowl until combined.

  15. Fill the crust. Remove the crust from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the chopped pecans in an even layer in the crust. Pour the filling over the chopped pecans. 

  16. Decorate with pecans. Arrange the remaining 2 ounces (1/2 cup) pecan halves in a ring around the outside edge of the filling.

  17. Bake the pie for 50 to 55 minutes. Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the filling is just set but still slightly wobbly in the middle, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pie reads 200oF, 50 to 55 minutes. The filling will be very hot and will continue to cook once removed from the oven.

  18. Cool and serve. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The pie dough can be made and refrigerated up to 4 days ahead. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Storage: Pecan pie will keep wonderfully at room temperature, loosely covered, for up to 3 days. Although most pies freeze wonderfully, I do not recommend freezing pecan pie, and I also limit any reheating because it often cooks the filling, which alters the texture and burns the crust.