Old Fashioned Butter Tarts, the best homemade Butter Tart Recipe and definitely better than store bought! A delicious Canadian tradition that can’t be missed. Syrupy and sweet exactly how they should be.
A flaky pie crust filled with a sweet raisin filling. If you don’t like raisins just leave them out! This old fashioned butter tart recipe is one of the best you will taste.Here I am again Celebrating #Canada150 this time I am sharing one of Ontario’s favourite fabulous foods, Old Fashioned Butter Tarts. Ontario is situated in Central Canada with probably one of Canada’s most famous and popular cities, Toronto, my place of birth.
What are Canadian Butter tarts?
It is believed that between 1663 and 1673 approximately 800 young women were sent to Québec from France to help colonize. They brought with them their traditional European recipes but of course they had to adapt to making them with the ingredients available.
The sugar pie, was made with a filling of flour, butter, salt, vanilla, and cream, it is considered the forerunner to the butter tart.
Although the butter tart as we know it now was common in Canadian pioneer cooking. The earliest published recipe dates back to 1900 in the Women’s Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook, which was written in Barrie Ontario.
- Pastry dough
- Butter – melted and cooled
- Brown sugar – light brown
- Syrup – corn syrup is the traditional syrup but you could substitute with maple syrup
- Vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup raisins or currants
- Boiling water
- 1/4 mini chocolate chips – semi sweet or milk chocolate or a combination
Pecan (Nut) Filling
- 1/3 cup Pecans – coarsely chopped, you could substitute with hazelnuts or even walnuts
Why soak raisins in water?
Because raisins are very dry, if they aren’t soaked then they will absorb the liquid from your baked goods, making the dessert less moist. That’s why it is imperative to soak them first, or any dried fruit for that matter.
They don’t have to soak in water, you can soak them in a fruit juice such as pineapple juice or even rum or brandy.
I have made these tarts a few times this past couple of weeks, and we made them again when my cousin came to visit. This time we made a few different types. Pecan, Chocolate Chip and Plain Butter Tarts. It was hard to decide which was our favorite!
How to make Butter Tarts
Prepare either the Simple Pie Dough or Brown Sugar Pie Dough. Or you can use prepared store bought tarts. If you use homemade pastry, the dough will have to be wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled for approximately 60 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Grease and flour a 12 size medium muffin pan.
Remove the pastry from the fridge, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8″ thick, cut out with a round cookie cutter. Gently form the circles into the muffin tin. Use a small lightly floured shot glass to gently form the rounds into the tin.
If using raisins, place them in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water, let sit 10-15 minutes then drain well. Immediately add hot raisins to butter mixture and stir until butter has melted.
Add the lightly beaten egg and vanilla, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup, stir to combine, do not over mix.
If not using the raisins then melt the butter, let cool slightly, then add the lightly beaten egg, vanilla, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup, stir to combine do not over mix. At this point you can either stir in the chopped pecans, chocolate chips or leave the filling plain.
Pour the filling into the prepared tart shells and bake for 15 minutes at 400°F, reduce heat to 350°F and continue baking for approximately 10 – 15 minutes (until they start to brown). Once they are cool enough to touch move to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.
The best Pastry Dough for Butter Tarts
Butter tarts are best made with a flaky pie crust therefore I like to use either a Simple Pie Dough or a Brown Sugar Pie Dough, either work perfectly.
How to Store Butter Tarts
Butter Tarts should be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated, they will keep for up to five days in the fridge. If you keep them at room temperature remember they will only keep for about a day or 2 depending on how warm your home is.
Can Butter Tarts be Frozen?
Yes they can be frozen, be sure to freeze in an airtight freezer container. Properly stored they will keep for up to two months. You could also make the dough in advance and freeze it, the dough will last for up to 3 months in the freezer.
These Old Fashioned Butter Tarts are the perfect sweet treat that you could be looking for. If you try them let me know. Enjoy!
Pie Tarts & Pie recipes
Old Fashioned Butter Tarts
- 1 Pie Pastry Recipe or 12 pre-made tart shells
BUTTER TART FILLING
PLAIN FILLING (without add ins)
- 1/4 cup butter (melted / cooled)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
- 1/2 cup corn syrup*
- pinch of salt
- 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
*You can substitute with Maple syrup but start with a ⅓ cup since it is thinner than corn syrup.
RAISIN FILLING (add in)
- 3/4 cup raisins
- boiling water
CHOCOLATE CHIP FILLING (add in)
- 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
PECAN FILLING (add in)
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans (or walnuts)
- Prepare either the Simple Pie Dough or Brown Sugar Pie Dough. Or you can use prepared store bought tarts.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8″ thick, cut out with a round cookie cutter. Gently form the circles into the muffin tin. Use a small lightly floured shot glass to gently form the rounds into the tin.
- Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C). Grease and flour a 12 size medium muffin tin.
BUTTER TART FILLING
- If using raisins, place them in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water, let sit 10-15 minutes then drain well. Immediately add the hot raisins to the butter mixture and stir until butter has melted. Then add the lightly beaten egg, vanilla, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup, stir to combine, do not over mix.
- If not using the raisins then melt the butter, let cool slightly, add the lightly beaten egg, vanilla, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup, stir to combine do not over mix. At this point you can either stir in the chopped pecans, chocolate chips or leave the filling plain.
- Pour the filling into the prepared tart shells and bake for 15 minutes at 400F (200C), reduce heat to 350F (180C) and continue baking for approximately 10 – 15 minutes (until they start to brown). Once they are cool enough to touch move to a wire rack to cool completely before serving. Enjoy!
Updated from May 3, 2017.
I buy frozen tart shells. Do I have to thaw them before putting on the filling?
Hi Gail, you should shaw them on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes before filling and baking. 🙂
Linda Cooper says
The filling was delicious, my only issue was using a shot glass for the pastry cups . I found I had to use a much larger glass in order to fill the tins.
should I use salted or unsalted butter in the filling.
Hi Zara, I always use salted, but if you want you can use unsalted just add a pinch or two of salt to the filling.
Can I replace corn syrup with maple syrup?
Hi Carm, sure I think it would work, maybe add a little less because maple syrup is thinner than corn syrup. (maybe 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons).
Evelyn Bailey says
Butter is essential! Currents are also a very Canadian tradition. Great recipe
Hi Evelyn, I agree and thank you.
Me and my family loved these! I used your pie crust and it worked perfectly. at first i didn’t grease the tin well enough but otherwise it was awesome.
Hi Jazz, thanks so much, so glad you and your family enjoyed them. Take care.
Lawrence Yanover says
I am very picky about butter tarts. The taste is really subtle and requires the right balance of pastry to filling, with all elements in balance. I live in Canada and am not far from a tourist destination called butter tarts and buggies in Grey Bruce region of Ontario. You follow the trail to numerous bakeries that feature butter tarts and try them out. The buggy part is because this is Mennonite country where families still travel by horse and buggy and live in traditional farming communities. Those are my credentials. I have been very disappointed by the butter tarts I have tried. Doughey and tasteless pastry. Insipid filling. I wanted to try my hand at making them as it had been some time since I had done it. I am accomplished at pies so I used my own pastry recipe. For the filling, I added double the vanilla and a bit more egg. I prefer the filling less runny and I enjoy a stronger vanilla note. What really helped was the 15 minutes at 400 then then ten minutes at 350. For the first 15 minutes I placed them closer to the top of the oven and brought them closer to the middle for the last ten minutes. This produced a beautiful caramelized top to the filling and a perfectly baked pastry shell. I also used OXO non stick muffin tins which are award winning, and provide very even heat. As well, they clean up nicely because the filling can overflow and attach quite tenaciously to the muffin tin, making removal difficult. Great web site for Italian cooking, which I also very much enjoy. Just finished a batch of pesto from basil in the garden. We are blessed with access to high quality Italian foods in Hamilton area with Fortinos nearby and so many with Italian ancestry who demand great Italian ingredients. Again, I thank you for your passion regarding about great food. Life is too short to put up with bad food
My Canadian husband requested butter tarts (I’d never heard of them.) This is my third time using this recipe and they are DELISH! They also get the Canadian Authenticity seal of approval from the hubbie.
Hi Laura, thanks so much, haha nothing like a Canadian Butter Tart, my Italian husband loves them. Take care.
First time making butter tarts and these were very easy and delicious. My daughter said I have to make them for dessert every Sunday.
Hi Marion, thanks so much, I think my husband would agree with your daughter! Take care.
Anne Reilly says
Delicious! Thanks for sharing this recipe.
Fortune Goulais says
First time making tarts always been afraid of pie crust, lol, but these were fun to make
Hi Fortune, thanks so glad you enjoyed them. Take care.
These turned out perfectly! I used the simple dough recipe as well and it was amazing! I usually mess up dough but not with this recipe! Will make these again for sure.
Hi Erika, thanks so much, so glad you enjoyed it. Take care.
Butter tarts are canadian not american that is why i gave a low rating
Well Sally if you read the post you would have noticed that I actually state they are Canadian!
Sally – There are lots of good things that come from the states JUST NOT everything!
They are CANADIAN and deserve the highest rating!
I’ve made this recipe twice now. Not sure how you get them to look so nice. First time everything bubbled over, so I reduced the temp by 50 degrees and made the sides higher. It worked generally, but I can’t put much filling in each tart otherwise it will boil over, so I’m left with mostly dough. Used the simple pie dough, but disappointed in that the pasty comes out very hard. I used margarine instead of butter, so not sure if this is why, but it makes the tarts hard to enjoy as the pastry is too hard. Maybe someone can help me solve these problems.
Brian, this is now the 2nd reply I left because I had problems getting the reply function to work. You must not use margarine. Margarine is basically water and chemicals so all the water forms a ‘hard’ or tough dough. You must use butter because it’s the fat in the butter that creates a nice flaky crust. I really like Rosemary’s recipe.
Tried the pecan butter tarts yesterday. They were a big hit! Definitely the best recipe I’ve tried!