These Butter Tarts are a Canadian classic that comes together with just 25 minutes of prep! Homemade pastry shells are filled with a rich, brown sugar (raisins optional!), then baked until buttery and flaky on the inside and gooey on the inside.
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As many Canadians have, I grew up eating butter tarts. I mean, you cannot grow up in Canada and not enjoy them for all the major holidays.
Now, I’ve already made butter tart squares, so I thought it was about time I shared my own version of classic butter tarts. They are the perfect bites for sharing!
If you’ve never heard of or had butter tarts before, prepare to be amazed. The rich, gooey filling and flaky pastry might just blow your mind 😉
What are butter tarts?
Butter tarts are small dessert tarts that are made up of buttery, flaky pastry shells filled with a rich, gooey, syrupy, brown sugar filling and — depending on your tastes! — raisins.
Are butter tarts Canadian?
Yes! Butter tarts are recognized as one of the few foods that are truly Canadian. The first written recipe is said to have been printed in 1900 in Barrie, Ontario.
You can’t live in Canada and not know and love this iconic dessert!
Are butter tarts and pecan pie the same thing?
Nope! Although butter tarts and pecan pie are similar in ingredients, they do have a couple of key differences.
First of all, pecan pie is always made with pecans while butter tarts is either made without any additions, or raisins. Although some may get crazy and (gasp!) even add nuts!
Secondly, butter tarts tend to have a slightly gooey-er filling since there isn’t cornstarch. Pecan pie filling bakes up to be thicker and more sturdy.
Ingredients for butter tarts
There are two very important parts of today’s recipe: the crust and the filling!
- All-Purpose Flour: the base for the pie crust (based on my favorite Pie Crust recipe)
- Sugar: adds a touch of sweetness
- Salt: enhances flavor and helps create that golden-brown color. Salt also makes the dough less sticky so it’s easier to portion out into pastry cups.
- Unsalted Butter: be sure to use cold butter. It steams in the dough as it cooks which creates pockets of air that creates a lighter, flakier texture.
- Cold Water: the cold water creates that doughy texture and prevents the butter from becoming too warm.
Butter Tart Filling
- Brown Sugar: melts into the butter to form that gooey, caramel-like filling for the tarts.
- Golden Corn Syrup and White Vinegar: react with the sugar to prevent it from crystallizing. Butter tarts can be made without corn syrup and vinegar, but they will have a slightly crispy, crystal-y top.
- Butter: I use salted butter in the filling so I don’t have to add salt myself. If you use unsalted, add a touch of salt to balance the sweetness.
- Eggs: give the filling structure so it’s not too runny.
- Vanilla Extract: adds flavor depth and warm sweetness.
- Raisins or Pecans (optional): the raisin issue a matter of huge debate in Canada. Some prefer butter tarts with raisins and others without. Use whichever you like best, or add pecans for a delicious twist!
How to make butter tarts
This classic Canadian dessert comes together in a total of 45 minutes!
Pastry Tart Shells
- Mix the dough: Stir together flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl, then cut in the cold butter cubes with a pastry cutter or your hands. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of cold water and work the dough with your hands until it comes together in a ball. Shape the dough ball into a fat disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 week.
- Cut the dough: Roll the pastry dough out onto a large piece of wax paper. Cut the dough into 3-3.5″ rounds using a circle cookie cutter, a large cup, or a small bowl.
- Make into shells: Place the pastry dough rounds into a muffin pan and gently press them into the bottom and up the sides. Place the muffin pan into the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
- Mix filling ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla.
- Add to the pastry cups: Ladle the filling into the chilled, unbaked tart shells, dividing evenly between the 12 cups.
- Bake: Bake the butter tarts at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes. Once baked, remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
Do raisins belong in butter tarts?
The jury is still out on this question! Whether or not raisins belong in butter tarts is a matter of passionate national debate. Some swear by raisins in their tarts while others feel that raisins are the best way to ruin a perfectly good tart.
In my opinion, you should do whatever works best for you! Raisins or not, these butter tarts are absolutely delicious!
Why are my butter tarts runny?
If your butter tart filling is too runny, it could be over-mixed. If you stir the filling too much, the eggs will hold air. That air rises in the oven causing the filling to puff up, then sinks in the center when the tarts are removed from the oven.
To make sure your filling is just the right texture, I recommend whisking by hand only until just combined.
The other possibility is that they just have not cooled enough. If you prefer a firmer butter tart filling, be sure to refrigerate until chilled before enjoying.
How to store butter tarts
The butter tarts will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 days, or in the freezer for 3 months. To enjoy again, you can either serve them cold or let them come to room temperature on the counter.
If they’re frozen, be sure to thaw them in the fridge first.
More dessert recipes you’ll love
- Millionaire Shortbread
- Easy Turtle Danish
- Caramel Nut Bars
- Cranberry Caramel Bars
- Mini Turtle Pudding Pies
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- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour (227 grams)** see note
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup cold unsalted butter cubed (112 grams)
- ⅓ cup cold water
Butter Tart filling
- 1 cups brown sugar, packed (190 grams)
- ½ cup golden corn syrup
- ¼ cup salted butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar (optional: it helps to cut the sweetness)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Optional: ½ cup raisins or pecans
Pastry tart shells
- Stir together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter (or use your hands!) until crumbly — the butter should be in roughly pea-sized chunks. (FOOD PROCESSOR: combine flour, salt, sugar by pulsing a few times. Add in butter cubes and pulse until crumbly)
- Stir in 2-3 tbsp cold water and work dough with your hands until it comes together in a ball, adding in additional ice water if necessary. (FOOD PROCESSOR: Add water and pulse until dough starts to form a ball, then press dough together into a ball)
- Shape into a fat disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week.
- Roll out pastry on a large piece of wax paper — make sure it isn't too thin.
- Cut dough into 3.5-4" rounds using a circle cookie cutter, large cup or small bowl.
- Place rounds into a muffin pan, gently pressing the pastry into the bottom of the cup and up the sides. If you knick a hole in it, use your finger to press the pastry back together. You will fill one 12-cup muffin pan.
- Place muffin pan into the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Butter Tart filling:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, vinegar (if using) and vanilla
- Gently ladle the filling into the unbaked tart shells, dividing evenly between the 12.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and filling has puffed slightly.
- Let cool for 10 minutes in pan before removing to a wire cooling rack.
- Store baked butter tarts in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for 3 months.
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