Butter Tarts

I never knew butter tarts were Canadian until I left Canada and never saw them again! I’ve always wondered why they haven’t made it big south of the 49th parallel, and after you try one, two or three of these you’ll wonder too.

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Simply put, a butter tart is a small pastry tart with a syrupy, buttery, delicious filling that oozes out as you bite into it. It’s similar to the Quebeçois sugar pie or the American pecan pie, but there’s no cornstarch added to the filling so that it stays fluid, dripping down your fingers, which will definitely need licking once you’ve finished with the tart. 

Butter tarts in a muffin pan with two missing.

The key to a perfect butter tart is the pastry. It must be a butter pastry (no shortening or lard) and because pastry has so few ingredients, make sure you get the best butter you can – which would be a European cultured butter if you can find it. European cultured butter has at least 82% butterfat and a slightly sour taste (which sounds unappealing, but really is just more flavor and is delicious). Once you have the perfect pastry, the butter tart filling is really quite simple.

Five Butter Tarts on a marble cake stand on a white wooden table.

Butter tarts offer a certain freedom to the baker. They are supposed to look rustic, which gives  you permission to be less than perfect as you shape the pastry shells and fill them. Let the pastry get pleated in the muffin cups and try to fill the cups only two thirds of the way full. The filling will bubble and boil in the oven, rising up in the cups before they fall as the tarts cool. The filling might spill over the edge of the pastry, which is a pain in the neck to clean off the pan, but does no damage to the appearance of the tarts. 

Biting into your first butter tart is a treat you won’t soon forget. It’s an experience that leaves an impression… the impression that you’d like another please.

Watch The Recipe Video

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Butter Tarts

  • Prep Time: 25 m
  • Cook Time: 30 m
  • Total Time: 55 m
  • Servings:
    12
    tarts

Ingredients

  • 2 Basic Pie Dough disks equivalent to 2 (10-inch circles)
  • 2 eggs
  • cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1 cup currants or raisins or chopped walnuts or pecans optional
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350˚ F.
  2. Roll the pastry out to ¼-inch thick. Using a circle cutter, cut the pastry into circles about 2 inches wider in diameter than the muffin pan cups you plan to use. Place circles of pastry into the muffin pan and place the muffin pan in the refrigerator until you are ready to fill the cups.
  3. Beat the eggs well with a stand mixer, hand mixer or vigorously by hand with a whisk until smooth and light in color.
  4. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter to the eggs, and beat again. Add the currants or nuts (if using), vinegar, vanilla extract and salt and mix well.
  5. Fill the shells two thirds full with the batter and bake until the pastry is light brown – about 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Let the tarts cool in the pan. Then un-mold and serve.
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Comments (17)Post a Reply

  1. As a Canadian, Butter Tarts are a staple here, I’ve been making them as long as I can remember-as a child they were a Christmas treat, my mother would make them and my siblings and I would sneak them out of the freezer and enjoy them – my favorite are the plain ones – I generally use a pie dough to make them – but will try your pastry recipe- mmm I just love Butter Tarts and I may do up a batch today.. it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed one or two lol


  2. I made the butter tarts today and followed your pastry and tart filling adding pecans. It was my first time using my new kitchen aid food processor and making pastry dough. Thank you for the video as that was vey helpful. I was impressed at how easy and fast the pastry dough process was. I used a cupcake pan but I think I rolled the pastry a little to thick as I only got 10 tarts and had tart filling left over. Once they baked, I couldn’t wait for them to cool so I could try one. Oh my gosh, it was so good!
    I am going to make another batch of the pastry dough today so I can use up the filling. I will defintely make these again and again. Thank you for sharing this Canadian tradition. I really enjoy your website, recipes and videos.

  3. These look delicious…quick question, do you grease your muffin tin before adding your dough? Can’t wait to try these Canadian delights 🙂

    1. No, no need to grease the muffin tin. The dough has enough butter in it to keep everything loose and easy to unfold!
      ML


  4. Love this recipe and such a beautiful tart crust! Admittedly, I have to look the other way when adding all the sugars but so worth it in the end. Thanks for making what I thought to be a tricky, time consuming recipe so easy! These are my hubby’s favourite treat and he is a happy guy munching away on a butter tart, with raisins naturally 😀


  5. I made these last night. I think using the tiny cupcake muffins are better.
    They reminded me of pecan deserts a bit. Goid but very sweet.

  6. Haven’t made yet.. Please, tell us how we can freeze these… My diet tells me that I can only have one at a time.👵 But, I will be having 1 or 2😋 Thanks!!


  7. Fantastic dessert! I have made them several times and my husband and I have eaten them all. Thanks a bunch!! – – Kate

  8. I have 2 very special bottles of maple syrup, one is a Sugarmaker’s Cut and the other is Bourbon Barrel Aged. So naturally I’m wondering if I can use maple syrup instead of corn syrup?

    1. There are maple butter tarts in Canada. I haven’t tried substituting maple syrup in this recipe, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. Give it a try!

    1. Hi MJ, the lemon juice is listed in the ingredients for the basic pie dough/pastry. If you click on “Basic pie dough” in the recipe, it will take you to the recipe on how to use the lemon juice in the pastry making.

  9. My mother made tassies that is similar to these. The filling is almost the same, but she used cream cheese, butter and flour for the pastry. She would always make them as part of her Christmas cookie baking, and where always the first to disappear.


  10. I always have a supply of the Butter Tarts in the freezer and take one out about an hour before eating. I do cheat and use pre-made pie crusts. They taste like mini pecan pies and are just the right size for an afternoon indulgent snack. Thanks for the recipe!

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