Canadian Butter Tarts

July 29, 2013

Every week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.

Today: Sydney Kramer (a.k.a. CrepesofWrath) shares her grandmother's decadent recipe for butter tarts.

I didn't grow up anywhere near my grandmother, but she's always been a big part of my life. She'd visit often when I was a baby, and when she moved to Arizona, my family always looked forward to flying out to her (anything to get the hell out of frigid Chicago winters). I remember that her yard always smelled like flowers and was filled with beautiful lemon and orange trees. I think my grandmother loved Arizona because she is Canadian -- and after spending her entire life in Canada, then New Jersey, then Utah, she craved a serious dose of sunshine. Eventually, though, she returned to the Motherland and now resides in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, where the sun isn't quite as bright, but the grass is an unearthly green and the harbor is right outside her window. 

As you might expect, the way to my heart is through food, and my grandmother's got an icebox full of it. Sure there's the savory (meatballs, lasagna, and casseroles), but she specializes in the sweet. Butter tarts, in particular, are a favorite of mine. They are always in the icebox, waiting for me to bite into (a preferably frozen) one. The crust is always flaky and buttery, the insides gooey and rich, with golden caramel slowly oozing its way out of the center. I'm told that Canadians are very divided on the raisin/currant vs. no-raisin/no-currant butter tart, but my grandma always made them with raisins, so that's how I make them at home. And like I said, these freeze wonderfully, so there's no excuse to not have a container full of perfectly handheld butter tarts available at all times. My husband had never had one until I made a batch recently, and his reaction was the same that all first-timers have: their eyes pop, their jaw drops a bit, and the only sound that can be heard through the chewing is a muffled "mmmm". 


I'm visiting my grandmother soon and I know that I have a lot of butter tarts in store for me. Canadians never have an empty table, so I look forward to seeing a plate piled high with this national treat as soon as I step through the door.

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Butter Tarts

Makes 30 to 36 tarts

For the Crust

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, cold (not room temperature), cut into pieces
2/3 cup shortening, cold (not room temperature)
2/3 cup ice water
4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar 

For the Butter Tarts

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins or currants
Sea salt, for sprinkling

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Sydney Kramer

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  • soupcon
  • Kelly Nicola
    Kelly Nicola
  • witloof
  • Deedledum
  • Auntie Stacey
    Auntie Stacey
My name is Sydney Kramer, I run The Crepes of Wrath, and I am on an eating rampage.


soupcon October 5, 2019
No raisins or nuts in my butter tarts. Substituting maple syrup for corn syrup makes and even yummier butter tart and I suppose a tart a little bit more like a French Canadian sugar pie sans the cream.
Kelly N. February 25, 2016
Ok, the middle of my comment got eaten, not sure why! I have a winning recipe for buttertarts that includes corn syrup to get a nice caramelized almost creme brulee like top to the tarts. Compared to the many (many, many....) buttertarts I've eaten, it's the best. If anyone is interested I'd be glad to post it!
Kelly N. February 25, 2016
There are probably as many buttertart recipes as their are mothers in Canada. <3 And mine has the best.... includes corn syrup to carmelize and harden the top. I also have a secret recipe from a local chocolate maker who used to sell out at Xmas. We had a competition and the corn syrup version one won due to the almost cracking creme brulee like top! If anyone wants the recipe, I'd be glad to post it.
witloof August 1, 2014
I was on the west coast of Canada last summer and tore through every bakery and every Tim Horton's in Vancouver looking for butter tarts. Apparently they're an east coast thing, because no one had ever heard of them. When I traveled in Quebec and Ontario, I ate my weight in butter tarts! No raisins for me, though.
Barb April 19, 2015
They are a Christmas thing on the West Coast, not usually seen year round.
Deedledum September 16, 2013
Another Canadian here. I recently lost my recipe for a really ooey-gooey runny, wipe your chin off butter tart. With raisins, not nuts. Would love to find another if anyone's got a good one.
As another commenter wrote, Red Rose is the Beverage of Choice. Maybe Butter Tarts would be a good contest...?
Auntie S. July 30, 2013
Another Canuck here. I recently went through a whole butter tart obsession. I'm over it - for now. My waistline thanks me. :-) I don't use raisins, but I do use dried cranberries. And instead of walnuts, I'll use either pecans or pistachios in mine.
fiveandspice July 30, 2013
These sound amazing! Thanks for sharing your story!
Chesterfoxes July 30, 2013
Another Canadian expat here...Jersey! My Grandmother made hers with Maple Leaf Lard (and therefore so do I) There is no other way to make pastry. If you want an easier alternative to the tart, try Bonnie Stearn's Butter Tart Squares... delicious!!!
denise&food July 29, 2013
Are they regular muffin pan or mini muffin pan?
TasteFood July 29, 2013
My grandmother used to make these at Christmas. Thanks for the memory!
rynnybit July 29, 2013
how could I modify this for a 9- or 10-inch tart pan?
Leah July 29, 2013
Expat Canadian/Quebecoise, so I miss both tarte au sucre AND the butter tarts I ate during a childhood stint in Toronto. This recipe looks perfect!
witloof July 29, 2013
No raisins for me, please, but these look wonderful. I discovered butter tarts on my first trip to Canada and have been a passionate convert ever since.
Sugartoast July 29, 2013
Another Canadian here, and these bring back the best memories of childhood. No raisins, but a cup of Red Rose tea is a MUST :) Making these tonight, thank you!
middleT July 30, 2013
Reporting in from North Windsor, Ontario here (OK, Detroit) and voting for no raisins, absolutely Red Rose.
laurenlocally July 29, 2013
Love this as a Canadian who had a wonderful Grannie. No raisins for me, however I will try walnuts now.
carswell July 29, 2013
You realize, don't you, that this recipe invites the great Canadian controversy - raisins or no raisins in butter tarts? The walnut pieces brigade may even chime in. LOL.
Samantha A. July 29, 2013
I like loaded butter tarts myself. Raisins? Good! Pecans? Good! Walnuts? Good! All of the above? Better!
Kristen M. July 29, 2013
I like your style!