Pecan pie likely originated when Indigenous Quinipissa and Tangipahoa tribes introduced pecans to French colonists in the 1900s. Pecan pie bars—with their squared-off edges and ideal crust to filling ratio—are a more modern invention.
In colonial times, pecan pie was sweetened with molasses, which provides a much deeper, more complex sweetness than you’ll find in many contemporary recipes (typically made with light or dark corn syrup and granulated sugar). Here, I strike a balance. Both the crust and filling have enough molasses-y dark brown sugar to echo the toasted notes of the pecans, while granulated sugar protects against too much toastiness (i.e. bitterness). The filling— sugars, eggs, flour, butter, spices, salt, nuts—gets whisked together all at once into a sweet sludge that you’ll be tempted to drink straight up (oh, just me?).
In an earlier test, I found that toasted, powdered pecans in the shortcrust yielded a bar that was overly heavy and oily (and, worst of all, tasted faintly reminiscent of a trail bar). So instead, I kept it simple: a crumbly, butter-based, snappy shortcrust that comes together just as snappily in one bowl. When gauging doneness, look at the edges of the pan—between the subtly browned corners and the paler center, it should remind you of a blonde pug (a trick I learned from my days in pastry). —Coral Lee
- Prep time 35 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes
- Makes one 9x13-inch pan
(3 cups) all-purpose flour
(1/3) cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
(1/4 cup) granulated sugar
4 1/2 grams
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
310 3/4 grams
2 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
319 1/2 grams
(1 1/2 cups) lightly packed dark brown sugar
(1/2 cup all-purpose flour
(1 1/3 cups) light corn syrup
(3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
(1 1/2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
(1 1/2 teaspoons) kosher salt
(2 1/2 cups) pecan halves, toasted
- For the crust: Combine the flour, sugars, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until big curds form (it shouldn’t come together into one ball).
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing at least 2 inches of overhang on all 4 sides. Plop the dough into the pan, then cover with a sheet of plastic film. Press the crust evenly into the pan, especially into the corners, then freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the sheet of plastic and bake the crust until golden-brown all over, about 35 to 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling: Roughly chop about ⅓ of the pecans. Beat together the dark brown sugar, flour, eggs, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt until completely smooth. Fold in the chopped and whole nuts, then pour the filling over the baked crust, making sure the nuts are evenly dispersed.
- Bake until the filling is set, another 35 to 45 minutes.
- Let cool in the pan slightly, before showering with flaky salt, and cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature. Kept in an airtight container in the fridge, the pecan pie bars will keep well for up to 4 days.