Canadian Butter Tarts

January 10, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • makes 12 tarts
Author Notes

My dear friend Meagan once arrived at my home with a tray of butter tarts, a quintessential Canadian dessert. I’d never had (or heard of) butter tarts before this moment—and one bite rapidly turned into eating five tarts in succession. The crust was unbelievably buttery and flaky, while the filling reminded me of pecan pie filling (minus the pecans, and better). Meagan’s partner, Peter, is Canadian, and has fond memories of butter tarts sold at gas stations dotted across the country.

The history of butter tarts is murky, but the first recorded recipe is from Mary Ethel MacLeod in the Women's Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook in Barrie, Ontario. Mary’s recipe is as straightforward as they come, calling for a filling with 1 cup sugar, ½ cup butter, 2 eggs, and 1 cup currants. Like most recipes, it’s believed that butter tarts drew on inspiration from a few different sources, including American pecan pie and French tarte au sucre. In my research, it seems that the only thing everyone can agree on with butter tarts is that every family has their own variation. Some people swap sugar for maple syrup (very on brand, Canada), while others add chopped nuts or raisins. There are crusts that are folded into elegant clover shapes, and others that look more rustic. Even the color of the crust is up for debate, ranging from pale to deeply golden brown.

Since the consensus seems to be choose-your-own-adventure when it comes to butter tarts, I took Meagan’s recipe and adapted it to my own taste. I swapped lard for an all-butter crust since I always have it on hand. I’ve added a bit more salt to balance the sweetness, and upped the amount of filling for a more robust tart.

A few tips to keep in mind if you’re making the butter tarts at home. I call for making the filling in a glass measuring cup so that you can easily pour it into the crusts. I’ve tried to do this straight from a bowl, and it gets messy. If you find you don’t have enough room to cut out all 12 circles when you roll out the dough, simply form the remaining dough into a disk and reroll it. While it’s not crucial, I opt for placing a rimmed baking sheet under the muffin tin to catch any rogue drips. —Alexis deBoschnek

What You'll Need
  • Dough
  • 2 3/4 cups (330 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon packed (13 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) cold water
  • Filling
  • 1/2 cup packed (106 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (156 grams) light corn syrup
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Make the dough: Add the flour, sugar, and salt, to a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the butter to the flour mixture and use your hands to break up the butter until the butter is the size of peas. Drizzle the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the flour mixture, using your hands to mix the dough.
  2. Turn the dough onto a clean work surface and use your hands to shape until it comes together in a 6-inch disk. The dough will seem crumbly at first, but will come together in under 1 minute. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.
  3. Heat the oven to 400°F. Make the filling: In a large liquid measuring cup, add the dark brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, eggs, vanilla, and salt and whisk until smooth.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to ¼ inch. Use a 4½-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter (or a cup or bowl in a pinch) to cut out 12 circles. If you run out of dough, simply reroll the scraps until you have enough cutouts.
  5. Place each dough circle in a muffin tin and press down. As the dough fills the tin, the edges will naturally ruffle. To get a classic butter tart shape, tug and pinch 4 or 5 corners of the dough into the center to form a clover shape.
  6. Place the muffin tin on a rimmed sheet pan to catch any drips. Fill each dough in the muffin tin three-quarters of the way up (about 2 tablespoons per tart) with the filling mixture, making sure not to fill over the edge of the dough.
  7. Bake until the top of the crust is lightly golden brown and the filling is bubbly and deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Let the tarts cool to room temperature before removing from the muffin tin. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 1 week, although I’ve never had them last for more than 24 hours.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Alexis deBoschnek
    Alexis deBoschnek
  • Emilia
Alexis deBoschnek is a freelance recipe developer, cook, and video host based in the Catskills.

2 Reviews

Emilia December 8, 2023
I have used this recipe numerous times. Great recipe for being new into the world of pie crust and I continue to use it as it has great flavour and texture combined. I have made it now also into a chocolate pastry crust for dark chocolate pecan tarts which have been a huge hit. I thought they would be too sweet but actually the bitterness of the black cocoa really works with the filling in a way that is super unique. But yes I have used the pie crust for curd filled tarts, fruit filled, and some creamy and mousse filled versions. It’s easy and keeps really well. Forms well. Just is great in every regard. Thanks so much for creating one of my best go to recipes :)!!!!
Alexis D. December 8, 2023
I'm SO happy to hear how much you love this recipe! These are definitely a favorite of mine. Enjoy!