Classic pecan pie should be gooey on the bottom and covered with toasty baked pecans in a crisp, flaky crust. But it shouldn’t be filled with overly sweet corn syrup. Instead, make this recipe with pantry staples and skip the rest.Jump to Recipe
Pecan pie can hit the head-spinning sweet level really fast. Instead of a recipe that focuses on refined concentrated corn syrup as a primary ingredient, I’m taking you a different direction.
This version uses brown sugar and organic cane sugar instead of granulated white and takes things down enough that you can enjoy the toasted pecans and gooey base layer without falling into a coma afterward.
I’ll be honest–we are not a family that eats food like this anymore so even this recipe was a bit too sugary for us, but I think it will be just about right for your holiday table when shared with friends and family.
What’s in classic pecan pie?
Typically, this tasty dessert is comprised of pecans mixed with a thick, sweet filling of eggs, butter, and sugar and/or corn syrup all thrown into a pie shell and baked to a delicious golden brown.
There are many variations, some of which we will address here, but this is the basic idea.
This treat originated in the south (it’s first appearance in cookbooks in the late 1800’s) and has been served all of the country around Christmas and Thanksgiving ever since.
How to keep pecan pie from being runny
One thing that home chefs often run up against when making pecan pie is runniness. Nobody’s favorite. Luckily, this is an easy fix.
The reason for runny pecan pie is usually improper bake time and/or temperature. Take extra care to bake your pie at the proper temperature and for long enough to avoid this common mishap.
Purchase an oven thermometer and place it in the center of the oven as you preheat. Double check to make sure that what the thermometer says is the same temperature your oven is set to. If it’s not, adjust your oven up or down until the thermometer reflects the temperature needed for the recipe.
You are looking for an only somewhat jiggly center upon removing from the oven. It should move a little, but not slosh from side to side.
Once the pie has achieved this level of jiggle, it is important to allow it to cool to room temperature before serving. This will allow it to solidify more.
What Kentucky bourbon could be added?
Pecan pie is great as is, but you can take it up an extra notch by adding some kentucky bourbon.
Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam do a great job at deepening the flavor without overriding the natural sweetness of the pecans.
What to substitute for corn syrup
Many pecan pie recipes call for corn syrup. I just find this refined sugar to be overly sweet and not necessary. It’s one of the reasons I always hated pecan pie’s sweetness level.
Try using a blend of brown and white sugar here or honey if you get a light one with mild flavor.
Sugar is necessary in this recipe to ensure you get the custard base to form, but you can play around a bit and reduce the sugar here a bit more if needed. I think you might get by with 1/3 cup less but I didn’t test it.
There is also a European sweetener known as golden syrup that does a great job.
Are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup the same thing?
No. High fructose corn syrup has been further refined and factory processed with enzymes to break it down to fructose instead of leaving it as glucose that’s found in regular corn syrup. HFCS has been linked to high triglycerides, non alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity and many other health issues.
How to choose (or make) a pie crust
This pecan pie without corn syrup is going to be best with a homemade crust. I prefer an all butter one to avoid vegetable oil based shortening, but you can buy a crust if you prefer.
If you want to make one, try my all butter pie crust.
Remember that store bought pie crusts will roll out better if you let them sit on the counter for about 10 minutes before fitting them to your pie plate, then crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork.
How to make classic pecan pie without corn syrup
Step 1: Mix the sugars and flour together. Set aside.
Step 2: Mix the butter, vanilla, eggs and milk together then pour over the sugar/flour mixture. Use a whisk to just combine. Don’t over mix.
Step 3: Gently fold in the pecans just until distributed.
Step 4: Transfer the filling to a 9″ pie shell and bake 40-50 minutes until the center is just jiggling but the edges are set.
Should pecan pie be served hot or cold?
Honestly…you can’t go wrong here. Pecan pie is absolutely delicious hot or cold.
In my home, we are all about a room temperature pie, but I will let you decide.
If you are a warm pecan pie person, do your best to have the self control to allow the pie to cool to room temperature before reheating it. This may seem like a roundabout way to get to your final destination, but it is crucial.
Allowing your pie to cool gives it a chance to set, which is one important step in avoiding a runny pie. So have patience and when the pie has cooled, slice a piece (or 2!) and reheat in the microwave or in the oven for a few minutes.
How to store pecan pie
When it comes time to store your pecan pie, you want to make sure it has cooled to room temperature before wrapping it in plastic wrap and storing it in the refrigerator.
The pie should not be left out at room temperature for more than 4 hours. If you want to enjoy it at room temperature, simply serve up a slice and allow it to sit while re-wrapping and refrigerating the rest of the pie.
How to know pecan pie is done
You will know your pecan pie is done when the center jiggles just a little bit…like Jello! Too much jiggle translates to runny pie, though. So, if your pie is sloshy and very liquid, pop it in the oven, checking it in five minute increments.
How to add chocolate to a pecan pie
Just like adding bourbon, adding chocolate here is optional. BUT you can absolutely kick it up a notch by adding a twist of chocolate. I am partial to dark chocolate or semisweet. Here are a couple of ways to do it:
- Add chocolate chips to the filling before baking. See this recipe for a good example of how to do it.
- Add melted chocolate (start with chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate) to your filling, incorporating well. Here is a recipe demonstrating this method.
- Grate your favorite bar of chocolate over the pecan pie once it has cooled.
What to serve with pecan pie
Pecan pie thrives with the accompaniment of some choice toppings. I can’t get enough of real whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and/or caramel sauce…sometimes all three! If you have some extra time, try making your own! Here are some of my favorite recipes:
Classic Pecan Pie (No Corn Syrup)
- 1 premade pie crust homemade is great too
- 1 cup brown sugar light or dark
- 1/2 cup organic cane sugar granulated sugar or honey will substitute
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour gluten free flour works
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup butter melted; salted or unsalted; cooled slightly
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk dairy free would substitute
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Unroll a refrigerated pie crust into a 9" glass pie plate or fit a homemade pie dough of your choice. Place in the refrigerator to chill while you mix the filling.
- In a large bowl mix the two sugars and the flour and set aside.
- In a large measuring cup or bowl add the butter, eggs, milk and vanilla and beat to combine.
- Add the butter mixture to the sugars and flour and whisk to combine.
- Fold the pecans in gently just until distributed.
- Pour the mixture into a prepared pie crust.
- Bake 40-50 minutes until the center just jiggles but the perimeter of the pie is firm. Tent the pie with foil if it begins to get too dark. Check it at about the 25 minute mark and cover if needed.