Capital W-O-W, sky-high Pecan Pie Bars: Here to impress, to win you friends (and lovers), and to be the ideal representation of the kind of sweet, buttery indulgence we all deserve, especially this time of year.
These pecan pie bars melt in your mouth.
Every time I took a bite, I couldn’t believe a dessert this seemingly rich and thick could dissolve on my tongue as if by magic.
- The buttery shortbread crust is tender but sturdy enough to pick up with your fingers. It tastes like a cross between my Darn Good Whole Wheat Pie Crust and the most excellent shortbread cookie.
- The filling is lush with maple and brown sugar and positively chock-a-bloc with deeply toasty, crunchy pecans.
- A finishing sprinkle of flaky sea salt ties the whole shebang together and saves these pecan pie bars from many a classic pecan pie’s greatest transgression: being cloyingly sweet (a trick I also use in these decadent Dark Chocolate Cookies).
Whereas with traditional Thanksgiving pecan pie, I find myself barely being able to finish a bite or two, these pecan pie bars are a true danger in the best possible way.
This recipe yields a big batch.
You’ll have enough to serve at a party, give them as gifts, or if you find them as easy to eat as I do, keep yourself in happy supply for as long as you can resist them.
5 Star Review
“I made these last night and they were phenomenal”
— Adelyn —
The Pecan Pie Bars of My Dreams
Let’s get this out right now: this recipe has a lot of butter—more than in any dessert recipe I have ever baked.
These pecan pie bars are WORTH IT.
I loosely based this recipe on the famous pecan pie bar recipes of Ina Garten and Pioneer Woman.
I wanted to take what they created, put my own stamp on it, and make the consummate pecan pie bars of my dreams.
All I can say is, whoa.
- The version of these bars I’m sharing today is beyond buttery and indulgent yet uses 3 sticks LESS than Ina’s recipe.
- The level of sweetness is just right. I skip the corn syrup and swap in maple syrup which pairs beautifully with the pecans. (As seen in my Pumpkin Pecan Pie.)
- I read from many of Ina’s reviewers that the bars overflowed the pan, so I felt confident scaling the recipe down.
- This recipe bakes in a standard 9×13-inch pan, instead of the more specialty 8×12 that Ina uses.
- Ina’s version calls for extra large eggs; I modified this recipe to use large eggs instead.
- And then, of course, I had to tinker with the vanilla extract and add that flourish of sea salt.
The end result: they’re tall, proud, and taste magnificent to the point that (and I do not say this lightly) I can’t imagine them with any more butter or sugar than they already have.
They’re pure pecan pie bar perfection!
How to Make Pecan Pie Bars
These bars do take some time to make, but the end result is a pecan pie bar recipe made entirely from scratch with simple ingredients you can feel good about eating.
While I would be exaggerating to call them healthy pecan pie bars, unlike many traditional pecan pie recipes, these pecan pie bars contain no corn syrup.
This one does not use recipe hacks like cake mix, pie crust, crescent rolls, or sweetened condensed milk either.
All you’ll find here are wholesome, everyday ingredients…and plenty of butter.
- Butter. Just do it. It’s worth it here! (It’s also a necessity in these sinfully rich Butter Tarts.)
- Sugar. I used a combination of sugar and brown sugar for the right texture, sweetness, and richness.
- Eggs. To bind the pecan pie bars’ shortbread crust recipe together.
- Vanilla. A necessity in all pecan pie recipes (including this Pumpkin Pecan Cobbler).
- Flour. All-purpose flour helps create the perfect crust texture.
- Maple Syrup. These are pecan pie bars without corn syrup, so I opted to use maple syrup instead. The warm flavor really shines through and is a beautiful pairing with pecans. (You won’t find any corn syrup in my Pecan Pie Cobbler either.)
- Lemon Zest. Unnoticeable on its own; it’s here to make the filling pop and balance the sweetness.
- Heavy Cream. A necessity to make the filling rich, creamy, and caramel-like.
- Pecan Halves. These bars are fully loaded for maximum pecan toastiness and crunch. (Extra pecans? Stir them into a batch of this Cranberry Orange Relish!)
- Sea Salt. My star addition that takes the flavor to the next level. A flaky sea salt like Maldon or fleur de sel works best.
Flavor Upgrades for Pecan Pie Bars
- Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, Option 1. Add in chocolate chips before pouring the batter into the crust.
- Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, Option 2. Bake the recipe as directed, then drizzle the cooled bars with melted chocolate. Let the chocolate set, then slice as directed.
- Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars. Add 3 tablespoons of bourbon to the saucepan with the butter, syrup, sugar, and lemon zest. (Bourbon fans, these Bourbon Balls are another fabulous holiday treat!)
- Make the shortbread crust batter.
- Press into a parchment pan and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, add the butter, maple syrup, and sugar to a saucepan.
- Simmer to create a yummy caramel.
- Add the pecans. Pour the filling over the crust and bake the pecan bars for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely, then cover, and let chill for at least 6 hours.
- Slice as desired. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed in the microwave (try with a scoop of vanilla ice cream). ENJOY!
How to Cut the Pecan Pie Bars
Heads up! These bars do need to be chilled completely before they are cut. Embrace them as a stellar make-ahead dessert.
- First, use a large, sharp knife to loosen the bars all the way around the edges of the pan. Then, lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper that’s hanging over the sides.
- The bars will be thick and heavy, so if your paper starts to tear, cut the whole pan of bars in half or quarters first, then with a spatula, lift it onto a cutting board in sections.
- These bars are rich, so I like to cut them into smaller pieces (even though I usually end up taking more than one!).
- To Store. You do not need to refrigerate pecan pie bars if you will be enjoying them within a day or two. These keep well at room temperature for up to two days and in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- To Freeze. Lay fully cooled bars onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in the freezer until frozen solid. Then, place the frozen bars into a freezer-safe ziptop bag or storage container and store them in the freezer. Three months is how long you can freeze pecan bars.
- To Serve After Freezing. If the bars are frozen, let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Let them come to room temperature prior to serving or warm them up a little in the microwave. If you do not have a microwave, you can try warming them in a low oven. Tent the pan with foil to keep the top from over-browning.
Meal Prep Tip
- Up to 1 week in advance, chop the pecans and store them in an airtight storage container at room temperature.
- Up to 1 day in advance, prepare the dough for the crust, press it into the baking dish, and par-bake as directed. Cover and refrigerate it until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
The Best Glass Baking Dish
This simple glass baking dish is perfect for baking these pecan pie bars. Plus, it works well for casseroles too!
These southern pecan pie bars are good to the last crumb.
Frequently Asked Questions
When the bars are done, the pecan pie filling should still wobble a bit in the middle but not be too liquidy. It will continue to set as it cools at room temperature and in the refrigerator. Once the bars are ready, the filling should be a golden brown, and the pecans should look toasted.
If your bars are runny, it’s likely because they weren’t baked long enough or the oven temperature wasn’t hot enough. You need to ensure that the bars are in the oven long enough (at the right temperature) to allow the filling to set up properly.
FOR THE CRUST:
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature (3 sticks)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
FOR THE FILLING:
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar or dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest about ½ medium lemon
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 pounds 20 ounces pecan halves, coarsely chopped
- Flaky sea salt such as Maldon or fleur de sel (optional)
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished bars out. Set aside.
Make the crust: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla, just until incorporated.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, stopping as soon as the flour disappears.
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Press it evenly into the pan, building it up on the sides all the way around by about 1-inch. The dough will be very sticky, so if it clings to your hands, use a sheet of plastic wrap to press it down and avoid sticking. The crust will seem fairly thick, but go with it. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until it is set but not yet browned. If it puffs up unevenly in the center, use the tines of a fork to prick it lightly on the surface. Set aside to cool.
While the crust cools, prepare the filling: in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, and lemon zest.
Cook over low heat, stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon, until the butter is melted. As soon as the butter melts, increase the heat to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes (set a timer!), then remove from the heat.
Stir in the heavy cream, vanilla, and chopped pecans. Avoid the temptation to touch or eat the pecan filling, as it is very very hot. Pour the filling carefully into the center of the crust, then with the back of a spatula or fork, spread it into an even layer (some of the crust may show at the edges; try to avoid the batter seeping between the crust and the pan). Sprinkle a generous pinch of flaky salt over the top. It will be quite thick and fill the pan almost all the way to the top.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set at the edges and when the pan is jiggled, the center has some movement but does not seem excessively liquidy. Place on a cooling rack and let cool completely to room temperature, then cover the bars with plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. With a knife, loosen the bars from the sides of the pan, then lift them onto a cutting board (see blog post above for tips). Slice into bars of the desired size. Enjoy at room temperature or slightly warmed in the microwave (my favorite!).
- TO STORE: You do not need to refrigerate pecan pie bars, if you will be enjoying them within a day or two. These keep well at room temperature for up to 2 days and in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- TO FREEZE: Lay fully cooled bars onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in the freezer until frozen solid. Then, place the frozen bars into a freezer-safe ziptop bag or airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- TO SERVE AFTER FREEZING: If the bars are frozen, let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Let them come to room temperature prior to serving or warm them up a little in the microwave. If you do not have a microwave, you can try warming them in a low oven. Tent the pan with foil to keep the top from over browning.
Serving: 1(of 36)Calories: 370kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 3gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 52mgPotassium: 120mgFiber: 2gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 515IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 39mgIron: 1mg
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