Old Fashioned Butter Tarts

Always a classic Canadian treat these Old Fashioned Butter Tarts are filled with a thick syrupy brown sugar filling inside a flaky tart shell. Raisins are optional but I highly recommend them!


One bite of these old fashioned butter tarts and I immediately feel my Grandma’s presence. She was an amazing woman feisty as hell living on her own until she was 97 years old and baking all of her days!

She made lots of amazing recipes that have been passed down for generations in our family like these gingersnaps and shortbread but nothing beat her butter tarts!

This butter tart recipe made an appearance at every single holiday gathering and they were gone in minutes!

Where Did Butter Tarts Originate?

In Canada! Canucks are pretty proud of this fact actually. We have festivals every fall and sometimes spring just to celebrate these sugary sweet treats we love them so much. We even have hiking trails that lead people straight to bakeries to get butter tarts… we call them Butter Tart trails… I kid you not!

There is a long and debated history of where the butter tart actually became a thing in Canada. The first published butter tart recipe was said to have originated in Barrie, ON which is just north of Toronto. The recipe was said to have been published in the Women’s Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook in the 1900s.

Before that, it is said that the origins of the recipe were brought from France when the filles du roi (The King’s Daughters) were sent to Quebec. The butter tart is said to be made using ingredients readily available in Canada but using the European traditions of making custardy tarts.

Brown sugar is used in this recipe but maple syrup in the early days was more commonly used.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Pie Pastry about half of this recipe (my Grandma’s no fail pie crust) or two pie shells worth
  • Salted Butter – the salt adds flavor and also structure to the filling.
  • Egg – Thickens up the filling so it will set like a custard. If you like a thicker filling you can use 2 eggs for this recipe.
  • Brown Sugar – The sugary goodness that makes the dreamy filling and sugary crust on top of these tarts.
  • Corn Syrup – keeps the sugar from separating and crystallizing when heated.
  • Milk – you can also use cream for a richer filling… I personally like the sugar to be the star.
  • Vanilla – because vanilla makes baking better.
  • Raisin – let the raisins soak in water for about 15 minutes to plump up and drain well before adding to the butter tarts.

How to make Old Fashioned Butter Tarts

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Roll the thawed and room temperature pie crust out to a 1/4 inch thickness and use a cup to cut out a circle in the pastry large enough to cover the sides of the muffin tin you plan after pressing the pastry into the cup. I used a small bowl to cut my pie crust circles.

Carefully place the pie crust circle cutouts into each cup of a muffin tin pressing the bottom down and sides of the pastry into the cup.

Place a small pot over low heat and melt the butter. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the butter to cool off slightly.

Once the butter has cooled off enough that you could dip your finger in without burning it whisk in the egg. Then whisk in the brown sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and milk until combined.

Carefully pour the butter tart filling evenly into each tart shell. The filling should not go higher than just below the top of the pastry shell. When the butter tart filling bakes it will heat up and rise a little so you want to leave a little space for that.

Then add a few raisins to each butter tart before baking. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry and filling have begun to brown.

Should Butter Tart Filling be A little Runny or Firm?

This is totally a matter of preference. Some people like their filling to be firm like a custard because they are easier to eat on the go and less messy.

I myself like them to be a little runny with a crispy sugary topping. When they are too firm I think they lose some of their buttery taste.

If you prefer a butter tart on the firmer more solid side, you can beat in an extra egg, add cut the butter down to a 1/4 cup.

Also, when mixing in the egg, sugars and milk don’t whisk with the idea of getting air into the filling just whisk to combine. If too much air is added to the filling it will cause the filling to puff up when baked and then sink low and thin causing it to become running when cooled.

Do Raisins have to be Added?

Nope! I know some people are raisin haters out there so you can leave them out or swap them for some nuts. I personally despise nuts in my butter tarts because why would you want to add crunch to something so silky sweet but God Speed if that is what you prefer.

Here are some suggested options to the dreaded raisin…

  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Currents
  • Crispy bacon pieces
  • Chocolate Chips

Storing Canadian Butter Tarts

Butter tarts can be stored the old-fashioned way on the counter in a sealed container for up to 3 days or in the fridge for a week.

You can also freeze them in a tightly sealed container and thaw them to room temperature on the counter before serving. I don’t recommend heating them up because the sugary filling will become mouth-burning hot and extra runny.

More of My Family Recipes To Try…

A Canadian Butter Tart on a white plate with a fork.

Old Fashioned Butter Tarts

Always a classic Canadian treat these Old Fashioned Butter Tarts are filled with a thick syrupy brown sugar filling inside a flaky tart shell. Raisins are optional but I highly recommend them!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert, Treat
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Butter Tarts, Canadian Butter Tarts, Holiday Baking, Holiday Recipes, Raisins, Savory Tarts, Thanksgiving Recipes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 12 tarts
Calories: 391kcal

Ingredients

  • 12 tart shells Or half of this Pie Crust Recipe
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar; packed
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup raisins

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
    Roll the thawed and room temperature pie crust out to a 1/4 inch thickness and use a cup to cut out a circle in the pastry large enough to cover the sides of the muffin tin you plan after pressing the pastry into the cup. I used a small bowl to cut my pie crust circles.
    Carefully place the pie crust circle cutouts into each cup of a muffin tin pressing the bottom down and sides of the pastry into the cup.
  • Add 1/3 cup raisins to a bowl with some water and let soak for 10-15 minutes to plump. Drain the water.
  • Place a small pot over low heat and melt the butter. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the butter to cool off slightly.
  • Once the butter has cooled off enough that you could dip your finger in without burning it whisk in the egg. Then whisk in the brown sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and milk until combined.
  • Fill each tart pastry evenly with the butter tart filling. Don't overfill, leave a little pastry showing at the top of each filled tart. Add a few raisins to each tart (optional)
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry and top of the tarts have begun to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before serving.

Notes

Storage:
Store in a tightly sealed container on the counter for up to 3 days or in the fridge for up to a week.  Freeze in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 months and thaw to room temperature on the counter before serving.
Tips:
If you prefer your butter tart filling more firm and less runny add an extra egg and reduce the butter to a 1/4 cup.
Substitute the raisins for nuts, chocolate chips or bacon bits or leave them plain.
Avoid vigorously whisking the filling.  Just stir until combined so as not to add much air to the filling.  Added air will thin the filling out.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1tart | Calories: 391kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 181mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 32g
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Please Note:The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

For the step-by-step version of this recipe, check out the How to Make Old Fashioned Butter Tarts Story.

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