On pie duty for Thanksgiving? This gooey Bourbon Pecan Pie should be on the menu! Made without corn syrup, this recipe gets its flavor from bourbon, maple syrup, molasses and vanilla. And if you’re worried about the bourbon flavor not coming through, don’t worry, we put it in both the crust and the sweet, nutty filling!
Pecan Pie with Bourbon
How can you make pecan pie better? Add a splash of bourbon to the sweet filling to cut through all the sugar and give it an overall more nuanced flavor.
The addition of bourbon doesn’t make this “boozy” but it does add a sharpness that cuts through the all-too-often sickly sweet filling.
But why stop at the filling? We’re also adding a couple tablespoons of bourbon to the pie crust and this isn’t just for flavor! Cooks’ Illustrated found adding a high-proof alcohol like whiskey or vodka to a pie crust makes for a flakier crust.
The reason alcohol makes a crisper crust is that it’s about 60% water. So the liquid itself brings the dough together but 40% of the moisture is baked off. This creates less gluten and less moisture in the crust—the key to a flaky crust.
What is the Best Bourbon for Pecan Pie?
As we always say, the best bourbon is one you like. And while that remains true here, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, most of the flavor of the bourbon will cook out during baking. So don’t use a super expensive bourbon that you generally save to sip on.
Use a middle of the road bourbon such as Bulleit or Knob Creek. (You’re only using 5 tablespoons for this recipe, so buy a bottle you will like to use in cocktails like the Bourbon Smash, Apple Bourbon Smash, or the Old Fashioned.)
- Bourbon: use any middle of the road bourbon you have on hand. We like Bulleit, but anything you have on hand will work!
- Pecan halves: make sure you buy pecan halves. Do not buy chopped pecan pieces.
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Dark brown sugar
- Molasses: use bold-flavor molasses. Do not use blackstrap molasses.
- Pure maple syrup: instead of using dark corn syrup and/or light corn syrup, we’re making this pecan pie with maple syrup! Pure maple syrup imparts way more flavor and nuance than corn syrup would. To make up for the thick consistency of corn syrup, we pair the maple syrup with dark brown sugar and molasses.
- Kosher salt
- Shortening: The best pie crust is made with a combination of butter and shortening. Period.
- Unsalted butter
- Eggs: to ensure you have enough filling to fill the pie crust, use eggs labeled as large. One egg, without the shell, should weigh 50 grams.
- Vanilla extract
How to Make Bourbon Pecan Pie
- Make the Pie Dough: Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl then add the chilled butter and chilled shortening. Cut the fats into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender. This step requires a bit of patience! Keep cutting the butter in until the butter pieces are about pea-sized. Mix together a couple tablespoons of cold water and chilled bourbon, then drizzle over the flour mixture. Mix the dough together using a rubber spatula, pressing the mixture together until a dough forms.
- Chill the Dough: Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days).
- Roll Out the Dough: When you’re ready to start baking, roll out the dough and transfer it to a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the dough into the plate and crimp the edges. Freeze the dough-lined pie plate until solid, about 1 hour. This is important for blind baking. If the crust is frozen solid it is less likely to droop down the sides of the pan.
- Blind Bake the Crust: It is incredibly important to pre-bake (aka blind bake) the pie crust for pecan pie and pumpkin pie. Remove the pie plate from the freezer and line with parchment paper then fill with dried beans or pie weights. Blind bake until the crust is set then remove the weights and parchment and brush the bottom and sides of the crust with egg white. Bake the crust again until golden.
- Make the Filling: While the crust blind bakes, start working on the filling. Cook the maple syrup, brown sugar, and molasses in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Then remove the pan from heat and whisk in the butter, bourbon, vanilla and salt.
- Gradually whisk in the eggs until the mixture is smooth. Add chopped pecans to the filling and pour into the baked and cooled crust. For a shiny top, toss the remaining pecan halves with bourbon and maple syrup then arrange them over top of the filling.
- Bake the Pie: Bake the pie until the filling is set and center is slightly jiggly, this will take about an hour. Allow the pie to cool completely before cutting and serving—this will take about 4 hours.
Expert Tips From the Test Kitchen
- For a shiny top, toss the pecans with some maple syrup and some bourbon before arranging them over top of the filling.
- You can prep the pie dough in advance in a few different ways.
> Make the pie dough, form it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
> For longer storage, store the plastic-wrapped dough disk in the freezer for up to 2 months.
> Alternatively, you can line your pie plate with the pie dough, freeze until solid then double wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.
- Brushing the blind-baked pie crust with egg white creates a thin “seal” of sorts over the crust. This thin layer of egg white will act as a barrier between the wet filling and the crust, keeping the crust crisp and flaky.
Storing Leftovers – Can you Freeze It?
As if this Bourbon Pecan Pie couldn’t get any better—it freezes beautifully! You can freeze and entire pie or leftovers. Wrap the cooled pie in plastic wrap followed by foil and freeze for up to 3 months.
Allow the pie to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before letting it come to room temperature and serving.
For a shorter storage stint, refrigerate the pie in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Does Alcohol Bake Out of Pecan Pie?
Yes, the alcohol will bake out of pecan pie, leaving just flavor and nuance behind.
If you’d prefer to skip the bourbon altogether, that’s totally fine! The only change you’ll need to make is to use an additional tablespoon or so of water in the crust. Without the bourbon, you’ve got a delicious maple pecan pie on your hands!
Bourbon Pecan Pie
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, divided
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons full-flavor molasses
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 3 tablespoons bourbon, divided
- 1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups pecan halves, lightly toasted, divided
- whipped cream, for serving
- Whisk together 1 ½ cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cut in 6 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons shortening, using a pastry cutter, until pea-sized.
- Combine 3 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons bourbon, then stir into flour with a rubber spatula, lightly pressing, until dough holds together.
- Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic; chill at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 13-inch circle; transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, pressing into bottom.
- Trim all but 1-inch overhang, fold edge under, and crimp. Prick bottom of crust with a fork; freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (204ºC) with rack in lowest position. Line crust with parchment paper, fill with dried beans or pie weights, and bake until crust is set, about 25 minutes; remove beans and parchment and brush bottom and sides of crust with egg white. Bake crust until golden, 10 minutes; let cool completely.
- Whisk together 1 cup maple syrup, 1 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons molasses in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook filling, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes; let cool 5 minutes.
- Whisk in 4 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons bourbon, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Slowly whisk in eggs until incorporated. Roughly chop 1 cup pecans and add to filling; pour into prepared crust. Toss remaining 1 cup pecans with remaining 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1 tablespoon bourbon, then arrange over top of pie. Transfer pie to oven and decrease temperature to 325°F (162ºC).
- Bake pie until filling is set and center is slightly jiggly, 60–65 minutes. Transfer pie to a rack and let cool completely, 4–5 hours. Serve pie with ice cream.
- You can prep the pie dough in advance in a few different ways. Make the pie dough, from it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- For longer storage, store the dough disk in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Alternatively, you can line your pie plate with the pie dough, freeze until solid then double wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.
Photos by the talented Megan McKeehan