Christmas, Pies & Tarts

Canadian Butter Tarts

Firm or runny?  Raisins or no raisins?  There’s a fierce debate among Canadians about how a butter tart should be.  In my opinion, a butter tart should be firm enough not to drip when you bite into it.  The raisins add a lovely burst of sweetness and flavor, which I think improves a butter tart.  Whichever you decide, I encourage you to try this old Canadian favorite!  🍁

Canadian Butter Tarts: a widely popular Canadian dessert with a sweet filling encased in flaky pastry. |

The first butter tart recipe was published in 1900, and has been popular for many years throughout Canada.  Since butter tarts are one of only a few recipes originating from Canada, I’m glad I can share this little bit of Canada with you.  😃

In many Canadian homes, butter tarts are served throughout the year, but especially at Christmas.  They’re are made along with the other Christmas baking, and enjoyed throughout the holidays.  If you have any leftovers, they freeze really well, so feel free to make a large batch!  If you have never tried a butter tart before, I encourage you to make two batches, one with the firm filling, like in the picture below, and one with the runnier filling.  Then you can experience a part of Canadian culture, and participate in the much talked about butter tart debate: which is better, firm or runny?

Canadian Butter Tarts: a widely popular Canadian dessert with a sweet filling encased in flaky pastry. |

I encourage you to give this uniquely Canadian recipe a try!  It’s really quite easy.  A word of wisdom, though: be careful not to overfill the tarts, and watch them carefully during the bake to make sure the filling doesn’t overflow.

Canadian Butter Tarts: a widely popular Canadian dessert with a sweet filling encased in flaky pastry. |

Canadian Butter Tarts

  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: about 12 tarts


Canadian butter tarts are a traditional dessert from the province of Ontario. These delicious little treats have a sweet filling encased in flaky pastry.


For the Pastry

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (330g)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled (70g)
  • 1/4 cup lard, chilled (40g)
  • about 6 tablespoons ice-cold water

For the Filling (Firm tarts and Runnier tarts)

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (firm tarts), 1/2 cup packed (runnier tarts)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup (not sweet), 1/2 cup light corn syrup (sweet)
  • 2 large eggs (firm tarts), 1 large egg (runnier tarts)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (firm tarts), 1/4 teaspoon (runnier tarts)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional), can be plumped by soaking in boiling water for 5 minutes


Making the Pastry (10 minutes + 30 minutes chilling time)

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Dump in the butter and lard and rub the fats into the flour by pinching them with your fingertips.  Continue until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  2. Gradually add the ice-cold water, mixing by hand after each addition, until the dough comes together but isn’t sticky.  Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface and knead gently a few times with the palm of your hand.
  3. Shape the pastry into a flat disc, score the top in an “X” shape, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Making the Filling (10 minutes)

  1. While the pastry is chilling, make the filling.  Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together the softened butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs, and vanilla extract until well-combined and smooth.  Set aside.

Assembling the Tarts (20 minutes)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Roll out the chilled pastry to 1/8″ thick on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out as many 4″ circles as you can, re-rolling the scraps to get more rounds.  Line a 12-hole muffin pan with the pastry circles, making sure to get the pastry into the corners of the pan.  See Notes for 4″ circle.
  3. If desired, sprinkle the raisins in each tart.
  4. Fill each pastry shell 2/3 full with the filling.  Be careful not to overfill, as this will cause the tarts to overflow in the oven.

Baking the Tarts (15 minutes)

  1. Bake in the middle of a 400 F oven for about 10-15 minutes.  Watch the tarts very closely during the whole time, as the filling can overflow, especially during the last half of baking.  The pastry should be a pale golden brown around the edges and the filling should have darkened.
  2. Let the tarts cool in the pan for 1-2 minutes, then remove them and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. Serve warm from the oven or at room temperature.


  • This filling recipe is not very sweet, and is quite firm.  If you’d like a sweeter filling, increase the corn syrup to 1/2 cup.  Also, reduce the brown sugar to 1/2 cup firmly packed, use 1 egg instead of 2, and put in 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla instead of 1/2.  You can add 1/4 teaspoon of salt if you would like.
  • If you like a runnier butter tart, bake the tarts for a few minutes less.
  • If the filling is about to overflow, and the pastry hasn’t browned enough, just take the pan out of the oven for a couple of minutes to allow the filling to sink down again.  Bake for a couple more minutes, watching carefully, as the filling will rise up again.
  • For my 4 inch circle, I used a lid for a toy fry pan.  Yes, I have a younger sister, Artistic Alex, that still plays with plastic food.  It worked great!




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