This easy recipe for Canadian butter tarts shows you how to make this amazing dessert.  This old fashioned treat has a buttery filling, crisp pastry, and juicy raisins.  These gooey butter tarts are sure to be a favorite with family and friends!

Prep Time: 40 minutes
stack of butter tarts on a plate
Christmas, Desserts Under 300 Calories, Pies & Tarts

Canadian Butter Tarts

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This recipe was originally published on November 2, 2017.

Butter tarts are a gooey treat that is sure to be a family favorite.  Make them just how you like them, and you won’t have any leftovers to worry about!

person holding half of a butter tart

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What are butter tarts?

Butter tarts are small Canadian pastries filled with a sweet custard-like filling.  The filling can be firm or runny, and often has raisins or nuts added.

What do butter tarts taste like?

Butter tarts have crisp pastry and a sweet, sometimes gooey centre.  The taste is similar to pecan pie without the pecans, or French Canadian sugar pie.

What is the origin of butter tarts?

Although butter tarts have similarities to a few other desserts throughout the world, they are a uniquely Canadian invention.  No one knows how the first butter tarts were invented.

The first published recipe dates back to 1900 in Barrie, Ontario, when Mrs. Mary Ethel MacLeod submitted her butter tart recipe to a hospital fundraising cookbook.  In the decades that followed the recipe’s publication, butter tarts have become a popular dessert from coast to coast in Canada.

top view of a plate of butter tarts

Are there butter tarts in America?

Butter tarts aren’t popular in the United States, so you can’t purchase them in most bakeries.  However, you can definitely make your own if you want to try a butter tart!

Why do butter tarts crystallize?

I’ve never experienced crystallization in butter tarts, but that probably means that the filling wasn’t whisked long enough to dissolve the sugar.  Next time, make sure to mix the filling until the sugar has dissolved.

Why are my butter tarts runny?

Runny butter tarts mean that they were cooked for a shorter time.  For firmer tarts, bake longer.  A firmer filling can also be made by using a little less liquid in the filling.

When are butter tarts done?

Butter tarts are done when the pastry is a pale golden brown around the edges, and the filling has puffed and browned.

How are butter tarts made?

Butter tarts are made by whisking eggs, sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, and light brown sugar until smooth.  The mixture is poured into unbaked pastry shells, and any add-ins such as raisins are put in the tarts.  The tarts are then baked until golden.

side view of a plate of butter tarts

How long do butter tarts stay fresh?

Butter tarts will stay fresh for 3 to 5 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.

Do butter tarts have to be refrigerated?

It’s recommended to store butter tarts in the fridge, but I’ve never had trouble keeping them at room temperature.  If you do want to keep the butter tarts at room temperature, I’d recommend eating them within 3 days and keeping them in a cool dry place.

Can butter tarts be frozen?

Yes, butter tarts freeze very well.  Seal the fully baked and cooled tarts inside of a zip-top freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.

How to Make Canadian Butter Tarts

Gather the ingredients for the pastry.  You’ll need all-purpose flour, butter, lard, salt, and cold water.

bowls of ingredients for pastry

Rub the butter, lard, salt, and flour together until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, like in the photo below.

Gradually add the water and mix until a dough forms.  Knead gently a couple times until smooth, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour before rolling.

rubbing the butter and flour together for pastry

Meanwhile, make the butter tart filling.  You’ll need brown sugar, corn syrup, softened butter, egg, raisins, and vanilla extract.

ingredients for butter tart filling

Soak the raisins in 1/4 cup of boiling water to soften and plump them.

soaking the raisins in boiling water

Whisk together all the filling ingredients until smooth.  This will take a minute of whisking.

whisking the butter tart filling in a bowl

Once the pastry has chilled, roll it out to a little less than 1/8 inch thick.  Cut it into 4 inch circles and line a 12-hole muffin pan with the pastry circles.

Drain the soaked raisins and put them in the bottom of the pastry shells.

putting soaked raisins in pastry shells

Fill the tarts about 3/4 full of the butter tart filling.

butter tart filling in pastry shells

Bake at 200 F for 15 minutes, then raise the temperature to 350 F and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the pastry and filling has browned.  Watch the tarts closely, as they can start to overflow towards the end of the baking time.

butter tarts on a cooling rack

Let the tarts cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove them from the pan and let them cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy at room temperature.

person holding a butter tart with raisins

Pro Tips

  • Use homemade pastry for the best taste.  Only use store-bought if you’re in a pinch.
  • Don’t want to use corn syrup?  Boil down some maple syrup until it is as thick as corn syrup and use an equal amount of that instead.
  • Be sure to whisk the filling well.  This ensures that the sugar has dissolved and the butter is evenly incorporated.
  • Want to cut the sweetness?  Add 1/2 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to the filling.
  • Bake the tarts at 200 F first, then at 350 F.  This will reduce any boiling over of the filling as the tarts bake.
  • Want runnier tarts?  Shorten the baking time by a couple minutes.
  • Want firmer tarts?  Use 2 eggs instead of one in the filling.
  • Looking for more add-ins?  Raisins are the best, but walnuts or pecans are good choices.  Please don’t use chocolate chips.

half of a butter tart with a stack of other tarts

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stack of butter tarts on a plate

Canadian Butter Tarts


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

Description

This easy recipe for Canadian butter tarts shows you how to make this amazing dessert.  This old fashioned treat has a buttery filling, crisp pastry, and juicy raisins.  These gooey butter tarts are sure to be a favorite with family and friends!


Scale

Ingredients

For the Pastry

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (330g)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled (70g)
  • 1/4 cup lard (40g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup ice water (80 ml)

For the Filling

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (58g)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed (200g)
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup (120 ml)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional; 80g)

Instructions

Making the Pastry

  1. Pour the flour into a mixing bowl and add the butter, lard, and salt.  Rub the fats into the flour by pinching and mixing it with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  2. Gradually add just enough ice water to hold the mixture together into a dough.  Make sure that there’s no flour left at the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Gently knead the pastry a few times, then shape it into a disc and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.  Chill it in the fridge for at least 1 hour before rolling.  This relaxes the gluten in the pastry and firms up the butter and lard in the dough.

Making the Butter Tart Filling

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 F.
  2. If you’re adding raisins to the butter tarts, pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) of boiling water on top of the raisins and let them soak while you’re making the filling.
  3. Whisk together the softened butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs, and vanilla extract until well-combined and smooth.  Set aside.
  4. Roll out the chilled pastry to 1/8″ thick on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out as many 4-inch 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.
  5. Drain the raisins and sprinkle them in the bottom of each tart.
  6. Fill each pastry shell 3/4 full with the filling.  Be careful not to overfill, as this will cause the tarts to overflow in the oven.

Baking the Butter Tarts

  1. Bake at 200 F for 15 minutes, then turn the heat up to 350 F and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Watch the tarts closely towards the end of the baking time, as the filling can overflow.  The tarts are done when the pastry is a pale golden brown around the edges and the filling is browned.
  2. Let the tarts cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove them and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. Serve at room temperature.  Store leftover butter tarts in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Notes

  • Make this recipe perfectly the first time.  Check out the step-by-step photos and pro tips before the recipe card.
  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this butter tart recipe would be greatly appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Tarts
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Canadian

Keywords: butter tarts, Canadian desserts

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6 thoughts on “Canadian Butter Tarts

  1. The pastry is soft and flaky. The raisins inside the tarts are juicy and soft, and the buttery filling is delicious. These butter tarts are the perfect Christmas treat!

  2. These butter tarts have a smooth, creamy filling. It’s a lovely treat! I especially like the thick pastry. The filling tastes buttery, and the chewy raisins are good. I like butter tarts with raisins better than the plain ones.

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