Ditch the corn syrup in favor of honey with this recipe for the best Pecan Pie Bars. This crowd-friendly dessert stars a buttery shortbread crust topped with the most delicious and chewy pecan filling. These bars can be made ahead and they freeze well, too!
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Pecan pie is a Thanksgiving staple, but let’s face it, making the classic version can be a hassle with all that dough-chilling, rolling and blind-baking that accompanies a golden brown crust. Not to mention, many recipes rely on corn syrup for that signature gooey sweetness. So, if you’re looking for an easy-to-make yet equally delicious alternative, look no further!
My recipe for pecan pie bars packs all the classic pecan pie flavor without any of the hassle or corn syrup! Instead, these bars are made with honey, which gives them a delicious sweetness without any stickiness. Best of all, you can make them ahead of time and freeze them, making them the perfect option for those busy holidays when you want to stay stress-free.
So, if you’re a fan of the buttery shortbread crust and luscious pecan topping that makes the classic dessert so irresistible, give these bars a try! They’re sure to be a hit with your family and friends this holiday season.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving filled with family, friends and all of your favorite foods!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- No messing around with finicky pie dough.
- No corn syrup, just honey.
- The shortbread base is like a semi-soft cookie and the topping is slightly chewy.
- It can be made ahead of time.
- The bars freeze and reheat like a breeze.
There are no complicated or hard-to-find ingredients here. In fact, you probably already have most of them in your pantry!
- Butter: Use unsalted butter, softened to room temperature for a rich and buttery crust. You’ll also need unsalted butter for the pecan filling.
- Brown sugar: You’ll need light brown sugar for the crust and for the topping. If you prefer a richer flavor, dark brown sugar can be used.
- All-purpose flour: This is the key dry ingredient in the crust, providing structure and texture. Gluten-free flour that’s a 1:1 swap for all-purpose flour works, too!
- Honey: I love using honey for the distinct sweetness and flavor it brings to the topping. However, you can swap in maple syrup for an alternative yet equally delicious taste.
- Heavy cream: You’ll want to use heavy cream, as the consistency won’t be the same if you use milk or half and half.
- Pecans: Chopped pecans are the star of this holiday dessert, lending their rich, nutty flavor and satisfying crunch. I’ve also made this recipe using halved pecans.
Kelly’s Note: While pecans are traditional, you can experiment with other nuts like walnuts or cashews for a different flavor profile.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Preheat your oven and prepare your 9×13-inch pan. Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. While it’s heating up, line your 9×13-inch pan with foil, ensuring you leave a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
- Make the crust. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.
- Form the crust. Press this crumbly mixture into your foil-lined pan, ensuring an even layer. Then, bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until it turns golden brown.
- Prepare the filling. While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Gently simmer the mixture for 1 minute, then stir in the chopped pecans.
- Pour and bake. Once your crust is golden brown, remove it from the oven. Immediately pour the pecan filling over the hot crust, ensuring an even spread. Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes. This allows the topping to bubble and the pecans to caramelize.
- Cool and slice. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan. Use the foil overhang to lift out the bars, transfer them to a cutting board, peel off the foil and slice into bars.
Pro Tip: Get creative with your pecan pie squares! Try adding chocolate chips, sprinkling coconut flakes or drizzling chocolate for a unique twist.
- Line Your Pan Like a Pro: To prepare your baking pan, grease it and line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang. This not only prevents sticking but also makes it easier to lift the bars out of the pan. Secure the overhanging parchment paper with all-metal binder clips for added convenience.
- For the Perfect Crust: The crust mixture should have a crumbly texture, similar to coarse meal. Make sure to press it evenly and with a gentle touch into the pan.
- Prevent Overcooking Your Pecan Topping: Be vigilant when simmering your topping. It should be gently bubbling but not boiling. This ensures your topping will turn out chewy and delicious, rather than hard.
- Cool Completely Before Cutting: Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan before attempting to cut them. This cooling period helps the filling set, making it easier to achieve clean slices.
Whether you choose to store the pecan pie bars at room temperature for immediate enjoyment or freeze them for later, it’s crucial to let the bars cool completely before placing them in an airtight container.
- Store the bars at room temp in an airtight container for up to three days.
- Freeze for later. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, place them in an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag and freeze bars for up to three months.
- Thaw and reheat. When you’re ready to enjoy your frozen pecan pie bars, remove them from the freezer and thaw them in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. For a quicker option, you can reheat them in the oven at a low temperature (preheat to 250°F and heat for about 10-15 minutes) to restore their crispness and flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! Maple syrup is a great option for those who prefer its taste over honey.
I’ve never tried making this recipe using corn syrup so I can’t say with certainty if the bars would still turn out.
No, you’ll want to use heavy cream, as the consistency won’t be the same if you use half and half. However, you can make your own heavy cream by combining 2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk plus ⅓ cup (75 grams) melted, unsalted butter. I’ve never tried this substitution in this recipe so I cannot say for certain if this will work.
Pecan pie bars can turn out too hard if the pecan topping overcooks. To prevent this, watch the filling closely when simmering. It should be gently bubbling but not boiling.
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- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
- First make the crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.
- Press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
- While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute, then stir in the chopped pecans.
- Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the pecan filling over the hot crust spreading it to cover the entire surface.
- Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes.
- Remove the pan and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan.
- Use the foil overhang to lift out the bars and transfer them to a cutting board. Peel off the foil, slice into bars and serve.
- The crust mixture should have a crumbly texture, similar to coarse meal. Make sure to press it evenly and with a gentle touch into the pan.
- Be vigilant when simmering your topping. It should be gently bubbling but not boiling. This ensures your topping will turn out chewy and delicious, rather than hard.
- Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan before attempting to cut them. This cooling period helps the filling set, making it easier to achieve clean slices.
- Store the bars at room temp in an airtight container for up to three days.
- To freeze for later, wrap each bar in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, place them in an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag and freeze for up to three months.
- ★ Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!
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Filling recipe adapted from Gourmet.