This pecan bar recipe offers a simple yet delicious take on traditional pecan pie, featuring an easy-to-make shortbread crust and a rich pecan filling. They’re a versatile treat ideal for holidays and can be made ahead of time. Perfect for potlucks or as a homemade gift, these bars are a crowd-pleaser and a great alternative to classic pecan pie.
This homemade pecan bars recipe is the perfect treat for holidays or any special occasion. These bars feature a buttery simple shortbread crust topped with a gooey pecan filling, offering a delicious twist on the traditional pecan pie. They’re easy to make with simple ingredients and are always a hit at cookie exchanges or as a thoughtful gift. Drizzle with melted chocolate and add a sprinkle of sea salt for the ultimate indulgence. Whether served at Christmas time, a Thanksgiving potluck or enjoyed as a favorite pecan dessert, these pecan pie shortbread bars are a decadent addition to any dessert table.
Pecan pie is a staple at holiday gatherings, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas time. This easy pecan pie bar recipe is a simpler take on the classic pie – no need to roll out pie crust. They offer the same rich flavors of classic pecan pie but in a convenient bar form. For those who can’t get enough of pecan treats, check out our favorite Pecan Pie and Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies.
- Butter (Room Temperature): Essential for creating a buttery shortbread crust that’s light and fluffy.
- Granulated Sugar: Adds sweetness and helps in achieving a golden-brown color for the baked crust.
- Egg: Binds the crust ingredients together, ensuring a cohesive texture.
- Vanilla Extract: Imparts a delicate flavor, complementing the simple ingredients of the crust.
- All-Purpose Flour: The foundation of the crust, giving it structure and tenderness.
- Baking Powder: Helps the crust to rise slightly, making it light and airy.
- Salt: Balances the sweetness and enhances the overall flavor of the crust.
- Butter: Adds richness to the delicious pecan pie filling, creating a gooey texture.
- Honey: Natural sweetener that contributes to the gooey filling and pairs well with the crunchiness of the pecans.
- Light Brown Sugar: Offers a caramel-like sweetness, essential for traditional pecan pie flavor.
- Orange Zest: Adds a subtle citrus note, enhancing the depth of flavors.
- Lemon Zest: Provides a light, fresh contrast to the sweet filling.
- Heavy Cream: Contributes to the creamy texture of the filling.
- Vanilla Extract: Complements the other flavors and adds its distinct aroma.
- Chopped Pecans: The star ingredient, providing the classic crunch and nuttiness expected in pecan squares.
- Dark Chocolate (Optional): Can be drizzled on top for a decadent pecan pie experience.
- Flaked Sea Salt (Optional): Adds a hint of saltiness to balance the sweet filling.
Step by Step Instructions
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed until just combined.
Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Poke a few holes in the crust with a fork.
Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
In a medium saucepan, combine butter, honey, light brown sugar, orange zest, and lemon zest. Heat over medium, whisking until butter melts. Bring the mixture to a boil and let cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream and vanilla extract.
Fold in the chopped pecans until well combined.
Pour the pecan filling over the cooled crust, spreading it evenly.
Return to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the filling has set. Allow the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.
Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment overhang. Cut into squares.
Optional: drizzle with melted chocolate and sprinkle with flakey sea salt.
Tip: To ensure the perfect texture for your shortbread crust, weigh out your flour using a kitchen scale. If you don’t have a scale, spoon it into the measuring cup and level it off. This prevents the flour from compacting and results in a delicate, crumbly base.
Gluten-Free: For a gluten-free version, substitute the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free blend.
- Bourbon: Enhance the richness of the bars by adding a splash of bourbon to the filling. This gives a deep, caramel-like flavor and a hint of warmth that complements the pecans beautifully.
- Vanilla Bean: For a more pronounced and luxurious vanilla flavor, scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean pod and mix them into the crust and filling. This adds tiny specks of vanilla throughout the bars, elevating their appearance and taste.
- Chocolate Drizzle: After the bars have cooled, drizzle melted chocolate over the top for a decadent touch. Dark, milk, or white chocolate can be used based on preference. This not only adds a visual appeal but also a rich, creamy texture.
- Flaky Sea Salt: Sprinkle a bit of flaky sea salt over the bars just before serving. This not only enhances the flavors but also adds a slight crunch and a balance to the sweetness, making each bite more intriguing.
- 9×9-inch Baking Pan: Ideal size for achieving the perfect thickness and portion size for the bars.
- Stand Mixer (or Hand Mixer): Necessary for efficiently combining the butter and sugar for the crust, and for mixing the filling ingredients.
- Saucepan (Medium, Heavy-bottomed): Used for cooking the butter, honey, and brown sugar mixture for the filling.
How to Store
To keep your pecan pie bars tasting as fresh as the day you made them, place them in an airtight container. This will prevent them from absorbing moisture or odors from the refrigerator. The bars can be stored at room temperature for up to two days; for longer storage, refrigerate them for up to one week. When stacking bars, place a sheet of parchment paper between layers to prevent sticking.
How to Freeze
These delicious pecan pie bars freeze exceptionally well. To freeze, wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap, then place them in a zip-top freezer bag or an airtight container. This method prevents freezer burn and keeps the bars from absorbing any off-flavors from the freezer. When you’re ready to enjoy them, simply thaw the bars at room temperature for about an hour or in the refrigerator overnight. This ensures they retain their original texture and flavor profile, making them just as delicious as when they were fresh.
- Ensure your ingredients, especially butter, are at room temperature for a smoother blend.
- Chop pecans uniformly for even baking.
- Don’t overbake the crust; it should be just set.
- Cool the bars completely before cutting for clean slices.
- For an extra special touch, toast your pecans slightly before adding them to the mix.
Frequently Asked Questions
To guarantee that your pecan pie filling sets, cook it until it thickens and shows no movement in the center when the pan is gently shaken. After baking, allow it to cool completely; this is when the filling will fully set into the perfect texture for slicing.
While pecans are traditional for this recipe, almonds or walnuts can be used as substitutes. Keep in mind that each nut will bring its own unique flavor and texture to the bars.
Doubling the recipe is straightforward—simply use a larger pan, such as a 9×13-inch, and increase the baking time slightly. Keep an eye on the crust and filling as they bake to ensure they don’t overcook.
For clean and even cuts, use a sharp knife and run it under hot water between slices. This will help to slice through the rich filling and firm crust smoothly, resulting in professionally cut bars that are presentation-ready.
Certainly! While this recipe calls for pecans, many other nuts can substituted in these cookies. Walnuts, almonds, or macadamia nuts are all great choices. Just ensure you chop them into roughly the same size as the pecans for even baking and texture. If you opt for salted nuts, consider reducing the additional salt in the recipe to balance flavors.
If you make this recipe, take a photo and tag #bakedambrosia on Instagram and Facebook so that I can see your creations and feature them on Instagram! To stay up to date with the latest recipes, follow Baked Ambrosia on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. ♡
- 13 tbsp butter room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 11 tbsp butter
- ⅓ cup honey
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ tsp orange zest optional
- ½ tsp lemon zest optional
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 10 oz pecans chopped
- 7 oz chocolate optional, semi-sweet or dark
- Flakey sea salt optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line a 9×9-inch pan with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the sides.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a mixing bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.13 tbsp butter, ¼ cup granulated sugar
- Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined.1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla extract
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until combined.1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, ¼ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt
- Transfer the dough into the prepared pan and an offset spatula to press and spread the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan (the dough will be sticky). Use a fork to poke a few holes into the crust and bake for 15 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool while making the filling.
- Combine the butter, honey, light brown sugar, and zests in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking until the butter has melted. Bring to a boil and then cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.11 tbsp butter, ⅓ cup honey, 1 cup light brown sugar, ½ tsp orange zest, ½ tsp lemon zest
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the heavy cream and vanilla extract.2 tbsp heavy cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Stir in the chopped pecans and mix to combine.10 oz pecans
- Pour mixture over the crust and spread it evenly. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the filling has thickened (filling will continue to set as it cools). Transfer the baking pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once completely cool, use the parchment paper to lift out of the pan and cut into bars.
- Optional: Dip the bars or drizzle with melted chocolate and then top with flakey sea salt.7 oz chocolate, Flakey sea salt