As you know, I much prefer to use real food (“whole”, “natural”, etc) ingredients when I cook and bake. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can, but sometimes the classics are based on foods that are not really good for you. Take pecan pie, for example. One of the main ingredients is corn syrup. Granted; it’s not as bad as high fructose corn syrup (which is ultra processed- WAY more than regular corn syrup), but it’s still definitely not a health food. In fact, my mom can’t eat anything with corn syrup in it without getting a bad headache. So for Thanksgiving last year I set out in search of a recipe for pecan pie that doesn’t use corn syrup. I found several that use honey instead. Score! Honey is most definitely a health food, and you can use it in place of corn syrup in many recipes (but there will need to be other adjustments to the recipe too, so don’t just start swapping honey for corn syrup willy nilly). So I played around with combining some of the recipes and this is the result. My mom LOVES it and no one who’s tried it so far dislikes it.
Pecan pie is actually a very simple pie. All you need is some basic ingredients:
If you’re using salted butter like I am here, you won’t need extra salt. If you use unsalted butter (which is what most recipes call for) you’ll need to add a little salt to the filling.
You’ll notice, I’m sure, that I don’t have a pie crust pictured. You’ll need one, but the method you use to procure one I’ll leave to you. I used a refrigerated just-roll-it-out-in-the-pan crust from the store. By all means; if you want to make your own, please do! I didn’t because I don’t have anyplace to roll out a pie crust. The great thing about making your own pie crust is that you can make the pie any size you want. You can do a full pie or you can use a muffin tin or individual tart pans to make tiny pies. Either way, it’s up to you.
First you’ll need to melt your butter. Put the butter in a medium sized saucepan over very low heat. Once the butter is just melted, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for a little while; long enough for the butter to cool slightly.
In the meantime, line your pie pan with the crust and then put the pecans in the bottom. How much you need will depend on the size of your pie pan. The pan I used is a 9 inch, regular depth pan. I used about a cup of chopped pecans, maybe a tiny bit over that:
Most recipes call for whole pecans to be laid out nicely in the bottom of the crust. I don’t do that. One reason is that whole pecans are crazy expensive. Stupidly expensive. Another reason is the trouble I have cutting a pie that uses whole pecans. The pecans tend to just squish down and make a mess out of the filling. So I use chopped pecans and they work just fine.
Next, add the brown sugar, honey, vinegar, vanilla, and salt (if you need it) to the butter. Whisk all of that together very well. It will take a little mixing to get everything incorporated into the butter- that’s a lot of butter.
As you can see, there’s still a tiny bit of butter around the edges that hasn’t been incorporated yet. It’s ok; it will get mixed in once I add the eggs…
There we go! All mixed together and ready to go over the pecans. Gently pour this mixture over the pecans, scraping the pan with a spatula to get all the goodness into the pie pan. Once you do, you’ll notice something:
Yep. Bubbles. Little bubbles coming to the surface as the gaps between the pecan pieces are filled. But they’re nothing to worry about. You can try to jiggle the pan a bit to get rid of them, but you don’t need to. The pecans will float to the surface as the pie bakes and the bubbles will dissipate then.
Time to go in the oven! Place this on a foil lined cookie sheet so that if the pie overflows the pan will catch it (which I’ve never had happen, but better safe than scrubbing charred sugar off the bottom of your oven) and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the center is set. It shouldn’t jiggle when you shake the pan gently.
Ok, so my pie isn’t perfect. The crust on the right side there wasn’t pressed to the side of the pan correctly, so it shrank down a bit. Not a huge deal. The huge deal is that this pie almost burned. I should have taken it out of the oven about 3 minutes before I did. I missed the timer when it sounded. I’m lucky I walked through the kitchen when I did. So keep an eye on the timer and make sure you choose a loud one! Anyway, I managed to save my pie and not have to make another.
One of the problems I’ve noticed with pies that substitute another ingredient for corn syrup is that the filling is runnier than it should be.
As you can see, that isn’t a problem with this recipe! The center looks a little runny, but really that’s just where I pushed the filling in with a knife to cut the pie (which would have been much worse had I used whole pecans). This recipe really is the best I’ve found for pecan pie- period. The flavor is amazing and not sickeningly sweet like the corn syrup recipes out there. The texture is heavenly! And it’s made using one of nature’s super foods- how much better could it get?!
1/2 C (1 Stick) Butter
1 C Brown Sugar
1/2 C Honey
1 T Apple Cider Vinegar
2 t Vanilla
1/4 t Salt (ONLY IF USING UNSALTED BUTTER!)
3 Eggs, lightly beaten
1- 1 1/2 C Pecan Pieces
9 inch unbaked Pie Crust
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Prepare pie pan or plate with the unbaked crust.
*Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
*Once melted, remove from heat and add the next 5 ingredients.
*Whisk well, incorporating the butter into the other ingredients.
*Add the eggs and whisk very well.
*Pour the pecans into the pie crust so that they cover the entire bottom.
*Gently pour the filling over the pecans, scraping the saucepan to get all of the filling you can.
*Bake the pie for 45-60 minutes; until the pie is set in the center.
*Let cool completely before slicing, but chilling is not necessary. If having something that has eggs in it left on the counter and not in the fridge bothers you, you can go ahead & refrigerate it. But I left this pie out for 4 days before finishing the last piece and I didn’t even have a hint of tummy trouble. There’s so much sugar and fat in the filling that spoilage isn’t an issue for quite some time.