Growing up my mother always said thank you with pecan pie. If the neighbor mowed our lawn or a friend drove me home from school one week, she’d fire up the oven and pull out a bag of pecans. The house would take on a nutty, caramel smell and a few hours later she’d hand over a picture-perfect pie to a smiling recipient. People were always happy to do favors for her.
As I grew up and became interested in baking, I quickly gravitated to pie. Since those early days messing around in the kitchen, I’ve made hundreds of pies, many of them pecan. I’ve experimented with different recipes using molasses, dates, and brown rice syrup, but I keep coming back to my mother’s recipe.
While I’ve put my own spin on it by adding chocolate and bourbon, the base of this pecan pie remains the same and couldn’t be simpler. Few pies are this effortless while still having real wow factor.
Make it for Thanksgiving or Christmas, to impress everyone at a potluck, or to say thank you to someone special.
How to Make Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
The base is a simple mixture of eggs, butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. I’ve added a healthy dose of salt and vanilla along with a glug of bourbon. The alcohol cooks off in the oven so it’s not boozy—rather, it punctuates the brown sugar and vanilla.
Just the right amount of chocolate chips or chunks keeps it from becoming overly rich and gives the pie fancy candy bar vibes without being too sweet.
From shaping the crust to putting it in the oven, the hands-on time for this occasion-worthy dessert is just 15 minutes. It also keeps well, so you can make it ahead of time and serve it at your leisure.
Pie Crust Tips
While a homemade pie crust is always superior, truth be told this pie is also excellent with a store-bought crust, making it adaptable to your schedule. Use these tips and tricks for a nicely browned (not soggy) crust.
- A homemade butter crust will always win in a taste contest, so if you have the time make your own using this recipe. Make the dough using the full amount of sugar and stick it in the fridge up to two days ahead of time. Let it warm up on the counter for 10 minutes before rolling out.
- If you’re short on time, a refrigerated pie crust is perfectly acceptable.
- Fold the outer edges of the dough under itself, to make a properly crimped edge that looks tidy.
- If at any point your pie dough is feeling too soft and melty, stick it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to firm up. Chilling the dough while you make the filling helps the crust keep its shape once it hits the oven.
- Baking the pie in the bottom third of the oven will help to ensure a browned bottom crust. If you want the crust especially crisp on the bottom, preheat a rimmed baking sheet. Assemble the pie and then very carefully transfer it onto the hot baking sheet to bake.
Creating the Pecan Top
Pecan pies are known for their signature top, an assemblage of shiny pecans that looks like it took hours to arrange. Thankfully, it’s all a magic trick. The pecans are simply spread out in the bottom of the pie crust and the filling is poured over, causing the nuts to float and arrange themselves.
For the best results, use pecan halves rather than chopped pecans. You can use raw or toasted pecans, but I tend to use raw since the nuts toast as the pie bakes in the oven. Pour in the filling slowly, coating each nut to create the signature shine.
Pie Swaps and Substitutions
- No Bourbon: If you don’t keep bourbon around the house, this pie can easily be made without it. The change is so subtle you don’t need to swap another ingredient in its place. I’ve tasted this pie with and without bourbon and it does add a little something special—so throw it in if it’s available.
- No Chocolate: Leave out the chocolate and you have a classic bourbon pecan pie and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
- Gluten-Free: Use your favorite gluten-free pie crust to make this dessert celiac-friendly. Yes, quality bourbon is gluten-free! Always double-check that each ingredient is free of gluten before using.
How to Store and Freeze Pecan Pie
Pecan pies have a longer shelf life than many pies thanks to all that sugar, so you can make this recipe up to a day before serving with little to no noticeable difference. Once cool, tightly cover it with plastic wrap or foil and store at room temperature for up to five days.
To Freeze: Tightly wrap the entire pie or individual slices with plastic wrap and place it in a zip top freezer bag. It will keep for a couple of months this way; defrost it in the fridge before serving.
Many More Pecan Dessert Recipes
- Pecan Pie
- Caramelized Pecan Tart
- Pecan Pie Bars
- Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Toppings
- Chocolate Pecan Tart
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
The pie crust used in this recipe can be made up to two days in advance. If you’re making it the day of, you’ll need to budget about 2 hours of time to make it and let it chill.
- 1 prepared pie crust, chilled
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup (180g) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2/3 cup (110g) semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips or chunks, divided
- 1 1/4 cups (125g) pecan halves
Preheat the oven:
Position an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat it to 400°F.
Prepare the crust:
On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the pie dough into a 12-inch circle. If you’re using store-bought pie dough, simply unroll or unfold.
Transfer the dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Press the crust into the bottom corners of the pan. Use a knife or kitchen scissors to trim any extra pieces of dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang over the edge.
Fold the edges of the crust underneath itself so that the folded edge of the crust is just slightly wider than the edges of the pie pan. Use your fingers or knuckles to crimp the crust all the way around.
Transfer the lined pie pan to the fridge while you make the filling.
Make the filling:
In a medium heatproof mixing bowl, add the butter, cover the bowl with a paper towel, and microwave it in 30-second increments until just barely melted, stirring each time.
Add the brown sugar and corn syrup, and whisk to combine. Add the eggs and whisk until a smooth mixture forms. Whisk in the bourbon, vanilla, and salt.
Assemble the pie:
Retrieve the lined pie pan from the fridge and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle in the chocolate chips or chunks in an even layer, reserving a handful for decorating. Sprinkle in the pecans in an even layer.
Give the filling a stir. Slowly pour it over the chocolate chips and pecans, coating the nuts with the mixture. Garnish the top with the reserved chocolate chips.
Transfer the baking sheet and pie to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then decrease the temperature to 350°F.
Continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set around the edges with a slight jiggle in the center, 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool and serve:
Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving, at least 2 hours.