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New Twists on a Thanksgiving Classic

Justin Fox Burks

Pie season is upon us!  Next week folks across the country will be enjoying a slice of pie after their turkey feast.  Throughout the South … and on my Thanksgiving table, that adored holiday pie will be a delicious Southern Pecan Pie.

When looking for a fool-proof pecan pie recipe, look no further than that bottle of good old Karo syrup in your pantry.

My grandmother made the best pecan pie in the world.  If anyone in the family needed the recipe, she would handwrite it in her elegant genteel Southern script and mail it to us.  Years after her death I was working on a piece for a magazine when my editor called me to say “You know that recipe of your grandmother’s is the one on the back of the Karo bottle!”  I still giggle every time I make a pecan pie.

Using that base recipe, here are four quick tips that’ll make this year’s pecan pie the best yet.

Mind your eggs. Extra large eggs tend to be too much for pecan pie, and medium just isn’t enough. So be sure to use large eggs.

Stir with a spoon. If you use beaters, the texture will not be correct and your pie could be runny.

Patience is key. Be sure to allow your pie to cool completely before cutting. A warm pie will not be set, and your slices will not hold a clean edge.

And according to Kat Gordon of Muddy’s Bake Shop, here is the most important tip of all: “Pre-toasting your pecans is the single most important thing you can do to add flavor to your pie.”

I think it's easiest to toast pecans in the oven. Simply spread them in a baking pan and bake at 350° until golden brown, being sure to stir often. Pecans will be toasted in about 6 to 10 minutes.

And if you want to take that classic pecan pie up a notch, sprinkle a splash of bourbon over the top right when you take it out of the oven.


Bourbon Pecan Pie

I took my grandmother's classic pecan pie recipe up a notch by adding bourbon! For a classic pecan pie, just omit that ingredients from the recipe.

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
  • 1 unbaked pie crust (9-inch), homemade or store-bought
  • 1 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slivers
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk until light but not foamy.  Add the brown sugar and stir until there are no lumps. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and stir until well blended. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Evenly pour the filling into the pie crust.

Arrange the pecan halves decoratively over the top of the pie. Place tiny slivers of butter evenly over the top of the pie.

Bake until the pie is firm and golden brown, about 60 to 70 minutes.

As soon as you pull the hot pie out from the oven, evenly sprinkle the bourbon across the top. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Serves 8.

Cooking Tip: When serving guests, I like to make my pie pretty by decorating the top with pecan halves. When it’s just family, I skip that step and just mix the pecan halves in with the filling.

Recipes reprinted with permission from The Southern Pantry Cookbook: 105 Recipes Already Hiding in Your Kitchen by Jennifer Chandler.

Jennifer Chandler graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris at the top of her class. She is a freelance food writer, restaurant consultant, and author of four cookbooks.