This easy pecan bars recipe gives you the flavor of pecan pie combined with a shortbread crust. Salty and sweet, and incredibly portable when cut into small squares! They are easy to make, and my favorite dessert recipe for fall.
Oh fall, I adore you! Crisp mornings and the sound of leaves crunching under my feet! Fall is my favorite. I've told you this before. And fall means pecans galore!
This pecan bars recipe helps you take full advantage of their nutty flavor with very little effort. They taste like pecan pie, but in the form of bars with a shortbread crust.
Salty and sweet, I cut them into small bite-size pecan squares so you can just pop them in your mouth all day long and somehow feel less guilty about eating half the pan. And they also have rum in them, so there's that...
Serve them instead of pecan pie for Thanksgiving dinner, make them for a fall treat to serve with some Spiked Apple Cider, and add them to your list of Christmas cookie recipes! I promise they'll be the best pecan bars you've ever tasted!
Ingredients for pecan bars
You only need a few pantry staples, so you can make decadent, salty-sweet pecan squares at a moment's notice!
For the pecan pie filling
- Coarsely chopped pecans: It’s important to use a high-quality pecan since they are the star of the show here. I recommend ordering from Millican Pecan. They use fresh, Grade 1 pecans harvested this season. Sometimes in the grocery store, you’re getting Grade 2 pecans that could be years old. Yes, years. (Like 2 - 4!)
- Brown sugar: There's nothing like brown sugar to add the perfect, caramel flavor to these bars.
- Dark corn syrup: I prefer dark corn syrup when I'm making these bars and any pecan pie filling. But if you have light corn syrup hanging around, that will work, too.
- Eggs and unsalted butter: To help the filling set.
- Vanilla extract: To smooth out the flavors and meld them together.
- Dark rum: Totally optional ingredient in the filling, but it adds a great aroma. The alcohol will cook out, so no worries if the kiddies are eating these.
- Kosher salt: You can't have a sweet pecan dessert with out a bit of salt to balance it out.
For the shortbread crust
- Unbleached all-purpose flour and baking powder: This is for our simple, press-in shortbread crust.
- Butter: We'll need cold, cubed butter for the crust and melted butter for the filling.
- Brown sugar: I like dark brown sugar, but light brown sugar works fine, too.
- Salt: SO important for this recipe. The salt gives the savory balance to the crust and the filling so we don't get a sweet overload.
- Chopped pecans: Yes! More pecans in the shortbread crust for extra nutty and delicious pecan squares.
How to make pecan bars
Pecan bars recipe adapted lightly from Fat Witch Brownies by Patricia Helding.
Step 1: Make and bake the pecan shortbread crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with butter, dust with flour and tap out excess.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar with a fork or whisk.
Add the butter a piece or two at a time, combining with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some small bits of butter here and there.
Stir in ¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans gently by hand to combine.
Spread the mixture evenly in the pan and tamp down gently with your fingers. You just want it to hold together, you're not trying to make a smooth, flat dough.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden and the edges are light brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Step 2: Make the pecan squares filling
While the crust is cooking, make the filling. Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat, set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, rum (if using) and salt. Stir in the butter until just blended. Add the egg and mix until well incorporated.
Step 3: Bake the pecan pie bars!
Pour the pecan bar filling over the shortbread crust, and sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly on top. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the top is brown and little bubbles and cracks start to form on the surface.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely, at least 2 hours, before cutting into squares.
Pecan bars tips and variations
- Don't be tempted to overbake the shortbread crust. It should just be lightly golden, remember it is going back in the oven once you add the pecan topping.
- Because I butter the pan and dust with flour, I find that the pecan bars come out of the pan very easily. However, if you would prefer to line the pan with parchment paper, that is also a good method for easy removal.
- You'll know the pecan squares are done when little bubbles and cracks start to form on the surface, much like pecan pie. Remember, we've already par-baked the shortbread crust, so it's just a matter of finishing the filling, so it doesn't take long.
- I always prefer to use dark corn syrup when making this pecan bars recipe because I like the extra molasses flavor, but you can absolutely substitute light corn syrup.
- The rum in the recipe is completely optional and does not need to be substituted with anything else if omitted.
Either one is fine. Get what is easy to find and fits your budget. If you buy them already chopped, that will save you a bit of time with prep.
No, pecan bars do not need to be refrigerated. They can be stored at room temperature.
If you don't have a 9"x9" baking pan, you can substitute an 11"x7" pan. An 8" square pan, or a 9" round pan will also work, but they are a bit smaller by volume. So your crust will be thicker, making baking times longer for both layers of the pecan bars. It's all about the math when it comes to changing pan sizes and King Arthur Baking has a great online resource if you need some assistance.
Make-ahead, storage and freezing
This pecan bars recipe is a great make-ahead dessert. They last for about a week in an airtight container, so they're great for family dinners, potlucks, bake sales, and more!
Store pecan bars in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. (If they last that long...)
Pecan bars freeze well. You can freeze the whole pan tightly covered, or you can cut into squares and then stack, layered with parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container for up to two months.
More pecan dessert recipes
- Pecan Sandies Cookies are crispy, delicious, and extremely dunkable!
- For a twist on the traditional version, Pecan Cream Cheese Pie has a luscious layer of cream cheese filling as well as that gooey pecan filling you love so much.
- Cranberry Pecan Dark Chocolate Bark is fun to make for the holidays!
These pecan bars are easy, delicious, and portable!
- The press-in shortbread crust is simple and foolproof.
- You don't need any kind of mixer to make them, just a couple of bowls.
- They have a bit of dark rum in them for added flavor and aroma! (But you can leave it out if you prefer.)
- They are the perfect balance of crispy, chewy, salty, and sweet.
- You can cut them into small, bite-sized pecan squares and eat them with your hands, so they're perfect for bake sales, potlucks, and picnics. (Much more shareable than cutting up pecan pie!)
- One of the greatest things about this recipe is that you put pecans in the shortbread crust as well as the filling. More nutty deliciousness!
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Pecan Bars Recipe
For the crust:
- 1 cup unbleached flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
- 7 tablespoon unsalted butter cold
- ¼ cup roughly chopped pecans
For the filling:
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ⅓ cup dark corn syrup
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon dark rum optional
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 ¾ cups roughly chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Grease a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with butter, dust with flour and tap out excess.
- Combine flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar with a fork or whisk. Add the butter a piece or two at a time, combining with a fork or pastry blender until well blended. You should have a sandy texture with some small bits of butter here and there.
- Stir in ¼ cup pecans gently by hand to combine.
- Spread the mixture evenly in the pan and tamp down gently with your fingers. You just want it to hold together, you’re not trying to make a smooth, flat dough.Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden and the edges are light brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the crust is cooking, make the filling. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, set aside to cool.
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, rum (if using) and salt. Stir in the butter until just blended. Add the egg and mix until well incorporated.
- Pour the filling over the crust, and sprinkle the pecans evenly on top. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top is brown and little bubbles and cracks start to form on the surface.
- Remove from the oven and let cool at least 2 hours before cutting into squares.
- It’s important to use a high-quality pecan since they are the star of the show here. I recommend ordering from Millican Pecan. They use fresh, Grade 1 pecans harvested this season. Sometimes in the grocery store, you’re getting Grade 2 pecans that could be years old. Yes, years. (Like 2 - 4!)
- I like to cut these into small, 2-inch squares. They make a perfect bite!
- Pecan bars do not need to be refrigerated. Store them in an airtight container for up to one week.