Canadian Butter Tarts

A rich dessert with rich roots that has stood the test of time, these Canadian Butter Tarts are a total classic! A maple syrup custard filling in buttery tart shells makes for a tasty handheld treat.

overhead shot of pile of butter tarts cut in half


What are Butter Tarts?

Butter tarts are small pastries filled with a caramel-like custard made with butter, sugar, syrup, and egg. This pastry is baked until the filling is semi-solid with a crunchy top. But where did they come from?

History of Butter Tarts

It is said that the first written recipe for these tarts appeared in 1900 in the Royal Victoria Cookbook with the name, Filling for Tarts. But historians agree that this recipe existed for hundreds of years before, and that this was the first time it was formalized into a cookbook.

This recipe would’ve been passed around through families or passed around at churches.

After that first publication, where the tart recipe was vague (just a list of ingredients and then says mix), it seems to have changed a little. I used the recipe published in 1979 in the Purity cookbook, which is very different to their recipe published in 1944.

As with any recipe, the ingredients vary from family to family. Some make the filling with brown sugar; others add maple syrup or dark syrup. There is a big group of people who like it with dried fruit and others with nuts, and some with both.

The recipe for today is an adaptation from the Purity cookbook published in 1979. This recipe uses brown sugar and dark syrup, and I substituted it for maple syrup.

Now they are a Canadian tradition and sometimes referred to as Maple Butter Tarts. There is still a great debate about this quintessential Canadian dessert – whether or not they should contain raisins.

five canadian butter tarts on a wire tray

Butter Tart Crust Tools & Ingredients

These little butter tarts start with a flaky crust. You can use your favorite pie crust or use the one in the recipe below. You can also buy premade tart shells, pastry shells or pie crusts and just cut out the circles you need.

I used a muffin tin, but if you happen to have mini tart pans, those will work too.

  • Flour- all-purpose works for this one. Bread flour can also be used. Cake flour does not work. Make sure to measure your flour correctly.
  • Sugar– just plain, white sugar is where the sweetness comes from.
  • Fine sea salt– omit if using salted butter.
  • Unsalted butter– to make the pastry, the butter needs to be super cold, keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Cutting it into small chunks helps it to evenly incorporate.
  • Cold water- from the tap is fine, just make sure it is as cold as it can get! You can use ice water, but make sure the total volume is correct, don’t add ice to the correct cup of water.

Tips for making Butter Tart Crust

To make this crust, make sure all your ingredients are chilled, and working with a food processor ensures that the dough keeps the right temperature. Alternately, you can use a pastry cutter (pastry blender), but this takes longer and the butter will warm, making it hard to work with.

three butter tarts on a plate

How to make Canadian Butter Tart Crust

  1. In the food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt.
  2. Add the cold butter in chunks to the flour mixture, just pulsing (don’t turn it on full blast).
  3. Add the cold water and pulse until the dough starts coming together.
  4. Turn the dough onto 2 plastic wrap pieces, form into a disc and chill well, at least one hour.
  5. Work in two batches. Lightly flour a work surface and then roll out one dough disc to about 1/8 of an inch. Use a round cookie cutter or lid (4 inches) and cut 15 pieces.
  6. Grease muffin pans with shortening or cooking spray. Press each dough circle into the muffin cups (or tart tin). If you still need to make the filling, refrigerate the dough in the muffin tins until ready to pour.
tart crusts in pan

Butter Tart Filling ingredients

The ingredient list for the sugary filling is fairly simple using kitchen basics, at least basics for my kitchen. Many fillings use corn syrup, but I prefer my sugary concoction being a blend of maple syrup and molassesy brown sugar.

  • Unsalted butter- if you use salted, omit the additional salt. Make sure butter is adequately softened, but not melted. Melting the butter will have a negative impact on the filling rising.
  • Brown sugar– light or dark brown sugar works.
  • Eggs– it’s a custard– it needs eggs!
  • Maple syrup- this is probably the most important part, use real maple syrup, not maple flavored sugar water. To get the right texture, a thick syrup is ideal.
  • Fine sea salt- if using coarse, double the amount. This balance the sugar and emphasizes natural maple flavors.
  • Vanilla Extract- Almond works well too. Vanilla bean paste can be used as well.

Some recipes also use vinegar to balance the sweetness (like a chess pie), but I don’t find it necessary.

close up of bite taken out of a butter tart recipe

How to make Butter Tarts Filling

  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Most folks shortened this step, it should cream for 2-3 minutes to get air incorporated in and butter will start to pale.
  2. Add the eggs one at the time, incorporating fully between each addition. Adding them at once will make it hard to fully incorporate and they will just slop around in the bowl and seperate from the butter. This is like tempering the batter.
  3. Add the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla extract. The filling will be a little chunky and loose, this is normal. If you make this ahead and set aside, you’ll need to whisk before pouring into muffin tins.
  4. The easiest way to pour the filling is to use a large measuring cup with a pouring spout.
  5. From here you bake them until they are golden brown and let them cool. Although I like sneaking one while still warm.
butter tart filling poured into crusts

Variations of Canadian Butter Tarts

As I mentioned before, you can add dried fruit or nuts to the individual butter tarts. If adding any of those ingredients, here is the amount you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked in hot water until they plump and then drain
  • 1 and 1/3 cup currants, dates, or figs
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (chopped) and 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
overhead shot of tray of canadian butter tarts

Making Butter Tarts Ahead & Storing Them

Butter tarts keep well at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. Place them in an airtight container.

Can you freeze Butter Tarts?

Yes, you can freeze Canadian Butter Tarts for up to 2 months.

With these tarts you get a bunch of flavor and texture. Flaky, buttery crust. Rich and gooey filling with a crunchy crust on top. The recipe is easily adaptable to every palate.

Canadian Butter Tarts FAQs

Do they have butter tarts in America?

Butter tarts are not as common or widely recognized in the United States as they are in Canada. They are more of a Canadian specialty and are not typically found as a mainstream dessert in American cuisine.

What’s the difference between a pecan pie and a butter tart?

The main difference is that butter tarts do not typically contain pecans. They also commonly have raisins which are not used in pecan pie. We do have a recipe for pecan pie tarts too!

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overhead shot of pile of butter tarts with text overlay for pinterest
three butter tarts on a plate

Canadian Butter Tarts

4.47 from 264 votes
A Canadian treat that everyone should try, these EASY Canadian Butter Tarts consist of a flaky crust filled with a buttery, caramel-like, gooey center!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 15 tarts






  • Using a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter in chunks, pulse 5 to 8 times, or until butter is in small pieces. Add the cold water and pulse until the dough starts coming together.
  • Turn the dough onto 2 plastic wrap pieces lying flat. Cover over and pat into a disc. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Dough will be super sticky, this is normal.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of flour on a flat surface and roll out one portion at the time, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Use a round cutter or lid (4 inches) and cut 15 pieces.
  • Grease 1 muffin pan completely and 3 muffin cups from a second pan. Press each dough circle into the bottom of a muffin pan cup. Refrigerate while making the filling.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.


  • Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at the time. Add the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla extract. The filling is a chunky custard and very loose. If you make this ahead and set aside, you'll need to whisk before pouring into muffin tins.
  • Pour the filling into pie crust and bake for 25 minutes. It is easiest to use a glass measuring cup with a pour spout.
  • Let the tarts cool for 5 minutes in the pan and remove to a cooling rack.
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comment or ratings!



Calories: 264 kcal, Carbohydrates: 29 g, Protein: 2 g, Fat: 16 g, Saturated Fat: 10 g, Cholesterol: 62 mg, Sodium: 342 mg, Potassium: 79 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 21 g, Vitamin A: 504 IU, Calcium: 39 mg, Iron: 1 mg
Author: Lizet Flores de Bowen
Calories: 264
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: butter tart recipe, butter tarts without raisins, canadian butter tarts
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
collage of butter tarts for pinterest
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Recipe Rating

Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I have made the filling and cheated with ore made tart shells as it was my dfirst time ever making them! Omgggg so amazing!
    So today I am tackling making the dough that’s a bit time consuming to put in the muffin tray but I am so excited for the outcome!
    Thanks for taking this Canadian out of her comfort zone and making something my aunt always made!

    1. Yay!!! So glad you loved them. You can totally cheat and use premade pastry cups, I won’t tell.

  2. 5 stars
    Made 2 1/2 doz… but no complaints! Amazing delicious butter tarts!! I used this gluten free pastry recipe for a few gluten free ones, but everyone that ate the pastry in the Savory Experiments recipe said it was the best pastry ever, and this from a girl who has never made pastry before. Honestly divine.

    This filling is divine.

  3. 5 stars
    Made these today and the custard filling is purely addictive. Mine did make closer to two dozen, but I think I used a 3 inch cookie cutter instead of 4 inch.

      1. Hi! Just add a few to cups before you pour the batter (pour the batter over them). You’ll likely have leftover batter since you are taking up volume with the raisins and dates.

  4. 5 stars
    Great way to celebrate Canada Day! I brought them over to my family and everyone enjoyed them! Definitely a go to recipe for a great Canadian classic.

  5. 5 stars
    The tarts to fight for – they look absolutely delicious, and something I would really enjoy over the weekend. Can’t wait to make a big batch of these.

  6. 5 stars
    That caramel filling is calling my name and the flaky crust looks awesome too! I’ve never had this Canadian treat but look forward to trying it out on my family.

  7. 5 stars
    This was the first time baking and eating these tarts. They are utterly delicious. I will be baking these in the future again for sure.