Enjoy all of the flavor of classic butter tarts but with less effort by making them in bar form. A buttery shortbread crust takes the place of homemade pastry and is topped with the sweet and gooey filling that is every bit as delicious as the original recipe and is sure to satisfy your tart cravings.
A few years ago, when I was trying to nail down what I wanted to bake for the holiday season, I asked Brendan if he had any requests. Among his ideas (including gingersnaps and snickerdoodles) were butter tarts.
I wasn't really in the mood to fuss with pie crust and so I was delighted when I turned to my grandma's family cookbook to find her recipe for butter tart bars.
However, lucky as I am to have my grandma's old cookbook, the recipes are not exactly the easiest to follow. A lot of them are vague with ingredient amounts, bake times and even oven temperatures missing and up for imagination.
But I am happy to report that after making and playing around with it for the past few years, I now have it down to the perfect recipe.
The tart filling comes out gooey in the centre and caramelized on the top and edges. If you thought the edge pieces in brownies were the best part- wait until you try one of these!
If you've never had classic Canadian butter tarts, think pecan pie- a thick and buttery vanilla brown sugar filling is baked until it forms a crackly caramelized crust on top and a soft and sticky centre.
Unlike pecan pie, they are typically baked in small individual tart shells and raisins are the most popular add in. Though if you're not on team raisin, they can (and often are) made without!
If you love these, be sure to give these Eatmore Bars a try- another Canadian classic treat!
- Butter- I typically make these with salted butter but unsalted butter will work as well- just add ⅛ teaspoon of salt to the base and increase the salt in the filled to ¼ tsp. Ensure your butter is softened to room temperature.
- Brown Sugar- For best flavor, I recommend using dark brown sugar but golden brown works too.
- Whole Wheat Flour- Regular all purpose flour also works. Or, if you would like to make gluten free butter tart bars, see my notes on using oat flour in the "Make it your own" section.
- Vanilla Extract
- Sea Salt
- Optional Add Ins- Up to 1 cup of raisins, chopped dates, chopped walnuts, chopped pecans or a mixture.
1. Make the shortbread cookie crust. In a microwave safe bowl, combine butter (the first portion, softened), the brown sugar and the flour with a hand mixer or fork. Prepare a 9x4 inch (8x4 or 9x5 also work) loaf and press into the bottom of the pan and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.
2. Make the filling. Meanwhile, in the same mixing bowl, melt butter in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Cream the melted butter together with the sugar and then add the remaining ingredients. Mix until well combined and pour mixture over the shortbread base once it has finished baking.
3. Bake. Return the pan to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the filling ingredients are set.
4. Cool and cut. Remove the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely at room temperature for 1 hour and then in the refrigerator for 30 additional minutes to set. Use a sharp knife to cut into squares.
Leftovers and Storage
To Store: Store leftover butter tart squares in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
To Freeze: Freeze for up to 3 months.
Make it Your Own
- A Gluten Free Crust Option (using oat flour)- I have made these bars several times with oat flour (use certified gluten free if needed) by applying what I learned from adapting cookie recipes to use oat flour.
- Increase the oat flour to 90 g (¾ cup lightly packed) to replace the whole wheat flour.
- I recommend using store bought for the most consistent results though I have gotten decent results with homemade oat flour as well.
- Customize the Add Ins- While raisins are the most traditional add in for these, you could totally get creative and use any of the following or a combination instead!
- Pecans halves
- Walnut halves
- Almond slices
- Chopped Dates
- Chocolate Chips
- Make a Large Butter Tart- Use the 2x recipe card function and press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch round tart pan. Bake as directed with 2x the filling. Cool and cut into slices
Multiplying the Butter Tart Bars Recipe
To make a larger batch:
- For 16 bars- double the recipe (use the 2x function on the recipe card) and bake in a 8x8 or 9x9 inch square baking pan. Or you can make them in a 9 inch cake pan, pie dish or tart pan. Bake time for the filling may need to increase by 2-3 minutes.
- For 24 bars- triple the recipe (use the 3x function on the recipe card) and bake in a 9x13 inch pan. Bake time for the filling may need to increase by 3-5 minutes.
Add these delicious bars to your holiday baking platter, eat them with some vanilla ice cream or just enjoy them on their own anytime!
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And if you liked these Butter Tart Squares...
...you might also like these other sweet treats!
Butter Tart Bars
For the Base:
- ¼ cup butter softened
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
For the Filling:
- 2 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- up to 1 cup add ins (optional) such as raisins, chopped dates, pecan or walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
Make the Base:
- In a microwave safe, medium size bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add flour and continue to mix until combined. Press into an ungreased loaf pan (8x4 or 9x5 will work). Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until lightly browned on the edges.
Make the Filling:
- While the base is baking, in the same bowl, melt the butter. Using a fork cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and continue to stir until well combined. Finally, stir in the vanilla, and salt.
- Remove the base from the oven. If using add ins, sprinkle them evenly over the base. Pour the filling evenly over the base and fillings and return the pan to the oven for 19-20 minutes, until filling is nearly set.
- Remove to a wire rack and gently run a butter knife around the edges of the pan. Allow to cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars.
- Enjoy at room temperature or cold.
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