Butter tart

Butter tart

A pecan butter tart
Type Pastry
Place of origin Canada
Main ingredients Pastry shell, butter, sugar, syrup, eggs, raisins
Variations Substitution of walnuts or pecans for raisins
Food energy
(per serving)
580 kcal (2428 kJ)
Cookbook: Butter tart  Media: Butter tart

A butter tart is a type of small pastry tart highly regarded in Canadian cuisine and considered one of Canada's quintessential desserts. The tart consists of butter, sugar, syrup, and egg filled into a flaky pastry and baked until the filling is semi-solid with a crunchy top.[1] The butter tart should not be confused with butter pie (a savoury pie from the Preston area of Lancashire, England) or with bread and butter pudding.

Recipes for the butter tart vary according to the families baking them. Because of this, the appearance and physical characteristics of the butter tart – the firmness of its pastry, or the consistency of its filling – also vary.[2][3]

Traditionally, the English Canadian tart consists of butter, sugar, and eggs in a pastry shell, similar to the French-Canadian sugar pie, or the base of the U.S. pecan pie without the nut topping. The butter tart is different from pecan pie in that it has a "runnier" filling due to the omission of corn starch. Often raisins, walnuts or pecans are added to the traditional butter tart. However purists contend that such additions should not be allowed.

More exotic flavours are also produced by some bakers. Examples such as maple bacon, pumpkin, chili and salted caramel cardamom flavours have been made for competitions.[4]


Butter tarts were common in pioneer Canadian cooking, and they remain a characteristic pastry of Canada, considered one of only a few recipes of genuinely Canadian origin (for example, by the 6th edition of the Collins English Dictionary). It is primarily eaten and associated with the English-speaking provinces of Canada.

Some suggested pastries with similar origins to the butter tart include:[1]

The earliest published Canadian recipe is from Barrie, Ontario dating back to 1900 and can be found in The Women's Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook.[6] Another early publication of a butter tart recipe was found in a 1915 pie cookbook.[1] The food was an integral part of early Canadian cuisine and often viewed as a source of pride.[6]

Similar tarts are made in Scotland, where they are often referred to as Ecclefechan butter tarts from the town of Ecclefechan. In France, they are related to the much more common tarte à la frangipane, that differs from the basic Canadian recipe only by the addition of ground almonds.

Cultural identity

Butter tarts are an integral part of Eastern Canadian cuisine and are objects of cultural pride of many communities across Ontario and indeed Canada.[7] This cultural and community connection with the tart has spawned butter tart themed tourism such as the Butter Tart festival at Muskoka Lakes, Ontario,[8] the trademarked "Butter Tart Trail" at Wellington North, Ontario, and the "Butter Tart Tour" in Kawarthas Northumberland, Ontario.[9] The two competing associations have since resolved their dispute through the mutual agreement to modify "The Butter Tart Tour" to "Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour".[10] The first Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour Taste-Off was launched at the Flavour Festival in Peterborough on Sunday, April 28, 2013, where four bakeries were crowned winners by a panel of celebrity judges.

Ontario's Best Butter Tart Festival and Contest is an annual event held in Midland, Ontario.[11] The contest portion of the festival attracts bakers from across Ontario, and is Canada's largest butter tart themed celebration, with over 50,000 tarts sold in the festival market in 2014.[12]

Even National Geographic recognizes the significance of the butter tart in an article on Georgian Bay, Ontario. In October 2013, referring to a stand in Wasaga Beach, they stated that "It's the homemade Canadian butter tarts – flaky crust with gooey pecan filling – that set this place apart from other lakeside ice cream stands." [13]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Presenter:Peter Gzowski Guests:Max Burns, Marion Kane, Charles Pachter (December 5, 1991). "What makes a great butter tart?". Morningside. Moose Jaw. CBC Radio. CBC Radio One.
  2. 1 2 Sampson, Susan (May 9, 2007), "The art of the tart", thestar.com, Toronto Star
  3. "Better butter tarts", The Ottawa Citizen, October 26, 2006, archived from the original on November 10, 2012
  4. "Ontario's best butter tart bakers gather in Midland for a contest and festival", Jennifer Bain, Toronto Star, June 25, 2015
  5. "On the butter tart trail", Toronto Sun, June 16, 2010, retrieved September 22, 2015
  6. 1 2 Jacobs, Hersch (2009), "Structural Elements in Canadian Cuisine", Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures, 2 (1)
  7. Baird, Elizabeth (June 30, 2009), "Does Canada Have a National Dish?", Canadian Living
  8. Finney, Laura; Sandstrom, Alison (July 11, 2013), "Buttertart festival a big success", Bracebridge Examiner
  9. "Misunderstanding over butter tarts could turn into sweet success for City bakeries", Kawartha Lakes This Week, July 10, 2013
  10. Dickson, Kirk (August 14, 2013), Wellington North In Butter Tart Taste Off, Blackburn Radio Inc., archived from the original on September 17, 2013
  11. Million-Cole, Nikki (June 17, 2013), "Butter Tart Fans Flock to Midland", The Midland Mirror
  12. 50 fun things to do in cottage country this spring
  13. National Geographic
Look up butter tart in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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