Pecan pie was the first pie I ever ate. I was 7 or 8 years old when I tried it, and I hated it! I think I psyched myself out, I just couldn’t grasp the idea of a vegan pecan pie recipes. In my head, I was thinking about a pie crust filled with dry pecans and it was excruciating to me. Years later, the thought was still in my head but as a young cook, you can’t be picky. Well, let’s just say my thought on vegan pecan pie recipes changed very quickly. I loved it. Since my switch to the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, I have tried many pecan pies. Most sucked, but these pies stood out!
History of The Pecan Pie
Pecans themselves have been used way before the pie was even invented. An archeological find in Texas indicated that pecans were being used by Native Americans 8000 years ago! These tree nuts were indigenous to the river valleys of Mexico and the Central/Eastern regions of North America. The word “pecan” drives from the Algonquin word, Pakni, which refers to several nuts.
More specifically, “ all nuts that require a stone to crack”.These nuts were favored by most due to two specific reasons. They were accessible by waterways, and they were easier to crack than the other nuts available. During the Autumn season, pecans were a staple in the indigenous peoples of North America, making harvesting them; a way of life.
These nuts grew on trees along the Mississippi River and even spread into the Alabama area over the years. It wasn’t until after the civil war that these trees had made it to Georgia, and that was done artificially by commercial growers. Meaning, a few varieties of pecan trees were brought in, to Georgia, to grow and cultivate for the masses. That was a history-changing event because now Georgia is the country’s main commercial grower for pecans. The pecans history didn’t stop there, as mankind progressed, the cultivation of pecans progressed as well.
Louisiana is, fabled by some, to be the supposed birthplace of the famous vegan pecan pie. But even with all of this information about pecans, it still raises the question, “How did the pecan pie originate?”.
This history takes us back in time, once again, to medieval Europe. This was home to a delicacy known as the “shoo-fly pie”.The oddly named pie was a version of what we consider to be the “sugar pie”, but this version was composed of molasses and brown sugar. This pie was favored by most, and whose intricacy depended on the consumer. Over the years this recipe was changed and modified into different variations from chess pie to the treacle tart. So there was plenty of time to perfect the craft.
Their concept of the sugar pie was then moved to North America when the French made their great voyage to the new land. In the early, 1600’sthe French adventurers finally end up settling in what is now known as Louisiana. Along with them, their legendary “sugar pie” recipe, which had survived all those years from just word of mouth. It wasn’t that easy though, due to the land and resources available the pie was adapted to fit the ingredients around at the time.
Shortly after their arrival, the French settlers were met by the native American tribes who resided in that area. It wasn’t much time at all before the pecan was introduced to the foreign settlers. After a quick examination, the French realized the economic potential of these wild tree nuts, and an industry was born. Pecans were cultivated and shipped to the west indies and were enjoyed all over.
Tracing the pecan pie origins has proven to be difficult because of the nature of the two histories. As you can see we have both components side by side in the same place at the same time. Yet, no recipe for the pecan pie wasn’t written down until a hundred years later in a magazine called Harper’s Bazaarin 1886. This was the first written example of anything that resembles a pecan pie. It is safe to say that it is highly unlikely this was the originating point, but historically this magazine article was the pecan pie world debut!
What is Pecan Pie?
A pecan pie is a dessert pie that consists of pecan nuts and filling. The filling will vary nowadays due to dietary restrictions and availability, but the most mainstream filling is comprised of eggs, sugar, and butter. Variations may contain, white or brown sugar, molasses, honey, cane syrup, etc. Widely known as a southern specialty in the United States, this pie is typically served around holidays with a multitude of different toppings and additives. This pie is often served with chocolate, whipped cream, bourbon, and more.
Vegan options are abundantly available, making this dessert approachable one more to the more health-conscious eaters.
How to Make Vegan Pecan Pie
There are many vegan pecan pies recipes out there in the world. So giving a definitive answer on exactly how to do it isn’t realistic, but I can’t tell you the basic process. Then we will get into details later.
First, we have to figure out the pie crust situation. Whether you want to make it yourself or purchase one. It’s up to you, no judgment here. If you decide to make the dough, you can follow my vegan pie crusts guide for more information.
Once the dough is rolled out and then blind baked (if necessary), it’s time to make the filling. This is where a lot of pecan pies will differ. All pecan fillings require a balance of liquidity and thickness no matter what the recipe is, so we will be keeping our eye on that. Most recipes call for chopped pecans in the filling as well.
After the filing is situated, we will transfer the filling into the pie crust. Do so by placing the pecans in the pie crust, then pouring the liquid over the pecans. This ensures you get all the pecans in there. After doing so, it is best practice to level the top of the pie to ensure even cooking all the way around.
Finally, we will bake the pie. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or even more, depending on the filling and size of the pie dish. I always use a 9-inch pie dish because that seems to be the industry standard.
Once the pie is cooked, we let it cool. The filling will look liquid due to the amount of sugar, but as it cools it will set. Once at a reasonable temperature, eat your pie and enjoy!
Vegan Pecan Pie Ingredients
Sweet potato pie can contain a wide variety of ingredients but here are some of the major ones you will commonly see.
Pecans are a nut from the hickory tree, native to northern Mexico and the Southern United States. This tree nut is jam-packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Best of all, the pecan is cholesterol-free, sodium-free, and low carb! These nuts are also a protein powerhouse with lots of fiber and healthy fats. Health benefits associated with pecans include increased heart health, diabetes management, arthritis relief, and other disease prevention.
Corn syrup is a food-grade syrup made from the starch of corn. It is used to soften textures, prevent crystallization, add volume, and enhance flavor. To bakers and confectioners alike, this is also known as glucose syrup. This is not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup, which is modified by manufacturers by converting a large portion of the glucose into fructose.
Cornstarch is a common food ingredient often used to thicken sauces and soups, to leaven bread, and to make corn syrup. Also known as Maize starch or cornflour, this powdery substance is derived from corn grain, more specifically, it is extracted from the endosperm of the corn kernel.
Vegan butter is a butter alternative made from plants that are completely animal product free. Typically, vegan butter is made from vegetable oil mostly, but there is a small percentage of water, salt, and other flavorings. The flavorings in vegan butter are gluten-free, MSG-free, and alcohol-free. Popular brands of vegan butter are Earth Balance, Smart Balance, and I Can’t Believe its Not Butter.
Maple syrup is a syrup made from the sap of sugar, red, or black maple trees. More specifically, maple syrup is made from a sap called xylem sap. Maple trees are usually tapped at 30-40 years old, and produce 35-50 liters of sap per season. Depending on the weather, a season can last up to 8 weeks.
The syrup is then boiled down in “sugar houses” to concentrate the flavor. A sugar house is a building with louvered vents to release steam coming from the boiling syrup. These syrups are then categorized and regulated by federal governments based on color, quality, and time of extraction.
Vegan Pecan Pie Tricks and Tips
Prepare the crust first then the filling. The longer the filling sits, the more prone it is to separation.
Cut calories with the corn syrup or maple syrup, don’t sacrifice quality. It’s a pie, its not the best thing for you. Enjoy it!
Make sure your pie crust is right for you. If you are making one fresh, check my vegan pie crusts guide for some really helpful tricks and tips. If buying, be sure to read the directions on the packaging because all pie crusts are different.
If you really want to step your pecan pie game up, you have to get the best pecans. The best pecans for vegan pecan pie, in my opinion, are called Stuart pecans. Stuart pecans have great flavor, and one of the best fill ratios of all commercially produced pecans. One downside is their harder exterior shell makes them hard to crack. Overall, this is the best bang for your buck pecan for pecan pie.
If you are looking for great flavor and don’t care about cost or labor. There is a pecan that will win the pecan pie contest every time. Those are Elliot Pecans. Elliot pecans are on the small side, averaging about 75 pecans a pound with a thick teardrop-shaped shell.
These pecans produce consistently perfect halves and have a high oil content than average. These pecans are most commonly eaten raw, but they are in the top tier for baking and freezing.
Toasting your pecans is a great way to get more flavor from your pecan pie. Some recipes will say you don’t have to, but simply having pecans in the pie will not toast them properly. You need to toast the pecans yourself. Toasting the pecans activates the oils, crisps up the meat, and develops a delicious buttery/caramel flavor you simply don’t get when they are left untoasted.
Toast the pecans in the oven at 300F for 20 to 25 minutes. Flip the tray in the oven once or twice while cooking. Simple as that.
Fill the Crust
Place your chopped or whole pecans in the crust, not in the filling. Once the pecans are in the crust, then pour the filling over them. It makes a difference.
Browning Vegan Butter
Butter makes a world of difference in these recipes so I strongly suggest using vegan butter. Using vegan butter makes a big difference in flavor, but if you really want to step up the flavor, then brown the butter! Simply cook over low heat in a sauté pan until the butter turns brown!
Preheating the Pan
If you are looking for a nice crisp crust from top to bottom, then preheat your baking pan. Simply throw your pie dish in the oven while it is preheating, this will help the bottom of the crust crisp up. Note that if you do this you will have to “tent” the crust sooner.
Tenting the pie crust is an absolute must! Tenting is the process of wrapping the pie crust in aluminum foil to prevent further browning. You usually tent the crust when the pie is 3/4s the way cooked.
Even though the aroma of freshly baked vegan pecan pie is unbearably seductive, you need to give the pie plenty of time to cool. Cutting into a sweet potato pie that has not set, will ruin the entire pie. Trust me I have done it, more times than I’m going to admit.
- 1 9 in a pie dish
- 1 food processor
- 1 mixing bowl
- 1 whisk
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Aluminum foil
Vegan Pecan Pie Recipes
Yield: 1 pie (8 servings)
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
- 1 recipe Vegan Pie Crust, parbaked
- 2 Cups Pecan Halves, rough chopped
- 8 oz Coconut Milk, full fat
- 1/3 cup Maple Syrup
- ½ Cup Brown Sugar
- ½ tsp Cinnamon, ground
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 3 Tbsp Cornstarch
- ½ tsp Salt
- ¼ Cup Vegan Butter, browned
- Preheat oven to 400 F. While the oven is preheating, your baking dish and line with a crust. Once the dish is lined, add chopped pecans to the lined pie dish.
- In a large saucepot over medium heat, combine the rest of the ingredients (coconut milk, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, cornstarch, salt, and vegan butter). Bring this mixture to a simmer. Be sure to stir this mixture frequently. The cornstarch should be dissolved at this point. Once the mixture simmers a minute, it should thicken up.
- Once the sauce is thick, remove from the heat. Pour the filling into the pie crust over the pecans. Spread the filling evenly over the top, now is the time to add decorative pecans to the topical layer.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. During this time monitor the crust, once it gets golden brown you will need to shield it with aluminum foil to prevent burning.
- Remove from oven and let pie rest at least 30 minutes before serving.
Vegan Pecan Pie Recipes (Flax Egg)
Yield: 1 pie (8 servings)
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
- 1 recipe Vegan Pie Crust, par-baked
- 2 cups pecan halves, toasted &chopped
- 2 Tbsp Flax Seed, ground
- ¼ Cup Coconut Milk
- ¼ Cup Vegan Butter, browned
- ¾ Cup Dark Corn Syrup
- ¾ Cup Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Cinnamon, ground
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. While the oven is preheating, grease your pie dish and line it with your pie crust. Add you pecans to the pie crust and set aside.
- Combine flaxseed and coconut milk, and set aside for 7 to 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine the remaining ingredients (vegan butter, dark corn syrup, sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and cinnamon)and the flax egg and whisk thoroughly. Whisk until smooth, this mixture should be thick.
- Pour the mixture over the pecans into the pie crust. Be sure to spread the mixture evenly with a rubber spatula. If you want to decorate the top of the pie, now is the time to do so.
- Bake the pie for 40 to 50 minutes. Be sure to shield the crust with aluminum once it reaches a nice golden brown color. About 15 minutes in.
- Once cooked, remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature until completely cool. The pie should set as it cools! Enjoy!
- Does pecan pie need to be refrigerated?
Pecan pie does not require refrigeration, but I would strongly recommend you do so. Keeping your pecan pie in the fridge with increase its shelf life considerably and keep it fresh.
- Can you freeze pecan pie? How long?
Yes, you can freeze pecan pie. Once it’s completely cool, freeze the pecan pie whole, or in sections. I recommend freezing in sections this way you can pull what you need and it’s easier to thaw. Wrap the pie well and it will last 2 to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw out in the fridge.
- Can you serve these pecan pies warm?
Yes, a lot of people prefer a warm vegan pecan pie. Be careful not to heat up too much of the pie will become liquid again. You also want to heat it gently to prevent any burning.
- Can I replace the corn syrup in pecan pie with something else?
There are a few options available. You can use glucose. Glucose is a little thicker by has a neutral flavor. There’s also brown rice syrup, which isn’t as thick but has a nutty flavor that pairs well with the pecans. Agave syrup is another good substitute.
- Can I use pecan halves instead of chopped ones?
Yes, if you want to leave the pecans whole that is totally fine. It is a 1 to 1 ratio. So just skip the chopping and you’re on your way!
A Timeline & Fun Facts. (2018, February 15). Retrieved December 02, 2020, from https://ilovepecans.org/a-timeline-fun-facts/
Hatic, D. (2016, November 23). A Brief History of vegan Pecan Pie. Retrieved December 02, 2020, from https://www.eater.com/2016/11/23/13575790/pecan-pie-history-about
Brennan, D. (2020, September 17). Pecans: Health Benefits, Nutrients per Serving, and More. Retrieved December 02, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-pecans