These old-fashioned butter tarts are a Canadian classic. A flaky pastry shell surrounds a rich brown sugar, butter, and raisin filling. Decadent and delicious, they are a holiday favorite.
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What are Butter Tarts?
Butter tarts are a Canadian classic. That being said, there are many variations that can cause some pretty deep debates.
Some like their butter tart to have a liquid, drippy center. Some like the center to be a bit more firm.
This recipe is made without corn syrup, and the filling is on the firmer side, which I prefer. If you like it a little softer, you can add fewer raisins.
Then there is the great debate about raisins and whether or not they belong in a butter tart at all.
Should butter tarts have raisins?
If you go back to 1900 to what is thought to be the first published recipe, the recipe calls for currants.
Over the years, the recipe has been adapted and changed and now every family has their own favourite.
It’s the one that is placed on their holiday table year after year.
In my family, the recipe calls for raisins, and always has. This recipe has been in my family longer than I’ve been alive.
I love these tarts so much that when I was younger and still lived at home, I would sneak into the deep freeze (conveniently right beside my bedroom in the basement) and eat them straight out of the freezer.
I hope you enjoy these tarts as much as my family does.
For a full list of ingredients and measurements, see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
Pastry – You can use homemade or store-bought pastry. Or you can use pre-made tart shells without any issues. Unsweetened pastry is recommended, as the filling is sweet enough on its own.
Butter – You can use salted or unsalted butter in this recipe with equal results.
Brown sugar – Light brown sugar is preferred for this recipe, but you can use dark. Dark brown will have a richer flavor.
Milk or Cream – This recipe can use either milk or cream.
Raisins – Golden or sultana raisins work equally well. You can replace the raisins with currants if you prefer, and if you’d like a bit of crunch, you can add some chopped pecans.
You will also need:
- Vanilla extract
How To Make Old Fashioned Butter Tarts
An excellent butter tart starts with perfect pastry. I have always made my own homemade pastry; it is light and flaky, and because it is unsweetened, it will work well for any recipe.
If you have a recipe you already love, that’s fine, too. If pastry is not something you want to dive into making, it’s fine if you want to buy frozen shells.
This recipe is best with unsweetened pastry, as the filling is sweet enough.
If you make your pastry, roll it out to a little more than ⅛ inch thick. I like to do this on a floured piece of parchment and then lay a piece of plastic wrap over my pastry before rolling.
This prevents the rolling pin from sticking without adding extra flour, making the pastry tough.
Next, you need to cut the rounds. My mom always uses the lid of a wide-mouth jar. It is a perfect size. You can also use a 3.5 inch round biscuit cutter.
Spray your muffin tin with some non-stick spray. The tart shells shouldn’t stick, but the sticky filling will sometimes bubble over and stick. Then, gently press your shells into the pan.
Next, mix your filling. Beat the butter, sugar, egg, milk, and vanilla together, then stir in the raisins.
Then, fill your shells to about ⅔ full. You can fill a bit more, but it will bubble and stick, though I kind of love that sticky part.
Then pop them into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.
After removing from the oven, allow the tarts to cool, then pop them out of the tin and gobble them up.
Top Tips & FAQS
- Spray the muffin tin with non-stick spray before adding the pastry, otherwise the caramelized sugar will tend to make the tarts stick to the pan.
They don’t have to be stored in the fridge, but if you want to optimise freshness, I recommend it if you won’t eat them within a few days.
Absolutely yes! Store these in an airtight container and they will keep for months.
More Delicous Pastries to Try
Old Fashioned Butter Tarts
- 24 Tart shells uncooked, homemade or store bought
- ⅔ Cup Butter softened
- 2 Cups Light Brown sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- ¼ Cup Milk
- 2 teaspoon Vanilla
- 1.5 Cups Raisins
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
- If making your own pastry, roll and cut your pastry into rounds with a 3.5 inch cutter, or the lid of a wide mouth mason jar. Lightly spray 2 12-cup muffin tins with non-stick spray and gently press the shells into the muffin tins.
- In a medium size bowl, beat the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla until smooth.
- Stir in the raisins.
- Spoon filling into each of the shells, filling to ⅔ full.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Allow to cool in the muffin tin, then remove and store in an airtight container.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.