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Old Fashioned Butter Tarts

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.

Butter tarts in a stack
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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.

Butter tarts, raisins, and brown sugar scattered on a counter

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
  • Eggs
Ingredients for butter tarts.

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.

Pastry rolled flat and is being cut into rounds.

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.

Butter tart filling being mixed.

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.

Butter tarts in a muffin pan

After removing from the oven, allow the tarts to cool, then pop them out of the tin and gobble them up.

Butter tarts on the counter

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.
Should Butter Tarts Be Refrigerated?

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.

Can you Freeze Butter Tarts?

Absolutely yes! Store these in an airtight container and they will keep for months.

Butter tarts in a stack

More Delicous Pastries to Try

Printable Recipe

Tarts in a stack

Old Fashioned Butter Tarts

These old fashioned butter tarts are a Canadian classic. A rich filling of brown sugar, butter and raisins is surrounded by a flaky pastry shell. Decedent and delicious, they are a holiday favourite.
4.70 from 75 votes
Print Pin Save Recipe Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 24 Tarts
Calories: 217kcal
Author: Deanna


  • 24 Tart shells uncooked, homemade or store bought
  • 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.


Estimated Nutrition Facts
Old Fashioned Butter Tarts
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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.

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Recipe Rating

Hilary Knight

Sunday 7th of January 2024

Following an old recipe, I soak the raisins (in just-boiled water to cover) for 10 minutes until the wrinkles turn white, then drain thoroughly. (The raisin-water is quite nice to drink!) This probably isn't necessary unless the raisins are a bit hard, but I do it anyway.

By how much do you think I could reduce the amount of sugar?


Saturday 9th of December 2023

Instaed of the milk I use the 35 % whipping cream, no corn syrup


Thursday 7th of December 2023

How do these compare to ones made with corn syrup? That's the classic my grandma makes but I'm sensitive to corn and would like to avoid it this year


Tuesday 12th of December 2023


Being a true Canadian I make my Butter tarts with Maple Syrup rather than Corn Syrup. and some raisons and pecans in the bottom of the trat shells for an extra treat,


Thursday 7th of December 2023

@Deanna, Alright, I guess there's nothing for it but for me to make them and compare!


Thursday 7th of December 2023

I sorry, I honestly couldn't really say. I've never made them with corn syrup. This is the only recipe my family has ever made, and pretty much the only ones I eat.


Monday 3rd of May 2021

I’ve never been able to bake buttertarts, these are by far no fail buttertarts! So easy and so good! Get some many requests for them, thanks for the recipe!


Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

The best I have ever made. Because of the milk cuts down on the sweetness and that’s what I’ve always found a problem with, with butter tarts. Definitely a keeper and I have shared it with my other friends