The holidays aren’t complete without Vegan Butter Tarts! Pie pastry is moulded into a muffin pan and then filled with raisins, nuts and a gooey and sweet buttery, maple filling. These little tarts are a Canadian tradition & make a great holiday or Canada Day dessert!
Say hello to these mapley, buttery, and super sweet Vegan Butter Tarts. This recipe tastes just like the classic version my Canadian friends know and love. They’re sticky, sweet, and downright delicious.
If you’ve never had a butter tart before, just think of a tiny pie filled with a gooey maple filling, raisins, and nuts. Similar to a vegan pecan pie only with fewer bits and more of the gooey filling. You can always find these little treats in Canadian bakeries, at bake sales, or around the holidays. The only difference is that my recipe uses vegan ingredients while still tasting like the original!
You only need 40 minutes to make these melt in your mouth desserts, and your whole family is guaranteed to love them. Any extras store well in the fridge or freezer, meaning you’ll always be able to keep a secret stash (I promise I won’t tell).
Butter Tart FAQs
It’s a common debate in Canada whether the tart filling should be set (solid) or runny. Leave the recipe as-is if you prefer a semi-set, slightly liquidy filling, or add an extra half tablespoon of arrowroot powder or cornstarch to thicken it up a little more. They’ll still be delicious no matter which way you go!
This sweet and buttery treat hails from our true and native land, with the earliest known recipe being published in 1900 by a cook in Barrie, Ontario.
Butter tarts are about the same size as a muffin, but the flavors are completely original. A muffin tin is stuffed with small circles of pie pastry, then filled with a maple butter mixture along with raisins and nuts. Every bite is gooey in the best way and surrounded by a sweet and crunchy crust.
Traditional butter tarts are not vegan because they contain butter and eggs, but they can easily be made vegan, despite the oxymoron for a name. I’ve switched the dairy and eggs for vegan butter, coconut milk, and arrowroot powder (or cornstarch). The combination of the coconut milk and arrowroot "sets" the tarts just enough to keep them nice and gooey. You really can't tell the difference!
Homemade pastry: This is for the vegan tart cases. You can make this as per my instructions or use storebought pie dough.
Here are the ingredients you will be needing if you make it yourself:
The maple-butter filling: This totally vegan filling is buttery and sweet with a rich maple syrup finish. It sets beautifully (just enough to keep them nice and gooey) as the tarts bake, and tastes just like the non-vegan version. Here is exactly what you need to make it:
How to make Vegan Butter Tarts
This vegan butter tart recipe isn’t any more difficult than making vegan mince pies, a homemade vegan pumpkin pie or tart. Even better, these mini tarts can be made from start to finish in about 40 minutes. These are only a couple of elements we need to make. Here’s how it's done:
First of all, make the pastry either in a food processor or by hand, roll it out, and cut it into 12 circles between 4½ and 5 inches in diameter. You can use a cutter or find a mug or glass the right size and use that. Add each circle to the wells of a muffin pan. No need to be fussy here. Butter tarts should look a little rustic! Place them in the fridge while you make the filling.
Make the filling in a medium bowl. It's as simple as adding everything to a bowl and giving it a quick whisk. Don’t worry if there are some small lumps!
Add some raisins and pecans to each tart then fill with the liquid filling mixture to about a quarter-inch below the top of the crust, add half a pecan to each once for decoration, then sprinkle some brown/coconut sugar on top. This creates a nice crust.
Then it's time to bake! They’re done when the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let them cool completely in the muffin tin before attempting to remove then try not to eat them all at once!
For the very best results when making these eggless butter tarts, take note of these tips:
- Use your best non-stick muffin pan or you might struggle to get them out. I highly recommend using USA Pan Muffin Pans. I use all of their bakeware and love it. It's great quality and pretty reasonably priced. And nothing ever sticks!
- Still worried about removing the tarts from the pan? Put a narrow (1/2 to 1 inch wide) strip of parchment paper into the wells of the pan before adding the pastry. The two ends should stick out on either side of the tart shell to act as handles.
- I don’t recommend using a silicone pan or molds because they don’t distribute heat properly. This will affect how the pastry cooks and it won't be at its best. They also they don't provide enough structure and stability for these tarts
- Try not to overwork the pastry and make sure to keep it cold.
- I love to roll out my pastry on a silicone baking mat. It makes cutting and sliding off the pastry rounds really easy.
- The pastry won’t hold the filling or will leak if it’s rolled too thin. Aim to roll it out to just under 1⁄4 inch thick.
- Don't skip the extra sprinkle of sugar on top of the filling before the tarts head into the oven. It will caramelize and create a deliciously light sugary crust above the molten insides!
- I know they look and smell amazing, but don't even think about removing them from the pan until they’re completely cool. They are far too delicate when hot and the filling will be dangerously hot.
- Run a toothpick or a small thin knife around the edges of the tops if some of the filling has bubbled up and made the pastry stick to the pan.
Making ahead, storage and freezing
It’s no wonder vegan butter tarts are a top choice dessert to make for bake sales. They can be made well ahead of time or even frozen up until you need them. Make sure they’ve cooled completely before storing away any leftovers.
- Pastry - You can make the pastry ahead of time if you wish. Leave it as a ball and wrap it thoroughly in plastic wrap then refrigerate for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months either as a ball or already shaped in the muffin pan. To thaw, place in the fridge overnight.
- Filling - Make the filling as instructed, then cover the bowl and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Leave it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes after taking it out of the fridge and give it a quick whisk before using.
- Storage - Completely cooled butter tarts can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge. They are also fine left in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days. Enjoy them chilled or at room temperature, or warm them up for 7-10 minutes in a 350ºF (175 °C) oven.
- Freezing - Keep in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Pop them in the fridge overnight to thaw.
- Try adding 2 tablespoons of dark rum or brandy to the filling!
- Use cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder if you don’t have any at home.
- Add a little extra arrowroot or cornstarch if you prefer a completely set filling with no runniness.
- Omit the raisins or replace them with more pecans.
- Omit the nuts for a nut-free recipe.
How to serve
Eat vegan butter tarts just as they, either warm or cold. Or fancy them up with a dollop of dairy-free vegan ice cream, whipped cream or vegan custard.
Vegan Butter TartsAuthor:
For the pastry
- ¾ cup (180 mls) cold water
- 4 ice cubes
- 3 cups (375 grams) all purpose flour , (plain flour in the UK), plus extra for rolling
- ¾ teaspoon fine salt
- ¼ cup (50 grams) white or cane sugar (optional but recommended for sweetness and pastry colour)
- ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (180 grams) vegan butter , straight from the fridge
For the filling
- 6 tablespoons (80 grams) vegan butter , softened
- ½ packed cup (96 grams) dark brown sugar , or coconut sugar (plus a bit more for sprinkling)
- 4 tablespoons (32 grams) arrowroot powder , or cornstarch (arrowroot gives a slightly better texture so is recommended if you have it)
- ¼ cup (60 mls) maple syrup , (real maple syrup not pancake syrup)
- ¾ cup (180 mls) full fat canned coconut milk , not light
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar , or lemon juice
- ½ cup (72 grams) golden raisins / sultanas
- ½ cup (73 grams) pecan nuts , chopped. Or walnuts (omit for nut-free)
- 12 pecan halves Optional for decoration
Prepare the oven
- Move a shelf in your oven to about a third up from the bottom and place a large flat baking tray on it. Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C) and let the baking tray preheat in there. You will place the muffin pan of tarts on it when you come to bake them in case of any overflow and to radiate the heat better for perfect pastry.
For the pastry
- Put the water and ice cubes in a small jug or bowl and set aside.
- Put a 12 hole empty muffin pan(or 2 x 6 holes) in the fridge (it must be a metal one) so it gets nice and cold while you make the pastry dough.
- To a large bowl or a food processor add the flour, sugar and salt. Mix them up to combine.
- Cut the vegan butter into smallish chunks and add it to the flour mixture. Cut it in either with a pastry cutter or by pulsing the food processor. You can also use your fingertips to gently rub it into the flour if you prefer. The mixture should look like coarse bread crumbs when you've finished.
- Gradually add the ice-cold water (making sure the ice cubes don't fall in), stirring with a knife or pulsing the food processor until the dough starts coming together. You might not need all of the water. Use your hands to bring the pastry dough together (removing the blade first if using a food processor) and turn it out onto a well floured, clean surface.
- Sprinkle the top of the pastry with a light dusting of flour and roll out to just under ¼ inch / 4 to 5 mm thick. Cut out circles that are 4½ to 5 inches in diameter. You can use a cookie-cutter, or a mug or glass or small bowl that is the right size. Cut as many circles out as you can then reroll the pastry and cut more until you've got 12 circles.
- Transfer each circle to the chilled wells of the muffin pan. Gently hold them over and let them fall in, carefully helping them get right into the bottom with your fingers. If you get any tears just pinch them together and smooth out. Crimp the edges however you like. I like the traditional rustic, wavy edges on mine rather than a super neat crimp. Return the pan to the fridge while you make the filling, being careful not to knock the soft pastry.
For the filling
- To a medium bowl, add the softened or melted butter (either is fine), brown/coconut sugar and arrowroot powder. Mix them up then add the maple syrup, coconut milk (be sure to give it a really good stir before using so the separated hard cream and water are mixed and combined well), vanilla extract, salt and vinegar. Whisk it all up well. A few small lumps are fine but make sure any big ones are worked out.
- Remove the muffin pan from the fridge and add enough raisins to cover the bottom of the tarts. Then add a layer of chopped pecans.
- Pour over the saucy filling to about ¼ inch below the top of the crust, then place a pecan half on the top of each one (optional for decoration) and sprinkle some brown/coconut sugar all over the top of each one. This last sprinkle of sugar is what develops the signature crusty butter tart top so don't skip.
- Place the muffin pan on the baking tray in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, keeping a close eye on them from about 15 minutes of bake time, (especially important if you are using a dark coloured muffin pan). I like to put the oven light on and watch through the glass door. If they start bubbling up a lot and look like they might overflow, or the pastry gets too dark, remove them a bit earlier, but in all my tests (and there were many!) this didn't happen. In a light-coloured muffin pan, it will take the full 20 minutes. Darker muffin pans radiate the heat differently and cook a little quicker so the tarts might be ready a few minutes earlier.
- Once done, remove from the oven and let the tarts cool completely in the muffin pan before attempting to remove.
Never knew what these were called. Easy to make and taste as good as I remember - thanks!
Maureen Cram says
One point of confusion for me... could be a senior moment though! You say a 12 or 2 x 6 hole muffin pans... but higher up the recipe you say this...
"Make the pastry either in a food processor or by hand, roll it out, and cut it into 8 circles between 4½ and 5 inches in diameter."
A Virtual Vegan says
8 was a mistake sorry! Originally I was going to make 8 then decided to go with 12. I missed correcting that mention in the post before I published it!