This maple bourbon pecan pie is balanced, not overly sweet, and loaded with toasty pecans. The filling is made with just 8 ingredients in about 20 minutes of active time. It's sweetened with maple syrup (no corn syrup required!) and packed with a boozy punch of bourbon.
This community-favorite recipe can be made gluten-free with my flaky gluten-free pie crust! It can also be made dairy-free and cane sugar-free.
I first published a (glutenous) version of this maple bourbon pecan pie recipe in 2011. A friend had gifted me a huge bag of freshly picked pecans, still in their shells, and I wanted to use them in a recipe where their unique flavor would really shine.
Disliking overly-sweet desserts, I adapted a recipe from Cook's Country that uses maple syrup instead of corn syrup, a good amount of salt, and a generous pour of bourbon to cut the sweetness. I fell in love with the silky-smooth filling laced with bourbon and topped with a pinch of flaky salt. And so did many of you, dear readers!
I then shared a gluten-free pecan tart in my cookbook made with a chocolate crust, chunks of chocolate, and fresh cranberries in the filling, that has also gained a bit of a cult following.
This gluten-free pecan pie uses the same filling as my original community-favorite maple bourbon pecan pie filling but baked into a gluten-free pie crust. You can find all my favorite pie recipes here, many of which can be easily made gluten-free.
Less-Sweet Pecan Pie
Pecan pie is notoriously sweet. The base is essentially a custard made with sugar, rather than milk or cream, and eggs and butter. Some recipes cut the sweetness of pecan pie with corn syrup, kumquats, coffee or citrus zest. But this recipe deals with the excess sugar by adding generous doses of salt and bourbon.
I substitute maple syrup for the corn syrup because corn syrup scares me. It is heavily processed and doesn't taste very interesting, whereas maple syrup, which is minimally processed, retains some healthy trace minerals and tastes like heaven flowing from a tree. The maple has the added benefit of giving this pie an even softer set.
Bourbon's spicy-tart flavor blends beautifully with earthy maple and rich nuts, and two applications of salt – fine salt in the custard and a sprinkle of flaky salt on top – make this pie as addictive as bourbon is to some. The ample amount of bittersweet molasses in organic dark brown sugar adds complexity.
Ingredients and Substitution Suggestions
This gluten-free maple bourbon pecan pie filling uses just 8 ingredients.
- Start with a flaky gluten-free pie crust made with sweet rice, oat, and millet flours for extra flavor.
- Toasted pecans add crunch and flavor.
- Feel free to sub other nuts such as walnuts, sliced almonds, macadamias, cashews, etc. Or use seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower for nut-free.
- Maple syrup adds sweetness and flavor. I recommend using darker syrup which is thicker and more flavorful.
- Eggs set the filling.
- Butter makes the filling rich and creamy.
- Use plant-based butter for dairy-free.
- Brown sugar adds sweetness, body, and deep molasses notes.
- I prefer organic dark brown sugar for the most flavor. Or make it refined sugar-free with coconut sugar.
- Vanilla adds rich floral notes.
- Bourbon gets added in two applications – half before cooking the filling, to add flavor but evaporate the alcohol, and half at the end of cooking to keep the boozy kick.
- Be sure to source gluten-free corn-based bourbon if need be. Or use a different spirit such as brandy or rum instead. For a non-alcoholic version, use strongly brewed coffee instead.
- Fine salt sharpens the flavor of the filling, while flaky salt added on top optionally adds addictive crunch.
How to Make Gluten-Free Pecan Pie
This pie uses a few key techniques to turn out a custardy filling crowned with toasty nuts in a crisp crust.
- First, parbaking the crust is a must, since the custard likes to bake at a low temperature to keep it from curdling, whereas the crust likes hot temperatures to make it brown and flake. Use a baking stone to get the bottom of the crust extra-crisp.
- Next, the pecans are given a thorough toasting, then broken up with your fingers, which yields less dust to pollute the filling, keeping it crystal clear.
- The custard is given a brief cook on the stove, just enough to warm it up, dissolve the sugar, and oust any frothy air bubbles that can mar the surface of the pie.
- The pie is baked fairly briefly in a low oven to barely set the custard, then given a long cooling period to firm it up.
Even with these few extra steps, pecan pie is an easy pie to make. You don't have the potential sogginess of a fruit pie, or the long baking time (vegetables, then pie) of a sweet potato or pumpkin pie. If you're pie-phobic, this would be an excellent and forgiving one to start with. And if you're not pie-phobic, you should also make this pie. Because it is amazingly tasty.
The custard bakes up clear and creamy, and softly set, the texture of a fine crème brulée, with a thick layer of toasty, almost candied nuts on top. The whole-grain crust flakes and shatters against the smooth filling.
Most bourbon is made from gluten-containing grains. Though most of the gluten gets filtered out during the distillation process, some highly-sensitive people (such as celiacs) can't tolerate it. To be safe, seek out bourbon made entirely from corn, such as Hudson Baby Bourbon, Koval Bourbon Whiskey, Yellow Rose Outlaw Bourbon, New Southern Revival 100% Jimmy Red Corn, or Balcone Texas Blue Corn Bourbon.
No booze? No problem! Try using strongly-brewed coffee instead. Or try a non-alcoholic bourbon instead.
What to Serve with Gluten-Free Pecan Pie
Some favorite fall holiday serving suggestions.
Make it a festive holiday meal:
- Gluten-Free Stuffing (Dressing) with Leeks & Goat Cheese - classic stuffing, elevated with gluten-free bread and creamy goat cheese
- Roasted Delicata Squash with Brown Butter - so tender and flavorful
- Green Goddess Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes - creamy, bright green, and herbaceous!
- Gluten-Free Mushroom Gravy - umami goodness to spoon over mashers
Have a pie party:
- Sweet Potato Pie - also adapted from Cook's Illustrated and topped with crispy pecans
- Paleo Apple Pie - maple sweetened and cinnamon-kissed
- Almond Flour Apple Crisp - everybody's favorite apple recipe!
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie - creamy, balanced, and delicious
On the side:
- Keep it simple and less-sweet with unsweetened whipped cream
- Mascarpone Cream - tastes like whipped cheesecake!
- Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream - silky and tangy whipped goodness
*Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this maple bourbon pecan pie recipe, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and rating below, and tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.*
Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie in a Gluten-Free CrustPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- 1 9-inch gluten-free pie crust, parbaked
- 2 ¼ cups raw pecan halves
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (dairy or vegan)
- ⅔ cup dark (or light) brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- ⅔ cup maple syrup (the darker the better)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons bourbon*, divided use (gluten-free if necessary; or use strongly-brewed coffee)
- a few pinches of flaky salt (such as Maldon), for sprinkling (optional)
- unsweetened whipped cream, for serving
Make the crust
- Make, shape, and bake the gluten-free pie crust until nearly fully baked as directed.
Toast the pecans
- Spread the pecan halves on a small baking sheet in a single layer and toast in a 350ºF oven until fragrant and very slightly darkened in color, 10-14 minutes. To check if the pecans are thoroughly toasted, let one cool on the counter, then taste it – it should be crispy and have a toasty flavor.
- Let the nuts cool, then use your fingers to break each half into 4-8 pieces.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 275ºF.
Make the filling
- In a medium-large saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar and salt.
- Off the heat, gently whisk in the eggs one at a time, then the maple syrup, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of the bourbon.
- Return the pot to a low flame and cook, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula, until the mixture is warm to the touch (130ºF on an instant-read thermometer).
- Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of bourbon and the pecan pieces.
- Pour the mixture into the hot, pre-baked pie shell. (If the pie shell has cooled, return it to the 275º oven for 5 - 10 minutes to heat it up.)
- Bake the pie at 275º until the custard is mostly set, 25-40 minutes. Ways to tell when the pie is done:
- The pie wobbles slightly when you shake it from side to side, but doesn't slosh wetly.
- An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 160-165ºF.
- When you press down on the center of the pie with the back of a spoon, the custard feels softly set, like Jell-o.
- The sides of the pie may be very slightly puffed, but they should not be so puffed that the pie cracks around the edges.
- Take that pie out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature, around 3 hours. Top with a few pinches of flaky salt, if desired.
- For the cleanest slices, chill the pie until firm (an hour or so), then cut slices and let them sit at room temperature, or place them in a low oven for just a minute or two until gently warmed (but not melted).
- I like this pie equally cold, at room temperature, or very slightly warm. It keeps well in the fridge for up to several days. (I *think* it could be frozen too, but I haven't tested this myself.)
- This recipe is adapted from Cook's Country's Bourbon Pecan Pie.
- If gluten isn't an issue for you, make this with a half recipe of my flaky laminated pie crust. Or make a paleo pecan pie by using this almond cassava flour pie crust and swap the brown sugar for coconut sugar.
- *For highly sensitive people such as those with celiac disease, be sure to source a gluten-free bourbon, or use another spirit such as rum or brandy. For booze-free, use strongly brewed coffee, added all at once with the vanilla.
- For the best flavor, use fresh, raw pecan halves (rather than pieces) and toast them yourself while the pie dough chills. Breaking up the nuts with your fingers, rather than chopping them, gives you more regular pieces and creates less dust, leaving the custard clear and smooth. Be sure to toast the nuts thoroughly or they will taste bland and soggy in the finished pie. On that note, be sure to par-bake the crust until it is almost fully baked, as it doesn't cook much after the filling is added; it should be golden and dry all over.
- This is a boozy pie, not for children, expecting mothers or recovering alcoholics. For a milder bourbon bite, omit the 2 tablespoons of bourbon that are added at the end. I used Bulleit bourbon, but I've also made this pie with Jack Daniel's with great results; I'm guessing that any decent bourbon will make a tasty pie.
- Unsweetened whipped cream makes a fine foil to this pie; though a slice of warm pie with a scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream would be sublime, too.
- This pie needs to cool at room temperature for 3 hours post-baking. For the cleanest cuts, chill the pie after it has completely cooled, cut slices, and then let the slices sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, or warm them briefly in a 300ºF oven.