Pecan pie is a staple on holiday dessert tables throughout the U.S., but Southerners know that the very best pecans are grown right in our own backyards (sometimes literally). From Texas to Georgia, our region is blessed with the freshest pecans, which makes this pie even more of a Thanksgiving staple here.
Ina Garten is known for her always-reliable dessert recipes, so we decided to put her pecan pie to the test and find out whether it lives up to similar pies in the hearts and minds of Southern Living staffers.
Pecan pie is a sneakily subjective dessert, from the sweetness of the filling, to the amount of nuts, to the flavorings, to whether you say “pee-can or “peh-kahn.” (Ina says “pee-can,” FYI.) Everyone has their own favorite version that they consider to be the best, including Ina herself. And as you’ll see, Southern Living staffers have very strong opinions about it.
The recipe: Maple Pecan Pie
What Ina Says About The Pie
In her book Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, she writes: “I usually find pecan pie too sweet but this one has real depth of flavor from honey, maple syrup, bourbon, and orange zest. This is definitely our new family tradition for Thanksgiving! (Not to mention, it takes no time to make.)”
Our Pecan Pie
As you can imagine, we’ve published a lot of pecan pie recipes over the years—including ones with chocolate, cheesecake, bourbon, and pumpkin. But since Ina’s pie is fairly straightforward, we’re comparing the recipe to one of our more simple versions, Pam’s Pecan Pie. A family recipe from former Test Kitchen Professional Pam Lolley, the pie includes all the familiar ingredients: a butter-shortening pie crust, and a filling made with corn syrup, vanilla, eggs, sugar, butter, and pecans (2 cups). There is one surprising addition in the filling, though—plain white cornmeal, which acts as a thickener.
Ina’s Pecan Pie
The major difference between Ina’s pie and Pam’s pie is that Ina uses only liquid sweeteners in her filling (corn syrup, “good” honey, and maple syrup), plus a dash of bourbon and some orange zest. The crust can be store bought or homemade. (We tested with store bought.) Ina’s recipe calls for an additional 1/2 cup of pecans compared to our recipe.
What Southern Living Testers Said
While most reviews were positive, the amount of nuts raised some eyebrows.
“I don’t know if it’s blasphemous to say, but my biggest gripe with this pie is that there were too many pecans. Maybe if they were chopped or in smaller pieces, but I don’t love having entire pecans to bite through. Other than that, it was a really lovely pie with the perfect balance of sweet to roast-y, maple-y flavor.”
“This pie is all about the pecans. As someone who kind of loves that gluey, syrupy filling that holds a super Southern pecan pie together, this felt like too many nuts and not quite enough gloppy filling. Even so, the flavor was nice—I think I detected some citrus in there?”
Would 10/10 eat again, but I think my Southern family would be searching for more syrupy filling in between all the nuts.
“Good ratio of filling, to nuts, to crust.”
“As a non pecan pie-eater, I would eat this pie.”
“There are too many delicious, toasty pecans to get through in a single slice! But if it was served warm with a scoop of ice cream, I would endure it.”
Southerners are known for having a sweet tooth, and Ina’s pie filling wasn’t quite as sticky, gooey, and syrupy as we’re used to. We need a defined layer of goop in our pecan pie, please. However, the addition of maple syrup and honey tasted great, so next time, we might just leave the recipe as-is and chop the nuts…