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corn-syrup free pecan pie?

Does anyone know of a recipe for pecan pie that doesn't use corn syrup? I am trying to cut down on the CS (section on corn in _The Omnivore's Dilema_ freaked me out).

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    1. I loved that book! I'm trying to get everyone I know to read it. There were a couple supertasty sounding pecan pie recipes posted awhile ago that don't involve corn syrup.


      1. Steens Cane Syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup (look in imports for this if it is not on the shelf with other sweeteners) are both good subs.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          I would second that recommendation, though I must admit I haven't tried it. I just assume it would act the same. Plus, golden syrup tastes so much better than corn syrup!

          1. re: Kagey

            The guy who wrote "Outlaw Cook" (my CRS is kicking in early today) recommends Lyle's golden syrup. I like Steen's, but it is a rather bitter product with an assertive taste. Lyle's is mild & very easy to like.

            1. re: Hungry Celeste

              As an experiment we made a pie using all Steen's (which I like), and it was almost inedible. Too much of a good thing.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Yeah, I hear ya. The bitterness tends to intensify with cooking. But it is nice to put a little steen's in your usual corn-syrup base for pecan pie...I find most pecan pie fillings insipid and usually add a little steen's and/or bourbon.

                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  I agree, 20% or so Steen's makes the filling more interesting.

                1. re: Karl S

                  Yes, John Thorne wrote "Outlaw Cook." I have his pecan-pie recipe copied and practically memorized! Oddly, he's not a big fan of using maple syrup, but I like to throw some in there, and some rum or bourbon.

                2. re: Hungry Celeste

                  I substituted Steen's for part of the Karo in my Pecan Pie once and the filling didn't set properly. It had a bitterness that just wasn't right either. Went back to all dark Karo.

            2. I have an even easier yet very similar pecan pie with maple syrup. Just let me know and I can post the recipe

              1. The corn syrup that home cooks use for baking is not the bad high-fructose corn syrup used commercially.

                2 Replies
                1. re: pikawicca

                  I wanted to buy some corn syrup (to make pecan pie!) but read the ingredients on the Karo and Betty Crocker bottles, which both include high fructose corn syrup as 2nd ingredient.

                  1. re: NYchowcook

                    Dark Karo doesn't have HFCS, light Karo does. No ideas why. Betty Crocker uses it in all products. I checked the labels in the store yesterday.

                2. Try honey cut with some orange juice (honey is thicker and sweeter than corn syrup). Coffee might work too, or booze.

                  1. You can probably find organic corn syrup at your local health food store.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jjb75

                      Corn syrup is a huge problem in the American diet.....it cause many people to be overweight.....I am actually highly sensitive to corn....if I eat anything with corn in it I freak out start yelling & crying. So I avoid corn syrup & starch like they are the plague! I am also gluten-free.....but I eat very well. Once you choose to eat healthier if you eat the unhealthy food only out, at restaurants, on the go....it will eventually come back full swing! I suggest if you are eliminating corn syrup you remain consistent and try one of these wonderful recipes.

                    2. Plain old Karo doesn't have HFCS in it. Other brands do. I baked a pecan pie with Betty Crocker corn syrup not realizing that it had HFCS and it behaved differently, browning much more quickly and the texture of the pie was not the same. The label lists both corn syrup and HFCS so they must be different.
                      There's actually some reasons why corn syrup is used with sugar in some baked goods but I'm not a chemistry whiz so I can't remember the explanation.

                      You don't eat pecan pie all the time - although I wish I could - so just make it right with one of the classic recipes. Then avoid the processed foods that contain that awful HFCS poison the rest of the time.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: MakingSense

                        If I remember my Alton Brown lessons correctly, the reason one might use corn syrup along with regular sugar is that the CS prevents crystallization. Especially important in candy making or anything in which you wouldn't want crunchy little sugar crystals forming.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          This is interesting-- I hadn't considered the diff b/t CS and HFCS. Is plain CS a relatively modern invention, I wonder, or did they also use it for pecan pies back in "the day"? And to Coconutz, from reading this thread it seems pretty clear that pecan pie doesn't necessarily have CS as its main ingredient.

                          1. re: Procrastibaker

                            Karo syrup was introduced in 1902. HFCS wasn't sold until 1967.

                            1. re: Procrastibaker

                              Just checked labels at the store. Regular dark Karo doesn't contain HFCS but light Karo does. Go figure. That stuff is creeping into everything.

                              1. re: Procrastibaker

                                Well, not to belabor the point too much, but it is interesting to note that "Food historian Meryle Evans...says she's been unable to trace pecan pie any further back than 1925. She believes pecan pie may have even been created by Karo home economists."


                                I also see that commercial propagation of pecans and distribution of corn syrup are roughly coincidental. Karo claims the pie to me first made by a company exec's wife.

                                As a side note, my favorite pecan pie remains Kathleen Claiborne's Pecan Pie (Craig Claiborne's mother). It is wonderfully dense with nuts.


                            2. Perhaps you should select a type of pie that does not have corn syrup as the main ingredient if you are trying to avoid that product?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: coconutz

                                Joy of Cooking (1997 ed) puts pecan pie in the same class as chess and shoofly pies. Their recipe for chess has eggs, sugar and cream, but no syrup. Shoofly has molasses. I would put sour cream raisin in the same category as well. These are all variants on a custard.

                                The syrup in pecan pie may reduce its sensitivity to breaking with excessive heat.

                                Lyle's is kind of expensive, but has a nice mild buttery taste. The can describes it as 'partially inverted refiners sugar'.


                                1. re: paulj

                                  My pecan pie is basically pecans in a chess-type filling, but with brown sugar instead of white:

                                  PECAN PIE

                                  pastry for 9-inch, single-crust pie
                                  1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
                                  6 large eggs
                                  2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
                                  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                                  1/4 teaspoon salt
                                  2 cups toasted chopped pecans

                                  Line 9-inch, glass pie-plate with rolled-out pastry.

                                  Place oven-rack at lowest level in oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together butter and eggs. Whisk in sugar, vanilla, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Stir in pecans. Pour into pie-plate. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Cover fluted edge of crust to prevent excessive browning. Turn down thermostat to 350 degrees. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until center of filling is firm and metal tester inserted in center of filling comes out clean. Remove from oven. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, with cream, whipped cream, or vanilla ice-cream if desired. Store at room temperature. Freezes well.

                                2. re: coconutz

                                  Wow - really? I would be more inclined to say that Pecans are the main ingredient in Pecan Pie. Your mistake is forgiven and on a side note, I think it's fantastic that people are experimenting with ingredients and seeking out better alternatives in order to create healthier recipes. I'm going to make a corn-syrup free Maple Pecan Tart today for Thanksgiving and will let you all know how it turns out!

                                3. I use John Thorne's recipe from Outlaw Cook where he uses Lyle's golden syrup - it makes a heavenly pie.

                                  1. I have used golden syrup as a sub for CS in other recipes. GREAT stuff with a bunch more flavor than CS. Good luck.

                                    1. What, pray tell, is golden syrup made from? Anyone know?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Nyleve

                                        Lyle's Golden Syrup is a refined cane syrup. Same general idea as Steen's but lighter.

                                      2. I have a great recipe for chocolate pecan pie with no CS in it. Let me know if you're interested. :)

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                          I would love your recipe for chocolate pecan pie w/ no CS!

                                        2. I make my own substitution and have not had any problems with crystalization. Got this from Ochef.com years ago:

                                          "If light corn syrup is not available, you can substitute a sugar syrup made with 1-1/4 cups sugar and 1/3 cup water, boiled together until syrupy. If your recipe calls for dark corn syrup, we’d suggest using a sugar syrup with a dash of dark treacle or unsulfured molasses, both of which are derived from sugar cane."

                                          1. The old recipe from the Williamsburg Inn had no syrup of any kind. The filling was made from 3 eggs, 1 lb. of light brown sugar, half a stick of butter, pinch of salt a tap. oof vanilla and a cup of pecans. This filling will not work with brown sugar made from beet sugar. It does not set properly.

                                            1. I bet sorghum would be a good substitute too. Interesting info on pecan pies everyone. Thanks! I may actually just use the Karo since I still have some in my cupboard. Or I may do a mix. I'm going to make a couple of pies so perhaps a taste test? I'll report on results next week!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Procrastibaker

                                                I have used sorghum syrup in pecan pies. The flavor is much better than with corn syrup.

                                              2. Kiwijen is right about the function of corn syrup being to prevent crystalization (ie. a grainy pecan pie). Regular sugar is almost pure sucrose, and as Shirley Corriher says. "Purity is the first thing you need for crystals to form" ("Cookwise," Morrow, 1997). Corn syrup is mostly glucose (or in the case of HFCS, a mixture of glucose and fructose), and the presence of very similar but not identical sugar molecules keeps the sugars from fitting together perfectly enough to form crystals.
                                                Invert sugars contain just such a sugar mix, because the sucrose has been broken down into glucose and fructose (a sucrose molecule is made up of one glucose and one fructose molecule, give or take a couple of hydrogens and an oxygen atom.) Honey is a natural invert sugar, and golden syrups such as Lyle's are manufactured invert sugars. But Lyle's is a byproduct of sugar production, and it's made primarily of regular sucrose (which is why it's a _partially_ inverted sugar as paulj noted above).
                                                So this is where it gets a bit tricky. Depending on how fully the sugar has been inverted (completely inverted sugar has no sucrose, just equal amounts of glucose and fructose), the amount of "impure" sugar will vary. So if you make a direct amount for amount substitution of honey or Lyle's for corn syrup, you won't get the same protection against crystals. Wikipedia does have an entry on making homemade invert syrup (look up "invert sugar syrup") in which you add a small amount of acid to a sugar and water syrup and boil it for 20 minutes. The Ochef.com syrup mentioned by Krissywats above will give you a sugar syrup, but without an acid or an enzyme reagent such as invertase, it won't give you an invert sugar. But, as she says, she hasn't had any problems with crystalization.
                                                Egg yolks (which contain lecithin -- Shirley Corriher calls them nature's emulsifiers) and fats also help prevent crystalization. The recipes without any syrups tend to have lots of butter (not, to my thinking, a bad idea any way)and eggs. Bill Neal's pecan pie, in "Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie" (Knopf, 1990) is another recipe that has no syrup, but has over half a stick of butter and 4 eggs for a 9-inch pie.
                                                As paulj points out, pecan pie is really just an egg custard, but corn syrup and invert suagrs won't prevent the pie from breaking under heat. A little bit of starch will, though, so you may see a little bit of flour in old-time pecan pie recipes. Bill Neal also starts his pie in a 450 oven, but immediately drops it down to 325.
                                                I apologize that I've gotten a bit carried away, and that this entry is probably too long and too technical. I do love a perfect pecan pie, but even an imperfect one, even if it's a bit too grainy, or a bit too set up, or a bit too runny, it's still pretty darn good.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: JepJonson

                                                  That was fascinating. Thanks so much for posting this reply. Have you ever read On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee?

                                                  I don't think I've ever had a perfect pecan pie (or even a nearly perfect one). I do love all the okay ones I've had, though, so maybe my winter baking quest will be to make a perfect pecan pie.

                                                  1. re: JepJonson

                                                    that was awfully generous of you to post all that. thank you much; i've learned alot!

                                                  2. I initially bought Lyle's to use in a recipe for ANZAC cookies. There a tablespoon or two of syrup is mixed with baking soda (which foams) and then added to the mix of sugar, flour, coconut, butter etc. Recipes talk about the syrup being used in place of eggs, though I'm not quite sure what it does.


                                                    1. I baked for a restaurant for years and this was one of my specialties: just substitute honey. It's much, much better.
                                                      Just honey, no other sweetener.

                                                      1. I found 2 recipies by googling "peacan pie without corn syrup". The link is http://www.recipelink.com/mf/0/63420. Haven't tried one yet, but will be this Thanksgiving. I tried using honey, I like it but my husband didn't. He said the honey flavor was too dominant. And I used a mild honey!

                                                        1. that was awfully generous of you to post all that. thank you much; i've learned alot!

                                                          1. I use half corn syrup and half cane syrup (Steen's, for example) or sorghum, with a tablespoon of rum thrown in. And I brown the butter.

                                                            1. Here is a recipe for the filing...It's from a old Mexican cookbook of mine...It is easy and delicious!!!

                                                              What ever pie crust you use, the important thing is to pre-cook it for 7 mins at 350 degrees.

                                                              While that is cooking you can prepare the filing:
                                                              1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
                                                              1/2 cup butter
                                                              1 1/3 cup sugar
                                                              1/4 cup maple syrup
                                                              3 whole eggs
                                                              2 egg whites
                                                              1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

                                                              Combine butter, sugar, and maple syrup in saucepan, bring to boil over medium heat, remove from heat stir in chopped pecans. Beat whole eggs and whites in a bowl until blended, stir into pecan mixture, stir in vanilla. Pour filing into pre-baked pie crust, turn heat down to 325 bake for 30-35 minutes. ENJOY!!!!

                                                              1. Brown Rice Syrup. I have substituted it for the light corn syrup in the Silver Palate Cookbook recipe for years after a friend did it (she only had time to stop at one store and she chose the food coop) and we decided it was the best pecan pie ever. It seems to have more depth than the sharp, overly sweet corn syrup.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: moonbop

                                                                  I haven't tried brown rice syrup in a pie but I use it in my granola recipe and I love the flavor. Not overly sweet with a real depth of rich flavor. it was the first thing that popped in my head when I read the OP request, so I second moonbop on this one...

                                                                2. In north Florida, people often use Tupelo honey, in Louisiana - pure cane syrup. I use sorghum for my pecan pie, but I like the honey and cane syrup versions, too. All of these produce much tastier pies than does corn syrup. You could also use barley malt syrup (or brown rice syrup as moonbop did). The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook has a great recipe for sorghum pecan pie.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: mcgreger

                                                                    I know this is an old thread, but I am thinking of using sorghum and am wondering- is it a 1-1 match for a recipe with dark Karo?

                                                                  2. I grew up with this recipe, said to have been from a Williamsburg cook book. Couldn't be more basic:
                                                                    Preheat oven to 350°.
                                                                    Line a pie tin with an unbaked pastry shell.
                                                                    Combine in the top of a double boiler:
                                                                    2 cups brown sugar
                                                                    3 eggs
                                                                    3 heaping tablespoons butter
                                                                    Heat these ingredients, stirring, until they’re hot and beginning to thicken
                                                                    Pour into pie shell. Top with pecans.
                                                                    Bake 30 minutes.

                                                                    1. I'm not an expert baker, and this was my first attempt at a homemade pie, so bear with me.

                                                                      Here's a recipe I came across in my natural food store's flyer. It uses brown rice syrup instead of corn syrup. I've tried this recipe three times and I can't get it to bake right. I've tried different substitutions each time and still no good. The only two substitutions I've made in all three attempts are non-hydrogenated margarine instead of butter, and a pre-made frozen wheat pie crust in a tinfoil pie dish instead of the wheat-free mix they call for. Also, the recipe does not call for whole pecans for the top, but I added them anyway (as shown in the picture). The top gets nice and golden brown but the bottom half remains liquid, and it doesn't set once cooled. Can any of you see anything wrong with this recipe, or with the butter and pie crust substitutions I've made? Did adding the whole pecans to the top mess it up? Otherwise, I followed the instructions exactly.

                                                                      Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

                                                                      3 Eggs
                                                                      1-1/2 cups Florida Crystals Cane Sugar
                                                                      1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
                                                                      6 tbs Melted Butter
                                                                      1/2 tsp Salt
                                                                      1/2 tsp lemon juice
                                                                      1-1/2 cup Brown Rice Syrup
                                                                      1/2 cup Chocolate Chips
                                                                      1-1/2 cups Chopped Pecans
                                                                      1 box Gluten Free Pantry Wheat-Free Pie Crust

                                                                      Preheat oven to 350

                                                                      In a large bowl, mix eggs. Add sugar, flour, melted butter, salt, lemon juice and brown rice syrup.

                                                                      Mix thoroughly, and then stir in chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Prepare pie crust according to package directions. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake 45 minutes or until set and golden.

                                                                      This recipe was taken from a food store's bi-weekly sales flyer. There was no copyright attached to the recipe or stated anywhere in the flyer.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: pie2112

                                                                        Anyone know the make up of brown rice syrup? How is it produced? Is there any reason to assume it is better for you than corn syrup?


                                                                        1. re: pie2112

                                                                          The problem may be your oven, not the recipe or your technique. Have you checked it with an oven thermometer?

                                                                          BTW, I much prefer brown rice syrup to corn syrup--it has a lovely butterscotch-y taste and it's less cloyingly sweet.

                                                                          paulj, brown rice syrup is made from cooked brown rice and barley sprouts (for the enzymatic processes). It is comprised of approximately one-half complex carbohydrates, which would make it less quick to absorb in the bloodstream than corn syrup (which is, I think, pretty close to pure glucose, though HFCS obviously contains fructose and glucose).