Pecan Tassies Are The Mini Thanksgiving Pie Alternative You Need

If there's anything better than a sweet and creamy pecan pie for the holidays, it just might be the miniature version of one. The kid cousins of America's beloved pecan pies come with the perky name of tassies, and they'd be more than happy to pile-high on your Thanksgiving dessert platter this year.

In theory, you could miniaturize any kind of pie, but there's a reason why the tart-like pecan tassies get a name all their own. The makeup is similar to a standard pecan pie, considered one of America's top five most popular pies by Better Homes & Gardens, but tassies have some secrets hidden within their gooey deliciousness.

Whether you call them pi-ˈkäns or pē-ˌkans, the namesake ingredient gets a pleasing push from it outer edges — namely, the crust. Depending on your location and tendency for tradition, you'll be sprinkling or spreading some unexpected flavors into that pastry bowl. That's where tassies twirl their magic, shining as the sweet little stars of your holiday dessert table.

Pecans and creamy crust

Nobody pretends that pecan tassies are anything without the actual pecans — and the fresher the better. And don't even think about tossing them in the recipe right from the bag or tree; They must first be roasted and roughly chopped, notes MasterClass. But long before getting to that part, it's the crust creation that defines your tassies.

Rather than using a premade crust or making a standard one from scratch, you'll be mixing in some extra touches. The primary difference in a tassie crust is the addition of cream cheese to the typical unsalted butter and flour base. But that's not all. Southern Living suggests mixing a half cup of finely ground pecans directly into the mixture, along with the flour, to create a shaggy crust prior to pressing it into a ball of dough.

MasterClass gets even more crust-creative by sprinkling a teaspoon of orange zest into the cream cheese and unsalted butter. Set it aside and then spike the flour with a half teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a pinch of kosher salt before adding it to the cream mixture. Using either crust version, you'll press the dough into a the cups of a mini muffin pan and add the filling.

Filling fancies

In the southern United States, there's a thing called "sugar pies." It's essentially a broad term applied to any single-crust pie with a baked filling comprised of sugar, eggs, and flavorings, explains The Culinary Institute of America, via Burlington Free Press. The sugar can be in any form, including granulated, honey, molasses, and various sweet syrups. In that sense, pecan pies and pecan tassies are sugar pies before adding the variables that distinguish them. Pecan pie filling recipes abound, so you can adapt your favorite one to create your tassie filling.

However, some favored pecan tassie filling ingredients may help you create your own unique take on this Thanksgiving dessert alternative. Most pecan filling recipes call for brown sugar and corn syrup, including one from The Pioneer Woman, but real tassie aficionados swap out the corn syrup for real maple syrup. This gives a richer flavor and nuanced complexity to the two-bite beauties. Southern Living adds a tipsy tingle to their tassies with an optional teaspoon of bourbon.

Regardless of how you fill the creamy-crust cups, MasterClass offers a few tips for tassie success: Always use a quality full-fat cream cheese, preferably in brick form, for a buttery, flaky crust. And, if you're feeling brave, substitute an Italian mascarpone cheese for the cream cheese, which will give it a smoother texture. 

Tassies will stay fresh for up to three days in an airtight storage container.