How Pecan Pie Became A Thanksgiving Tradition

When you think of a traditional Thanksgiving dessert, what comes to mind? Pie! Specifically pumpkin and pecan pie. While pumpkin is a seasonal fall gourd with extreme popularity resonating in the United States during the Autumn months (via the Food Network), how did pecan wiggle its way into being considered a festive pie placed upon American dining room tables? Believe it or not, the reason we associate pecan pie (and the infinite variations, including a recipe that includes coffee) with Thanksgiving tradition may shock you.

Before we explain how pecan pie became one of the most popular dishes to serve at Thanksgiving, it's interesting to learn the history of pecans and the pie itself. Native to North America, pecans were one of the more popular foods in Native Americans' diets over 10,000 years ago (via The Culture Trip) as a source of protein and energy. When the French came over to New Orleans, it's believed that the Native Americans introduced them to the nut which grew in abundance on trees across Louisiana, making the French colonists the first to create pecan pie. Pecans started being incorporated into Texas cookbooks during the 1870s, but a recipe for the pie itself did not make its published debut until 1898 when a Texas resident submitted it to a St. Louis cookbook (via Texas Hill Country).

Pecan pie, from the Gulf to Thanksgiving tables

While you may think the popularity of pecans and the incorporation of pecan pie on Thanksgiving has something to do with the nut's past in Native American history — it surprisingly doesn't. According to the book "The Pecan: A History of America's Native Nut" written by James McWilliams, the push for pecans and pecan pie nationally in advertisements had to do with the nut's surplus. To combat the large yield of pecans nationally, companies and manufacturers pushed using the nut in recipes on their product labels. Karo syrup began printing recipes for pecan pie on cans of their product. The pie's popularity and simplicity gave a new light to pecan pie.

As for its connection to Thanksgiving, like pumpkins, pecans are harvested during the Fall throughout October and November (via SF Gate). With Thanksgiving being the culinary holiday of the Fall, pecans and pecan pie on the holiday table seemed like the perfect combination.

During your next Thanksgiving holiday meal, share your fun fact with all and see if someone at the table learns something new about this beloved holiday dessert.