History of a Southern Delicacy: Pecan Pie | National Pecan Pie Day

July 12, 2017

national pecan pie day

Today is none other than National Pecan Pie Day! If you aren’t from the South, you might be unaware. I’m loving all of these “national” food days. Any extra excuse to eat dessert, am I right? Pecan pie is the ultimate Southern dessert that can be eaten all year round, although non-Southerners may associate it with Thanksgiving or Christmas. That’s not so in Kentucky. If you haven’t had pecan pie, are you even living?!? I think not! It’s hard to believe there are people out there who haven’t ever tried the ooey gooey deliciousness that is known as pecan pie.

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What is pecan pie?

Pecan pie is a pie made with pecan nuts. The filling is made of eggs, butter, and sugar (usually corn syrup). Like most recipes, there are lots of variations, such as; using white or brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, or honey. My favorite additions to pecan pie are chocolate and bourbon (are you even surprised?!), as well as vanilla ice cream on top. This dessert dates back to the 19th century and remains relatively unchanged ever since.

Why do you see pecan pie everywhere around Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Like I mentioned before, it’s pretty much ubiquitous in the South. However, pecan harvesting season starts in late September and extends into November making fall the perfect time for pecan pie season.

Where did pecan pie originate?

Pecans are nuts that are native to the southern United States. Did you know that Native Americans used pecans more than 8,000 years ago?

Georgia is the main commercial grower of pecans in the United States. Pecans grew along areas watered by the Mississippi River and spread a bit to the east into Alabama. After the Civil War, commercial developers brought in varieties of pecans to grow. In the mid to late 1800s, grafted pecan trees became prevalent in Louisiana.

The word pecan is actually a derivative of an Algonquin word, pakani, which refers to several nuts. Some believe that the French are the creators of pecan pie after settling into New Orleans, because the name of the nut is so similar to the French word, pacane, which itself was taken from the Algonquian word, pakani. However, there is very little evidence to support the idea that this pie is French in origin.

There have been many attempts to trace this dish’s origins and conflicting reports of its history. Recipes for milk-custard-based pecan pies can be found as early as 1824 in Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife. There was also a pecan custard pie recipe that was published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1886. In 1898, what closely resembles the pecan pie that we know and love today was published in a church charity cookbook in St. Louis, but the recipe was sent in by a Texas woman. Other well known cookbooks, such as The Joy of Cooking, did not include this dessert before 1940.

original recipe karo pecan pie

How did pecan pie become so popular?

At the beginning of the 20th century, recipes for pecan pie started appearing outside of Texas, but the recipe wouldn’t become popular until later. The makers of Karo syrup significantly contributed to the popularity of the dish. The company claims that in the 1930s, a corporate sales executive’s wife made a new discovery and a new use for corn syrup. Before the invention of corn syrup, older recipes for pecan pie used darker based syrups or molasses.

Promotional recipes started appearing on the labels of Karo syrup bottles, and the popularity of pecan pie soared. This led to many people being introduced to pecan pie, due to the wide distribution of Karo syrup. This is why that most recipes that you see for pecan pie are made with Karo syrup.

Want to make your own?



Your Turn: Have you ever had pecan pie before? What’s your favorite dessert?

How do you say PECAN? Do you say, pee-KAHN, pick-KAHN, PEE-can, or PEE-kahn?


Happy National Pecan Pie Day!

  • Keerthana Jeet July 12, 2017 at 7:43 am

    I love Pecan Pie, but had no idea it had some history behind it :O…. Feeling proud that I came across this post and got to learn something that I can share with others 🙂

  • Nicole Green July 12, 2017 at 11:07 am

    I didn’t know this day existed! I’m not big on pecan pie myself but my family loves it!

  • nikkiann July 12, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Can you believe that I’ve never had Pecan Pie?! I’d have to find an alternative recipe now I’m gluten-free and dairy-free, but it does look delicious. It’s great to read the history behind it too 🙂

  • Christina Rambo July 12, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Pecan pie is my hubby’s ultimate favorite! This was interesting and thanks for the links to recipes of variations.

  • Edna May Randolph July 12, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Looks amazing! Can’t wait to try 🙂

  • Shannon @ Lady's Little Loves July 12, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Looks truly scrumptions! YUM!!

  • Patricia @ Grab a Plate July 12, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Ooo! I wish I knew it was a National Pecan Pie Day! I love them, too, and I’m with you: add chocolate and bourbon!! Is the pix of the recipe from The Joy of Cooking? Fun!

  • Jenny July 12, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    What an awesome and interesting post! I LOVE pecan pie- definitely one of my guilty pleasures!

  • Jennifer Schmidt July 12, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    We make pecan pie every year. It is most of my families favorite pie. I love to learn the history.

  • Helen @ Hel On Heels July 12, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    I love pecan pie! It’s my favorite. We make it to welcome new neighbors, when someone is sick, as a thank-you for someone who did something kind. I love them.

  • Joy Hammond July 12, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    I did not know about all this history! And I can’t believe I didn’t know it was National Pecan Pie Day! It is my favorite dessert and one of my favorites is the Chocolate Bourbon recipe that linked – it is amazing! Thanks for sharing all your Southern knowledge 🙂


  • Harmony at Momma To Go July 13, 2017 at 7:13 am

    who knew it was today… up north we think of pecan pie, and all pies more for Thanksgiving. I always get a pecan pie for Thanksgiving Im like the only one that eats it! YUM!

  • Dannielle Alphonse July 13, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Whitney! I love a good southern Pecan pie. Well, the filling more than anything!!

  • Jordan | Read. Eat. Repeat. July 13, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Wow, what a cool post! I’m sad and ashamed to say that I, a native TN food blogger, didn’t realize it was Pecan Pie Day until late last night. I can’t believe I missed it! That Pecan Pie Cake looked amazing, might have to try it!

  • Jill @ RunEatSnap July 13, 2017 at 10:03 am

    I have never been much into pecan pie but I know people that really love it!

  • Marette Flora @ Floradise July 13, 2017 at 10:09 am

    My husband is from Louisville! He loves the pie and I had never had it until we met! It’s delicious.

  • Jenna Urben July 13, 2017 at 11:48 am

    I love pecan pie but I haven’t had it in so long! I loved reading about the history behind it.

  • Jessica Bradshaw July 13, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    How cute are these?! My husband loves pecan pie. I just told him about the history thanks to you.

  • Taylor Smith July 13, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    I love this!! It looks AMAZING.

  • Jos A July 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Didn’t know all that about pecan pie! It’s my mom’s favorite and we make it every Thanksgiving!

  • Sophie Wailes July 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    oooh I love pecan pie! I have a recipe with a rather controversial addition of rosmary which is absolutely divine!

  • Marta A Rivera Diaz July 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Pecan pie is my hubby’s absolute favorite! Thanks for sharing your recipe with us!

  • TheWorryGames.com July 13, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Looks delicious.

  • Laura July 13, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    I LOVE pee-can pie (though I sometimes say pic-KAHN) it’s one of my absolute favourite favourite desserts!

    Though, a sour cherry pie? with a basket weave crust? That’s my favesies!

    Laura @ http://www.cookwineandthinker.com

  • Felicia @ The Starving Chef July 13, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    I say “pee-can” pie! Though if I’m trying to sound fancy, I’ll say it “pee-kahn” – it’s like the “carAmel” vs “carmel” debate all over again!

  • Sarah Kranz July 13, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    Pecan pie has always been one of my favorites, too bad the rest of my family doesn’t like it!

    • Whitney S. July 14, 2017 at 12:48 am

      That just means that there is more for you 🙂

  • Rachel Ritlop July 13, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Pecan Pie is the best!! Looks so good !

    • Whitney S. July 14, 2017 at 12:48 am

      I love it so much!!

  • Sharon Glascoe July 14, 2017 at 6:14 am

    Looooove pecan pie! My favorite version is a chocolate bourbon one. So incredible!

  • Cameron July 14, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    I love pecan pie, especially for the holidays! Thankfully I’m from Louisiana, so they aren’t hard to find haha.

  • Megan July 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    So pies are not really a big thing In NZ. Ours are actually meat ones rather than dessert ones. So I’ve never tried pecan pie before! I think I might have to make one sometime.

  • Jazzmine Woodard July 16, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m not a big pecan pie fan but it’s my mom’s favorite so I’ll be sharing with here!

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    Hey y'all! My name is Whitney, and I'm the founder of Fabulous in Fayette. I've been living in Lexington since 2008. I'm in love with my city of Lexington and love all the amazing local businesses and restaurants. It's seriously one of the best places to live!

    Not to be confused with Fayetteville, North Carolina. Fabulous in Fayette celebrates the fabulous city of Lexington, the great state of Kentucky, and Southern Living. In case you are not from here, Fayette refers to the county where Lexington is located!

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