The History of Canada’s Pastry – The Origin of Butter Tarts

Butter tarts are delicious. They’re a national treasure. I could eat them all day. Seriously. I mean who couldn’t?

Think about these little delicious Heavenly tarts. Butter tarts are amazing little snack sized tarts filled with a mixture of melted butter, brown sugar, egg, and sometimes walnuts or raisins. They are simply perfection.


Butter tarts are a little bowl of Heaven that is, in my opinion, the best recipe to ever come out of a Canadian kitchen. Today, I honour the tastiest treat in the history of Canadian treats by telling you a bit about the origin of butter tarts. Of course I know you are totally wondering where this yummy treat came from.


Butter Tarts – Why They’re the Most Canadian

When you hear French Cuisine, you immediately know what that is. The same goes for Italian, Chinese, Indian, and Thai. They have a long, well established history of iconic ingredients and styles of cooking. You know what it is right away. That’s not always the case with Canadian cuisine.

Canada, much like the United States, has a long, long history of colonizers and immigrants and indigenous people. When you combine all manner of immigration with such a wide variation in climate and ingredients, tracing specific Canadian foods can be challenging. Except for butter tarts.


Origin of Butter Tarts

The Collins English Dictionary describes butter tarts as one of the few pastries with a genuinely Canadian origin. It’s all ours. Butter tarts are small pastries with a filling generally consisting of butter, sugar, syrup, and egg which is filled into a flaky pastry and baked until achieving that classic semi-solid, crunchy top texture. SO good. The first published recipe of these tarts was published in 1900 in The Women’s Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook. But they’re believed to be far older than that.


Butter tarts are most likely the result of a time period between 1663 and 1673 when about 800 young women were sent to Quebec from France. Of course, they brought over their traditional recipes, but they would have had to tweak them according to the ingredients they had at hand. The most likely scenario is that the sugar pie, a simple, single-crust pie, is the precursor to the butter tarts that we know and love today.

[tweetthis]What is the origin of butter tarts anyways? Find out more here. [/tweetthis]

Butter Tarts – A National Treasure

Butter tarts have become an icon of Canadian cuisine. This national treasure is beloved all across Canada, particularly in Ontario. In fact, you can find a year round, self guided butter tart tour. The tour, based in Kawarthas Northumberland includes over 50 bakeries, and it even features the Annual Butter Tart Taste-Off.

There are dozens of bakeries in Northern Ontario too claiming to have the best Butter Tarts recipe ever. I happen to think these ones right here are the best butter tarts ever.

The Origin of Butter Tarts

Butter tarts are a true original. Of course they have a beginning that was basically a variation on another pastry. But they have evolved over the years to be recognized as one of the few truly Canadian dishes.

If you haven’t tried butter tarts, you need to do it today! TODAY! They are so delicious, and they always make you feel like you’re experiencing a sweet little bite of Heaven. No doubt you won’t be thinking of the origin of butter tarts when eating them, but nonetheless I am happy to share – my thoughts and research I mean – not my butter tarts!!

Here are 15 of the best butter tart recipes from my favourite food bloggers.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.