In celebration of Canada Day, and one of our
most popular and humble desserts, I decided to spend a lot of time
eating a lot of butter tarts. I had to! How else
could I describe and dissect their deliciousness for the

These tarts are a uniquely Canadian dessert,
despite their similarity to other sweets like the pecan pie or even
Quebec’s own sugar pie. For those of you who don’t know what a
butter tart is (for shame!), it’s quite simple–a tart made of
butter, sugar, eggs, and pastry. But, this treat can be found just
about anywhere: from low-end locations like your local corner store
or even high-end bakeries and cafes. 

What Do I Think Makes a Good Butter Tart?

I’ve decided to draw from my years of butter tart-eating
expertise to outline the following “good butter tart”

  • Creamy, dense filling (not runny!)
  • Smooth texture (you don’t want the granulated mouth feel of
  • Nuts (any kind will do, I’m just not into raisins)
  • Flaky pastry (puff pastry is also a nice alternative)

Research and Assessment… And Eating

In the past week I’ve tracked down a few different types of
tarts to really observe and reinforce my criteria.

A perfectly-round pecan filled butter tart.

The first tart I bought was from a chain coffee shop. It had a
more structured, perfectly round pastry, but the filling was a
little gelatinous, not at all silky and creamy like I would’ve have

Later in the week, I grabbed a coffee at one of my favourite local
coffee shops in Toronto’s West End and grabbed a raisin butter
tart. All my criteria were met, but ugh, raisins! It ruined the
whole thing for me.

A butter tart without nuts or raisins.

Finally, I did a little sleuthing to see if I could find any
butter tart recommendations. I found out, through another online
food community which shall remain nameless, that a small sandwich
shop at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto makes a pretty mean tart. At
I found a plain butter tart–no raisins or
nuts. And though it didn’t fulfill my nut criteria, it was the best
butter tart I ate last week!

The Nut vs. Raisin Controversy

In the end, what I believe we’ve all really been waiting to
debate when it comes to butter tarts is nuts vs. raisins. What’s
your preference? And what better time to discuss than now, leading
up to our nation’s birthday. After all, a butter tart is like
pizza: even when it’s bad it’s good.


Jessica McLaughlin is a foodie in Toronto who spends her
days as a web manager and evenings as a freelance writer. You can
find her on Tumblr where she blogs about kitchen and