Tar Heel (Chocolate Pecan) Pie, Gluten-Free

Happy Monday, all!  I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday (if you’re in the US) and are ready to gear up for the holiday season.  Before we move on though, I wanted to share a new dessert I made for Thanksgiving this year.  As you may know, I am a chocoholic and I usually make a chocolate cake to go with the pumpkin pie we have for dessert.  This year I did something a bit different. I decided to make a chocolate pecan pie.  I love me my chocolate!  But this wasn’t like any chocolate pecan pie I’d ever had.  This pie is more like a chocolate pecan brownie inside of a pie crust. In essence, it is a cake and a pie at the same time.  Can’t get much better than that!

The pie I made was an adaptation of the Tar Heel Pie from the new book,  Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, From Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan, by Nancie McDermott.  As you may know, North Carolina is the Tar Heel state.  No one is clear on why it got this name.  Most agree that it has something to do with the state’s pine forests, which created the vast amounts of tar, pitch, and turpentine that served as the state’s most important exports in the early part of its history.  And as you know, I am a wanna-be Southern girl, so any recipe that has its roots in Southern history is OK by me.  According to McDermott, this pie is much beloved in North Carolina–and it is now much beloved by my family!

This pie is truly amazing.  It’s like nothing I have ever had–and I am so very glad I found it.  Because it’s like a rich chocolate pecan brownie nestled in flaky pie crust it is, for me, like a dream come true.  The pie went very quickly on Thanksgiving.  That’s saying a lot–my family and Thanksgiving guests are all pumpkin pie fans!  It was so good I made another one this past weekend.  We couldn’t get enough of it.

Many of the recipes in the McDermott’s book look terrific to me.  I will be exploring them further in the upcoming months.  The thing I’m really enjoying about the book is that it’s not only devoted to conventional fruit pies.  Many of the pies are custard-based (which I love), or based on unusual fruits and vegetables.  She’s got recipes for Green Tomato Pie, Persimmon Pie, and Muscadine Grape Hull Pie.  And she has a whole section of variations of the Chess Pie.  I can’t wait to experiment with all of these.

Oh, and about the Tar Heel Pie.  It’s terrific by itself or served with a bit of whipped cream on the top–delish!

Tar Heel Pie, Gluten-Free (with adaptations for dairy-free)
-adapted from Southern Pies, by Nancie McDermott

Makes one 9 inch pie

Special Equipment Needed
-9 inch pie plate
-rolling pin

Note: this recipe uses my gf flour mix, Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in a cool, dark place):
1 1/4 C (170g) brown rice flour
1 1/4 C (205g) white rice flour
1 C (120g) tapioca flour
1 C (165g) sweet rice flour (also known as Mochiko or glutinous rice flour)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum
(you can also use the gluten-free flour mixture (not baking mix) of your choice–just be sure it contains xanthan gum. Or, you can add 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum per cup of gluten-free flour. If you use bean flour, it will add a bean taste to the pie)

1/2 recipe for Flaky Pie Crust, Gluten-Free
1/2 C (1 stick; 4oz; 115g) unsalted butter (or butter substitute)
1 C (170g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C (70g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
1/2 C (100g) granulated sugar
1/2 C (105g) packed light or dark brown sugar (l like dark)
1 C (60g) chopped pecans
2 large or extra large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Make, roll out, and line your pie pan with the pie crust. Place in refrigerator until needed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over very low heat. Watch carefully that it doesn’t burn. Once melted, remove from heat and add the chocolate chips.  Let these melt into the butter for 1 minute and then whisk together the mixture until smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugars and whisk together well. Add the pecans and toss to coat them evenly with flour. Add the eggs, vanilla and the chocolate mixture. With a large spoon, stir to mix everything together into a rich batter. Remove pie dough-lined pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling into the pie pan.

Place the pie pan on the lowest shelf of the oven. Bake at 350 degrees until the pie is puffy, browned, and a bit dry and firm, about 30-40 mins.  It should look like a brownie in a pie crust (which is basically what it is).

Remove from oven, place on a wire rack to cool completely.


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  1. MaryKate says

    Thanks for the fantastic recipe. I’ve relied on your pie crust recipe for a while now, which is always a success, but I tried this chocolate pecan pie recipe yesterday, and it was huge hit! Exceptionally chocolaty, and very easy to make. I see a new Thanksgiving tradition on the horizon.

  2. Destiny says

    I converted the recipe to oatmeal pie and added 1/4 cup of Andes mint chips. I did not have regular chocolate chips so I had to improvise. The overall taste was delicious. I may add some toasted coconut and a chocolate glaze next time. My husband said, “Not bad” as he placed his second piece of pie on his plate! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

  3. says

    This recipe looks like a great compromise between a brownie and pie! I am going to switch out the pecans for oatmeal. Then it will be similar to one of my husband’s favorite pie from childhood : oatmeal pie. I will also make your flaky pie crust recipe tonight for Leighton’s apple pie! Cannot wait for him to taste it!

    I am so thankful for your website! A handful of people at my church are gf. Now we have gf section when we have pot faith dinners and I can showcase your delicious recipes!

  4. Dawn says

    Oh, this looks so yummy. I will be trying this one soon.

    Growing up in NC, I always heard the name came from the civil war. There was a battle in which the boys from other states retreated but the NC boys stayed and won the fight. Someone commented that they had tar on their heels that kept them in place. Whether or not this is the origin of the name, I don’t know…but it sure makes a good story. :)

    • admin says

      Dawn: So interesting! I love the stories behind food names–they are always so interesting! Also this pie is so dang good. I’ve taken to making it on Thanksgiving each year–it’s a hit!

  5. shelley says

    I made this pie without the crust (cuz i just couldn’t WAIT for the chocolate) and it was spectacular! chewy and crispy and chocolatey and just all around yummy. thank you!


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