This cocoa pecan pie has an amazingly flaky, buttery crust and chocolate pecan pie filling. It freezes great, and you can make it with all-purpose or gluten-free flour.
People seem to be loving my Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, so here’s another chocolaty pecan treat.
Today’s recipe is based on my corn syrup-free Gluten-free Pecan Pie. For today’s recipe, I reduced the amount of maple syrup and increased the brown sugar to make it a bit less expensive.
I also decreased the amount of overall sweetener because I added chocolate chips. You’ll definitely want to use semi-sweet, bittersweet or dark chocolate.
This pie would be WAY too sweet with milk chocolate.
I also increased the amount of butter, taking into consideration the added cocoa powder. I didn’t want a dry, crumbly pie!
The result is sublime.
Here’s an overview of what you’ll need.
For the pie crust:
If you’re gluten-free, read the section about gluten-free flour below.
For the filling:
How to make it
I’ll let the pictures do the talking! The full recipe, with ingredient measurements and instructions, are below the post and above the comments section.
“This recipe looks too long! Bah!”
The filling is made by simply mixing all the filling ingredients together.
The pie crust isn’t any more complicated than any other pie crust recipe, but I’ve included lots of detail. So that’s why the recipe looks long.
Do I have to add the chocolate chips/chunks?
No, you can omit them and use more pecans in their place.
Can I omit the cocoa powder?
Well then you don’t want a cocoa pecan pie. ;) Please see the pecan pie I linked to at the top of this post!
It has an oat flour crust, but you can use the classic pie crust in today’s recipe, if you prefer.
Can you taste the apple cider vinegar in the crust?
Definitely not. If you don’t have any, you can use white vinegar.
Some people say it inhibits the gluten (if you’re using all-purpose flour), and that tenderizes the crust and makes it flaky. I’ve seen people claim the same for gluten-free pie crust, although it doesn’t have gluten.
I used vinegar in pie crust for the first time with this recipe. Then I read this person’s experiment. They said it didn’t do a thing.
Vodka, however, seemed to have a positive effect! I’ll try that next time. For now, I’m thrilled with this crust, for the first time ever making a flaky pie crust, so I’ve included the vinegar in the recipe.
Should I toast the pecans first?
No need to. If you did that, the pecans that float to the top of the pie would burn as the pie bakes.
I actually thought I had slightly burned my pie when it came out of the oven. The pecans looked and even smelled a little burned.
But once the pie had cooled, nothing tasted or smelled burned.
But if you take a peek while baking and are worried about it getting too brown, you can cover the pie with foil.
The top of the pie will be dry well before it’s done baking, so you can easily cover it without the foil sticking to the pie. You can also use a pie shield if the crust looks like it’s browning too much, but my pie crust was nowhere near getting too browned.
The dry top of the pie actually makes it difficult to know when it’s done. The top will be dry when the filling underneath is still a puddle of liquid.
55-60 minutes is what I needed, but all ovens are different. It’s better to bake it too long than too short!
I’ve been saying it for years, but I’m not a fan of normal pie crust. I find it boring and a waste of calories.
This one is delicious, though! I added vanilla and more salt than usual to the pie crust to give it some flavor.
I have another recipe coming up with this crust, sadly not in time for Thanksgiving, and when I had cut out a few pieces, the pie actually slid around the pan, and I could pick up the pie and hold it in my hands.
That might sound like a weird thing to say, but I’ve gone through dozens and dozens of bad pie crusts over the years. They’d stick to the pan, be greasy, and on and on.
But this is the perfect crust! I also tried it out on the filling of this Chocolate Fudge Pie, and it came out great.
It also works for recipes in which you need a fully baked pie crust with a no-bake filling.
You can make it with all-purpose flour or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. If you’re gluten-free, you’ll want to read the gluten-free section below.
I wouldn’t recommend trying it with white whole wheat.
If you want to use that, I’d find a recipe that already calls for it. It’s a bit more absorbent than regular flour.
You can also use a store-bought pie crust if you prefer.
Do I have to chill the dough?
Every good pie needs a great crust. One way to achieve that is to chill the dough and let it rest briefly before rolling it out. The extra step may seem insignificant, but it’s the secret to getting the optimal crust, even when using gluten-free flour.
Refrigerating pie dough, gluten-free or not, solidifies the fat, preventing it from overmixing into the flour, which helps maintain the structure as it bakes. Additionally, the flour absorbs moisture in the dough, producing a flakier texture.
Non-chilled dough is less smooth and crumbly, which makes it harder to roll out. It could also brown quickly and be tough.
And if you’re using all-purpose flour, the resting time helps relax the gluten in the dough, which helps prevent a tough crust.
So don’t skip this step because it’s the best way to achieve a super flaky crust.
Should I blind bake the pie crust?
I didn’t, but you can if you want the pie crust bottom extra crisp.
I blind baked this pie crust about 8 times with other fillings, and it worked great every time and never burned. Today, I blind baked a pie and then had it in the oven with the filling for another 70 minutes!
It was at a lower temperature, but still. It was nowhere near getting burned.
To blind bake it, here’s what to do:
- Loosely cover the top of the pie crust with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer (not fridge!) for 45 minutes.
- While it’s in there, preheat the oven to 400 °F (205 °C) and place a baking sheet on the baking rack that will fit your pie.
- Line the crust with a piece of parchment paper and then fill it with pie weights/ beans. A lot of sources say you need to fill them all the way to the top of the pan, but I just did the bottom, and it was fine.
- Carefully place the pan on the now very hot baking sheet and bake for 20-23 minutes or just until you see the tops of the crimped edges starting to very lightly brown.
- Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the parchment paper and weights and bake the crust for another 5-7 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is dry and starting to brown. You can now turn off the oven and turn it on again in 15 minutes, or just keep it running.
- Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool completely – about 30 minutes. After about 20 minutes of cooling, start preparing the filling and turn the oven to 350 °F (175 °C).
Do I have to bake the pie crust on a baking sheet?
No, but it’d be silly not to. This is why:
- It’s easier to pull the pie out of the oven when it’s on a baking sheet.
- I’ve made this exact pie recipe, as written, 4x and never had butter melt down from the crust or had the filling bubble over. Not even close. But maybe your pie pan is a little smaller, your brand of butter works a little differently, or whatever.
You know what really stinks? To pull a pie out of the oven after 10 minutes of baking because there’s burned butter on the bottom of your smoked-filled oven. You’d have to clean up the mess before putting the pie back in the oven, and the crust, and perhaps the whole pie, would be ruined.
It’s a really frustrating and sad situation that can be 100% avoided by using a baking sheet.
- Cook’s Illustrated did an experiment. The cherry pie they baked directly on the oven rack had a soggy, juice-soaked crust. The crust of the pie baked on the baking sheet was solid and not soggy. You can read the explanation why at the link. It’s interesting, but this post is getting overwhelmingly long. 😬
What kind of pie pan to use?
Since you’re going to be chilling or freezing the pie crust dough and then placing it in a hot oven, you’ll want to read about your pie dish to make sure it’s safe to do so.
Most ceramic pie dishes should be safe from the fridge or freezer to the oven, but it’s not universal, so check the manufacturer’s instructions. Ceramic pie dishes heat slowly and evenly, and they can withstand sudden temperature changes.
When using Pyrex or glass bakeware, avoid extreme temperature changes because it may cause the dish to shatter and break. Glass pie dishes are great because you can check the bottom to see if it has browned. Still, you don’t want to chance it by placing it in a hot oven directly from the freezer.
Modern oven-safe glass pans are designed to withstand moderate temperature changes, so taking a dish from the fridge to the oven set at 350 °F (175 °C) should be safe, but not your grandmother’s dish. I recommend erring on the safe side unless you’ve done it before and are confident your dish can withstand the temperature change.
Metal pie dishes are typically made from aluminum or aluminized steel and are great heat conductors. They’re perfect for blind baking or pre-baking pie crusts and getting the crust nice and crisp.
Metal dishes can withstand extreme temperature changes, so you can take them from the fridge or freezer and put them straight into the hot oven. But keep a close eye on them because they can heat quickly and overbrown the crust. If it appears to be browning too fast, you can place foil strips over the edges of the pie to keep it from over-browning or use a handy pie shield.
Type of butter to use
This pie tastes significantly better when made with European butter.
In the photos here, my photographer used US butter. However, when she made it with Kerrygold, the crust turned out more yellow, as expected, and slightly greasier, which is also expected due to the higher fat content.
If you opt for Kerrygold, Plugra, or another brand of European butter, I recommend using 110 grams instead of 113. This adjustment works perfectly with my German butter, which has the same fat percentage as Kerrygold, resulting in a flawless crust every time.
Live outside the US?
In addition to what I said above, you need to pay attention to egg size. Medium eggs in the EU = large eggs in the US. So if you’re in the EU, you need to use medium eggs when making US recipes (they almost always call for large eggs). If you’re not in the EU, you need eggs that are 50 grams without their shell.
Using eggs that are too big or small would definitely have an effect on this recipe, so please just don’t knowingly use the wrong size. :)
Do I need a food processor?
I think it’s much easier to use one, but if you don’t have one, then you can make it by hand. I used a pastry cutter to cut in the butter.
I feel like I had to use a little bit more water to get it hydrated, which resulted in a slightly less crisp crust, but it was still good!
Can I use a different crust?
Pecan pies are on the sweet side, so you don’t want to use a cookie-like crust for this recipe. I don’t recommend a gingersnap, graham cracker, or oatmeal cookie crust like in this Eggless Cheesecake.
Can I freeze this pie?
Yes! It freezes great. You can even eat it straight from the freezer. At least from my freezer.
But you couldn’t taste the crust when it’s so cold. Just lots of chocolate flavor! It’s best to let it sit for maybe 30 minutes and then serve.
It’s hard to believe this is gluten-free when using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free 1-to-1 Baking Flour! I was kind of shocked.
I thought I’d get much better results with King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Measure for Measure Flour. I was so confused after making it the first time and having such fantastic results that I thought I had grabbed the wrong bag of flour.
I immediately made it again with Bob’s and got the same results.
Then I tried it with the King Arthur GF flour, and the results weren’t anywhere near as good. Ok for gluten-free pie crust? Yes.
But the best ever gluten-free pie crust? Nope. It wasn’t at all flaky.
How do I make this paleo?
You’d first have to find a paleo pie crust. There’s no way to make the pie crust recipe below paleo.
I really wouldn’t recommend a nut flour-based crust. Perhaps one with cassava flour and/or starches, along with some nut flour. But not a recipe with 100% nut flour, as I’m pretty sure the crust would get soggy.
For the filling, you’d need to use 5.5 tablespoons (77 grams) refined coconut oil in place of the 6 tablespoons of butter. Also, use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar, arrowroot/tapioca starch instead of cornstarch, and paleo chocolate.
Sorry, but no. There aren’t any good subs for the eggs in the filling.
I hope you’ll enjoy this cocoa pecan pie! If you try it out, please let me know below how you liked it. :) Thanks!
Cocoa Pecan Pie
- Prep Time:
- Cook Time:
- Ready in:
- Yield: 12 slices
- 1 1/4 cups (156 grams) all-purpose flour or for gluten-free, use 1 1/4 cups (173 grams) Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free 1-to-1 Baking Flour + a tiny bit more for flouring
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter (taste is better with European butter like Kerrygold or Plugra - if using that, reduce butter to 110 grams)1, cut into 8 pats
- 1 teaspoon cold2 vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cold apple cider vinegar
- 2.5 to 5.5 tablespoons (37-81 grams) cold water
- 1 cup (200 grams) light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup (160 grams) pure maple syrup
- 6 tablespoons (84 grams) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
- 3 large eggs (50 grams each, out of shell), room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (17 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups (193 grams) chopped pecans
- 2/3 cup (113 grams) semi-sweet, bittersweet or dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
- Get out a standard 9” (23cm) pie plate. It should be one that's safe to move from the fridge to a hot oven (see post for more info). Do not grease it.
- To the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S-blade, add the flour, granulated sugar and salt. Pulse a few times.
- Turn it to the lowest speed and add in the butter. Process just until you have pea-sized bits of butter. Don’t overprocess! Stop pulsing.
- Evenly drizzle the vanilla extract and apple cider vinegar over the top.
- Turn on the lowest speed and pour in 2.5 tablespoons of water. The amount of water you need will depend on how cold your ingredients, kitchen, etc. are. I’ve made this several times with the same brand of ingredients, and have needed between 2.5 and 5.5 tablespoons.
- Process very briefly until it looks like it’s coming together. It’ll look shaggy and not like a uniform ball. Pinch some together. If it stays together without being crumbly, it’s ready. You don't want to add too much water. More water than necessary = non-flaky pie crust. If you think it needs a bit more water (it almost certainly will), add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time. If you think you can form a disc with it without it falling completely apart into a thousand crumbs, that’s another clue it’s ready.
- Place the dough in the center of a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap it up into a flat disc, about 1” (2.5cm) or a little less. If you can’t form a disc because it’s nothing but crumbs, it needs a little more water.
- Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and up to 2 days.
- Place a baking sheet on the baking rack (one in the lower third of the oven) that will fit your pie. This is for the very unlikely case that something spills over and for a crisper crust bottom. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C).
- Very lightly flour a piece of parchment paper and place the unwrapped dough on there. Sprinkle a tiny bit of flour over the top of the dough.
- Place the plastic wrap or another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and roll it out so that it’s about 1/2” (1 1/4 cm) wider than the top circumference of your pie plate.
- Remove the piece of plastic wrap or parchment covering the pie crust, place the ungreased pie pan on top of the dough, and then flip over the dough and pan. Press the dough down around the edges at the bottom of the pan and then remove the piece of parchment paper.
- Fold the dough up so it's not hanging off the sides, and crimp the edges. The dough should go all the way up the edges and be crimped along the rim.
- Place in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes while preparing the filling.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together all filling ingredients except for the pecans and chocolate, sprinkling on the cornstarch and cocoa powder rather than plopping down a big clump. If there are any eggy bits that aren't coming out, remove them, or they’ll bake up ugly.
- Once combined, stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.
- Pour the filling into the unbaked chilled pie crust, but do not pour so high that it goes over the crust! My photographer and I had plenty of room left over with our standard pie pans.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the middle is set.
- Place on a cooling rack to cool completely, about 2-3 hours, and then refrigerate for at least 2 more.
- Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 4 days. It also freezes great for up to 3 months.
Make the crust:
Make the filling:
- If you live in Europe, use 110 grams butter to replicate US butter for the pie crust. Instead of 84 grams of butter in the filling, use 82 grams (and no water). Also use medium EU eggs instead of large eggs.
- I put the vanilla and apple cider vinegar together in a tiny bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes, and the same with the water. I don’t put the vanilla/ACV and the water together in the same bowl because you might not use all the water.
- If you take a peek while baking and are worried about it getting too brown, you can cover the pie with foil. The top of the pie will be dry well before it's done baking, so you can easily cover it without the foil sticking to the pie.
- You can also use a pie shield if the crust looks like it's browning too much, but my pie crust was nowhere near getting too browned.
- The dry top of the pie actually makes it difficult to know when it's done. The top will be dry when the filling underneath is still a puddle of liquid. 55-60 minutes is what I needed, but all ovens are different. It's better to bake it too long than too short!