Bourbon Brown Butter Mini Derby Pies…you can’t eat just one! These bite-sized gems are even more tantalizing with the addition of brown butter. So easy to make, these crunchy, chocolatey mini pies will become your new favorite for no-fuss entertaining.
Bite-Size Derby Pies with Bourbon Brown Butter
Do you know what smells better than brown butter? Not much! The nutty notes of brown butter add a little je ne sais quoi to whatever you’re making…like derby pie!
With the Kentucky Derby fast approaching, I couldn’t resist making a finger-friendly version of this delicious dessert. They’re a no brainer for entertaining!
Crunchy nuts, just enough chocolate and that crispy baked top are difficult to resist. It’s hard to eat just one! (That reality can be a cruel mistress. 😉)
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Ingredients for Mini Derby Pies
Store-bought refrigerated pie dough is where it’s at for this recipe, making it so much easier to pull together!
- Refrigerated pie dough — if you cut the mini pie shells efficiently, you can easily get 24 rounds out of 1 box / 2 pie crusts with a few to spare.
- Unsalted butter — real butter. There are some vegan brown butter recipes out there you can hunt down, but I recommend reading this article first for a few sciency nuggets. (Spoiler: Miyoko’s European Style Cultured Vegan Butter is marketed as brownable, but I can’t tell you for sure that it works.)
- Bourbon — to keep it real, go for a Kentucky bourbon. Infusing the brown butter with bourbon gives it an extra caramelized note. You can totally omit it and substitute with water or milk…but NOT in the brown butter step and not as much. More details on that in ‘Helpful Tips + Substitutions’ below!
- Brown sugar — because it’s way more interesting than white sugar and we’re saying no to corn syrup (which is in a lot of derby pie recipes).
- Pecans — ok…I’m not an authority, but I think there’s some distinction that walnuts are traditional in derby pie. However, there are plenty of recipes that call for pecans and since I prefer pecans…
- Mini chocolate chips — I like the mini chips for this because we’ll be filling a tiny pie and tiny chips just makes sense.
- All-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- Vanilla extract
How to Brown Butter
If you’ve never made brown butter, I’m going to suggest that you have extra butter in the wings in case you burn the first batch. It can happen quickly, even to experienced cooks. If it does happen, start over.
- Use a light-colored, heavy bottomed skillet or wide saucepan. Don’t use a non-stick or dark pan because it will be harder to read the color of the butter as it progresses.
- Cut the butter into smaller, even pieces so it melts consistently.
- Use medium heat and take your time. Don’t increase the heat just because ‘nothing is happening’.
- Have a heat-proof bowl ready to hold + cool the finished butter.
Step 1 — add butter pieces to a pan set over medium heat. Use a whisk to stir it frequently, or swirl the pan to promote even browning. It will begin to foam as the water content evaporates. As the foam begins to subside, check for little golden bits of milk solids in the bottom of the pan. Now is the time to add the bourbon. (I add it now so the alcohol has an opportunity to cook off, leaving just the toasty bourbon notes behind.)
Step 2 — remove the pan from the burner. Be careful, because the bourbon will sputter when you add it. Add just a little bit and stand back until the sputtering subsides. Add a little drizzle at a time, whisking it in, until it’s all been added. Return the pan to the burner. The bourbon has cooled the butter down and slowed the process some, but that’s ok. Continue to cook the butter over medium heat, stirring/swirling frequently until those golden milk solids have turned dark brown and the whole thing smells of caramelized, nutty goodness. It’s done!
Step 3 — immediately transfer the butter, dark brown bits and all, to a heat-proof bowl and let it cool.
Let’s Make Some Mini Derby Pies!
Equipment you’ll need:
- 24-cup mini muffin tin (lightly misted with cooking spray)
- 2-1/2” round pastry cutter
- electric hand mixer (optional, this can be done entirely by hand)
- 1 tablespoon scoop (or use a measuring spoon)
- cooling rack
Prepare the pie shells — I find it helpful to let the pastry rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes to make it more pliable. Unfurl one pie crust on a flour-dusted work surface. Use the round cutter to make 12 mini pie crusts. (By aligning the cutter right up next to the edge of the previous cut, I was able to get 14 mini pie crusts from each.)
Gently press each round into a mini muffin cup, pushing the dough against the bottom and sides. If any of them tear, remove it from the tin, slightly overlap the torn edges, press together then try again. Dock the bottoms with the tines of a fork. Pop the muffin tin in the fridge to chill while you mix the filling.
Mix the filling — in a large mixing bowl, combine the egg and brown sugar together. Then, mix in the flour and salt. Pour in the cooled bourbon brown butter and vanilla and mix again. Last, fold in the mini chocolate chips and chopped pecans until well distributed.
Fill + bake the mini pies — Using the scoop, dollop a level (not a rounded) tablespoon into each pie shell. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the pies to a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Pop the mini pies out of the tin and allow them to cool completely on the rack.
Helpful Tips + Substitutions
- Substitute 1 tablespoon of water or milk for the bourbon. Follow the instructions for making brown butter and skip the step of adding bourbon; DO NOT add the water or milk here. Instead, add the water or milk to the mixing bowl with the egg and brown sugar.
- Don’t like pecans? Feel free to substitute a different type of nut if you like. If you need to avoid nuts, sub in an equal amount of crushed pretzels (and omit the kosher salt).
- You can make these mini derby pies in advance and store them in a covered container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
- Serve them as they are, or top them with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or a mini scoop of ice cream (so good with butter pecan!).
Don’t Leave Before Checking Out These Mini Desserts!
- Nutty Irishman Brownie Bites
- Chocolate + Caramel Toffee Shortbread Hearts
- Mini No Bake Key Lime Cheesecakes with Coconut Cookie Crust
- Mini Fresh Peach Pavlovas with Fuzzy Navel Syrup
- Easy Mini Desserts for Tea Time
- Salted Caramel S’Mores Cereal Bars
Bourbon Brown Butter Mini Derby Pies
- 2 refrigerated pie crusts for 9" pies
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
- 2 tbsp bourbon optional, see notes
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ⅓ cup chopped pecans
- ⅓ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Make the Bourbon Brown Butter
- In a light-colored, heavy bottomed skillet or saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, whisking frequently. It will foam and begin to turn golden. As soon as you see little bits of golden milk solids begin to form at the bottom of the pan, take it off the burner. Very carefully (because it will sputter) add a little of the bourbon and whisk it in. Continue adding a bit at a time until all the bourbon has been whisked in. Return the pan to the burner and continue cooking and whisking frequently until you begin to see dark brown bits form in the bottom of the pan and smell a nutty aroma. Take it off the heat and immediately pour the butter into a heat-proof bowl to cool.
Prepare the Mini Pie Shells
- Allow the the pie crusts to sit on the counter for about 10 minutes so they become pliable. Lightly spray a 24-cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray. Dust a work surface with flour. Unfurl one pie crust and use a 2-1/2" round cutter to cut as many circles as you can. (I can get 14 out of one crust). Transfer to the mini muffin tin, pressing the dough into the bottom and sides. Repeat with the other pie crust until all 24 cups are filled. Dock the bottoms with the tines of a fork. Place the entire muffin tin in the fridge to chill.
Make the Filling
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and brown sugar together until well combined. Mix in the flour + salt. Next, mix in the cooled bourbon brown butter and vanilla. Last, fold in the chopped pecans and chocolate chips.
Fill the Shells + Bake
- Spoon 1 level tablespoon of filling into each of the mini pie crusts. Bake for 24 minutes. Remove the muffin tin to a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then pop the pies out and allow them to cool completely on the rack.
Nutritional values are estimated and provided as a general guideline only. I earn a commission from Instacart from qualifying ingredient purchases.