The Sweet Origin Story Of Karo Corn Syrup's Pecan Pie

While pumpkin and apple pies are popular holiday favorites, there will always be those who prefer the third option, pecan. The earliest written mention of pecan pie was in Harper's Bazaar in 1886 with the statement that the "Pecan Pie Is not only delicious but is capable of being made a 'real state pie.'" It continued to gain popularity throughout southern states like Texas but it wasn't until Karo started printing a recipe on its cans of corn syrup that it took off.

In Rossi Anastopoulo's "Sweet Land of Liberty: A History of America in 11 Pies," she writes that "the story goes that the wife of a corporate sales executive dreamed up a nifty little recipe that would put Karo to use. It called for corn syrup, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and pecans, all baked up in a pie shell" (via Slate). Karo most likely wasn't the first to use corn syrup to make pecan pie, with Anastopoulo noting that a pecan pie recipe using Karo had already been published in "800 Proved Pecan Recipes: Their Place in the Menu" in 1925. After the company began printing the recipe on the cans, however, they became inextricably linked together. Karo used that to its advantage when advertising the corn syrup.

There are many alternatives for corn syrup in pecan pie

Karo's corn syrup is still common in pecan pie because it's a tried and true ingredient that makes the pie-making process simple. While corn syrup used to be a kitchen staple, many people stopped cooking with corn syrup because of the negativity surrounding sugar and processed foods. It's important to know that corn syrup is simply glucose extracted from corn, no different than cane sugar. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), on the other hand, is artificial fructose. Studies have shown that HFCS can increase the risk of obesity, weight gain, diabetes, inflammation, and fatty liver disease (via Healthline). Some assume corn syrup and HFCS are similar, so they avoid both.

Some cooks and bakers may still be loyal to Karo's corn syrup when making pecan pie. For others, some ingredient swaps work with pecan pie. Golden Syrup and Brown Rice Syrup are great alternatives to prevent sugar crystallization. Other options include agave, honey, or maple syrup. Another naturally sweetened option would be a 2:1 combination of maple syrup and coconut sugar. If you have a few extra minutes, mixing 1 ¼ cups of granulated sugar with ¼ cup of hot water until the sugar dissolves will create the most corn syrup-like ingredient.