Charleston Chewies with Brown Butter: Decadently Rich and Chewy Pecan Bars.
If you are a pecan lover like me, this easy recipe for Charleston Chewies, also known as Pecan Chews, Pecan Chewies, or Brown Sugar Chewies, is the answer to your dessert prayers.
Charleston Chewies, a dessert bar made with brown butter and chopped pecans, is a cross between brown sugar blondies and Georgia Cornbread Cake.
These luscious treats have a crisp exterior and a lovely melt-in-your-mouth soft and chewy interior that, like my Southern Pecan Praline Cake, Southern Pecan Praline Cheesecake, and Easy Butter Pecan Cookies, is loaded with buttery-rich roasted pecans.
Like my Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies, Charleston Chewies, which originated in South Carolina with the Gullah culture, can be enjoyed with a cup of coffee and will be the first desserts to go at a potluck!
I hope you will try this easy recipe for Charleston Chewies. My guess is you probably already have everything you need right now in your pantry. I’ve also included a short video to show you just how easy they are to prepare, so let’s get baking!
Reasons you will love this recipe:
Cut into squares and served plain or dusted with powdered sugar, Charleston Chewies are perfect when served as an after-school snack or as part of a holiday dessert table.
These simple southern delicious dessert bars are a one-bowl wonder; no mixer is required.
Like my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Pie, they are made with simple pantry ingredients; they take less than five minutes to mix up.
(Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.)
- Unsalted butter – while you can use just regular butter, the extra step of “browning the butter” first gives the Charleston Chewies a nutty, richer flavor.
- Light brown sugar – combines with butter to give these dessert bars a sweet caramel flavor.
- Eggs – bind everything together and add richness.
- Vanilla extract – adds even more depth of flavor and enhances the deep caramel flavor of the bars.
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder and Kosher salt – act as leavening agents and provide just the barest amount of lift to the dense bars.
- Pecans – are one of the most important ingredients, and they are what has earned the nickname of Pecan Chews. I like to roast mine before adding them to the batter because it enhances their rich, buttery, nutty taste.
How to make Charleston Chewies with Brown Butter:
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Add the butter to a small light-colored skillet over medium heat. Stir the butter continuously for about five to six minutes or until it turns a light golden brown with streaks of darker brown on the bottom. Remove the pan from the heat. Perfect brown butter can turn into a burnt mess in the blink of an eye, so don’t walk away.
- Add the brown sugar and brown butter to a large bowl. Mix well to combine.
- Add the eggs and vanilla to the brown sugar mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until everything is combined.
- Add the pecans and stir.
- Spray a 9′ x 9′ metal baking pan with non-stick baking spray.
- Add the batter to the prepared baking dish. Spread out evenly and bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are crispy and pulling away from the sides; the center will still be soft.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for about thirty minutes before cutting into squares and serving.
Hint: Non-stick baking spray contains flour and is made especially for baking. It is not the same as a non-stick cooking spray. If you don’t have non-stick baking spray, grease the pan liberally with butter before adding the batter.
Recipe substitutions and variations:
This recipe is very versatile and forgiving. Here is a list of substitutions if you are out of one of the ingredients.
- Flour – you can substitute self-rising flour. Your bars will be a little cakier, but they will still be delicious. To make the chewies GF, you also can substitute one for one GF flour. The texture of the bars will be a bit denser.
- Brown sugar – you can substitute one cup of granulated sugar for one cup of brown sugar. I have not tried using low-calorie brown sugar substitutes.
- Butter – if you are in a hurry, you can skip browning the butter. The bars will still be delectable, just not quite as rich.
- Pecans – while you can substitute walnuts for pecans or leave them out, I hope you don’t. This popular southern nut is what makes Charleston Chewies unique and why they are also called Pecan Chews or Pecan Chewies.
- Vanilla extract – some recipes for Charleston Chewies call for almond extract. If you want to use almond extract, I recommend using one teaspoon of almond and one teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Optional topping, confectioners sugar. If you like, you can also top the bars with a light dusting of powdered sugar before serving. I think they are plenty sweet enough without it, but it’s an option.
For the best results, do not overbake Charelston Chewies. Like brownies, they are best when they are slightly underdone with a moist, chewy interior.
Charleston Chewies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to four days. I like to place a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper between the layers.
You can freeze Charleston Chewies; just be sure to wrap them securely and then store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months. Before serving, let them thaw on the counter.
If you use a 9′ x 9′ metal pan, you should be able to cut 16 squares, about 2′ x 2′ each. A metal pan with straight edges will give you cleaner cuts than a glass baking dish with sloped edges.
The bars will be easier to cut if you let them cool completely and then use a long serrated bread knife.
Even though the names are similar, they are two different types of confections. Charleston Chews are candy bars made with a nougat center. Charleson Chewies are southern dessert bars made with chopped pecans and brown sugar that are similar to blondies.
Expert tips and tricks:
- To measure flour, be sure to use the spoon and level method. That is to spoon the flour into your dry measuring cup and then level it off by scraping across the top with a knife.
- When measuring brown sugar, if the recipe calls for packed brown sugar, like this one, spoon the brown sugar into the dry measuring cup and then “pack” it in by pressing down with your fingers or the back of the spoon until the cup is full.
- You can substitute raw pecans if you are short on time. You can roast pecans in the oven or cook them quickly in the microwave by spreading them out evenly on a plate and then microwaving them in one-minute intervals until they are fragrant and roasted. This will take anywhere from four to five minutes.
- When browning your butter, be sure to use a light-colored pan so you can monitor the color of the butter and avoid burning it.
More recipes with pecans:
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Best Charleston Chewies Recipe with Brown Butter Recipe
- 9' x 9' light-colored metal baking pan
- 1 cup melted unsalted butter
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 large or extra-large eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups chopped roasted pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
- Add the butter to a small light-colored skillet over medium heat. Stir the butter continuously for about five to six minutes or until it turns a light golden brown with speaks of darker brown on the bottom. Remove the pan from the heat. Perfect brown butter can turn into a burnt mess in the blink of an eye, so don't walk away.
- Add the brown sugar and brown butter to a large bowl. Mix well to combine.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until the batter is smooth.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until everything is combined, then add the pecans and stir.
- Spray a 9′ x 9′ metal baking pan with non-stick baking spray and add the batter. Spread out evenly and bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are crispy and pulling away from the sides, the center will still be soft.
- Hint: Non-stick baking spray contains flour and is made especially for baking. It is not the same as a non-stick cooking spray. If you don’t have non-stick baking spray, grease the pan liberally with butter before adding the batter.