For Thanksgiving, my family generally gravitates towards familiar favorites and prepares the same dishes and desserts for our feasts. We stuck with tradition again this past year, so I planned ahead and bought some of the key ingredients we needed in October.
At the store, I reached for the biggest bag of pecans I could find. We mix them into the savory stuffing and my great-grandma’s cranberry salad, along with adding double the amount to the filling of a classic or chocolate pecan pie, and I didn’t want to run out partway through our marathon cooking session.
But by the end of the night, when the dishes were stacked in the sink and leftovers safely tucked away inside of the fridge…
Over a pound of pecans still sat in the bag on the kitchen counter. With just five people at our Thanksgiving feast, we didn’t need quite as many as I thought!
Although I love toasting them to snack on plain, I thought it’d be fun to bake with some of them too. That resulted in a few batches of these healthy pecan scones! They’re a fun breakfast treat that’s surprisingly quick and easy to whip up any day of the week, including regular weekdays, lazy weekends, and — come to think of it! — even a special occasion like Thanksgiving morning.
QUICK OVERVIEW – HEALTHY PECAN SCONES
Difficulty: Fairly easy, including for many beginner bakers.
Taste: Lightly sweetened with nutty notes throughout from the pecans.
Texture: Soft and tender on the inside, a bit of a crust on the outside, and crunchy pecans in every bite.
KEY INGREDIENTS TO MAKE HEALTHY PECAN SCONES
Let’s talk about the ingredients you’ll need to make these bakery-style pecan scones at home! I’m hoping you already have milk, baking powder, and salt… So we’ll cover the more interesting ingredients.
Flour. To make these pecan scones healthier, I opted for white whole wheat flour. Yes — such a thing actually exists! Contrary to how it may sound, white whole wheat flour is not just a combination of regular whole wheat flour and white (aka all-purpose!) flour.
Here in the US, farmers grow two main types of wheat: red and white. They have essentially the same health benefits, like extra fiber and micronutrients! The former is used to make regular whole wheat flour, and it has a heartier taste and texture. It’s also darker in color. The latter is used to make (you guessed it!) white whole wheat flour. Compared to red wheat, it has a lighter appearance, taste, and texture that’s closer to all-purpose flour.
Hint: It’s similar to the difference between red and green grapes! They have similar health benefits but a different appearance and flavor.
Basically… It’s the best of both worlds! By using white whole wheat flour, you get the health benefits of whole wheat, but you also get the lighter flavor and softer texture that you’d expect in bakery-style scones.
Tip: If you’d like to make your pecan scones gluten free, then see the Notes section of the recipe. I’ve shared my top recommendations there!
Cold butter. This is a key ingredient — and the temperature is especially important! When you put the scones in the oven, the butter starts to melt. That creates tender little pockets in the dough. If your butter starts to soften or melt ahead of time, you lose some of that beautifully soft and moist texture.
Tip: Freezing isn’t necessary for this recipe! Just use your butter straight from the refrigerator. That’s cold enough!
Hint: This is why I strongly recommend against substituting coconut oil. It has a much lower melting point (around 76°F, compared to butter’s of about 95°F), so it generally starts to soften or even melt just sitting in the mixing bowl at room temperature.
Tub-style butter is already soft when chilled, and it only gets softer at room temperature… So it’s basically like coconut oil. Stay away from tub-style butter or margarine for the best texture in your homemade scones!
Greek yogurt. This is one of my favorite healthy baking ingredients! In these pecan scones, Greek yogurt adds the same moisture to the dough as extra butter or heavy cream — but for a fraction of the calories. It also adds a protein boost!
Pure maple syrup. Instead of refined granulated sugar, you’ll sweeten your healthy pecan scones with pure maple syrup. It’s the kind that comes directly from maple trees, and it’s generally sold in thin glass bottles or squat plastic jugs (like this!). There should only be one ingredient on the label: maple syrup!
Tip: Skip the pancake syrup and sugar free maple syrup! These are made with other ingredients and therefore behave differently, so they’ll affect the texture of your baked goods. This is especially true of sugar free maple syrup. It’s generally water-based, so if you tried substituting it in this recipe, your scones would collapse while cooling and turn out denser. For the best results, use the real kind!
Almond extract. Did you guess correctly?? This is the special ingredient that gives your homemade scones that irresistible bakery-style flavor. It’s my favorite extract! Almond extract adds a lovely sweetness to baked goods, so it makes these healthy pecans scones taste a bit sweeter than they actually are.
Pecans. A fairly obvious ingredient, I’m sure! 😉 I like to chop the pecans so they’re on the small side to ensure every bite contains at least a morsel or two. I aim for somewhere between the size of miniature and regular chocolate chips.
I also have another pecan tip for you…
Do not toast them first.
I almost always toast my pecans before using them in baking recipes. I love how it brings out their sweetness, takes away some of their earthiness, and gives them a richer flavor. However, if you toast your pecans before using them to make these…
The ones on top may turn borderline burnt by the time the scones are ready to come out of the oven. (I just might know from personal experience. 😉 )
So this is an instance where laziness pays off! Tear open the bag, give them a chop, and fold the pecans right into your scone dough. No toasting or other prep work necessary!
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST PECAN SCONES
Now that you’ve assembled your ingredients, let’s talk about how to make the best pecan scones. I have a few tips for you, starting with…
Measure correctly. I say this all the time, so I know I sound like a broken record — but it’s really important! Especially for the flour and yogurt. Too much flour or not enough yogurt will make your scones crumbly and dry, rather than soft and moist. Use this method (← and my special fork trick for the flour!) or a kitchen scale (← that’s the one I own!) to make sure your homemade scones turn out with the perfect bakery-style texture.
Cold ingredients. Remember what we covered above, about keeping the butter cold for as long as possible? To achieve those tender little pockets in your scones as they bake, you don’t want the butter to melt while you’re mixing up the dough. Using cold ingredients helps prevent the butter from softening too soon, so reach for yogurt, maple syrup, and milk straight from the refrigerator. Don’t bring them up to room temperature first!
Shape, brush + slice. The dough is fairly sticky, so use a spatula to shape it into a circle on your baking sheet. (These are the ones I use — aren’t they cute??)
Next, brush the tops and sides with milk. This helps seal moisture into the dough, and it also creates a bit of a crust on the outside. I love that texture contrast!
Finally, slice the dough circle into 8 wedges with a sharp knife — but leave them touching. Do not separate the triangles! This is another trick for really soft and moist scones. If you separated the individual scones before baking, that would expose their sides to the hot oven air and turn those sides as crusty as the tops… But if you leave them nestled up against their neighbors, the sides (and interiors!) stay really soft and tender too.
Decorate. Press a few pecan pieces into the top of each scone just before sliding the tray in the oven. Although optional, I think it makes for a pretty finishing touch… As long as you didn’t toast the pecans first. 😉 Also, wait to add the pecans until after you’ve brushed the dough with milk. This helps prevent the nuts from turning too dark!
Bake. Just like traditional recipes, these scones bake at a fairly high oven temperature of 425°F. This helps create that beautiful dark golden crust on the outside. They’re done when the very center of the circle, where all of the triangle points meet, feels firm to the touch.
FAQS ABOUT PECAN SCONES
Are these healthy pecan scones gluten free, egg free, clean eating, low calorie, or low sugar?
Yes — to all of the above! They’re naturally egg free, clean eating, low fat, and both lower calorie and lower sugar. I’ve included my top recommendations for making these pecan scones gluten free in the Notes section of the recipe, and I also included how to make them dairy free and vegan.
Can I use a different flour?
You sure can! See the Notes section for the best alternatives.
Should I freeze the butter?
Nope! That’s not necessary for this recipe. As long as it’s straight from the refrigerator (and your yogurt, milk, and maple syrup are too!), you’re good to go!
Can I substitute coconut oil?
I don’t recommend that. I also don’t recommend using tub-style butter. See the “cold butter” header in the “Ingredients to Make Healthy Pecan Scones” section above for more information!
How can I make these pecan scones vegan?
Use stick-style vegan butter (this one is my current favorite!), dairy free milk, and dairy free yogurt. I’ve had great luck with both soy-based yogurt and almond-based yogurt!
Can I use sugar free maple syrup?
Please don’t! It’ll make your scones denser and cause them to collapse while cooling. See the “pure maple syrup” header in the “Ingredients to Make Healthy Pecan Scones” section above for more information!
Can I substitute something for the almond extract?
Vanilla extract is the next best thing!
What are the best pecans to use to make these scones?
Ones that come straight from the bag! Don’t use pecans that you’ve previously toasted… They might taste almost burnt by the time your scones finish baking. (I just might know from personal experience. 😉 )
How should I store these pecan scones? How long do they last?
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They should keep for at least four days, if not longer. I highly recommend reheating them briefly in the microwave before eating any refrigerated ones! When eaten chilled, the scones can taste a bit dry… But a quick trip to the microwave turns their insides soft and tender again.
Can I freeze them?
Absolutely! These freeze and thaw really well. I like to reheat individual scones in the microwave on 30% power until they’re warmed all the way through. I think they almost taste freshly baked when thawed like that!
Now all that’s missing is a cup of hot coffee or tea… And maybe a second scone to go with it! 😉 Then when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy pecan scones!
Healthy Pecan Scones
- 1 ½ cups (180g) white whole wheat flour or gluten free* flour (measured like this)
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp (21g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- ½ cup (120g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp (45mL) pure maple syrup
- 3 tbsp + 2 tsp (55mL) nonfat milk, divided
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 3 tbsp (42g) diced pecans, divided
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter (highly recommended!) or the back of a fork until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the Greek yogurt, maple syrup, 3 tablespoons of milk, and almond extract. Fold in 2 tablespoons of diced pecans.
- Using a spatula, shape the dough into a ¾” tall circle on the prepared baking sheet, and brush with the remaining milk. Slice the circle into 8 triangular segments with a sharp knife (but don’t separate them!). Press the remaining diced pecans into the tops.
- Bake at 425°F for 23-27 minutes, or until the tops are deep golden and the center feels firm to the touch. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Almond Scones
♡ Healthy Maple Scones
♡ Healthy Cinnamon Scones
♡ Healthy Chocolate Chip Scones
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Blueberry Scones
♡ Healthy Maple Pecan Granola
♡ Healthy Maple Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy scone recipes!