We Tried Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie and It Knocked Our Socks Off

Patti LaBelle's sweet potato pie comes from a recipe belonging to her best friend Norma. Perhaps that's what helped inspire her hit with Dionne, "That's What Friends Are For."

Believe it or not, this Southern girl can’t recall ever having eaten sweet potato pie. It truly is a travesty! So, lucky me, I got to try out what seems to be the best recipe ever—Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie. From the perfect crust to the smooth and gently sweet filling, I think I found my new favorite indulgence.

Patti isn’t the only celebrity with a famous food. Check ’em all out here!

Sweet potato pieJennifer Schwarzkopf for Taste of Home

How to Make Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter-flavored vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/3 cup ice water

For the Filling

  • 3 large orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (Louisiana yams), scrubbed
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Initial Thoughts

I love sweet potatoes. I mean, I LOVE them! Every Thanksgiving throughout my childhood I was given the task of making the sweet potatoes. After boiling and mashing them, I would mix in some combination of butter and Coca-Cola. (I am not kidding.) Then, I would top the mixture with a mini-marshmallow design that would brown, melt and crisp up on top. That’s the best I thought sweet potatoes could get. Oh, boy, was I ever wrong. (Sweet potato or yam? It’s all in the name.)

As my palate and experience grew, I learned how nuanced recipes with sweet potatoes could—and should—be. I was hopeful that this recipe would maximize the distinct flavor of the root veggie and live up to the hype.

Starting with the Crust

I cannot overstate this enough—the crust is incredibly easy and just about perfect in every way!

Sift together the dry ingredients and cut in the shortening, mixing together with your hands until the mixture is like coarse sand. (Make sure you don’t overmix, as you want the little pockets of shortening to remain. They make the crust flaky.)

Then, with a fork, stir in the cold water until the dough forms. (You may need more or less water, so watch closely.) Make a thick disk with the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

When it’s ready, roll out the dough into an approximately 13-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer over to a 9-inch pie pan. Fold the dough edge up and under itself, until flush with the edge of the pan, then flute the edges with your fingers. Cover and place in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

If you struggle with pie crust, check out these must-know tips.

Making the Filling

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lightly salt a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, place the sweet potatoes in and reduce to medium heat. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Drain and run cold water over the potatoes until they are cool enough to handle. Peel the potatoes and mash with a mixer until smooth.

In the meantime, remove the crust from the refrigerator, brush the inside with some of the melted butter and sprinkle 1/4 cup of brown sugar on the bottom. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the dough seems to set and is just beginning to brown. (Something to note: If the crust develops bubbles during the initial crust bake, do not pop them. Just enjoy the beauty of those bubbles and proceed with the recipe. It will all turn out perfectly.)

Meanwhile, measure out three cups of mashed sweet potatoes into another bowl and mix in the remaining melted butter, sugars, eggs, half-and-half and spices. (Save any extra sweet potato mash for another delicious use.) Spread the filling evenly into the pie shell. Here are more tasty ways to bake with sweet potato.

Baking and Cooling

Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and bake the pie for about 1-1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. Once cooled, cover and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

The Delicious Results

Sweet potato pie with slice cut outJennifer Schwarzkopf for Taste of Home

The verdict is in. This recipe is not only easy to execute, but the result is a showstopper! The crust bakes nicely, the edges didn’t over-brown and the integrity of the pie shell makes it easy to pull the pie right out of the tin. The filling is subtle, featuring a true sweet potato flavor, not overpowered with spices or fillers. The real secret is the butter and brown sugar initial bake. The brown sugar on the inside of the shell not only protects the crust from becoming soggy but also adds a tasty element to every bite.

Honestly, Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie is the new standard to which I’ll be holding other pies. (Even these beauties).

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Jennifer Schwarzkopf
Half Chilean, half Irish descent and all joie de vivre, I'm a food writer/photographer who loves to share stories about different cultures and the magic that is sharing a meal together. When not doing that, you'll find me working on my culinary degree, hanging with family & friends, and just trying to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life." Salud!