A classic southern dessert and staple of African American cuisine, sweet potato pie is a highlight of family gatherings, often made with a recipe that’s been handed down through generations. But it’s also served at many restaurants, cafes and bakeries everywhere, all year long.
Made with pureed sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs and spices, this classic custard pie is one of the easiest sweet potato recipes to make. And like its cousin pumpkin pie, the flavor and bright orange color reminds you of the holidays.
Sweet Potato vs. Pumpkin Pie
Sweet potato and pumpkin pie share similarities but also have some differences. They’re both custard pies made with a vegetable (or in pumpkin’s case, a fruit) puree, eggs, milk, sugar and spice.
Pumpkins, which are usually used for pie around Thanksgiving and Christmas, tend to make a denser and more heavily spiced pie. Sweet potatoes in general tend to be sweeter, fluffier and more flavorful than pumpkin, so they don’t require as much sugar and spice in a pie recipe. Both are equally delicious, but if you’re new sweet potato desserts, now’s your chance to try one.
Ingredients for Sweet Potato Pie
- Sweet potatoes: This recipe calls for about 1-1/2 pounds of fresh sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed so you can easily boil them for the filling. You’ll want smooth sweet potatoes with reddish skin and bright orange flesh, which will give sweet potato pie its beautiful color. You can use canned sweet potatoes in a pinch, or roast them whole.
- Butter: Of course you need butter—it makes everything better! Make sure to let it come to room temperature so it’s easier to incorporate into the pie filling. Here are our picks for the best butter brands out there right now.
- Sugar: In addition to adding sweetness, granulated sugar helps keep the filling lofty and soft, and it locks in moisture. For a more caramelized flavor, swap in brown sugar (light or dark) for the granulated sugar. If you do use brown sugar, expect a darker color on your baked pie.
- Eggs: Like all classic custard pies, eggs are needed to bind everything together. It’s best to use room-temperature eggs, which incorporate into the mixture better than cold (and more viscous) eggs.
- Evaporated milk: Sweet potato and pumpkin pie recipes call for various dairy products from whole milk to heavy cream, but we prefer evaporated milk for this recipe. Much of the water has been removed in evaporated milk, so it helps create a thicker, creamier texture.
- Spices: Vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg are traditional spices for sweet potato pie. Vanilla adds flavor, and cinnamon and nutmeg add just enough spice to make it all nice.
- Pie dough: This pie calls for a traditional flaky pastry, whether homemade or premade frozen or refrigerated crust. Our classic butter pie pastry recipe works like a charm.
Step 1: Prepare the pie crust
Preheat your oven to 425°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll your pie dough to an 1/8-inch-thick circle, and carefully transfer it to a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the crust to 1/2 inch beyond the rim of the plate, and flute the edge. Refrigerate the plated pie dough while you prepare the filling.
Editor’s Tip: When rolling out your pie dough, 1/8 inch is about the same thickness as two quarters stacked on top of each other.
Step 2: Prepare the sweet potatoes
To easily and quickly prepare the sweet potatoes, simply place them in a medium saucepan, and add water to cover them. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat, and cook, uncovered, until tender, 13 to 15 minutes.
Editor’s Tip: If you’d like to use roasted sweet potatoes, scrub two to three sweet potatoes clean, then prick them with a fork. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet, and bake in a 400º oven until tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Let them cool until you can handle them; peel the skin, and place the sweet potato flesh in a large mixing bowl.
Step 3: Mash the potatoes
Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, drain them, and return them to the pan. While they’re still warm, this is the best time to mash them so they get super smooth. Once mashed, let the sweet potatoes cool to room temperature.
Step 4: Make the filling
In a bowl, using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, and mix well. Add the milk, 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix everything well, and pour into the crust.
Step 5: Bake the pie
Bake the pie for 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350°. Bake the pie until it’s set, or when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the pie cool on a wire rack. If desired, dollop slices of pie with whipped cream.
This sweet potato pie is more than satisfying on its own. But the addition of a topping can really take this dessert to the next level.
- Top it with something creamy: Try a scoop of vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream on top. Here’s how to make whipped cream.
- Add texture: If you want a little texture and extra burst of sweetness, sprinkle on candied pecans or other sugar-coated nuts.
How to Store Sweet Potato Pie
Sweet potato pie is a custard pie, so it should be stored in the refrigerator. After baking your pie, let it cool completely for two to four hours. Loosely cover the pie with aluminum foil, and store it in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Can you freeze sweet potato pie?
You can also freeze sweet potato pie, but keep in mind that the texture may change slightly. To freeze your pie, let it cool completely, then tightly wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap. Then, wrap it in foil, or place it in an airtight freezer-safe container. You can then freeze the pie for up to three months. To thaw the pie, place it in the refrigerator overnight.
How to Reheat Sweet Potato Pie
If reheating the pie directly from the freezer, place the frozen pie on a baking sheet (brush off any frost), and heat at 300° for 40 to 50 minutes. If your sweet potato pie has thawed from frozen in your refrigerator, place the chilled pie on a baking sheet, and bake at 300° for about 30 minutes. In both cases, insert the tip of a knife into the center of the pie to see if the pie has warmed through.
Sweet Potato Pie Tips
How do you make pie crust from scratch?
To make a pie crust recipe from scratch, whisk together 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cut in 1/3 cup shortening until crumbly. Sprinkle with 1-1/2 teaspoons white vinegar. Gradually add 2 to 3 tablespoons 2% milk, tossing with a fork until a ball is formed. Then, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out the crust as desired.
Can you use canned sweet potatoes in this recipe?
Yes, you can use sweet potatoes in this recipe. Just make sure to drain the sweet potatoes well before mashing them. Extra moisture isn’t your friend when making any type of custard pie.
Can you make sweet potato pie ahead of time?
Yes, you can make sweet potato pie ahead of time. If the pie is for a big food holiday like Thanksgiving, it’s even better if you do. That way you can free up the oven for day-of baking.