Soul food sweet potato pie is a soul-warming dessert with deep roots in African American culture. It has been a staple for the holiday table for generations. This pie is made of baked sweet potatoes, creamy custard, and a flaky, buttery crust that perfectly complements the warm spices of the filling. Whether you are looking for a tasty treat to enjoy during the holidays or simply crave a taste of home, this dish is sure to become your new family favorite.
Southern Sweet Potato Pie Recipe From Scratch
I can still remember the smell of sweet potatoes roasting in the oven. The kitchen would be filled with the delicious aroma, and my grandma Jesse would let me help her make the pie. We would mix the ingredients, roll out the dough, and bake it to perfection.
I had fun in the kitchen with my grandma and loved learning her recipes, and I still think of her whenever I make sweet potato pie. The rich history and soulful roots that this dish embodies make me so excited to share it with you.
For the deepest, richest flavor, use fresh sweet potatoes. If you’re in a pinch for time, canned sweet potatoes (drained) can be used as a substitute.
Room-temperature butter is a key ingredient in this pie’s filling and pie crust, and it adds a rich flavor and helps lock in the pie’s moisture.
Brown sugar gives the pie its characteristic rich, caramel like flavor. You can use dark or light brown sugar in this recipe.
Further enhances the sweetness.
Evaporated milk is essential to the custard filling, giving the pie a smooth, creamy texture.
Room-temperature eggs help bind the custard filling together.
Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, and Vanilla
Sweet potato pie’s warm and comforting flavors come from vanilla extract and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
Unbaked Pie Crust
My All Butter Pie Crust recipe is pretty damn good if you want to try your hand at homemade pie crust. Of course, a frozen or refrigerated crust will work in a pinch.
I love topping my sweet potato pie with a dollop of whipped cream. Here’s a simple recipe for making fresh whipped cream at home.
How To Make Soul Food Sweet Potato Pie
For the full sweet potato pie recipe and detailed baking instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post.
Prepare Sweet Potato Mash & Pie Crust (if homemade):
- First, clean the potatoes and prick them with a fork.
- If you are making a homemade pie crust, I suggest blind baking it. Poke the homemade pie shell all around the base and sides. In a small bowl, whisk an egg and brush the edges of the pie with it.
- Set the pie plate and sweet potatoes onto a large baking sheet and transfer it to a 425°F preheated oven.
- Bake the pie shell for 10 minutes and the sweet potatoes for 50 to 60 minutes. Let them cool for 20 minutes or until you can handle the potatoes.
- Scoop the sweet potato flesh out into a large mixing bowl. Mash sweet potatoes until you no longer see large lumps.
Note: if using a store-bought pie shell, you don’t have to blind-bake it.
To Make Sweet Potato Pie Filling:
Add butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, evaporated milk, and vanilla to the bowl with the mashed sweet potatoes and blend with a hand mixer until smooth. Add in eggs and continue to mix until incorporated.
To Bake Soul Food Sweet Potato Pie:
Pour the sweet potato filling into the pie shell. Loosely wrap the edge of the pie with foil (optional). Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the pie cool for 1 hour before serving.
Alternative Cooking Methods/Customizations
- Serving a large crowd? Double up the recipe and swap the pie plate for a large sheet pan. Sheet pan Southern Sweet Potato Pie makes serving large groups a breeze.
- Add bourbon– Replace vanilla extract with bourbon for a more sophisticated flavor.
- Purple sweet potato pie– substituting purple sweet potatoes for orange ones will give your dish an eye-catching touch!
- Add buttermilk – Try swapping evaporated milk for buttermilk for a tart take on this classic dessert.
- Mini sweet potato pies – if you don’t want to commit to a whole pie, try making mini pies using a muffin tin and pie crust cutouts. Baking time will vary.
- Add candied pecan topping– make this sweet potato pie extra southern by topping it with candied pecans.
Fresh v. Canned Sweet Potatoes
As I mentioned, this recipe can use fresh or canned sweet potatoes. I recommend fresh potatoes because they offer the best flavor. I bake them before adding them to the pie filling to retain the most flavor.
Canned sweet potatoes are more convenient because they are already peeled and cooked. At the store, canned sweet potatoes may be labeled as yams, but they’re the same.
If you decide to use canned sweet potatoes, drain them before using them because they are usually packed in syrup.
Sweet Potato Pie v. Pumpkin Pie
If you don’t have much experience eating pumpkin or sweet potato pie, it’s easy to confuse them. That’s because they have similar features, including:
- An orange hue
- Similar spices
- A custard-like filling
- Relatively similar texture (but the trained tongue knows the difference)
Although sweet potato and pumpkin pie have similarities, there are some clear distinctions.
- Sweet potato pie is preferred in the South.
- Pumpkin pie is preferred in the North.
- Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and result in a richer sweet pie flavor.
- Pumpkin pies are denser and require more spices since pumpkin by itself is bland.
- More often than not, sweet potato pie is made with fresh sweet potatoes.
- Pumpkin pie is almost always made with canned pureed pumpkins because of the labor involved with breaking down pumpkin.
For an extra smooth sweet potato pie filling, use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the sweet potatoes until they’re super smooth. This will help ensure there are no lumps in your final product. Additionally, if you see them, be sure to eliminate the long sweet potato fibers that disrupt the pie’s texture.
If you want a rustic pie, simply mash the sweet potatoes by hand and mix everything together with a wooden spoon. No need for fancy kitchen gadgets!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you boil the sweet potatoes for sweet potato pie?
Yes, you can boil sweet potatoes for sweet potato pie. I recommend baking them so you don’t lose any sweet potato flavor.
However, if you want to boil sweet potatoes, place clean, whole sweet potatoes into a large pot of boiling water and cook until they’re fork tender, about 40 minutes.
Do you eat sweet potato pie hot or cold?
You can serve sweet potato pie at room temperature or chilled, whichever you prefer. It also tastes delicious with whipped cream, candied pecans, and/or toasted marshmallow fluff on top.
Can I use regular milk instead of evaporated milk?
You can, but I haven’t tested it, so I wouldn’t recommend it.
When is Sweet Potato Pie done?
Give the whole thing a light shake to check if your sweet potato pie is done. If the edges are set, but the center jiggles just a bit, it’s ready to come out of the oven. The pie will continue to cook in the center as it cools, and it will often be overcooked if you cook until the center is set completely.
You can also use an instant-read thermometer to check for a center temperature of 175°F.
How long does a Sweet Potato Pie have to cool?
It’s essential to let the pie cool completely before serving or storing, giving the filling time to set up properly. I typically let my pies cool on the counter for at least an hour or until it gets to room temperature. Then I place it in the fridge overnight.
Can I make sweet potato pie with canned yams?
The measurements of this recipe are based on using fresh sweet potatoes. I haven’t tested the recipe with canned yams, but if you use them, I’d recommend draining them well of their excess syrup.
Make Ahead, Freezing, Storing
You can make this sweet potato pie recipe up to two days ahead of time. Simply store it in the fridge, tightly covered in storage wrap or aluminum foil. You should refrigerate the pie as soon as it has cooled to room temperature.
Remove it from the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before you want to serve it so that it reaches room temperature.
This pie can also be frozen to get a headstart on your holiday baking. After baking, cool the pie to room temperature, then wrap it in several layers of both plastic wrap and then in foil. Freeze for up to one month.
Let it defrost in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Before You Begin
- Handheld electric mixer
- Food Processor
- Rolling Pin
- Cooling Rack
- 9-inch pie dish
- Mixing bowls
- Ceramic Pie Weights
- Read through the recipe. This is the first time making a particular recipe; take a couple of minutes to read it through from start to finish. I promise it will help you move through the recipe quicker when you understand what’s coming next.
- Measure out ingredients
- Prep sweet potato mash
- Prep Pie crust or use store-bought
I love sweet potato pie. It’s one of the most iconic and beloved dishes in the tradition of soul food. Filled with rich, creamy custard and baked into a flaky crust, this delicacy evokes warmth and happiness, reminding us of special moments spent with family around the dinner table.
For many black families, our soul food sweet potato pie recipe is a cherished part of our holiday celebrations and a keepsake we are proud to pass down from one generation to the next. Whether you’re making this dish for yourself or your loved ones, there is no doubt that this pie will always be an indispensable part of our traditions and culture. So treat yourself and savor every bite of this soul-satisfying comfort food!
Sweet Potato Batter:
- 1 ¼ lb sweet potatoes (2-3 medium potatoes = 2 cups sweet potato mash)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 (9 inch) pie crust, store-bought or homemade
- 1 egg
To Prepare Sweet Potato Mash & Pie Crust (if homemade):
- Heat the oven to 425°F. Scrub the potatoes clean. Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork.
- Poke the pie shell all around the base and sides. Add a layer of parchment paper to the pie pan and pie weights or beans. In a small bowl, whisk an egg and brush the edges of the pie with it. Set the pie shell on top of a large sheet pan. Add sweet potatoes to the sheet pan and transfer it to the oven.
- Bake the pie shell for 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven. Bake the sweet potatoes for 50 to 60 minutes. Flip them halfway through. The potatoes are done when you can easily pierce them with a fork. Let them cool for 20 minutes or until you can handle them.
- Cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh out into a large bowl.
To Make Sweet Potato Batter:
- Add butter to the bowl with the sweet potatoes and blend with a hand mixer until you no longer see large lumps. Add in the brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, evaporated milk, and vanilla to the bowl and blend with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until smooth. Reduce speed to medium, add eggs, and continue to blend until incorporated and smooth.
To Prep Pie Shell:
- Poke the pie shell all around the base and sides. In a small bowl the whisk egg. Brush the edges of the pie shell with the egg mix. Set pie shell on top of the sheet pan and transfer to oven for 10-15 minutes, edges should begin to turn golden brown then remove from the oven.
To Bake Pie:
- Pour the sweet potato filling into the pie shell. Loosely wrap the edge of the pie with foil (optional). Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the pie cool for 1 hour before serving.
- If the pie crust starts to brown before the filling is done, cover the edges with strips of aluminum foil or a pie shield to prevent burning.
- How to tell when it is done?
- The filling should be set around the edges and the center of the pie slightly jiggly but not loose. The heat from carryover cooking will fully set the pie as it cools.
- The filling will set between 160-180 degrees.
- The pie will be puffed up like a soufflé when you remove it from the oven but will deflate as it cools.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.
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8 thoughts on “Soul Food Sweet Potato Pie”
Nancy! So happy you enjoyed it.
I love that your recipe calls for evaporated milk. that’s the way that my mom and grandma made their pies, I had questions about the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg, 1 1/2 tsp sounds like a lot. I want to try the recipe, but just wanted to clarify the ingredients. Thanks in advance.
Hi Carol. Thanks so much. That’s how my grandma made hers too! And I just went back and checked my recipe notes and those measurements are accurate. This pie is full of flavor and my family loves it, but this is flexible so if you like you can always scale back on the warm spices.
This seems like a easy recipe to do. I am going to try it.
I hope you love it as much as I do.
Do take milk and egg and put around the pie crust?
You can do milk and eggs, just milk, just eggs, heavy cream. I’ve seen good results with any of these combinations.