Silky Sweet Potato Pie Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • Simmering tenderizes the sweet potatoes, condenses the dairy, and extracts a deeper aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.
  • DIY "condensed" milk has a lighter, fresher flavor than canned, with a subtle toffee taste.
  • Plain white sugar balances the pH of the dairy, which would instantly curdle if boiled with brown sugar.
  • A digital thermometer eliminates guesswork; the pie is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 195°F.

Having grown up down South, I can't imagine Thanksgiving or Christmas without a sweet potato pie. If that's not a familiar tradition for you, I can understand the temptation to see it as a mere replacement for pumpkin. But resist that urge, and trust me when I say that sweet potato pie is a thing unto itself.

Why a Sweet Potato Pie Is Better Than Pumpkin

Here's the deal. Pumpkin doesn't have much in the way of flavor, so it needs to be spiced seven ways to Sunday to taste like anything at all, and perhaps that's why "pumpkin spice" blends don't even bother to include the eponymous ingredient. Cooked pumpkin is also watery and bland, so, whether your purée is homemade or store-bought, it perks up only with the addition of lots of sugar and fat, giving the pie a dense, custardy texture.

But sweet potatoes? Once roasted, sweet potatoes are so deliciously rich, creamy, and flavorful, they can be served with nothing more than a pinch of salt. That simplicity is reflected in traditional recipes, which involve little else beyond milk, eggs, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Brown sugar is a purely modern twist: Nineteenth-century recipes called for plain sugar if they called for any at all, but the sweet potatoes most often spoke for themselves.

Silky Sweet Potato Pie Recipe (1)

That idea runs contrary to the perspective of today's food world, which is obsessed with layering ingredients to add complexity and depth, but when one ingredient is piled on top of the next in endless succession, you don't always build flavor. Sometimes you bury it. In the case of sweet potato pie, there's something to be said for simplicity—letting a few thoughtfully chosen ingredients work together in concert, without any stray chords to distract from their harmony.

Keeping It Simple

When made with ginger, cloves, brown sugar, and an excess of fat, sweet potato pie tastes like a knockoff version of pumpkin, equally heavy and dark. But when made according to those bare-bones 19th-century recipes, sweet potato pie comes together in one perfect note, bright and clean. That very lightness makes it the perfect match for a big meal, when our palates have been overwhelmed by a multitude of dishes and our pants are a little snug.

Of course, my appreciation for time-honored recipes doesn't mean I take a strictly old-fashioned approach. In accordance with recipes from the 1800s, I boil my sweet potatoes until they're tender and sweet, but instead of water, I use a blend of milk and cream.

Now, prolonged boiling would normally cause milk to curdle, as its acidity is concentrated over time. But,as with my homemadecajeta, curdling can be avoided with the addition of alkaline ingredients. With cajeta, that's a spoonful of baking soda, but for sweet potato pie, I reach for a slightly alkaline spice: cinnamon.

Not only does this method infuse sweet potatoes with flavor from the inside out, it also cooks off more than a pound of water, essentially condensing the milk. In turn, that coaxes out the mellow toffee notes we associate with canned milk, but not to the same degree, keeping the custard's flavor comparatively fresh.

Animmersion blendertransforms the chunky mixture into a silky purée, and the custard itself can be made straight in the pan. Just whisk in the remaining ingredients, and you're done.

Silky Sweet Potato Pie Recipe (2)

Making a Sweet Potato Pie Ahead of Time

The thick custard can be held for a week in the fridge, then brought to room temperature—or it can be poured straight into a fully baked pie crust, because it won't be in the oven long enough for the crust to crisp up on its own. Follow myblind-baking tutorial, and you'll be good to go.

The pie bakes for just 45 minutes at 350°F (177°C), or until the custard is gently set—about 195°F (91°C) in the very center. This temperature is a bit higher than what you see recommended for most custard pies, but that's due to its unusually low moisture content. That fact makes the custard especially silky, while ensuring the crust itself stays flaky and crisp, particularly if you're using myold-fashioned flaky pie dough(whose relatively high moisture content makes it disinclined to absorb other liquids).

Those unique factors mean that my sweet potato pie can be held overnight at room temperature without any detriment to the crust, so it's a great make-ahead recipe for the holidays.

Also make-ahead? My brown sugar whipped cream, which stays fluffy and light even after a few days in the fridge. Diluted in cream, brown sugar provides just a hint of butterscotch to complement, rather than compete with, the sweet potatoes. Or, if you'd prefer to match the understated simplicity of the pie, a dollop of plain whipped cream would be swell.

Regardless of how it's served, I hope this sweet potato pie finds its way to your Thanksgiving table. Whether you're craving a change of pace, or just a change of technique, its sweet simplicity is a beautiful conclusion to any meal.

Recipe Details

Silky Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

Active60 mins

Total2 hrs

Serves12 servings


  • 16 ounces sweet potatoes (3 1/3 cups; 455g) from 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, roughly diced (see notes)

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, seeds reserved for whipped cream topping

  • 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks (about 6 inches total)

  • 1 whole nutmeg (see notes)

  • 26 ounces milk (3 1/4 cups; 740g), any percentage will do

  • 6 ounces heavy cream(3/4 cup; 170g)

  • 7 ounces white orlightly toasted sugar(1 cup; 195g)

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon freshly gratednutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; use half as much if iodized table salt

  • 1/2 ounce vanilla extract(1 tablespoon; 14g)

  • 3 large eggs

  • Old-fashioned flaky pie crust, prepared as for a blind-baked pie

  • Brown sugar whipped cream (optional)


  1. In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, combine sweet potatoes, empty vanilla pod, cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, milk, cream, and sugar. If you have a scale, write down the weight of the saucier and combined ingredients so you can precisely measure the reduction.

    Silky Sweet Potato Pie Recipe (3)

  2. Bring to a boil over high heat, then adjust to medium-low and maintain a gentle simmer (higher heat may cause the milk to curdle). Scrape frequently with a flexible spatula to prevent milk solids from building up around the side, and simmer until sweet potatoes are fall-apart tender and dairy has condensed into a thick sauce, about 55 minutes. The saucier should weigh 19 ounces (535g) less than when you started. (Alternatively, total volume, including cooked sweet potato, should be 3 2/3 cups when finished.)

  3. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F (177°C). Remove vanilla bean and spices from saucier and purée sweet potato and dairy mixture with an immersion blender until smooth. (If needed, transfer to a smaller container to avoid splashing.) Whisk in ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg, salt, and vanilla, followed by eggs. If you like, strain through a fine-mesh strainer before pouring into prepared pie crust.

    Silky Sweet Potato Pie Recipe (4)

  4. Bake pie until gently set in the middle with an internal temperature of 195°F (91°C), about 40 minutes. Cool at least 20 minutes before slicing with a chef's knife, pausing to wipe the blade clean as needed. If desired, serve with dollops of brown sugar whipped cream. Wrapped in plastic, sweet potato pie will keep for up to 3 days at cool room temperature.

    Silky Sweet Potato Pie Recipe (5)

Special Equipment

3-quart stainless steel saucier, immersion blender, large fine-mesh strainer (optional), digital thermometer


I love the bright color of garnet yams in this recipe—don't worry, despite the name, they're actually sweet potatoes—but any true sweet potato will do. This recipe will not work with butternut squash or pumpkin, both of which develop an unpalatable vegetal quality with boiling.

Even if you're not a big fan of nutmeg, you'll be surprised at how well it pairs with the sweet potato custard, coaxing out a sense of brightness and cutting through the dairy fat. In the quantities used here, it has a fresh, almost herbaceous flavor, owing to its high levels of myristicin, an essential oil common to parsley and dill.

  • Thanksgiving Desserts
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes
  • Christmas Desserts
Silky Sweet Potato Pie Recipe (2024)


Why is my sweet potato pie not firm? ›

There could be a few reasons why your sweet potato pie isn't firm: you may have overcooked it, the filling may not be thick enough, or you may have used too much liquid. If your recipe doesn't call for eggs, try adding two eggs to the filling mixture to see if that helps thicken it up.

Why is my sweet potato pie soggy? ›

If the bottom crust doesn't set before the filling soaks in, it's going to be gummy. A metal pie pan placed on a preheated surface will set the bottom crust quickest; once cooked, the liquids from the filling above won't soak in, and as a result: no soggy bottom.

How do you keep a sweet potato pie from getting stringy? ›

I addressed this issue with sweet potato pie by using the blender to make the filling. Blending the sweet potato puree with the heavy cream until smooth ensures that the filling is not stringy at all!

Who makes sweet potato pies for Walmart? ›

She leads a team of professionals to bring quality bakery products to over 4,500 store locations. A notable accomplishment is that Kinna is the person responsible for creating the Patti Labelle Sweet Potato Pie.

How can I make my pie more firm? ›

All-purpose flour is an easy solution, as you're sure to have it in your pantry. Since it's lower in starch, you'll use more of it than you would higher-starch thickeners. Quick-cooking tapioca makes filling bright and clear, but also gives it a stippled and somewhat sticky texture.

Why did my sweet potato pie turn green? ›

AVA said that sweet potatoes contain flavonoids (a type of anti-oxidant), and water-soluble pigments which may cause colour changes. "The greenish colour can be due to a natural occurrence, when the water soluble pigments in the cooked sweet potatoes are exposed to air," AVA said.

How do you stiffen a pie filling? ›

When thickening a fruit pie filling, there are several options to consider. Very often flour or cornstarch is used, but in certain instances tapioca, arrowroot and potato starch can also help achieve the desired consistency.

Is it better to bake or boil sweet potatoes for pie? ›

Like David Wilcox says, baking the sweet potato produces a deeper flavor. I find that baking them brings out a sweeter flavor as well. But what you need to do is experiment and bake a pie using sweet potatoes that have been prepared both ways. You might find that you like it better when they are boiled.

Is it better to boil or bake sweet potatoes? ›

Baking can also cause an 80% drop in vitamin A levels, twice as much as boiling. Therefore, from a nutritional standpoint, boiling rather than baking should be recommended for cooking sweet potato.

How do you keep the bottom crust of a pie from getting soggy? ›

Crust dust is a 1:1 mixture of flour and granulated sugar. When baking a pie, especially a fruit pie, a couple of teaspoons of crust dust sprinkled into the bottom of the crust will help prevent the crust from becoming saturated with juicy filling as it bakes.

Can you leave sweet potato pie out all night? ›

Note: Sweet potato pie can be left at room temperature up to two days without refrigeration. Can be refrigerated up to one week and remain fresh.

Should homemade sweet potato pie be refrigerated? ›

Sweet potato pies usually contain milk and eggs, so they are essentially baked custard pies and should be stored in the refrigerator. Rule of thumb: If a pie contains milk, cream and/or eggs, refrigerate it. You'll also want to refrigerate pies containing evaporated or condensed milk products.

What to do if sweet potato pie filling is too runny? ›

The solution for watery casseroles is instant potato mash powder or cornflour - slake (mix with a little water) at first or it will go lumpy. Stir well.

What is a Patti LaBelle pie? ›

Singer Patti LaBelle learned this pie recipe from her best friend and hairstylist Norma Gordon Harris. This sweet potato pie has a thin layer of brown sugar on the bottom crust. This "black bottom" doesn't just add flavor, it also helps keep the filling from making the crust soggy.

What ingredients are in Patti LaBelle's banana pudding? ›

Ingredients for Patti LaBelle's Banana Pudding

To recreate Patti LaBelle's iconic banana pudding, you'll need sweetened condensed milk, cold water, instant vanilla pudding mix, heavy cream, ripe bananas and vanilla wafers.

Do you refrigerate Patti LaBelle sweet potato pie? ›

Continue baking until the filling is set and doesn't jiggle when the pie is gently shaken, about 30 minutes more. Transfer the pie to the wire rack and let cool completely. (The pie can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.)

How much does Patti LaBelle sweet potato pies cost? ›

If you multiply them out, Walmart has sold over 65 million pies since the product debuted — enough for everyone in America to have a nice-sized slice — even though inflation has now raised the price to a still very reasonable $3.98.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Reed Wilderman

Last Updated:

Views: 6214

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Reed Wilderman

Birthday: 1992-06-14

Address: 998 Estell Village, Lake Oscarberg, SD 48713-6877

Phone: +21813267449721

Job: Technology Engineer

Hobby: Swimming, Do it yourself, Beekeeping, Lapidary, Cosplaying, Hiking, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Reed Wilderman, I am a faithful, bright, lucky, adventurous, lively, rich, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.