The American holiday season happens to be one of my favorite times of the year. After the rush of what usually turns out to be a pretty eventful and busy year, it always feels good to sit down with people you love and surround yourselves with nice food. As someone with a strong sweet tooth, I always look forward to dessert the most, as it usually seems that family and friends put out their best sweet treats around this time of the year. In recent years, I’ve decided to join my friends and family that bake and learn how to create these dishes that I love. While I tried my hand at several desserts this season, the one that really made me proud to make was sweet potato pie. Yes, you read that correctly: sweet potato pie. After baking several for my coworkers, friends, and family, I definitely want to share what I believe is a very underrated dessert more dinner tables need for their holiday seasons.
Where did this pie even come from?
While it’s hard to trace the exact origins of the pie, it’s widely believed that it was developed by African-American slaves in the South. The first written record of the pie’s recipe could be found in Abby Fisher’s (former slave) What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking. Since then, the pie is a staple in many Southern and African-American households, usually eclipsing the more popular sweet potato pie.
What even is a sweet potato pie?
For those familiar with the season-famous pumpkin pie might find it initially difficult to tell the difference between these two pies, and it’s not really hard to see why! Both pies contain similar ingredients such as sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. However, there are notable differences (in my experience) between the taste and texture of both desserts. Sweet potato pies tend to feel a bit smoother and less custard-like than their pumpkin pie cousins. Additionally, I get more of an earthy taste from pumpkin pie than I do sweet potato (and this really shows after adding the spices to both pies).
Sounds good! How do we create a sweet potato pie?
Sweet Potato Pie (Filling)
(Note: I cheated with the crust here, but will provide a small recipe for crust sometime in January!)
2 sweet potatoes (1 pound)
1 cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
½ cup evaporated milk (need to get better measurements)
½ cup butter softened
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- For pre-made pie shells, follow the heating directions provided on your shells. Otherwise, use your favorite pie crust recipe.
- Boil the sweet potatoes until soft (you should be able to go through them with a fork without any resistance)
- In a mixing bowl, break apart the sweet potato apart in the bowl (without the skin), then add the softened butter. Mix the two together (I use an electric mixer for this and suggest you do the same!)
- After mixing the sweet potato and butter, add (one at a time) the sugar, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and eggs [medium speed]. You’ll stop when the mixture is smooth.
- Pour the pie filling into your crust, bake on 350 degrees for one hour, then let cool. Either serve immediately or refrigerate.
Notes from Making Sweet Potato Pie
- Taste as you go. Remember, you can easily add more to a recipe but subtracting is hard. As you add your spices and other ingredients, if you feel like your pie doesn’t have quite the taste you want, take a second to think about what you want more of, add a little bit (we don’t want to overwhelm the pie), mix, and taste again.
- Add eggs after you’re satisfied with the flavor. This piggybacks off of the last note, but saving the eggs for the end allows you to safely taste your pie before committing to that flavor.
- If you want to curb some of the sweetness of the pie, add a little citrus for a fun flavor. What surprised me in my last iteration of making this pie was how I could add a bit of a different flavor by adding citrus to the pie. In my case, a bit of lemon extract did reduce the sweetness of the pie (which can lean more towards molasses) but added a different dimension to the flavor. Think of sweeter citrus candies you’ve had before, except with heavier autumnal flavors mixed in.
Do you have plans to make a sweet potato pie? Or do you have some sacred family recipe that you use around the holiday time? Take a picture, share it on your IG and tag it with #ramenthusiast so I can check it out!