This irresistible Southern sweet potato pie is a beloved family recipe made with roasted and mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, evaporated milk, and warm spices baked in a buttery homemade crust. No Thanksgiving in the South is complete without sweet potato pie and this recipe will be your family's new favorite!
Black families in the South have enjoyed sweet potato pie during the holidays and throughout the year for decades. Made with simple ingredients, sweet potato pie is a delicious, comforting dessert that has a special place in my heart.
This is a classic soul food sweet potato pie recipe handed down from my Grandma that I've made some minor tweaks to over the years to make it even more perfect! For more Southern Thanksgiving recipes, check out our Old Fashioned Buttermilk Pie and Soul Food Candied Yams recipes next!
Table of Contents
- Important Ingredient Notes
- How To Make Southern Sweet Potato Pie
- Variations and Substitutions
- Why Do Black Folks Love Sweet Potato Pie?
- Is This Recipe Similar to Patti Labelle's Sweet Potato Pie?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Make-Ahead and Storing Instructions
- More Thanksgiving Recipes You Will Love!
- 📖 Recipe
Important Ingredient Notes
A complete list of ingredients along with measurements and detailed recipe instructions can be found in the recipe card located at the bottom of this post.
- Flour. Be sure to use all-purpose flour for the pie crust. Weigh your flour using a kitchen scale for the most accurate measurement or spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off with a knife.
- Butter. Make sure your butter is very cold before adding it to the flour. I recommend cutting the butter into cubes and placing it in the freezer while you prepare the other crust ingredients. If using salted butter, do not add any additional salt to the crust.
- Ice water. Do not use cold tap water or room-temperature water. Measure out ⅔ cup of ice water, including the ice cubes.
Sweet Potato Pie Filling
- Sweet potatoes. Southern sweet potato pie requires sweet potatoes with orange flesh. Sometimes labeled "yams" in grocery stores, look for sweet potatoes with brown or purple skin and dark orange flesh, such as Jewel or Garnet sweet potatoes. If you are unsure what color the flesh of a sweet potato is, lightly scrape the skin with your fingernail to reveal the flesh underneath.
- Butter. Soften one stick of unsalted butter to room temperature for the pie filling. If using salted butter, do not add any additional salt to the pie.
- Sugar. This sweet potato pie calls for a combination of granulated and light brown sugar to sweeten the filling. You may use all granulated sugar if you prefer a lighter, more vanilla-like flavor. You may also use a combination of granulated and dark brown sugar.
- Evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is used in classic, southern sweet potato pie and gives it an extra rich flavor and texture. You may also use milk or a combination of milk and cream.
- Vanilla extract. Use good-quality, pure vanilla extract for the best flavor in your sweet potato pie. Trust me, it makes a huge difference! Cheap vanilla can give your pie an "off" taste or even add an alcohol flavor.
- Spices. This recipe calls for cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to add warmth and depth, but you may use different spices such as ginger, allspice, or cardamom according to what you like.
How To Make Southern Sweet Potato Pie
- Make the pie crust. I recommend making the crust the night before or first thing in the morning to give it time to chill. Pulse the butter along with the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor to break it up into small chunks. Drizzle in the ice water until the dough comes together then shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour up to overnight.
- Bake the sweet potatoes. Scrub the sweet potatoes, pierce them all over with a fork, and bake the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet at 450°F for 50 to 60 minutes until very tender. Allow them to cool enough to handle, then remove the skins.
- Prepare the crust. Lower your oven temperature to 350°F. Roll out the chilled pie crust and place it in a pie dish sprayed with baking spray. Trim the excess and crimp the pie edges. Refrigerate the pie crust while you prepare the filling.
- Make the filling. Place the peeled sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl and use the beaters of a handheld electric mixer (without the mixer turned on) to break them apart. Beat in the butter until light and fluffy then beat in the remaining ingredients until the filling is smooth. Pour the filling into the crust and smooth it out.
- Bake the pie. Bake the sweet potato pie in the preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes until the center is set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack.
Variations and Substitutions
Southern sweet potato pie is made with evaporated milk to give it a signature richness that is incredibly delicious! However, you can also use regular whole milk, buttermilk, or a combination of milk and cream if you like.
This pie can be made with all granulated sugar instead of a combination of granulated and dark brown sugar. Your sweet potato pie will have a lighter color and a more vanilla-like flavor.
Try making this pie with different combinations of spices such as cardamom, allspice, star anise, or five spice! Some other fun additions to sweet potato pie are:
- Maple syrup
- Fresh orange juice
- Brown butter
Why Do Black Folks Love Sweet Potato Pie?
Sweet potato pie has an extensive history in Black culture, dating back to the years of enslavement when Black cooks prepared the pie for plantation owners and their families. When Black people gained their freedom and left the kitchens of white plantation owners, they took the sweet potato pie with them and it has been a staple in our culture ever since.
For me, sweet potato pie is home. It takes me back to my earliest childhood memories of Thanksgiving dinner with ham, cornbread dressing, a big ol' pot of greens with pork, buttermilk cornbread, pecan pie, yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and sweet potato pie all laid out on the kitchen table.
Southern sweet potato pie is a huge part of Southern Black culture and I cannot envision the holidays without it!
Is This Recipe Similar to Patti Labelle's Sweet Potato Pie?
This recipe is very similar to Patti LaBelle's sweet potato pie and features some of the same, delicious ingredients. The main difference is Patti LaBelle's recipe uses all granulated sugar and this sweet potato pie recipe calls for half granulated sugar and half light brown sugar, giving it a deeper, more caramel-like flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sweet potato pie has a custard filling, which means eggs are needed to bind the ingredients and give the pie structure.
Yes. Since sweet potato pie is made with eggs and butter it needs to be refrigerated and should not sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
When sweet potato pie is done, the center should be set and should not jiggle. The pie will also be slightly puffy but will go down after it is taken out of the oven. If a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, your pie can be taken out of the oven.
Make-Ahead and Storing Instructions
Southern sweet potato pie is the perfect make-ahead dessert. It can be prepared up to two days in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Sweet potato pie can be served chilled, at room temperature, or warm. Reheat sweet potato pie in the oven, covered with foil, if you prefer to serve it warm
Leftover sweet potato pie can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
More Thanksgiving Recipes You Will Love!
Southern Sweet Potato Pie
- 1.5 pounds sweet potatoes about 2 medium sweet potatoes, will need 2 cups of mashed sweet potato, see note
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar or dark brown sugar
- ½ cup evaporated milk see note
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs room temperature
For the pie crust
- Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the cold cubed butter to the food processor and pulse to break the butter up into small chunks.
- Slowly pour the ice water in through the chute, while pulsing, until the dough starts to clump together. Do not over-process the dough! Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
- Shape the dough into a ball and use a bench scraper to cut the dough ball in half. Shape each half into a disc, wrap each disc in plastic wrap, refrigerate the disk that you use for the sweet potato pie, and freeze the other for later use. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour up to overnight.
- Unwrap the pie crust and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough from the center with a floured rolling pin until the pie dough is about ⅛ inch thick. Spray a 9-inch pie dish with baking spray and place the pie crust in the center of the plate.
- Press the pie dough lightly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Trim any excess overhang, fold the edges under, and crimp the top edges of the pie crust. Place the crust in the refrigerator while you prepare the pie filling.
For the pie filling
- Scrub the sweet potatoes clean, pierce them all over with a fork, and bake the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet at 450°F for 50 to 60 minutes until very tender. Allow them to cool enough to handle, then remove the skins.
- Lower your oven temperature to 350°F. Place the sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl and use the beaters of a handheld electric mixer (without the mixer turned on) to break the sweet potatoes apart. Add the butter to the bowl and beat the sweet potatoes and butter on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the filling is smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust and smooth it out into an even layer.
- Bake the pie in the preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes until the center is set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack. Serve sweet potato pie chilled or at room temperature with fresh whipped cream.
- Southern sweet potato pie requires sweet potatoes with orange flesh. Sometimes labeled "yams" in grocery stores, look for sweet potatoes with brown or purple skin and dark orange flesh, such as Jewel or Garnet sweet potatoes. If you are unsure what color the flesh of a sweet potato is, lightly scrape the skin with your fingernail to reveal the flesh underneath.
- Southern sweet potato pie is made with evaporated milk to give it a signature richness that is so good! However, you can also use regular whole milk, buttermilk, or a combination of milk and cream if you like.
- This pie can be made with just granulated sugar instead of a combination of granulated and dark brown sugar. Your sweet potato pie will have a lighter color and a more vanilla-like flavor.
- For an extra-smooth filling, pulse the roasted and peeled sweet potatoes in a food processor before making the filling to get rid of the "stringy" bits.
- Leftover sweet potato pie can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.