I know most people think of pumpkin pie as a classic Thanksgiving dessert, but let’s talk about why sweet potato pie also deserves a seat at the (dessert) table.
This sweet potato pie filling is so silky smooth. It’s rich and creamy and brown-sugar-sweetened. Bake it in your favorite buttery crust (here’s mine) and top it with some whipped cream… and you’ve got pie perfection, my friend.
How is sweet potato pie different from pumpkin pie?
Okay, so I know that both of these pies are the same color, and they both call for some of the same spices, but guys… sweet potato and pumpkin are (obviously) different. I mean, for starters, one is a squash and the other a root vegetable.
I consider pumpkin to be a vehicle for flavor; it carries other flavors well. When you’re eating pumpkin pie, what you’re really tasting is “pumpkin pie spices” in a creamy custard form. On the other hand, sweet potatoes have a flavor all their own and are enhanced by other flavors/spices.
I love pumpkin pie and consider it an essential part of my holiday menu (for nostalgic reasons – it has always been part of our celebration). But if I HAD to choose which pie actually tastes better (ignoring the fact that absolutely no one is making me choose and I’m fully capable of making both pies… and yet here I am creating this slightly stressful scenario for myself for no reason whatsoever…), I’d have to pick sweet potato pie.
I find sweet potato pie to be a little sweeter, a little thicker, and more velvety in texture, whereas pumpkin pie is a little lighter, a bit silkier, and more like a creamy custard.
What’s the secret to a silky smooth sweet potato pie filling?
The blender. It makes SUCH a difference. Combining the filling ingredients in a blender results in a velvety smooth sweet potato pie filling. I’ve tried making sweet potato pie filling by hand – even in a stand mixer – and the result? A pretty fibrous filling. I mean, it’s not bad, but the difference between a hand-mixed filling and a blended filling is significant.
How should I cook sweet potatoes for sweet potato pie?
I know some will tell you to cook sweet potatoes however you want, and while I’d really love to give you the easy way out on this… I can’t.
You’re going to have to bake the sweet potatoes until they’re slightly caramelized for the very best flavor. You guys know how much I love my instant pot, but this is not the time for that appliance. I’ve tried this same pie with steamed sweet potatoes, and it’s not the same, not at all. You might think that because we’re blending the filling, it won’t matter, but it does. The sweet potatoes are what make this pie and if we’re choosing between roasted caramelized sweet potatoes or water-logged sweet potatoes… well, just meet me at the oven, okay?
Baking concentrates the sweetness and the flavor of the sweet potatoes. While baking takes longer, we’re talking hands-off time. Also, baking sweet potatoes will make your home smell wonderful. You can bake the sweet potatoes in advance if you want to keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to make this pie.
Alright, I think I’ve made my case for baking over steaming/boiling.
You can be team pumpkin pie and team sweet potato pie. There is absolutely room for both of these pies this holiday season. Ah, and we can’t forget pecan pie. It’s a good thing that pie is easy as well, pie to make.
If you end up with too much pie (is there such a thing?), it is perfectly acceptable to serve pie for breakfast the morning after a holiday. I’m pretty sure it’s an unwritten (but also now written?) rule.
- homemade pie crust or store-bought crust
- 2 cups packed mashed sweet potatoes or around 475 grams/1 pound peeled sweet potatoes
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup butter melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup packed brown sugar*
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Big pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- Pinch of salt
- See below for directions on how to cook sweet potatoes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Place the cooked sweet potatoes in a blender along with the remaining filling ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour this filling into either a homemade pie crust or a store-bought crust.
- Bake the pie for 60 minutes, checking on it periodically to make sure the crust isn’t getting too brown (if it looks brown, cover it with foil and continue to bake).
- Remove the pie from the oven. The filling should look mostly set but it’s okay if the center is a bit jiggly as the pie will continue to cook and set as it cools.
- Allow the pie to cool for a couple hours then serve with whipped cream. If making the pie in advance, loosely cover and keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or tightly cover and keep in the freezer for up to two months.
How to cook sweet potatoes:
- To bake sweet potatoes in an oven (my preferred method), poke them with a fork and then bake at 425F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the edges begin to caramelize.
- To cook sweet potatoes in an instant pot, cook at high pressure for 15 minutes then naturally release pressure.
- To boil sweet potatoes on the stovetop, boil them in a saucepan for 45 minutes, or until soft.
- *This recipe calls for packed brown sugar, which means you should fill the measuring cup with brown sugar then use a spoon to press down on the sugar and fill the cup up some more. The reason for this is because there are a lot of pockets of air that get trapped among brown sugar granules and we want to eat sugar, not air. This doesn't need to be perfectly compact, just know the more compact the sugar, the sweeter the pie.