Sweet potato pie takes simple tubers and turns them into a smooth and luscious filling bursting with brown sugar and bold spices. The flavorful mixture bakes in a buttery homemade pie crust. It’s a tasty dessert for any occasion!
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Sweet potatoes are a unique root vegetable that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. This recipe is similar to making a pumpkin pie, but the main ingredient is more readily available throughout the year. When cooked, the flesh becomes creamy and loaded with caramel notes. It makes for an ideal base filling.
To enhance the tuber’s natural sweetness, I start them in a cold oven and bake until fork-tender. The combination of sugars, orange juice, and warm spices in the custard-like filling turns each slice into an irresistible dessert. You’ll be happy to know that you can prepare some of the components ahead of time to make assembly easier.
Making a sturdy pie crust
I use a combination of flour, salt, butter, and water, also called a traditional Pâte Brisée pie dough. It makes a sturdy structure to hold the wet filling but is still tender. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch pieces, then incorporate it into the flour using a stand mixer until coarse with pea-sized bits of fat dispersed throughout.
Chill and rest the dough for at least 4 hours, or I prefer overnight. This duration gives the gluten time to relax so that the texture doesn’t taste tough.
Shaping the dough
Roll out the dough slightly less than 1/4-inch thick. This size will ensure a robust shell but easy enough to cut through. I use a 9-inch glass pie dish to shape the crust, and it also makes it easy to monitor the color change. Freezing the shell for 20 minutes firms up the butter, so it doesn’t shrink too much during baking.
Blind bake the crust
The sweet potato filling is naturally high in moisture, so to prevent the bottom of the crust from becoming soggy, it needs to be blind baked at 375ºF (191ºC). This technique involves partially baking with pie weights to set the shape and then removing them to further cook.
Preparing the potatoes
I find that baked sweet potatoes yield the most flavorful filling. The Garnet variety has a bright orange flesh that’s moist with honey-like flavor. I start with the spuds wrapped in foil then placed in a cold oven. This cooking method gives more time for the maltose (a disaccharide found in starches) to break down and convert to sweeter-tasting glucose (a simple sugar).
At 170ºF (77ºC) this conversion stops, so not preheating the oven first is beneficial for the spuds. It takes about 75 to 90 minutes to tenderize. You’ll start to smell caramel aromas coming from the oven to tell it’s ready. If you like, you can bake and remove the flesh, then chill for up to 2 days before using it.
Making the pie filling
To make the flesh super smooth in texture, I puree it in a food processor. Cool it down over an ice bath before combining it with the egg custard base. If you add it to the eggs when hot, it will curdle and cook the eggs, giving it a graining texture.
Then mix the puree with granulated and brown sugar, eggs, heavy cream, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Together, the added sweeteners and acidic juice enhance the earthy flavor of the potato. To add baked notes, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger add a punch of spices.
Bake the pie
The pie shell does not need to be cooled down, just spread the filling evenly inside. Only add in enough before it hits the edges. You may have leftover, especially if the crust shrank during blind baking. The moderate oven temperature at 350ºF (177ºC) allows the custard to gently set without overcooking the crust.
The moisture that evaporates from the filling creates a steamy environment in the oven. Because of this, the shell doesn’t brown as quickly. If needed, you can fold some foil over the edges to slow down the cooking process.
How long to bake sweet potato pie?
It takes about 50 to 60 minutes of baking time. To tell when the filling has set, it should be firm when touched and hold its shape. Also, if the tip of a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, it’s ready.
Cool before serving
Allow the pie to cool down before serving, about 3 hours at room temperature. If you’re not eating right away, you should refrigerate the pie. It contains eggs, dairy, and fresh sweet potatoes, so it should be chilled to prevent spoilage.
Baking with pie weights
This recipe is unique in that you almost wholly bake the pie crust. The wet potato filling can cause it to become raw in taste if not properly prebaked. The weights are only left in about half the time. That’s because to achieve a flaky bottom crust, the dough needs to be exposed to the heat, which allows the steam to escape and dry out. If the weights are left in, they trap the moisture, creating an undercooked pastry.
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Sweet Potato Pie
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes, chilled
- ½ ice-cold water, chilled
Sweet Potato Filling
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes, Garnet variety
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Make the Crust
- Keep the diced butter and ice water in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Using a stand mixer bowl, weigh out the flour and add the salt. Mix using the paddle attachment on the lowest speed (stir) for about 10-seconds.
- Add chilled diced butter to the bowl. On the lowest speed, turn the mixer on and off quickly for a few seconds to coat the butter with the flour. This helps to prevent the flour from spilling over. Continue to mix on low speed until the flour and butter has a mealy texture like wet sand and some pea-sized pieces evenly throughout the flour, about 70 to 80-seconds. Do not overmix, the dough should not bind together before the water is added. Alternatively, use a dough/pastry blender or your fingers to break the butter into the dough.
- Gradually add 1 tablespoon of ice-cold water to the bowl. After each addition, turn the mixer on for 2 to 3-seconds. Only add enough water until the dough looks lumpy and hydrated, but not wet or sticky. It should begin to clump together with small crumbles on the bottom of the bowl. All of the water may not be needed, about 5 to 7 tablespoons is typical. When the dough is pinched together, it should compress and hold, not be dry or crumbly. Do not over mix. The dough will be pressed together before resting.
- Press the dough into a 1” thick round disc and wrap in plastic wrap and place in a resealable bag. Store in the refrigerator to rest for at least 4-hours, overnight, or up to 2 days.
Bake the Potatoes
- While the crust is resting, prepare the filling. Set the oven rack to the middle position. Line a baking sheet with foil. Clean and dry the potatoes, then individually wrap in foil. Place on the pan, then heat the oven to 375ºF (191ºC). Bake the potatoes until tender, about 75 to 90 minutes, flipping over halfway through.
- When cool enough to handle, peel, and scoop out the flesh and transfer to a food processor. Puree on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer a medium bowl and place in an ice-water bath, the water should come halfway up the bowl. Stir occasionally until cool, about 10 minutes. The potatoes can be used the same day or stored for up to 2 days in an airtight container.
Shape and Bake the Crust
- Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator. Sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10-minutes, this will make it easier to roll. If it’s still too hard, sit at room temperature until pliable.
- Dust the counter and top of the dough with flour. When rolling out, make sure to rotate and dust with flour underneath and on the top. This will prevent sticking and make it easier to transfer to the pie dish. Roll into a 13 to 14-inch circle, slightly less than ¼-inch thick.
- Place the rolled out dough into a 9-inch pie dish and gently press against the sides and bottom. With a paring knife, trim the excess dough with a ½-inch overhang over the edge of the pie dish. Tuck the excess underneath the bottom crust edges. Crimp by pinching the dough using the pointer and thumb fingers.
- Place the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Place the oven rack in the center position. Preheat to 375°F (190°C). Place the pie crust on a sheet pan.
- Place a piece of parchment paper in the pie dish and add the pie weights to cover just the crust's bottom and sides, do not overfill.
- Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow the weights to sit in the crust for a few minutes to weigh down any puffed up crust. Carefully lift the parchment paper filled with weights out of the pie dish and set aside, it will not be used again.
- Bake the crust for 5 minutes. Check to see if the bottom and sides have shrunk slightly. Use a spoon to press the base down gently and sides up, don’t force it too much.
- Bake the crust until golden brown and dry, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Make the Filling
- Measure out 2 cups of the sweet potato puree and transfer to a bowl of a stand mixer.
- Using the paddle attachment, mix the potatoes on the lowest setting (stir) for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
- Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar, mix on low speed for 10 seconds. Increase the speed to 2, mix until combined, 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides.
- Add the lightly beaten eggs, heavy cream, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Quickly pulse the mixer on and off a few times. Increase the speed to 2, mix for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides.
- Add the melted butter, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Mix on speed 2 until combined, about 20 seconds. Give the filing a final mix with a spatula. Refrigerate if not using right away.
Bake the Pie
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (176ºC).
- Add the filling to the shell just to the bottom of the fluted shell. Smooth the surface with a spatula. There may be extra filling leftover. Bake until the center is firm when touched, about 50 to 60 minutes.
- Cool the pie on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature, at least 3 hours before serving. If not serving right away, refrigerate the pie.
- Slice the sweet potato pie and serve with whipped cream or desired toppings.
- Storing: A whole pie can be completely cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Let the pie come to room temperature for the best crust texture after chilling.
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