The cultural significance of sweet potato pie and its roots are deeply entrenched in the tapestry of African-American cuisine, serving as more than just a sumptuous dessert but a cultural beacon through generations.
What is the African-American history of sweet potato pie?
Is sweet potato pie Black culture?
Yes and yes! because Black folks’ sweet potato pie and its ingredients originated from the adaptive culinary skills of enslaved Africans using new-world crops. The dessert holds a special place in Black communities, signifying heritage, family, and historical pride.
Check out this post: Why do Black people eat sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin?
This resourcefulness of West Africans turned enslaved people in the Southern US gave rise to a dish that evolved into a symbol of ingenuity and comfort amid adversity. Over time, as Black folks cemented their rightful place in American society, the sweet potato pie solidified its position as a culinary centerpiece in family gatherings and holiday feasts, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas, because of its timeless and thoughtful sweet potato pie spices and ingredients.
Learn more about sweet potato pie Black history in my post HERE.
Which is better, pumpkin or sweet potato pie?
The answer is always sweet potato pie if you ask Black folks! That’s because pumpkin pies are traditionally made with sugar and a few spices. Sweet potato pies have been elevated with soulful flavor combinations like cinnamon, sugar, sweet vanilla, cloves, and nutmeg. Mixed beautifully with softened sweet potatoes.
You can learn more in my post about the difference between pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie.
What does sweet potato pie contain?
More than just a treat, a Black folk’s sweet potato pie recipe, and its ingredients profoundly connect to Black history and cultural identity. The pie’s significance at communal tables transcends mere taste, embodying a legacy of resilience and the shared joy of soul food.
Ingredients for a Black folks’ sweet potato pie recipe
The ingredients of a Black folks’ sweet potato pie are different from just any ordinary Southern sweet potato pie. The differences are detailed in my post about sweet potato pie ingredients HERE.
- Sweet potatoes – The stars of the show are rich in flavor and yield a naturally creamy texture when baked. Their inherent sweetness is the base for this indulgent dessert. Jewel or Beauregard sweet potatoes are the go-to. Learn why in my post about what type of sweet potatoes are best for sweet potato pie.
- Brown sugar – Because of its molasses content, brown sugar adds a caramel-like depth, enhancing the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes.
- Butter – Unsalted butter (we’ll add the right amount of salt ourselves) is melted into the filling, giving the pie a luxurious, velvety consistency while contributing to its rich flavor.
- Eggs – Essential for structure, eggs bind the ingredients together and help create a smooth and firm filling once the pie is cooked.
- Evaporated milk – This concentrated milk adds creaminess without watering down the filling, complimenting the smooth texture of sweet potato purée.
- Vanilla extract – A splash of vanilla extract infuses the pie with its sweet, aromatic essence, enhancing the overall flavor profile.
- Spices – A fragrant blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove gives the pie its warm, comforting aroma and quintessential taste, tying together the sweetness with a hint of spice. This unique sweet potato pie spice medley is not found in any ordinary sweet potato pie!
- Salt – Just a pinch is enough to balance the sweetness and elevate the flavors within the pie.
The balance and quality of these ingredients are pivotal in creating a sweet potato pie that resonates with the heritage and palates of Black people and the way we cook.
Each component is chosen with care to contribute to a dessert that is much more than the sum of its parts but rather a symbol of tradition and cultural pride.
Soul food sweet potato pie crust
The foundation to any memorable sweet potato pie lies in its crust—a delicate balance of flakiness and buttery richness that sets the stage for the luscious filling. Because the pie crust is not merely a container but a crucial element that absorbs the flavors and spices of the filling. Creating a harmonious blend with every bite, paying homage to the culinary traditions that make sweet potato pie a timeless classic in African-American cuisine and Southern homes alike.
Are there any acceptable ingredients substitutes?
You can use the following swaps in a soul food baked sweet potato pie recipe:
- Can you use sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk in pie? Yes, you can use sweetened condensed milk as a substitute for evaporated milk in sweet potato pie. Here’s my sweet potato pie recipe with condensed milk. While I’ve found evaporated milk to be the smoothest and the perfect flavor additive for this Southern desserts recipe, sweetened condensed milk can substitute. Likewise, heavy cream.
- Would regular milk work as a substitute for the evaporated milk? Because regular milk contains significantly more water, it’s not a recommended substitute in sweet potato pie.
- Can you use granulated sugar? For this delicious sweet potato pie recipe, light brown sugar or dark brown sugar is best. But granulated sugar can also work in a pinch.
- Can you use canned sweet potatoes? Nothing beats fresh potatoes for this incredible Black folks’ homemade sweet potato pie recipe, but you could use canned sweet potato.
- If you do not prepare the pie crust from scratch, can you use a frozen pie crust? Yes, you can absolutely use a frozen pie crust, pie shell, or store-bought pie dough. Even a frozen pie crust already nestled in an aluminum foil pan. Thaw, add your filling, and bake the pie on the oven rack or a baking sheet.
How do you make a Black folks’ Southern sweet potato pie?
This pie is traditionally made with softened or mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, sugar, butter, and the best harmonious blend of vanilla, cinnamon, and other sweet potato pie spices.
Check out the recipe below for the best sweet potato pie with the best flavor!
Is it better to bake or boil sweet potatoes for pies?
Roasting or pressure cooking the sweet potatoes is recommended over boiling or steaming, as the intense heat breaks down the starches into sugars, resulting in a sweeter and more flavorful pie filling. I explain more in my post about the best way to cook sweet potatoes for sweet potato pie.
How do you get the strings out of sweet potatoes?
A blender, hand-held mixer, or electric stand mixer will round up and collect the strings on its mixer or blade, or it will dissolve them. Read more about how to get strings out of sweet potatoes in my guide HERE.
Black folks sweet potato pie recipes
Making the right choices when it comes to selecting sweet potato pie ingredients and preparing them for cooking will significantly impact the final taste and texture of the pie. The smoothness, sweetness, and richness are all characteristic of an authentic sweet potato pie, all dependent upon a Black folks’ sweet potato pie recipe’s history and pie ingredients.
You can learn more in my post about what mistakes to avoid when making sweet potato pie.
What are the ingredients in Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie?
Miss Patti’s sweet potato pies use the traditional main ingredients: nutmeg, cinnamon, and granulated sugar.
Although her pies will satisfy your taste buds and sweet tooth, the ingredients don’t include my sweet potato pie’s soulful secret ingredients: brown sugar, ginger, clove, and vanilla!
Which one is your favorite?
- The Soul Food Pot’s original Black folks’ sweet potato pie recipe
- Purple Black folks’ sweet potato pie recipe
- Black folks’ sweet potato pie recipe with condensed milk
- Southern sweet potato pie with cream cheese
- Grandma’s old-fashioned sweet potato pie recipe
Did you enjoy learning about Black folks’ sweet potato pie ingredients?
Have you had it?
Would you make it?
Comment below and lemme know.