A soul food Southern sweet potato pie recipe tastes like warm family memories, good times, and a legacy of the best holiday traditions handed down from one generation to the next as part of sweet potato pie Black history.
That’s because sweet potato pie is a soul food cooking gift that keeps on giving.
What is Black folks’ sweet potato pie?
Wikipedia describes sweet potato pie as having a Southern soul food history:
“Sweet potato pie is a traditional dessert, originating in the Southern United States among the African American community. It is often served during the American holiday season, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas in place of pumpkin pie, which is more traditional in other regions of the United States.”
What makes Black folks’ sweet potato pie a favorite pie recipe?
A Black folks’ sweet potato pie recipe is rich with Black history and authentic soul food flavorful cooking. It’s a delightful Thanksgiving sweet potato pie or Christmas dessert packed with flavorful seasonings and Black folks’ sweet potato pie spices. This old-fashioned classic Southern recipe may be single-handedly responsible for generations of nostalgic memories – especially in the Black community.
Why is it called a Black folks’ sweet potato pie recipe?
Check out my About page, which tells my story as a Black food blogger and how I share my family’s ancestral recipes and a legacy of Black people’s food and recipes.
Is sweet potato pie a Black thing?
Soul food recipes traditionally combine African American foods derived from Black enslaved African’s take on American and British cuisine.
The Black history of sweet potato pie includes the warm spice essence of West African color, warmth, flavors, and traditions. Sweet potato pie is one of those classic soul food recipes – causing many people to ask, “Is sweet potato pie a Black thing?”
Of course, the answer is yes, but you don’t have to be a Black person to make or enjoy it. Sweet potato pie is easy enough for anyone to make and everyone to love!
What’s the difference between pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie?
One of the differences is that pumpkin pies are traditionally a bit bland, made with sugar and just a few spices. Sweet potato pies are elevated with soulful flavor combinations like cinnamon, brown sugar, sweet vanilla, cloves, and nutmeg. I explain more in my post about the difference between pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie.
Which is better, pumpkin or sweet potato pie?
If you ask Black folks, there is no debating which one is better. The answer is always sweet potato pie – as long as it’s made the Black folks’ soul food way! You can learn more in my post about why Black people eat sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin pie.
- Instant Pot electric pressure cooker – to cook and soften the sweet potatoes
- Electric mixer or Instant Ace Plus blender – to mix and smooth the sweet potato pie filling
- 9-inch deep-dish pie plate – for a full-bodied depth pie filling
Shop my kitchenware HERE!
Ingredients for a sweet potato pie Black history recipe
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. An essential addition to holiday menus, sweet potato pie exemplifies the heartwarming embrace of soul food at gatherings.
*See the recipe card below for a complete list of ingredients with measurements.
What spices belong in a Southern soul food sweet potato pie recipe?
- Sweet potatoes – Use Jewel (best for baking) or Beauregard sweet potatoes (slightly sweeter) to make a naturally sweet pie filling with a smooth, silky texture. Learn more about what type of sweet potatoes are best for sweet potato pie HERE.
- Evaporated milk – Evaporated milk adds a velvety smoothness to the pie. (Or make this recipe with a condensed milk substitute HERE!)
- Light brown sugar – Adds a touch of sweetness with caramel-like flavor.
- Eggs – The binding agent that ensures the pie filling holds its shape.
- Butter – Adds a rich flavor that complements the natural sweet potatoes.
- Vanilla extract – For a warm and comforting balance in the flavor profile.
- Ginger – Adds a hint of spiciness and a subtle warm kick.
- Nutmeg – Adds a warm, nutty, and earthly balance to the pie’s sweetness.
- Cinnamon – Adds a comforting warmth and heat with earthy flavor.
- Clove – Contributes to the pie’s overall soulful spiciness.
- Salt – A necessary contrast to balance the sweet spice profiles.
- Pie crust – Elevates this dish from a sweet potato soufflé to a sweet potato pie with a simple, delicious, and flaky pie crust encasing.
Can you use purple sweet potatoes in place of regular sweet potatoes?
Yes, with purple Stokes purple sweet potatoes, you can try this pie a different way!
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 blend of vanilla, cinnamon, and other sweet spices.
Check out the recipe instructions below and enjoy a slice of sweet potato pie Black history!
Do you preheat (blind bake) the pie crust? No need to pre-bake, which could cause your pie crust edges to overcook or burn later when the pie is filled.
*See the recipe card below for a detailed list of instructions with step-by-step guided pictures.
- Grease the pie pan so the pie crust does not get stuck on the pie pan while baking.
- Pressure cook or roast the sweet potatoes. (Pressure cooking in an Instant Pot is the fastest and recommended way to peel the sweet potatoes easily.)
- Drain the cooked sweet potatoes into a colander.
- Peel the sweet potatoes once they have cooled to the touch.
- Gather the potato flesh and discard the skin.
- Mix the potato flesh, spices, and ingredients at high speed using an electric mixer or blender to make the pie filling.
- Pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust.
- Bake the pie.
- Let the pie cool for a few hours for ease in slicing.
- Serve warm and enjoy! (Sweet potato pie is best served at room temperature or re-warmed.)
Watch the video to see how to make sweet potato pie step-by-step with key moments.
Success tips for baking a sweet potato pie
- Use these sweet potato pie best practices to avoid making mistakes.
- When selecting sweet potatoes, look for firm ones with no soft spots, bruises, or signs of sprouting.
- The skin should be tight and unwrinkled, ensuring the potato is fresh and will provide a concentrated flavor.
- How about the size of your sweet potatoes? Size can also play a role because medium-sized sweet potatoes are often the best for even cooking.
- Start by giving your sweet potatoes a good wash to clear any dirt from the skin. (No need to dry them with a paper towel.)
- Use a fork to check if the potatoes are tender and cooked through.
- How do you keep your pie crust edges from burning? To alleviate concerns of your pie crust edges burning, use a pie crust shield.
- How do you know when the filling is cooked? The pie is done is when you can see the center of the pie filling puffing in the oven and its firm and not runny or jiggly.
- Let the pie cool and set for a few hours up to a whole day before slicing.
- Does this recipe make two pies or one? Depending on how deep of a dish your pie pan is, you’ll probably have leftover sweet potato mix to make mini sweet potato pies.
- Use any leftover pie dough for the easiest Southern dessert ever – flaky homemade pie crust cookies!
Do you eat sweet potato pie hot or cold?
There’s nothing like a slice of warm sweet potato pie! Although, on Christmas Day, the pie is often served at room temperature or warmed up by the slice.
What do you serve with Southern sweet potato pie?
A Southern soul food sweet potato pie recipe is often served with a traditional Southern soul food menu, likely to include:
Sweet potato pie Black history FAQs
How do you get the strings out of sweet potato pie?
A blender, hand-held, or stand electric mixer will dissolve the strings. Read more about how to get strings out of sweet potatoes in my guide HERE.
Can you use yams instead of sweet potatoes for pie?
Yams and sweet potatoes are not the same so yams would not cook the same in this sweet potato pie recipe. Learn more about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams in my guided post HERE.
How can you thicken your sweet potato pie filling?
Asked another way, how do you stiffen a sweet potato pie?
While many recipes call for adding flour for thickening, you don’t want to do this for a soul food sweet potato pie filling. It could compromise the unique Southern soul food flavors. To avoid needing to thicken the pie filling, ensure your sweet potato mixture still has some texture and is not just a thin, runny purée.
How do you cut sweet potato pie?
It’s best to let the pie cool and set for a few hours to a whole day. Otherwise, the slices will fall apart like feta cheese! But if you can’t wait the entire day, wait at least four hours before cutting it into pieces.
Pro tips for slicing sweet potato pie
- Be sure your knife is clean and sharp.
- A perfect uniform slice will be in your hands if you refrigerate your sweet pie before cutting.
- Wipe the knife after each slice and cut cleanly through to the bottom of your pie.
How to store and reheat sweet potato pie
Do you refrigerate Black folks’ sweet potato pie? Yes. After all, this recipe calls for eggs.
How long will sweet potato pie last in the refrigerator? The baked and cooled pie can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.
Can you reheat sweet potato pie? Yes, this sweet potato pie recipe can be quickly rewarmed in the oven. Or by the slice in the microwave.
Can you freeze a sweet potato pie? You can absolutely freeze whole sweet potato pies or leftover pie for up to three months. First, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and then foil, sealed tight in an airtight container.
Can you make this pie ahead? Yes, and if you’re making a Thanksgiving sweet potato pie or a Christmas sweet potato pie, it’s a good idea to make your sweet potato pie masterpiece ahead of time. (Assuming, of course, that you have the refrigerator space!)
What other recipes can you make with sweet potatoes?
What do you eat in Black History Month?
You can enjoy notable recipes, starting with a Black folks sweet potato pie recipe, then collard greens, cornbread, baked macaroni and cheese, or chicken and dressing – just to name a few soul foods menu favorites.
These recipes are part of Black America’s authentic soul food family, African American culture, and African American food. Recipes passed along through generations and a legacy of Black Americans’ Black folks’ food!
Black folks sweet potato pie recipes
Which delicious pie is your favorite?
What do you think about this sweet potato pie Black history and recipe?
Today, African-Americans have continued the tradition of sweet potato pie with celebratory gatherings and holiday dinners.
The ingredients are simple, but the flavor is unique!
If you like this recipe, you’ll love these best Thanksgiving dessert recipes!
Have you had it?
Would you make it?
Comment below and lemme know.
- Instant Pot Omni Plus oven (optional)
- Instant Ace Plus blender, stand mixer, or an electric mixer
- 1 ½ pound sweet potatoes washed and scrubbed (equals about 3 cups when softened and peeled)
- 12 oz evaporated milk 1 can
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 5 tablespoons butter unsalted butter, melted (or vegan butter)
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ginger minced
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Grease a 9-inch pie pan and set it aside.
- See my recipe HERE for homemade almond flour pie crust, or you can use a store-bought pie crust, dough, or pie shell that may or may not come with its own pie pan.
- Pro tip: Use an Instant Pot pressure cooker to soften and peel the sweet potatoes quickly and almost effortlessly!
- Open the Instant Pot lid and fill the stainless-steel inner pot with water to the ½ mark.
- Add the scrubbed sweet potatoes to the pot of water.
- Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 12 minutes to loosen the potato skin.
- When the cooking time is finished, allow a natural pressure release for at least 12 minutes.
- To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
- Pour the water and sweet potatoes into a colander in the sink to drain the hot water from the potatoes.
- Once the sweet potatoes are cool to the touch, peel and discard the skin.
- Gather 3 cups of sweet potato flesh.
- Add to either the Instant Pot Ace blender or an electric mixer the sweet potato flesh, evaporated milk, brown sugar, egg, melted butter, vanilla extract, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt.
- Pulse or mix until the ingredients are combined and smooth.
- Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pie crust.
- Bake the sweet potato pie at 350 degrees F: in a conventional oven for 28-30 minutes, in the Instant Pot Omni Plus oven for 24-26 minutes, or until the pie is puffed and firm in the center. (Remember that cooking appliance times and oven temperatures will vary.)
- Allow the sweet potato pie to cool for at least 2-4 hours before garnishing or slicing.
- Garnish with whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkled on top.
- Serve this Black folks sweet potato pie recipe warm, and enjoy!