Sweet potato pie is pumpkin pie’s first cousin—like good cousins, they’re best friends, practically identical twins, but with just enough differences in flavor and texture to tell them apart.
Sweet potatoes are sweeter than pumpkins, and though the pies are usually made in the same way with eggs, cream or evaporated milk, and pie spices, sweet potato pie tends to be lighter, airier, and well, sweeter.
SWEET POTATO PIE VS. PUMPKIN PIE
Sure, you could swap sweet potatoes for pumpkin cup-for-cup in your favorite pumpkin pie recipe, but pumpkin is lower in sugar. This means pumpkin pies need to have more sugar to compensate. If you make the swap, you might want to reduce the sugar in your pumpkin pie recipe by two tablespoons in the sweet potato version.
CANNED VS. FRESH SWEET POTATOES
It might seem like an extra step to bake fresh sweet potatoes instead of using canned, but you really get a bigger payback with a deep, roasty flavor and lighter texture.
The texture of the mashed cooked potatoes should be just a little chunky, which gives the pie a lighter texture than pumpkin pies made with canned pumpkin.
TIME-SAVING TIP! Bake the potatoes while you blind bake the crust, so it doesn’t take much additional time.
WHAT ABOUT SPICES?
Again, the two pies are so similar, you can pick and choose among your favorites: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, allspice, cloves, or five-spice powder (for something a little different), are all contenders.
Pumpkin isn’t as bold as sweet potatoes, therefore it depends upon a good amount of added spices, but I see no reason not to spice up sweet potato pie in the same way.
Most Southern cooks will tell you that nutmeg is traditionally the favorite spice.
MAKE AHEAD TIPS
If you are really crunched for time, you could make the pie a day or two beforehand (with my blessing!) and refrigerate it, wrapped in plastic wrap. On a holiday with many desserts, it is hard to distinguish finer nuances between a pie baked that day verses one baked a day or two before, especially for this pie.
Just bring it to room temperature an hour or two before serving, or “refresh” a room temperature pie in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350ºF to give the crust a little more crunch.
The pie is exceptional when eaten on the day it is baked. If you have time to bake it the day you plan to serve it, you can still do few things ahead of time.
- Three months ahead of time: Make the pie crust, roll it out, and freeze it, well wrapped in plastic and then in foil.
- Two-three days before serving: Bake the potatoes, make the filling, and store it in the refrigerator.
- One day ahead: If freezing the pie crust doesn’t fit in your schedule, make and blind bake the crust one day before you plan to bake the pie. Store blind baked crust covered at room temperature in a cooler area of your kitchen.
Blind baking is a step I never used to do, but it really does keep the crust from becoming soggy. Bottom line: worth the extra effort. To read more about blind baking pie crusts click here.
FREEZING AND STORING SWEET POTATO PIE
Yes, you can freeze it! Cool the pie completely, wrap it in a couple of layers of plastic wrap and then in foil. Freeze for up to one month.
Defrost in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving (and refresh in the pie in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350ºF, if you like).
Leftover pie will keep for up to four days in the refrigerator.
NEED MORE PIE?
Classic Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
- 3 sweet potatoes, about 1 1/4 pounds (2 cups), cut in half lengthwise
- 1 9-inch frozen pie shell, homemade or store bought
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
- Whipped cream (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2 Prepare the sweet potatoes and the pie crust: Set the halved sweet potatoes on the baking sheet with the cut sides down. Prick each half in several places with the tip of a paring knife.
Line a frozen pie shell with non-stick foil and fill with dry beans or pie weights.
3 Bake the potatoes and the pie shell: Bake both the pie shell and the potatoes side by side for 45 to 50 minutes. The potatoes are finished baking when you insert the tip of a paring knife into the potatoes and they are soft. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, or until they are cool enough to handle.
Remove the pie shell from the oven to cool on a baking rack. Lift the foil filled with beans out of the pie shell. Let the beans cool and save them for the next time you bake a pie. The crust should look golden. If not, return it to the oven to bake, without the foil, for 4 to 5 minutes longer.
3 Peel and mash the potatoes: While the potatoes are still warm but cool enough to handle, use your fingers to peel off the skins. Discard the skins and transfer the potatoes to a large bowl.
Mash the potatoes using a fork or potato masher. The potatoes should look like slightly mashed potatoes with a few small pea-size lumps.
4 Make the filling: Briefly whisk the potatoes. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until each is incorporated. Whisk in the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and melted butter. Finally, whisk in the half-and-half.
5 Bake the pie: Set the pie pan on a baking sheet and pour in the filling. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the edges of the filling puff slightly and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the pie crust starts to brown before the filling is done, cover it with a strip of aluminum foil to prevent it from burning.
6 Serve: Set the pie on a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, if you like.
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