Every year at Thanksgiving I like to try something new to add to our Thanksgiving dinner menu. If we like it then it becomes a permanent addition to our traditional meal.
This year my grandson Dion and I decided to try our had at a Southern Thanksgiving meal staple, Sweet Potato Pie. I’ve never actually had Sweet Potato Pie, but Dion loves it. He says it’s his favorite pie, specially the way his grandmother from Atlanta makes it.
Sweet Potato Pie is a Southern specialty that can be served instead of or beside the traditional Pumpkin Pie which graces just about everyone’s Thanksgiving dessert table.
So we searched online for a Sweet Potato Pie recipe; we found hundreds! Each one touting that it was the best of course. Well we experimented with a couple of different recipes and relied on Dion’s recollections of watching his Southern grandma make her pies. In the end by tweaking and patching several recipes together we ended up with our own version which turned out quite nicely if I do say so myself.
We’ll share our version of Sweet Potato Pie below, but before we do here are a few things we learned along the way. It might help you out and save you from making the same mistakes we made.
- Use fresh yams! Not canned yams preserved in sweet syrup! Don’t get me started on this, just ask yourself, would your granny use canned yams? I doubt it!
- Use Large RED Yams. Not white yams, or purple yams, or Okinawan sweet potato. Just plain old Red Yams! And before you ask, yes there are many varieties of yams and sweet potatoes in the markets. So don’t get fancy, keep it simple, RED Yams.
- Bake your yams DO NOT boil them! This saves you from peeling and chopping raw yams. BTW have you ever tried peeling and chopping raw yams or sweet potatoes? No? Well let me tell you peeling and chopping wood might just be easier! Most importantly baked yams make a better pie filling, it’s not mushy or watery like boiled yams can be. And you can bake yams for your Sweet Potato Pie up to a week before you actually make your pie. Still not convinced or it sounds too tedious? Remember even though it takes an hour to bake the yams it’s actually a hands off hour so you can do something else like making applesauce, doing laundry, or relaxing in the tub.
- Baking yams – Place 3 large yams (you wash them first of course) on a parchment covered baking sheet and pop them in a 375° oven. Bake for 1 hour then remove from oven. If you are using it to make Sweet Potato Pie right away peel off the skin and mash the yams to make 2 cups of mashed yams then follow the rest of the recipe to make the pie. If you baked the yams in advance you can either mash it then store the mashed yams in the fridge in an airtight container or place the whole unpeeled yams in a ziplock and refrigerate until you’re ready to mash them for your Sweet Potato Pie.
- Just like Pumpkin and pecan pies, a Sweet Potato Pie is considered a custard pie; hence it must have some form of milk or cream. There are recipes out there that call for milk, cream, or half-and-half; but since it’s a truly Southern specialty you should use canned evaporated milk. That’s what they used in the Southern states. Trust me on this you’ll end up with a creamier and smoother Sweet Potato Pie when you use canned evaporated milk.
- When you bake your pie pay close attention to the timer. Test pie before removing from oven. First nudge the pie – the center of the pie should be slightly softer than the rest of the pie so that it jiggles a bit when nudged. Then insert a knife or a toothpick at the center – it should come out clean but moist.
- Let baked pie stand for about 30 minutes before cutting it. This will firm it up so sliced don’t fall apart. Better yet refrigerate the pie overnight then remove from fridge about 30 minutes before serving so it warms up to room temperature. I like my custard pies cool I feel it brings out the sweetness.
Having said that here’s our recipe:
2 Large Red Yams – Baked & Mashed to yield 3 cups (see tips for baking instructions)
1 Cup butter – softened
4 Cups Sugar
1 Can Evaporated Milk 12oz.
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
6 eggs – beaten
1 1/2 Tsp ground cinnamon
2 Unbaked deep dish pie shells – homemade or frozen
Mix together first 4 ingredients until well blended.
Stir in Vanilla, Eggs, and Cinnamon.
Pour filling into unbaked pie shells.
Bake in a 350° oven for 1 hour or until filling is set and/or tester comes out clean but moist.
Let stand at least 30 minutes before slicing.
Garnish and serve with whipped cream if desired.