Sweet Potato Pie

About ten years ago, I was searching for a sweet potato pie recipe to make for Thanksgiving. I found this recipe on the internet with a blurb saying, “This is the best sweet potato pie I have ever put in my mouth.  The recipe is from my Grand Aunt, Ruth Hill of Shelby, NC.”  Well, I’m an easy mark for any recipe that says it’s the “best,” so, of course, I had to try it.

I decided to buy a couple of graham cracker crusts to save some work in case the recipe wasn’t worth the effort of a homemade crust.  Believe it or not, I had never bought a pie crust before in my life, frozen or otherwise, and didn’t know how flimsy the foil pan was.  I was about three feet away from the kitchen counter with the first hot pie when the center collapsed, tilted, and spilled down the kitchen cabinet and onto the floor where it made a fragrant pile!  My daughters, Sara and Amy, heard me shriek and came running.  They immediately got spoons out, knelt down, and started eating the pie (the spoons never touched the floor, but they came within a half inch of it).  Who needs a dog?

We all loved the pie, and I’ve been making it every year since.  I like it so much that I have no interest in trying any other sweet potato pie recipes.  If you know me, that says a lot.

It is important to note that this sweet potato pie does not have the traditional pumpkin pie spices in it other than cinnamon.  What it does have that most other versions do not is lemon extract.  I really like the lighter flavor that the lemon extract gives the pie and the fact that you can really taste the sweet potato and not just the spices.  To my mind, if the pie were flavored with the same exact spices as pumpkin pie—what would be the point of going to the effort of peeling sweet potatoes, boiling them, and mashing them?  It would be much easier to just open a can of pumpkin purée and make a pumpkin pie!

Now, having said that, I must tell you that when I brought a pie in to work for my fellow foodies to sample, they were split in their opinion of the pie.  Half thought the lemon flavoring was too strong, and the other half thought the flavor overall was just wonderful.  Everyone thought the texture was great.  I personally think the lemon flavor is just right—but, if you prefer the traditional fall spice flavors, eliminate the lemon extract and add a tablespoon or so of pumpkin pie spice in addition to the cinnamon already listed in the recipe.

Whichever way you go, have a happy Thanksgiving, and save some room for pie!

Sweet Potato Pie

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  • 3 large sweet potatoes, approx. 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, peeled and cut approx. into 2″ cubes
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 small (5 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 tbl. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Two 9″ baked, partially baked, or frozen pie shells (see below)
  • Whipped cream for topping


Boil cubed sweet potatoes for 12 minutes until cooked (fork tender).  Put potatoes in mixing bowl and mash with butter.  Use heavy-duty electric mixer (e.g., Kitchen Aid) or mash by hand and use mixer for remaining ingredients.  Add sugar and milk; beat until well combined.  Beat in eggs, vanilla and lemon extracts.

Pour into pie shells and bake at 350o for approx. 55 to 60 minutes.  Use a pie shield to prevent crust from burning.  To check, test center with a knife as for custard.  It should come up wet but clean.  My pies were done in exactly 60 minutes.

Serve topped with plenty of whipped cream!

Shortbread Pie Crust

  • 2 1/2 sticks butter (20 tbl. total)
  • 5 tbl. sugar (1/4 cup plus 1 tbl.)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour

Melt butter; remove from heat.  Add sugar and flour; mix to form very soft dough.  Divide dough in two; press each half into two 9″ pie pans.

Bake at 375 for approx. 12 to 15 mins.

Fran’s Notes

  • This pie crust truly tastes like shortbread—it’s like eating sweet potato custard on top of Scottish shortbread—yum!  One caveat—the crust is extremely fragile and will crumble when you cut the pie.  If presentation is important to you, then you should switch to a more traditional pie crust.  Don’t be fooled by the photo I took with the crust more or less intact.  It took me cutting almost a whole pie before I was able to salvage a piece with the crust still there!  🙂
  • This is my 100th post!  Hard to believe it, but I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface of my treasure trove of recipes!!

Source:  A Taste of Home pie recipe; I’ve been making the pie crust for 40 years and can’t remember where I got it!

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