5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Sweet Potato Pie

updated May 1, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Sweet potato pie is the sweeter, creamier Southern cousin of pumpkin pie. And it’s the antidote for pumpkin spice haters. While sweet potato pie does require cooking a few sweet potatoes, it doesn’t require cooking the filling, and if you’ve got a tart pan you can skip blind baking the crust.

While sweet potato pie is a near perfect replacement for pumpkin pie, there are still a few missteps you’ll want to avoid on your path to pie perfection.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

1. Not baking the sweet potatoes.

Many recipes for sweet potato pie call for steaming or boiling the sweet potatoes before making the filling. This leads to water-logged sweet potatoes. Instead, baking sweet potatoes whole concentrates their flavor and sweetness. Sure, the potato takes about an hour to bake, but there is no peeling or chopping required, and that hour is all hands-off cooking.

Follow this tip: Bake the sweet potato whole up to a week in advance of making the pie. No peeling or chopping required, just one hour at 375°F.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

2. Not using canned milk.

All custard pies require dairy of some kind; most rely on milk, cream, or half-and-half. But as sweet potato has Southern roots — a region with high temperatures — canned milk is more distinct to the birthplace of sweet potato pie. Evaporated milk add a sweetness and density that fresh milk cannot replicate.

Follow this tip: Use evaporated milk instead of cream or half-and-half. It adds sweetness and creaminess to the pie’s texture.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

3. Using pumpkin pie spice.

This is not pumpkin pie. Clove and allspice have their place in pumpkin pie, but not in sweet potato pie. Don’t use a spice blend to season this pie, even if it’s homemade. Instead invest in a fragrant vanilla extract (or even vanilla bean paste) and only use cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to season your sweet potato pie. The result is a more subtle, sweet, and fragrant pie.

Follow this tip: Use vanilla extract (or even a vanilla bean paste) as the primary flavor, and back it up with small doses of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

4. Not baking the pie correctly.

Sweet potato pie boasts the same creamy texture of other custard pies. While that does begin with ingredients, how you bake that pie really affects that final product. If you over-bake it, it becomes dense and loses its satiny mouthfeel; if you under-bake it, it will never set up to slice.

Follow these tips:

  • When done, give the pie a nudge. The center of the pie should have some give; it should jiggle slightly in the center.
  • The pie has an internal temperature of 175°F on an instant-read thermometer when done. If you don’t want to take the temperature, a knife inserted into the edge of the filling should come out moist but clean.

5. Not giving the pie enough time to rest.

Like any custard pie, sweet potato pie isn’t ready to cut and serve right after baking. While the sweet, fragrant aroma might entice you, give the pie time to thoroughly cool so your guests get the picture-perfect slice your pie is capable of.

Follow this tip: For the best possible results, give your pie 24 hours to cool and rest before cutting into it. If you’re on a tighter schedule, four hours is the bare minimum.