Classic southern sweet potato pie is a soul food favorite. This one features a silky smooth, spiced and spiked sweet potato filling and an all-butter crust. Originally published November 2018. Last updated November 2022.
If you look forward to Thanksgiving all year, this Southern-Style Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie recipe is for you. It is a staple at our holiday table that I've perfected over the years thanks to two great culinary muses in my life. I referred to the soulful baking prowess of my dear, late maternal grandmother and the infamous Patti LaBelle when developing the recipe for this one and I think I did them proud. Don't be intimidated by the history behind this recipe because I know that you can make it for your family, too. If you're ready to rake in all the compliments, keep scrolling, boo.
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Table of Contents
If you love holiday pie recipes, try these delicious desserts next!
What You'll Need for this Recipe
Wondering what does Patti Labelle put in her sweet potato pie? My version is, dare I say, better. Here's what to add to your grocery list.
- Bourbon Whiskey
- Brown Sugar
- Granulated Sugar
- Heavy Cream
- Sea Salt
- Sweet Potatoes
Can I Make Sweet Potato Pie Ahead of Time?
Yes! You can make the whole pie up to two days ahead of time and chill or freeze it until you need it. Alternatively, you can make just the pie dough ahead of time and/or roast the sweet potatoes ahead of time. Either step will be a good start.
My Thanksgiving dinner prep process usually involves making pies and cakes the day before and sometimes two days before in order to free up oven space for turkey, dressing, etc. on the big day. Knowing that the desserts are out of the way is a big relief come Turkey Day. To make your pie ahead of time, let it cool fully to room temperature then wrap it up in foil and refrigerate until it's go-time.
Breaking down the Process
When planning a Thanksgiving menu, a good sweet potato pie is typically a given in Black families. But creating a sweet potato pie from scratch can seem like a daunting task because most of us think about the shoes we fill when doing so--my Grandma Carolyn and Ms. Patti, in this case. To break it down for you, making this bourbon sweet potato pie is basically a four-part process. Now, there's a little magic and plenty of love poured into these steps but it's really as simple as it appears.
- Roast the sweet potatoes.
- Make the crust.
- Mix up the filling.
- Bake the pie.
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Should I Roast or Boil Sweet Potatoes for Pie?
Short answer, you should roast sweet potatoes for sweet potato pie. Many recipes, including Ms. Patti's original recipe, will instruct you to boil your sweet potatoes. I'm not here to say that's wrong but I am here to say that roasting is my preference. Roasting sweet potatoes deepens their flavor and doesn't mess with their texture the way that boiling does. When you boil sweet potatoes, they get tender but they also get a bit waterlogged, which is not great for pie filling. Here's how to roast sweet potatoes for pie filling:
- Pierce the sweet potatoes several times with a fork or knife. This step will help let out steam as they bake.
- Place sweet potatoes directly on oven rack with a sheet pan underneath to catch any drippings.
- Roast at 400 degrees Farenheit for about 45 minutes or until fork tender.
What Spices Belong in a Sweet Potato Pie?
See the little flecks in the filling of the slice above? Those are spices--cinnamon and nutmeg, specifically. And it's my opinion that you can't make a good sweet potato pie without them. While not spices, sea salt and brown sugar also add to the flavor profile of the filling. Lastly, I recommend using a good quality bourbon to spike this sweet potato filling. Go for one you would enjoy sipping neat or in your favorite whiskey cocktail. The alcohol will cook away, leaving only the flavor behind, which is why the quality matters.
How to Make Sweet Potato Pie Filling Smooth
Preparing sweet potato pie filling is a simple process but should not be rushed. Start with roasting your sweet potatoes, which, as stated above, is the only way to go. The sweet potato skin will be wrinkly and easy to peel away. And the sweet potatoes should be fork tender, meaning you can easily pierce them with a dinner fork.
For silky smooth pie filling free of any pesky sweet potato strings, use a food processor to break down the sweet potatoes and combine your filling ingredients. You can use a stand mixer or your own elbow grease, if need be, but a food processor is the most efficient and yields the best results. While we're on the topic of tools, you'll need a 9-inch pie pan for this recipe, and a silicone spatula.
I am over here wishing you a wonderful holiday season filled with all the Thanksgiving pies you can handle and lots of family time. If you have any questions about getting your holiday menu in order, check out my guide to a flawless holiday dinner. And sharing is caring so be sure to pin this soulful sweet potato pie recipe over on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Soul Food Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
Southern-Style Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie
For the Bourbon Sweet Potato Filling
- 1 pound sweet potatoes (about 2 large sweet potatoes roughly 6 inches long and 3 inches thick)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons butter melted
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
- ½ cup brown sugar packed
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
For the All-Butter Crust
- ¾ cups cold butter cut into cubes
- 1 ½ cup flour
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- Make the pie crust by incorporating sea salt, flour, and butter until a coarse, sandy-looking meal forms. This can be done in a bowl with your hands or in a food processor. Add cold water and continue working or pulsing the mixture until a dough forms. Shape into a disc (like a hockey puck), wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a fork or knife, pierce sweet potatoes several times then place directly on oven rack with a sheet pan underneath to catch any drippings. Roast for about 45 minutes or until tender then set aside to cool. You can place them in the refrigerator to speed up this process.
- Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees. Roll out chilled pie crust and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Remove excess dough from around sides of pan and crimp or style edges, as desired. Prick bottom of dough with a fork a few times then par bake for about 15 minutes then remove and decrease oven heat to 350 degrees. See notes about par baking below.
- While the crust par bakes, process cooled sweet potatoes in a food processor until smooth. Add heavy cream, butter, eggs, bourbon, brown sugar, granulated sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sea salt then or pulse until uniform, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
- Spread filling into prepared pie crust. Return to oven and bake for about one hour and 10 minutes or until top of filling is firm to touch. Cool completely before slicing and serving.
- To prevent the dough from shrinking and falling during par baking, place a clean sheet of parchment paper over top then add pie weights, uncooked rice, uncooked beans or something similar over top of parchment paper. This will help the crust keep its shape. I've only had to do this once when making this type of pie but better safe than sorry!
- To make sweet potato pie ahead of time, allow the finished pie to come to room temperature then wrap snugly in foil. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.