Countdown to Thanksgiving: Carolina Sweet Potato Pie

carolina sweet potato pieKathleen Sloan-McIntosh, author of 300 Best Potato Recipes: A Complete Cook's Guide writes in her cookbook:

I once knew a family of Carolinians who moved from the South to New York City many years ago. No doubt because of their Southern roots, these folks always called sweet potatoes “Carolinas.” This is the pie they made every Thanksgiving, which I think is the best sweet potato pie I have ever tasted. Serve it with unsweetened whipped cream.

Sounds like a Thanksgiving dessert winner to me!

Carolina Sweet Potato Pie

This recipe is excerpted from 300 Best Potato Recipes: A Complete Cook's Guide by Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission.


  • 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate
  • Handheld blender or electric mixer

Pastry ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 cup lard or vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 5 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1⁄4 cup ice water
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Filling ingredients:

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1⁄4 pound butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • Zest of 1 small orange, finely grated
  • 1⁄2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1⁄2 cup table (18%) cream

Pastry directions:

  1. In a bowl, combine flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or a large fork, cut in lard and butter until mixture is crumbly.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together ice water and egg, then stir a little more than half into flour mixture until blended into a dough (add more egg mixture if dough still looks too crumbly and does not hold together when pressed between your fingers).
  3. Divide dough in half and gently flatten each portion into a disk. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate one disk for about 2 hours. (Freeze second disk for another use. Uncooked pastry can be frozen for up to 3 months if properly wrapped and sealed.)
  4. When you're ready to cook, preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to fit pie plate. Transfer to pie plate, trimming the edges. Set aside.

Filling directions:

  1. Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and add cold water to barely cover. Cover loosely and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Drain well.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt, ginger and nutmeg and mash until blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk egg yolks.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, beat into mashed sweet potatoes along with orange zest, orange juice and cream until blended.
  5. In another bowl, using a handheld blender, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold into sweet potato mixture (do not over mix).
  6. Scrape mixture into pie shell, gently smoothing top.
  7. Bake in preheated 425°F (220°C) oven for 12 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and bake for about 35 minutes or until filling is puffed, crust is golden and a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

This Mama’s tips

  • If time is not a factor, cook the sweet potatoes whole, in their skins, for maximum flavor.
  • If you’re pressed for time, feel free to use a premade pie crust. I won’t tell!
  • If you’re gluten free, use a GF pie crust mix or purchase a frozen GF pie crust at Whole Foods or your favorite health food store.
  • To reduce saturated fat, use your favorite buttery spread instead of butter in the filling. (I’m not sure you can get away with it in the pie crust.)
  • An alternative to brown sugar is coconut palm sugar. It’s naturally low on the glycemic index (GI about 35), unrefined and gluten free. It has a soft caramel flavor, similar to light brown sugar.
  • To cut down sugar calories, substitute stevia powder for half the brown sugar.

Photo credit: Colin Erricson

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