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Anyone who has had my baking will tell you I LOVE to bake with brown butter. In fact I almost called this the Brown Butter Blog, and my plan was to make it all brown butter, all the time! I eventually realized that there is, in fact, more to life than brown butter, but like… is there? It makes everything better in a deliciously subtle way. And my favorite thing about it is how it can take a dish from delicious to unbelievable. Case in point: brown butter sweet potato pie. This is one of the recipes where brown butter truly shines. It makes SUCH a difference in the flavor.
Sweet potato pie is the only dessert I HAVE to have at Thanksgiving. My Grandma made the best sweet potato pie, and nothing will come close, but this is my attempt. This recipe is inspired by the famous Patti Labelle sweet potato pie recipe. I love the “black-bottom” technique that makes Patti Pies” so famous, and when you combine that with browh butter you’ll get my favorite sweet potato pie recipe ever!
This brown butter sweet potato pie is definitely best suited for a holiday meal, since it’s so decadent and has several steps. But once you master it, you’ll go back to it again and again for your family gatherings!
This brown butter sweet potato pie is easiest when you have the right tools! To start with, you definitely will need pie pans, measuring cups and spoons, a whisk, and mixing bowls. You’ll also need an hand blender, hand mixer, or food processor to purée your sweet potatoes so that they’re nice and smooth, a baking sheet to bake your sweet potatoes, and a light-colored sauté pan to brown your butter.
- pie crusts – you can use either a store-bought crust or homemade. I use a double batch of my easy all-butter pie crust recipe!
- cubed salted butter – for the brown butter that we’ll add into our filling!
- melted salted butter – for the black-bottom crust!
- sweet potatoes – very important! I use 4 pounds of sweet potatoes for this two-pie recipe, which ends up being about 4 large sweet potatoes.
- dark brown sugar – for the filling AND for the black-bottom crust!
- granulated sugar – adds sweetness to the filling.
- evaporated milk – gives the pies that custardy texture.
- pure vanilla extract – very necessary for the flavor of these pies! Be sure to use the good stuff. I like this one.
- cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger – these spices give the pie it’s classic autumn flavors and complement the brown butter and vanilla flavors so well. Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking,
- lemon juice – adds enough tartness to cut the sweetness and perk up the flavor of this pie.
- all-purpose flour – just enough to help bring the filling together.
- room temperature eggs – helps with the richness and the structure of our pies.
Step by Step
This recipe has a a few important steps– nothing too intense, but it’s important to not skip any. I would recommend gathering your ingredients a few days in advance, and taking your time with each step. Steps 1-3 can be done a day or two ahead of time, so you won’t be stuck doing everything on the same day! Ok, here are the steps to make the best brown butter sweet potato pie!
Step 1: Get your pie crusts ready
The key to the black-bottom technique is to blind bake the pie crust with butter and brown sugar. Blind baking is a technique of pre-baking a pie crust to ensure a fully cooked crust, and in this case it also gives us a nice brown sugar layer on the bottom of our pies! The best way to ensure that the crust doesn’t shrink during blind baking is to chill the crust in the pan for at least an hour before your blind bake. I like to put mine in the freezer to be extra safe.
If you’re using a store-bought pie crust that comes in its own pan, you’re one step ahead. Just keep them in the fridge until you’re ready for the blind bake!
For this technique, we’ll just brush the chilled pie crust with butter and sprinkle it with brown sugar. Then pop it in the oven for 15 minutes!
When you remove the pie from the oven, it may have shrunk a bit, but it should still have kept its shape. If necessary, carefully press the pie back into place with a spoon.
Step 2: Brown your butter
This is a step that is a bit daunting at first, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll feel like you have a baking superpower! It’s definitely a cheat code to make baked goods (and savory dishes) absolutely amazing!
I have a full post on how to brown butter where I go into detail and share images of the process — if you’re new to browning butter, I’d recommend checking it out!
To brown the butter, we’ll just place the cubed butter in a light-colored saucepan and cook it on medium heat until it’s bubbly and the milk solids are starting to separate. That means it’s almost ready. Once the butter smells nutty and fragrant (you’ll be able to tell, trust me — it smells amazing) and it’s starting to look golden brown, scrape it into a heat-safe container to cool.
Step 3: Bake your sweet potatoes
This is one of my favorite variations for sweet potato pie! I’ve had a lot of great pies made with boiled sweet potatoes, but baking them brings out the natural sweetness so much! It’s a game changer.
To do this, you’ll just prick them with a fork and bake them on a foil-lined pan until they’re nice and soft.
Step 4: Prepare your filling, and bake!
I love it when a plan comes together! This is the moment when the prep work pays off. You’ll first want to scoop out the flesh of your cooled potatoes, and purée them — I like to use a hand blender. Then you’ll mix in the cooled brown butter and the rest of your filling ingredients.
Finally you’ll pour it all into your pie pans, and bake!
Tips for the best sweet potato pie
Chilling the pie crusts: If you use homemade pie dough or store-bought roll-up crusts, you’ll need to chill the crusts for at least an hour after it’s been pressed into the pan. This is an important step to keep the pie crust from shrinking while you’re baking the brown sugar layer into the crust. If by chance your crust still shrinks, when it first comes out of the oven it’s still pliable enough to smush it back up the sides of the pie pan with the back of a spoon — it’s a little wonky, but I’ve had to do that in a pinch.
Use a pie shield if necessary: If your pie crust edges start to brown too quickly in the oven, top them with a pie crust shield. I like this type of shield, because the silicone is easy to work with and the size is adjustable! If you don’t have a pie crust shield, you can use strips of aluminum foil.
Make ahead: Sweet potato pie definitely does not need to be served warm or anything, so feel free to complete this brown butter sweet potato pie a day or two in advance, according to your schedule. It also freezes very well! I always make holiday pies several days, if not weeks in advance and then freeze them, and they turn out great! Just wrap them very well with plastic wrap and foil to freeze. Then, a day or two before you plan to serve it, allow the pie to thaw in the refrigerator, still wrapped. To serve them, let them sit on the counter and then come to room temperature, still wrapped.
If you like this brown butter sweet potato pie recipe, you’ll want to try all of my brown butter recipes! One of my favorites is this brown butter peach crumb tart, made with either fresh OR frozen peaches! It’s topped with a brown butter icing that is to die for.
You might also like my stout gingerbread cookies with a brown butter cream cheese frosting! These soft, spiced cookies are perfect for the holidays, and the brown butter in the frosting takes them to another level!
Equipment you may need
Black Bottom Crusts
- 2 pie crusts – store-bought or homemade (see note**)
- 4 tbsp salted butter – melted
- ⅔ cup dark brown sugar – packed
Brown Butter Sweet Potato Filling
- 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks) – cut into cubes or slices
- 4 lbs sweet potatoes
- 1 cup light brown sugar – packed
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 4 t½sp pure vanilla extract
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg – freshly ground, if possible
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour – (25g)
- 4 large eggs – room temperature
Prepare Pie Crusts
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- If using a homemade or roll-up pie crust, roll pie crust into pan and crimp sides, and let chill in fridge or freezer at least 1 hour (this is important — see note**)
- Brush 2 tbsp melted butter in each pie crust. Sprinkle ¼ cup of dark brown sugar into each crust and bake for about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Prepare Sweet Potatoes
- Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
- Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork several times.
- Place on foil-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 1 hour or until very tender. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Prepare Brown Butter
- Add the 2 sticks butter to a light-colored sauté pan over medium heat. Heat, whisking constantly.
- Remove from heat once it starts to smell nutty and turn golden brown.
- Pour your browned butter into a heatproof container, scraping the pan to get all the brown bits, and set aside to cool.
- Decrease oven temperature to 350°F.
- Scoop the flesh of your cooled sweet potatoes into a large mixing bowl and puree until smooth using your preferred mixing tool (see note*)
- Mix in the cooled brown butter, followed by the brown sugar, white sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, juice, and flour until well combined.
- Taste the mixture to ensure that the flavors are to your preference, and then whisk in your eggs until smooth.
- Pour filling evenly into your prepared pie crusts and smooth out the tops. Don’t overfill — pies will rise a bit in the oven!
- Bake on middle rack in preheated oven for about an hour, or until center of pies jiggle only slightly.
- Remove pies from oven and let cool at room temperature. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve.
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