Last Updated on November 13, 2021 by Chenée Lewis
This brown butter sweet potato pie recipe is the very first recipe I posted on Chenée Today! It's an old fashioned sweet potato pie recipe with the added richness of brown butter, along with the "black-bottom" technique of Patti LaBelle's famous pie. The only soul food Thanksgiving pie you need! If you like this browned butter sweet potato pie, you should try some of my other brown butter goodies like my Pineapple Bars with Cheesecake Filling and Brown Butter Coconut Icing, my Butter Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, or my Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies with Brown Butter and Sea Salt!
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Southern Brown Butter Sweet Potato Pie
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 brown butter you get the best sweet potato pie recipe ever!
Which is better pumpkin or sweet potato pie?
I may be biased because I grew up eating sweet potato pies -- the only pumpkin pies I remember having were in the Thanksgiving-themed school cafeteria lunches! But pumpkin pie has got nothing on a southern sweet potato pie! The fluffy-yet-rich sweet potato pie filling, delicately spiced and enriched with butter and evaporated milk is just so delicious! In my experience, pumpkin pie can certainly be delicious, and I love pumpkin-flavored desserts like my Pumpkin Mousse Pie with Maple Cookie Crust or my Pumpkin Pecan Dump Cake, but the flavors and texture of traditional pumpkin pie can't compare to an old fashioned sweet potato pie recipe. And especially not this brown butter sweet potato pie recipe!
- 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 3 pounds of sweet potatoes for this two-pie recipe, which ends up being about 3 large sweet potatoes.
- dark brown sugar - for the filling AND for the brown sugar 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 and nutmeg - 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.
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 a 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 -- here's the one I use, and a light-colored sauté pan to brown your butter.
How to Make Brown Butter Sweet Potato Pie, Step by Step
This sweet potato pie 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 before you make this brown butter sweet potato pie!
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! When pouring into your pie pans, make sure not to overfill. You might have some sweet potato pie filling left over, especially if you use a standard size pie pan or if your pie crust shrunk during blind baking, so just discard it or make it into little mini pies. But don't overfill because your pie will rise a bit during baking and you don't want it to overflow!
Tips and F.A.Q. for this browned butter sweet potato pie
Be sure to prepare two pie crusts, or just halve the recipe to make less filling for one pie.
Your browned butter sweet potato pie will last for about 4 days, well-wrapped, in the fridge. If you freeze it, it'll stay fresh for about a month.
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.
You may have added a bit too much liquid in the mixing stage -- I would suggest adding an extra tablespoon of flour to help it solidify a bit more. If it's runny after baking, your pie may need a bit longer in the oven to set.
How do I keep my pie crust from shrinking?
As you'll see in the recipe card below, we're not using pie weights to blind bake the pie crust. So there's a risk of shrinking, which but I've made this pie so many times that you can benefit from all my mistakes! Here are a few dos and don'ts for this black-bottom technique! If it still shrinks a bit, it's not a big deal, but hopefully these tips will help minimize shrinking!
- Don't use a glass pie pan. Normally I love glass because it cooks evenly and you can literally see that your pie crust is baked through, but in this case, glass is too slippery and makes your dough more likely to shrink down during the blind bake. I recommend a standard metal pan that's 9 in. x 1½ in. (not deep dish). I haven't tried this sweet potato pie recipe with a ceramic pan, but I don't think it would be safe to transfer a ceramic pie pan from the freezer to the preheated oven (see the chilling step below), but if you have used ceramic for this recipe let us know in the comments below!
- Don't stretch your pie dough to fit the pan. Stretching the dough while you place it in the pan will cause it to stretch back once it's in the oven blind-baking. So if you're using a homemade crust, be sure to roll the crust dough out to a full 13-inch circle so that you won't need to stretch it while placing it in the pan.
- Do chill your pie crusts: Whether 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. I just put mine in the freezer during this time to be sure. This is an important step! It keeps 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.
Can I make this brown butter sweet potato pie recipe ahead of time?
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.
How do I know when my sweet potato pie is done?
When the edges of your pie is set, but it still jiggles a bit in the center, then it's done! You should take it out while it's still a bit jiggly so that the center sets with a perfect custardy texture and doesn't crack.
More Delicious Holiday Recipes
Equipment you may need
Black Bottom Crusts
Brown Butter Sweet Potato Filling
- 1 cup (284 g) salted butter - cut into cubes or slices
- 3 lbs (1.3 kg) sweet potatoes - about 3 large sweet potatoes
- ¾ cup (220 g) light brown sugar - packed
- ¾ cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (256 g) evaporated milk
- 4 tsp (20 ml) pure vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon (3 g) ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon (1 g) ground nutmeg - freshly ground, if possible
- 3 tablespoon (44 ml) orange juice
- 2 tablespoon (15 g) all-purpose flour
- 3 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**)2 pie crusts
- Brush 2 tablespoon melted butter in each pie crust. Sprinkle ¼ cup of dark brown sugar into each crust and bake for about 15 minutes. Set aside.4 tablespoon salted butter, ⅔ cup dark brown sugar
Prepare Sweet Potatoes
- Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
- Pierce sweet potatoes repeatedly with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake sweet potatoes for 60-70 minutes, or until very tender. Let cool to room temperature.3 lbs sweet potatoes
Prepare Brown Butter
- Add the cubed butter to a light-colored sauté pan over medium heat. Heat, whisking constantly.1 cup salted butter
- 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.¾ cup light brown sugar, ¾ cup granulated sugar, 1 cup evaporated milk, 4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg, 3 tablespoon orange juice, 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- Taste the mixture to ensure that the flavors are to your preference, and then whisk in your eggs until smooth.3 large eggs
- 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. Begin checking after 50 minutes.
- Remove pies from oven and let cool at room temperature. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve.
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