Have your pie (??) and eat it, too? I don’t know if it works like that. What I do know is that you can have two of your favorite pie flavors in one gorgeous slice. This Sweet Potato Maple Pecan Pie marries two beloved, soulful desserts into one epic recipe. I make mine with homemade sweet potato puree, but you can cheat with a canned version. No matter which option you choose, this sweet treat is bound to make you smile.
What is sweet potato maple pecan pie?
A sweet potato maple pecan pie is a marriage of the classic soul food dessert recipes. Maple pecan pie filling lies beneath a spiced sweet potato custard topping before both are baked inside a buttery, flaky pie crust. You can serve this dessert cold or at room temperature. A la mode, or naked, this pie is luscious and perfect in more ways than one. Killing two birds with one stone has never been so pleasant.
I enjoy merging recipes. I’m sure it’s hard to tell that when you look at recipes like my Crème Brûlée Pie or my Pastelillo de Guayaba Cheesecake. This sweet potato maple pecan pie is another one of those recipes that became a tasty Frankenstein. The funny thing is I don’t like either dessert on their own. I’m not a fan of plain sweet potato or pecan pies. Everyone else in my family loves them, though, which is why I make both every Thanksgiving. One year, I tried a bite of Hector’s sweet potato pie and a bite of the boy-child’s pecan, and the idea was born. When I diluted the two of them down with the other, it made my perfect dessert. Not too much of one or the other.
If you’re not a huge fan of the desserts on their own, you’re probably going to enjoy this version. If you do like both individually, this is going to be your next favorite dessert.
Is sweet potato pie a Black southern recipe?
A lot of people believe that sweet potato pie is only a southern thing. It began in the south, but more importantly, it’s a Black southern recipe.
While the sweet potato came to the States via Europeans, history reminds us that they did little of the cultivation of this land, especially in the south. They left that to the enslaved peoples they brought over. Those persons of African descent were familiar with the tuber because it closely resembled African yams. Granted, they were in charge of sowing, growing, harvesting, and cooking the sweet potato, but not so much sitting down with the master and enjoying the fruits of their labor. It wasn’t until emancipation that those miracle-working Black hands began to develop and enjoy their own family recipes for sweet potato pie.
Good ol’ George Washington Carver, the man in the know for all things agricultural, developed more than 100 ways to cook, bake, or use sweet potatoes. GW was the same man that taught us everything we know about the peanut, so of course, he’s the one to teach us how to use sweet potatoes. One of those many sweet potato recipes was a pie, and the rest was literal history.
As with many of the most beloved US recipes, this one is thanks in part to Black ingenuity and skill. God bless it.
What do I need to make this sweet potato maple pecan pie?
For the sweet potato filling, you need cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves (or skip all of those and use this Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend), kosher salt, all-purpose flour, a room temperature egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and room temperature unsalted butter. I’ll give you more flavor options when we get to the method.
Besides the sweet potato puree, pecans are the next most important ingredient in this recipe. Grab chopped, unsalted pecans, unsalted butter (melted and cooled slightly), brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup. If you want a little kick, you can add a shot (or two) of your favorite bourbon. Turning this into a maple-bourbon pecan pie is always a good time.
Do I have to pre-bake my pie dough?
One of the worst things about pie-making is cutting into your pie to see that the crust is raw. That opaque, unbaked dough is always a letdown. Most people think they need to par-bake (or blind bake) the pie shell before filling to avoid this, but that’s just extra unnecessary work.
Instead, find the source of your oven’s heat. If you have an oven that has coils at the bottom, you’re in luck. Just roll out your portion of mealy pie dough or flaky pie dough and line a pie tin with it. Bake the filled pie on a rack placed on the bottom notch of the oven for 15 minutes, then transfer it to the middle rack. The pie tin being close to the heating element ensures the bottom of the pie shell is fully baked.
You’ll need to “start high and finish low” if you’re like me and don’t have a bottom heating element in your oven. Bake the pie at 400°F (204°C) for 15 minutes on the middle rack, then decrease the baking temp down to 350°F (177°C) for the remaining bake time.
With both oven set-ups, you’re better off baking your pie in a metal pie tin. Metal is the best conductor of heat, though it doesn’t look the prettiest. With a metal pie tin, your pie dough is more inclined to bake evenly and thoroughly. Your next best option is a ceramic pie plate, followed by glass.
How do I prepare the pie shell for this recipe?
This recipe makes 1 9-inch pie. Roll out the pie dough recipe of your choice and lay it into your pie tin. Flute the edges of the dough however you like and put the pie shell into the fridge to chill.
I chill the pie shell while I’m measuring out the ingredients for this recipe. I also take this time to gather the equipment I’m going to use. Giving the pie shell time to chill is important because it firms the butter in the dough up. Firm butter reduces the likelihood of weeping, soggy dough. It also lowers the chance of your pie crust sagging. There’s nothing more disappointing than pulling out a baked pie with a wimpy-looking pie crust.
Wait until just before you start mixing the pecan pie filling to remove the pie shell from the fridge. You can also wait until after you’ve mixed in the pecans to pull it out.
Can I make Pecan Pie without corn syrup?
You absolutely can make an amazing pecan pie without corn syrup. The main reason corn syrup is used in pie recipes is that it’s an invert sugar. Invert sugars prevent the crystallization of sugar crystals in things like pie fillings, candies, and sauces. With pecan pie, brown sugar is added to the pie filling to sweeten it. If you were to only use brown sugar, it would become grainy and gritty. However, using only the invert sugar would leave you with a runny pie filling. Maple syrup is an invert sugar. So, instead of adding corn syrup, you can add maple syrup to accomplish the same goal.
First, though, whip together the eggs, brown sugar, and melted butter with an electric hand mixer. Start the mixer on low and blend these three together until combined. After 30 seconds, increase the mixing speed to medium-high and whip the mixture together for 1 1/2-2 minutes. The mixture will look like caramel and become thick and foamy.
How do you keep the pecan pie filling from being runny?
Add the chopped pecans, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon to the bowl. If you’re adding bourbon, you can add it with these ingredients as well. Blend these into the egg and sugar mixture for 30 seconds on low speed.
Pecan pie filling ends up runny because there are not enough eggs in the filling to bind the syrupy mixture. Tempting though it may be, especially if you don’t like eggs, you shouldn’t omit the eggs from recipes like this one. You don’t taste them, so don’t leave them out unless you have an allergy.
Once the nuts are mixed into the sugar mixture, pour the pecan pie filling into the chilled pie shell.
How far ahead can I make the pecan pie filling?
Don’t mix this pecan pie filling too far in advance. Whipping the eggs and the sugar and butter together gives the filling volume and a lighter, airy texture. If you whip it too far ahead, even an hour ahead, the whipped eggs will deflate, which means you’d lose that volume. Instead of a lighter pecan pie filling, you’d end up with a goopier one.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly this entire pie assembled, so if you need to make it ahead, bake the whole thing instead of the separate components.
How do I keep the sweet potato layer from being runny?
One of the most asked questions I get during the holidays is, “Why did my sweet potato/pumpkin pie come out runny?”
The answer to that, again, lies in the eggs or custard mixture. Most pies made with custards (like sweet potato or pumpkin) have a particular ratio of eggs to milk. If you overdo it on the milk, you end up with a runny pie. The other culprit is not baking it long enough. But then you also run into baking it too long and it developing a crack. Baking is truly a science, isn’t it?
To avoid a runny sweet potato layer here, we’re nixing the milk altogether. Because we’re dividing our pie into a sweet potato on top of a pecan layer, we need it to be somewhat firm anyway. We want a clear delineation between the two layers. If we were to make this sweet potato filling the conventional way, it would seep down into the pecan pie filling and look a hot mess.
Instead, whip the egg at high speed. Just do this in the same bowl you made the pecan pie filling in. Don’t even wash it out. After 30 seconds, add the brown sugar, butter, and flour to the eggs. Whip these at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes.
Can I use canned sweet potato for this pie?
Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater using a rubber spatula. Add the sweet potato puree, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves (or pumpkin pie spice) to the mix.
You can use canned sweet potato for this recipe, but you’re going to have to puree (or mash) it before you begin. I noticed that, with the canned stuff, the sweet potato layer of this pie isn’t as bright and colorful. Instead, it’s like a greyish-brown color. It’s also thicker and not as flavorful. Homemade sweet potato puree contains more water, so it’s looser. To fix that thicker texture, you can use some of the syrup the sweet potato chunks are canned in. Add 1-2 tablespoons of that syrup to the sweet potato while you’re mashing them to loosen it up. Also, add a teaspoon of orange zest to the mix to brighten up the flavor. The color will still be dull, but at least the taste won’t be.
You can also add that orange zest to homemade sweet potato puree. It just adds a brighter note to the flavor. Blend the sweet potato puree and flavorings into the egg mixture at low speed for another 1 1/2 minutes.
How far ahead can I make the sweet potato pie filling?
You can make the sweet potato pie filling a day ahead and store it in the fridge. I wouldn’t bother, though, because, as you can see, it takes only 4 1/2 minutes to do.
Use a large spoon or your rubber spatula to lay the sweet potato pie filling on the maple pecan filling. Start from the outer rim and lay it on, going around the perimeter of the pecan pie filling, working towards the center. Laying on the sweet potato filling in small amounts, instead of plopping the whole bowl on top, allows those layers to stay separated.
Once all of the sweet potato filling is on top of the pecan filling, use your spatula (or the back of the spoon) to smooth the top to an even layer.
How long do I bake the pie?
Carefully slide the pie into the preheated oven. Now, remember, if yours is without the bottom heating element, you’re going to bake hotter, then reduce the temperature.
After 15 minutes, I just decreased the baking temperature to 350°F (177°C). You don’t have to move the pie or open the door or anything. If, after 30 minutes (total) of baking, the pie crust looks too dark, carefully lay a piece of aluminum foil lightly over the top of the pie. This will keep the crust from browning too much and will prevent a crack from forming as well. Bake the pie for a total of 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check the pie after 45 minutes for a slightly jiggly center.
But, if you do have the lower heating element, make sure one of your oven’s racks is on the very last (bottom) notch. Slide the pie onto that rack to bake for the first 15 minutes at 350°F (177°C). After 15 minutes, work as quickly as you can, and transfer the pie to the middle of the oven to finish baking.
Why did my sweet potato filling crack?
The bane of everyone’s pie-making existence is those cracks that form in the pie. Small fissures are okay, but those big ones really dampen your IG feed. I get it.
Cracks are the result of over-baking the pie. Custard pies usually take 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the calibration of your oven. My pie took 50 minutes. After 45 minutes of baking, when you check the color, give the pan a little jiggle. If there’s only a little jiggle right in the very center, remove it from the oven. Allow the residual heat (or carryover cooking) to finish baking the custard. Like our thighs, a little jiggle is better than none because you can go from no jiggle to crack in a New York City minute.
If it’s still really jiggly in the center, bake it for another 10-15 minutes. If the sweet potato custard doesn’t move, it’s probably already developed a crack because it’s over-baked. That’s okay. It may be cracked, but it’s going to taste amazing. Plus, you can always cover the crack with whipped cream, LOL!
How long do I need to cool the pie?
See the little fissures on my pie? That means it’s just perfectly baked. But cooling time is just as important as baking time.
If you cut into a pie just pulled from the oven, molten pecan pie filling will ooze all to hell and ruin the aesthetic. Instead, allow the pie to cool for at least 1 1/2 hours. I let mine cool overnight, but I also do this with plain pecan, pumpkin, and sweet potato pies, too. Those types of fillings need a while to firm up properly.
Allow the pie to cool to room temperature, then you can cover it and store it in the fridge or at room temperature until you’re ready to serve it.
How do I serve this sweet potato maple pecan pie?
I serve it just like you see it. Plain. Naked. Au naturel.
It’s got a lot going on already between the buttery, flaky crust, the maple-y pecans, and the spiced sweet potatoes. The twins like drizzling this Cajeta over their slices. Hector tops his slice with whipped cream. I’m a purist. It’s best on its own, in my opinion.
You can serve it in any of the ways mentioned above or topped with your favorite flavor of ice cream. Serve it at room temperature (for up to 2 days) or chilled.
How do I store leftovers?
Cover leftovers with plastic wrap or in a covered container and store them, covered in the fridge. Leftovers are safe in the fridge for up to 3 days (if they even last that long).
To warm them up, you can reheat individual slices in the microwave or air fryer for a few seconds. I will cut my slice before serving dinner, so it’s room temperature when I’m ready for dessert.
Can I freeze this sweet potato maple pecan pie?
It’s best to freeze this pie after baking and cooling.
Just cool to room temp, then wrap the pie in its tin in a layer of plastic film, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze the pie for 2 months.
To thaw the pie, remove the foil layer and defrost it in the fridge for 24 hours. Reheat as desired or serve cold.
I think this Sweet Potato Maple Pecan Pie is the perfect marriage of desserts, but I’d love to hear what you think. Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to pin it to your dessert board and share it with your friends and family, too!
Sweet Potato Maple Pecan Pie
- 9-inch pie tin (preferably metal)
- electric hand mixer
- 1 (8-10 ounce or 200 grams) portion flaky pie dough mealy pie dough
For the Maple Pecan Filling
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/2 cup, packed (120 grams) dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter melted and cooled slightly
- 1 1/2 cups (205 grams) chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Sweet Potato Pie Filling
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 1/4 cup, packed (58 grams) dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (430 grams) sweet potato puree
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground cinnamon *or Pumpkin Pie Spice (see notes)
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Prepare the Pie Shell *see posts on best method for baking this pie*
- If your oven has a lower heating element: move one of your oven racks to the very last (bottom) notch. Place the second rack in the middle section of your oven. Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).If your oven doesn't have a lower heating element: position the oven rack so it's in the center of the oven. Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C).
- Roll out the pie dough to a 12-inch circle lay it into your pie tin. Flute the edges of the dough and refrigerate the prepared pie shell while you measure out and begin your Maple Pecan Pie Filling.
Mix the Maple Pecan Pie Filling
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whip together the eggs, brown sugar, and melted butter on low speed using an electric hand mixer. After 30 seconds, increase the mixing speed to medium-high and whip the mixture together for 1 1/2-2 minutes or until the mixture resembles caramel and is thick and foamy. Scrape down the bowl and better halfway through this mixing time.
- Add the pecans, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon to the bowl. Blend these into the egg and sugar mixture for 30 seconds on low speed.
- Remove the pie shell from the fridge.Once the nuts are mixed into the sugar mixture, use a rubber spatula to scrape the pecan pie filling into the chilled pie shell. Set this aside while you mix the Sweet Potato Pie Filling.
Prepare the Sweet Potato Pie Filling
- In the same bowl you mixed the Maple Pecan Filling in, whip the egg at high speed for 30 seconds.After 30 seconds, stop the mixer and add the brown sugar, butter, and flour to the egg. Whip these together at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater using a rubber spatula. Add the sweet potato puree, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves (or pumpkin pie spice) to the egg and sugar mixture. Blend the sweet potato puree and flavorings into the egg mixture at low speed for another 1 1/2 minutes.
Finish Assembling the Pie and Bake
- Use the rubber spatula or a wide spoon to gently lay the sweet potato pie filling on the maple pecan filling. Start from the outer rim and, going around the perimeter of the pecan pie filling, lay the sweet potato filling onto the pecan filling working towards the center.
- Once all of the sweet potato filling is on top of the pecan filling, use your spatula (or the back of the spoon) to smooth the top to an even layer.
- If you have the lower heating element: slide the pie onto the lower rack and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, work as quickly as you can, and transfer the pie to the middle of the oven to finish baking for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- If you don't have a lower heating element: bake the pie on the middle rack for 15 minutes.After 15 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350°F (177°C). Don't move the pie or open the door. Bake for an additional 45 minutes to an hour.
- If, after 30 minutes of baking, the pie crust looks too dark, carefully lay a piece of aluminum foil lightly over the top of the pie to keep the crust from browning too much. Check the pie after 45 minutes for a slightly jiggly center. If the very center jiggles slightly, remove it from the oven and allow the residual heat to finish baking the custard as it cools.
- Cool the pie for at least 1 1/2 hours or overnight.Serve this Sweet Potato Maple Pecan Pie chilled or at room temperature within 2-3 days of baking.
Tips and Tricks:
- Chill the pie shell while measuring out the ingredients for this recipe or overnight because it firms the butter in the dough up reducing the likelihood of a weeping, soggy pie crust.
Wait until just before you start mixing the pecan pie filling or until just after you've mixed in the pecans to remove the pie shell from the fridge.
- Custard pies usually take 45 minutes to 1 hour to bake, depending on the calibration of your oven. After 45 minutes of baking, when you check the color, give the pan a little jiggle. If there's only a little jiggle right in the very center, remove it from the oven. If it's still really jiggly in the center, bake it for another 10-15 minutes. If the sweet potato custard doesn't move, it's probably over-baked.
- Serve this pie on its own or topped with whipped cream, ice cream, or your favorite dessert sauce.
- Use 1 portion of this Flaky Pie Dough, Mealy Pie Dough, or use store-bought pie dough.
- *Replace the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves in the sweet potato filling with 1 teaspoon (3 grams) of Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend.
- Add 1 teaspoon of orange zest to the sweet potato pie filling.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of bourbon to the maple pecan pie filling.
- To use canned sweet potato for this recipe:
- Mash one 29-ounce can (822 grams) of sweet potatoes with 1-2 tablespoons of its syrup with a potato masher or fork.
- Reserve 1 1/2 cups (430 grams) of this mixture for this recipe.
- Add a teaspoon of orange zest to the mashed canned sweet potatoes mix to brighten up the flavor.
Storage and Freezing Instructions:
- Cover leftovers with plastic wrap or in a covered container and store them in the fridge for 3 days.
- Reheat individual slices in the microwave or air fryer for a few seconds.
Freeze this pie after baking and cooling:
- Just cool to room temperature.
- Wrap the pie in its tin in a layer of plastic film, followed by a layer of aluminum foil.
- Freeze the pie for 2 months.
- To thaw the pie, remove the foil layer and defrost it in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Reheat as desired or serve cold.