Sweet, caramelized Purple Sweet Potato Pie uses brown butter to add a delicious nuttiness to the warm-spiced filling. Nestled into a flaky pie crust and piled with toasted marshmallow meringue, this is the best addition to your Thanksgiving menu and one of the most delicious desserts you'll eat!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Aesthetics - this vibrant purple sweet potato pie will be the talk of your holiday table. It's made just like a traditional sweet potato pie, but the only difference is that it's made with purple potatoes for that gorgeous color. It's the perfect baked good for the holiday season, and will be the talk of the dessert table!
Flavor - purple sweet potatoes have a slightly more floral and wine-like flavor than regular sweet potatoes. This alone adds a better depth of flavor, but pair it with the brown butter and spices and it's truly a home run. The meringue has a strong vanilla flavor and the toasted bits on top enhance the flavor profile even further.
Texture - all layers of this pie come together in perfect harmony. The flaky all-butter pie crust holds a filling that's a bit more dense than pumpkin pie, but with the same creaminess. It then gets piled high with the pillowy soft meringue and toasted with a kitchen torch for the slightest crunch.
What are Purple Sweet Potatoes?
Purple Sweet Potatoes, also known as Okinawan Sweet Potatoes, Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes, Japanese Sweet Potatoes, or Purple Yams have beautiful purple flesh and light to medium brown skin. They are creamy and have a better depth of flavor than orange sweet potatoes, and taste more of honey! They are also incredibly vibrant - though the brightness inside each potato can vary.
While they are sometimes called purple yams, they are not a yam. Yams are drier and have a higher starch content. While all names and versions are similar, you should be looking for either Okinawan, Japanese, or Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes.
Where to Buy Purple Sweet Potatoes
Be careful not to be tricked by sweet potatoes with purple skin. These often have yellow or white flesh, not that striking purple flesh you're looking for.. You want brown skin and purple flesh! Most Asian markets carry Purple Sweet Potatoes, but I have also found them at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods during the fall.
My suggestion would be to call ahead to a few stores to see if they carry them instead of going on a wild goose chase. If you can’t find purple sweet potatoes in your area, you can absolutely make this with regular orange sweet potatoes.
- Purple sweet potatoes. There are a few types you can find, see above for details on what they are, and where to purchase them. Be careful, as they look very similar to orange sweet potatoes!
- Unsalted butter. You'll need this in two forms - very cold for the pie crust, and melted and browned for the filling. Check out my how to brown butter post if you're unsure of this process. It's super quick and easy, and makes a huge difference in flavor.
- Eggs. A total of five eggs will be used, two for the filling, and three egg whites for the meringue. Use the leftover yolks to make a small batch of some dark chocolate pots de creme!
- Sugars. Light brown sugar for the sweet potato filling, and granulated sugar for the Swiss meringue.
- Spices. Ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. This is a sweet potato pie, after all.
See the recipe card for the full ingredients list and quantities.
Substitutions and Variations
- Use regular sweet potatoes in place of purple sweet potatoes in an equal swap.
- Use store-bought pie crust in place of homemade, though I very much recommend the crust in the recipe as it provides a great layer of flavor.
- Normal melted butter rather than browned butter can be used.
- Whip coconut cream with a bit of coconut sugar or powdered sugar for a haupia inspired version of the pie.
How to Make This Recipe
Timing tip! The pie crust needs to be made, and have time to hydrate in the fridge for about 2 hours prior to rolling out. During this time, bake the sweet potatoes and brown the butter.
Start by rolling out the pie dough and setting it in the pie plate. Par-bake the pie using pie weights, then remove them and make the filling.
One: Mash or blend the baked sweet potatoes, then whisk it together with brown sugar.
Two: Add the eggs and whisk to combine.
Three: Add the brown butter, heavy cream, whole milk, spices, salt and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
Four: Pour the prepared sweet potato pie filling into the par-baked pie crust.
Five: Spread the filling evenly, then bake until set. Allow the pie to cool completely at room temperature.
Six: Make the Swiss meringue, then add it in a heaping mound to the very top of the pie.
Seven: Use the back of a spoon to make deep swoops into the meringue.
Eight: Use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue until golden brown. Slice, and serve!
Hot tip! Try to keep the mound of meringue piled up the very center for the most dramatic slices.
- The color of the sweet potato pie filling will vary from batch to batch depending on the hue of the potato flesh.
- Pass the sweet potatoes through a sieve prior to mixing it with the filling ingredients for the most smooth filling. I've found that Japanese purple sweet potatoes are a bit stringier so the texture of the pie benefits the removal of any fibrous pieces.
- Add your pie to the lower third of the oven for the final 15 minutes. This helps to ensure the bottom of the crust is fully baked. Using a glass pie dish is a great way to be able to check if the bottom has browned to a golden color.
- Keep as much height as possible on the meringue for the most dramatic effect.
Yes. If you are unable to find purple sweet potatoes, normal orange sweet potatoes can be used as an equal substitution.
No. You can also top the pie with whipped cream, or coconut whipped cream, or leave it plain. It's delicious in any format!
This is likely because the pie wasn't baked for long enough, or the oven wasn't at the correct temperature. I always recommend using an oven thermometer to check for the correct temperature. Also, move the pie to the bottom third of the oven for the final 15 minutes of bake time to help ensure the bottom gets a blast of heat at the end for a full bake.
Store the purple sweet potato pie in the fridge for three days. I like to cover any exposed sides after slicing with plastic wrap, but otherwise, it doesn't need to be covered. Bring the slices or pie to room temperature before eating.
To freeze, wrap the cooked pie (prior to adding the meringue) in plastic wrap and foil and freeze for one month. This can be done either in the pan or by removing the entire pie from the pan and wrapping it (make sure it's cold before removing it). Thaw uncovered in the fridge, bring to room temperature, then prepare and add the meringue.
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Purple Sweet Potato Pie
- Food processor or pastry cutter
- Rolling Pin
- Pie weights or dried rice or beans
- 9 inch pie dish
- Fine mesh sieve optional
- Kitchen torch
All-Butter Pie Crust
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour 390g
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup + 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cold and cubed (311g)
- ⅔ cup ice water (6 fl oz)
Sweet Potato Filling
- 1 cup purple sweet potato mashed or pureed (about 4-5 purple sweet potatoes)
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter browned and in a liquid state (141g)
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream 4 fl oz
- ¼ cup whole milk 2 fl oz
- ¾ cup light brown sugar packed (150g)
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 3 large egg whites
- ¾ cup granulated sugar 150g
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- Cut the butter into ½" cubes and place in the freezer. In a bowl, add the water and some ice cubes and set aside. Using a food processor, add the flour and salt to the bowl and pulse once to combile. Add the chilled butter evenly around the flour.3¼ cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup + 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pulse the mixture until the butter reaches pea-sized pieces and looks crumbly. Add in the ⅔ cup ice cold water (not adding the ice cubes), and pulse again until the dough starts to form crumbles.⅔ cup ice water
- Remove the dough, separate into two even pieces, then flatten into one-inch discs and wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 1-2 hours to hydrate. Only one disc of dough is needed for the pie - freeze the other in a ziptop bag for 3-4 months.
- Note: Bake the sweet potatoes and brown the butter while the pie crust rests. See Sweet Potato Filling section.
- Remove one disc of dough from the fridge and wait about 15 minutes for the dough to slightly come to temperature. Lightly flour a rolling pin and work surface, then roll out the dough until it’s about ⅛ inch thick and is at least 2 inches wider than the pie dish. Continue to lightly flour the surface and pin if the dough begins to stick.
- Carefully transfer the dough to your pie dish, pressing it into place on the bottom and sides and trim and crimp the edges any way you’d like. Place into the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375℉/190℃.
- Dock the bottom of the dough all over with a fork. Line the pie with parchment paper or aluminum foil and completely fill with pie weights (or dried beans or rice, but do not use to eat afterwards). The weights should come the whole way to the top of the pie crust.
- Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then remove the pie weights and parchment and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Sweet Potato Filling
- Dock the top of the sweet potatoes a few times with a fork then bake at 375℉/190℃ for about an hour until soft and tender. When the potatoes are almost done in the oven, make the brown butter.1 cup purple sweet potato
- Over medium heat, add the unsalted butter into a saucepan and allow to melt and bubble. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottoms and sides, until you see that the milk solids on the bottom of the pan have started to become golden brown. It will also start to become incredibly fragrant and nutty. Pour the butter into a heat proof bowl and set aside.½ cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Remove the potatoes from the oven and allow to cool until you are able to handle them. Scoop all flesh out of the skins mash with a fork, or puree in a food processor to get it super smooth. Pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove any fibrous pieces, if desired.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350℉/177℃.
- Once the potatoes are ready, combine the sweet potatoes, brown butter, heavy cream, milk, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and vanilla into a large bowl and whisk until completely combined.½ cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ½ cup heavy whipping cream, ¼ cup whole milk, ¾ cup light brown sugar, 2 large eggs, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- Pour the mixture into the par-baked crust and smooth out the top. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the edges are set and puffy, but the center still has a slight jiggle. Lightly tent the pie with foil (or use a pie shield) if the crust is browning too quickly.
- Remove the pie to a wire rack to cool for 2 hours, then place in the fridge for 2 more hours before making the meringue topping. Adding the meringue before it is completely cool will make it melt and ooze off.
- Fill a saucepan with about two inches of water and turn to high heat. Add a heat proof bowl over top that fits securely. You don’t want any of the water touching the bottom of the bowl.
- To the bowl, add the egg whites, sugar, and salt and whisk to combine. Continue lightly whisking until the mixture is rather warm and the sugar granules have dissolved. Check this by rubbing your fingers together in the mixture. If you can still feel sugar granules, continue cooking.3 large egg whites, ¾ cup granulated sugar, ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- One the mixture is ready, add it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on medium speed for about a minute. Add the vanilla, then turn to high speed and whip until stiff peaks form and the meringue gets caught in the middle of the whisk. The peak of the meringue should stand up to a point when you pull the whisk out.2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- Add all of the meringue to the center of the pie, and add swoops using a spoon or spatula. Use a blow torch to brown the meringue to your liking. You can also pop it into the oven under high broil to get a bit of browning, but a torch it a much easier way to get even coverage.