The Thanksgiving holiday is practically upon us and many have already planned their menus. Friends and family are looking forward to chowing down on their favorite eats and one sure-fire crowd-pleaser is sweet potato pie. A Black staple at holiday tables, this great way to cap off a feast is a mix of smooth and creamy with just the right amount of spices to please many a sweet tooth.

The history of sweet potato pies began around the sixteenth century when the British brought their tradition of eating pumpkin pies for dessert to West Africa. When the tradition was introduced in America, slaves, who had been fed sweet potatoes during the Middle Passage voyage to these shores, switched pumpkins for the sweeter veggie.

Slaves began using sweet potatoes to make pies as a celebratory treat or for large family gatherings. Black inventor George Washington Carver even delved into finding ways to use the sweet potato, including coming up with a candied version. The tradition of eating sweet potato pies during special occasions in Black homes still continues to this day.

Many folks think yams and sweet potatoes are the same veggies. Not! They are both tuberous root vegetables that come from a flowering plant but are not related and actually don’t even have a lot in common.

Yams have a cylindrical shape with blackish or brown, bark-like skin, and a white, purple, or reddish flesh. Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier. The skin color of a sweet potato can be white, yellow, red, purple, or brown, while the flesh can be white, yellow, orange, or even orange-red. These vegetables have an elongated shape with tapered ends.

Sweet potatoes pack a wallop nutritionally. They are chockfull of Vitamin A, C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. They also contain potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and phosphorus. Sweet potatoes are actually healthier than yams as they contain higher amounts of most nutrients and more fiber.

If you love sweet potatoes and are looking for a great pie recipe, well, mine can’t be beaten!

Judy’s “Have Mercy” Sweet Potato Pie

  • 1 ½ pounds of sweet potatoes
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar (or more to taste)
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup of sweetened bagged shredded coconut (if desired)
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
  • Add all ingredients to list
  1. Boil sweet potatoes whole in the skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until soft. Run cold water over the sweet potatoes, then remove the skin.
  2. Mash sweet potatoes in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with an electric mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, vanilla, and coconut. Beat on medium speed until mixture is creamy. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle and then sink down as it cools.

Serve with a generous helping of ice cream or a dollop of Cool Whip and enjoy!