By: Tommy Dickman
While your holiday spread may be accompanied by a pumpkin pie like many in the northern region of the United States, down south, the pumpkin is swapped for another sweet orange plant, sweet potato.
Sweet potato pie was originally made by the African American community. However, this beloved southern dish is inedible for a large demographic in the US: vegans. The milk, butter, and eggs in the recipe keep it from being animal-product free.
In the world of baking, many substitutes exist for these essential ingredients but not all of them work the same way. In a Nature’s Path article on egg substitutes, you can find that even though in some recipes aquafaba works as a sub for eggs, in others bananas would work better. Aquafaba and the bananas would both work in this recipe, though, because the eggs are used as an emulsifier in the filling. For the crust I recommend using vegan butter, margarine or shortening as a substitute rather than another plant-based fat like avocado since the avocado can cause the crust to take on a greenish hue.
Working with vegan substitutes, I developed this recipe that can work for any family gathering, party, potluck, or even just on a day when you feel like pie.
For the crust I used Adam Ragusea’s pastry dough recipe and graham cracker crust recipes that you can find here. To make it vegan, I substituted the butter for Earth Balance vegan butter.
While I would not recommend it, you can make an Oreo crust for the pie but it would not be vegan. You can also skip making a crust and buy a vegan pie crust from the grocery.
Sweet potato pie filling traditionally consists of sweet potatoes, sugar, milk or cream, and eggs. Some spices are sprinkled in as well. The vegan adaptations were made to this recipe.
To make a vegan filling, you need to substitute the milk for nut milk. The egg substitute I used was aquafaba and some cornstarch to thicken it up. Aquafaba is the water from a can of beans. For this recipe I used the aquafaba from a can of black beans. I drained a can of black beans and whipped the liquid from the can. I used six tablespoons of aquafaba per pie.
To eliminate as much refined sugar as possible, I used maple syrup. Honey*, agave syrup, and date paste could also be used as a sweetener. Each pie had ¾ cup of maple syrup.
*Some vegans consider honey an animal product since it comes from bees and choose not to consume it.
Ingredients (Yield 1 pie)
- 1 stick vegan butter
- 1 ¾ cup of flour
- 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
- Pinch of salt
- 2-3 sweet potatoes or 1 ½ cup of canned sweet potato
- ¼ cup nut milk
- 6 tablespoons aquafaba or 1 banana
- 4 tablespoons of vegan butter
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- On a floured work surface, cut the cold 1 stick of vegan butter into the 1 ¾ cup of flour, a tablespoon of maple syrup, and the pinch of salt until the butter almost disappears
Below: Combined butter, salt, and flour before syrup is incorporated.
- After the butter is incorporated into the flour, start to mix in cold water to form a shaggy dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- On your floured work surface, roll out the dough till it is large enough to line your pie pan. While rolling the dough, make sure to roll it a little bit, rotate it a bit, and roll it. You will want to keep doing this roll and rotate method to keep the pastry dough an even thickness.
- Lay your dough in the greased pie pan and trim the edges so that the dough is flush with the edges of the pan.
- (Skip if you are using canned sweet potatoes) Bake your sweet potatoes in a preheated oven set to 425 Fahrenheit for around 40 minutes or air fry at 370 Fahrenheit for 35 minutes.
- Put in your filling ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour the blended filling into your pie crust. Leftover pie filling can be baked in a casserole dish or eaten like a pudding. It’s safe to eat uncooked since there are no eggs in this filling.
Below: Unbaked pie in crust.
- Put the pie in a preheated 300 degree oven for around 1 hour or until the filling is set.
- After baking, remove the pie from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
After your pie has cooled fully, you can slice it and serve it alongside some plant based ice cream or with a dollop of whipped cashew cream on top. Heck, try both if you want to.
Finished product. I cut the crust poorly so around the edges it overhung the filling in some parts.