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Aunt Ruth's Sweet Potato Pie


This is the best sweet potato pie I have ever put in my mouth, in large part because of its unusual flavor.Traditionally, sweet potato pie is flavored with the same spices as its cousin, pumpkin pie—cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice. The surprise in this version is that it eschews the heavy, heady flavor of the “fall spices” for a light, lemony taste that brings to mind warm spring or summer days.

Aunt Ruth was married to one of my grandfather’s brothers, and was one of the best cooks I ever knew. Since she wasn’t able to have children, I realized that this wonderful pie was in danger of passing into history; I got the recipe from her the year before she died.

Aunt Ruth was tickled to death when the newspaper in her small town ran this recipe with a column I wrote about pies; she would be amazed to know that since I put it on my Web site in 1999, the recipe has been downloaded morethan a quarter of a million times and has been made by people from Canada to Australia to the Sultinate of Bruni, making this pie literally world famous.
For a more traditional sweet potato pie, eliminate the lemon extract and add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon each of ginger, allspice and nutmeg.

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  • 2 or 3 large sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 (14 ounce) can evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 pie crusts


Servings 6
Preparation time 20mins
Cooking time 70mins
Adapted from


Step 1

In a 6-quart Dutch oven, bring 3 quarts water to a rolling boil.

Peel sweet potatoes, then cut into small pieces. Place potatoes into boiling water; return to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a potato masher or electric hand mixer, cream butter into sweet potatoes. Add eggs and milk. Combine sugar with cornstarch; add to potato mixture along with vanilla and lemon flavoring.

Pour into pie shells. Bake until center is set and top is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Yield: 2 deep dish pies

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