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Robert's Sweet Potato Pie

Stop Food Waste Blog

Robert's Sweet Potato Pie

Oct 31, 2023

Stop Food Waste Blog

This versatile recipe includes options to make your own crust using leftover cookies, substitutions to make the pie vegan and a clever way to use up peeled sweet potato skins. 

Robert is Food Shift’s Senior Food Recovery Specialist. He makes the majority of the trips to pick up surplus foods and does much of the heavy lifting ensuring the maximum amount of food reaches our neighbors, while listening and singing along to his favorite tunes. Robert’s pie is a beloved family recipe.

“This sweet potato pie comes from my mother’s side of the family. It’s originally from my grandmother and it’s been in the family since I was a little kid. My mother predominantly cooked it around Thanksgiving. Everybody in the family, including all six of my aunts, bakes this pie. So no matter whose house or what gathering we are at, this pie is there. And I could pretty much eat a whole pie myself, so my mother would usually bake two or three or four of them. 

Sweet potato pie is a comforting food. The comfort doesn’t necessarily have to do with the taste, but the memories associated with it. For me, it carries a seasonal memory of the holidays from the combination of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and allspice. It’s just a very delicious pie. 

When I make this dessert for other people, I modify it to fit their taste. I make it vegan for people in my family who don’t eat animal products. Each person can adjust the recipe to their liking. The original recipe requires brown sugar or white sugar. For my family, I predominantly use coconut sugar, all these new things that I was never introduced to as a youngster. I’m adjusting for my family’s sake. For the emulsifier, we use flaxseed meal mixed with water instead of eggs.  

After working on the vegan version for the last couple years, I’ve got it down pat now. I’ve been adapting it for my family because I appreciate it when they like what I cook. If I share food, I want them to have a good experience and appreciate the effort I put in, the taste, and the health benefits. I take in all those considerations when I cook for people.”

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
Serves 8–16

The recipe can vary according to taste, Robert’s preference is as follows:


  • 2 unbaked pie shells, frozen or fresh
  • 3 large sweet potatoes or yams (orange flesh), about 2 lbs
  • 1 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • ½ cup granulated white cane sugar
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice or clove
  • ½ cup evaporated milk of choice (dairy or coconut)*
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Prepare pie shells as instructed.
  2. Place whole sweet potatoes in a pot and add enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil. Boil until tender when pierced with a fork, about 40–45 minutes. Drain, let cool slightly and remove the skins (save the skins to make a snack, see notes below). 
  3. Heat oven to 400°F.
  4. In a large bowl, mash the sweet potatoes, you should have about 5 cups mashed. Then mix in the sugars, vanilla, spices, milk, and butter until creamy. Taste the mixture and add more spices to your liking. 
  5. Whisk eggs in a small bowl and then add to the sweet potato mixture. 
  6. Evenly divide the sweet potato mixture into pie shells, and bake at 400°F for about 45 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the center of the pie to determine if done; the toothpick should come out clean. 
  7. Let pies cool on a rack for about 30 minutes, then eat ‘em up!

Maximizing Your Food

  • Leftovers: Cover the pie tightly with plastic wrap or foil and place in the refrigerator. Robert says the pie gets even better after refrigeration. You can enjoy it within 3–4 days, it’s fine eaten straight from the fridge or reheated. 
    • Leftover evaporated milk can be added to oatmeal, smoothies, coffee/tea, or a creamy dish like macaroni and cheese. 
  • Sweet Potato Chips from the peel: Preheat oven to 400˚F (you can bake them at the same time as the pies). Make sure the peels are completely dry. Toss the peeled skins in oil with a pinch of salt. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for about 15 minutes, or until crispy, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. 
  • Substitutions:
    • Pie Crust: Keep broken cookies, cookie crumbs, or graham crackers in a sealed container or bag and if you don’t have pie crust, you can make one out of cookie or cracker bits. To make 2 pie crusts, you’ll need 3 cups of cookie or graham crackers, broken into small pieces, and ½ cup melted butter. 
      1. Crush the cookies into fine crumbs, they should look similar to sand (you can do this in a food processor or put the cookies in a sealed bag, remove the air from the bag before sealing, and use a rolling pin or canned good to roll across repeatedly and crush the cookies). 
      2. Add the crushed cookie crumbs to a bowl and stir in the melted butter until well combined. 
      3. Put the cookie mixture in a lightly buttered pie pan and press the mixture into the pan using your hands, making sure the bottom and sides of the pan are covered evenly with crust. 
      4. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. 
    • Evaporated Milk: If you don’t have evaporated milk you can use half-and-half as a 1:1 substitute. If you have regular milk, you can make your own evaporated milk pretty easily. To make ½ cup of evaporated milk for this recipe:
      1. Heat 1 cup of milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat 
      2. Bring milk to a simmer to allow the water to slowly evaporate from the milk. Stir occasionally.
      3. After 20 minutes or once the milk has reduced in volume by half, take it off the heat and let cool. 
    • Eggs (2 options):
      • Flaxseed meal: Mix 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal with 6 Tbsp of water, stir until it reaches an egg-like consistency, and then add to the sweet potato mixture instead of eggs in step 5. 
      • Aquafaba, the liquid left over from canned cooked chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans): 3 Tbsp of aquafaba is equivalent to 1 egg, so this recipe would need 6 Tbsp of aquafaba. Measure the aquafaba and add it to a medium bowl. Whisk by hand for about 1 minute until the aquafaba looks like it has an egg white consistency and add to the sweet potato mixture instead of eggs in step 5.

More stories, recipes, tips, and videos from Food Shift:

Food is often rooted in story. In this monthly blog series, Food Shift, one of our Chef Partners, is amplifying the voices of their culinary training graduates and their community by sharing their stories and adaptable recipes. Stay tuned for more installments.

Portrait Artwork By: Colin Choy Kimzey

Learn more about Food Shift and their programs to rescue surplus food to fuel their social enterprise kitchen rather than waste away in landfills.