Grain Free Sweet Potato Pie
Pumpkin pie is a funny thing that people tend to love it or think it’s the devil. I like it very much buuuuutttt…I’ll take cake over pie any day. With Thanksgiving next week and after the year we have all had, I wanted to make a special Casey- friendly pie that wasn’t a fruit or chocolate pie I have made often for my family. Casey is allergic to pumpkin but can have baked egg, so the light bulb went off and I got to work retooling my old sweet potato pie recipe. Even better, the crust is gluten and grain free and the filling is refined sugar and dairy free-Paleo heaven!
Pumpkin and sweet potato pies are forms of a baked custard (like crème brulee or cheesecake), meaning it has an egg and dairy base. Like most who are dairy allergic but moving up the “dairy ladder”, Casey can have baked dairy and egg as long as it far enough down the ingredient list and baked at least 30 minutes at 350 degrees. I wanted to redo the filling to omit the dairy as I am gluten and dairy intolerant my whole life.
Taking it even one step further, the crust is grain free by using cassava flour. What’s the 411 on cassava? Here’s a quick breakdown. Cassava is a root vegetable, a tuber similar to potato and sweet potato. Tapioca also comes from the cassava plant however cassava flour and tapioca flour/starch are not the same thing. It provides more fiber and protein than wheat flour and is a great source of prebiotic benefits which is fantastic for gut health. The one downfall is that it has a high glycemic index, so it is not a great idea for all day carbohydrate substitutes as it can cause high blood sugar spikes, especially those who need to be mindful of their insulin.
Cassava flour is not always a straight one to one substitute for wheat flour although some recipes claim that it is. If you are unbaked egg free, this might also be a difficult flour to work with because it is gluten free and benefits from eggs being added to the recipe. It is very absorbent, so be aware of your liquid ratios when experimenting yourself. I find I need more liquid with cassava flour than even gluten free flour blends. If you wanted a traditional wheat dough or gluten free flour blend pie crust, then this is the variation the cassava dough is based on: https://katiebakesforcasey.com/2020/01/3-2-1-pie-dough/ .
This sweet potato pie similar to pumpkin pie but the filling is naturally sweeter with a great texture. Don’t think it tastes like a marshmallow topped sweet potato casserole because it definitely doesn’t! Leftover baked sweet potatoes can be frozen and thawed for this so you can pop it out at another time, or if you are a pressure cooker addict like me you can throw them in for 25-30 minutes. Skin and mash and you’re ready to roll. I substituted light brown sugar for coconut sugar to keep it Paleo, but the choice is definitely yours.
The only truly critical step for this recipe is to blind bake your crust. What’s a blind bake? Simply put, it is par-baking or fully pre-cooking your pie crust to ensure the bottom crust in a custard pie doesn’t get soggy from the wet filling or leak. I’ll explain it all in the recipe 👇.
I really hope you’ll give this pie a go. It’s so different and tasty and so helpful for those of us with modified diets. So, happy Thanksgiving and if there was ever a year to give thanks for what we have…this is it! Be well and safe and enjoy! 💙👩🏻🍳
**As always, please check which brands are safe for your needs**
Ingredients and Substitutions
Fat – The fat that you choose to use here is entirely up to your needs. I use both regular butter, vegan butter and Spectrum palm shortening, but I found that when I used Casey’s safe margarine it was way too greasy. The biggest key here is that you have the fat very cold before using. Have it wrapped in the refrigerator to get a nice chill on it. It is necessary to keep the pieces of fat on the larger size to create flaky layers in the dough. If it too small, the dough will be more like a paste and not bake properly.
Flour – I used cassava flour for this recipe, but you can want to use gluten free or wheat flour for your pie dough use this recipe: https://katiebakesforcasey.com/2020/01/3-2-1-pie-dough/.
This is one of the recipes that I like to measure the flour to get it just right. Cassava flour is very powdery and fine and drinks liquid straight up. A scoop and level method won’t work, either weigh or spoon into the cup and level. Don’t pack the flour! I absolutely love Otto’s cassava flour, and they are some of the nicest, best customer service you can ever work with!
Sugar – I opted to use coconut sugar to keep it refined sugar free and Paleo, but you can most certainly use light brown sugar. I use Wholesome brand coconut palm sugar and love it. It basically tastes like brown sugar but with the properties of granulated sugar so it’s very interchangeable.
Dairy – The filling calls for both buttermilk and heavy cream. For those dairy allergic or keeping a Paleo diet neither is an option, but I made it work beautifully! For the heavy cream I used coconut heavy cream with absolutely no difference. I love Let’s Do Organic. For the buttermilk go with the tried-and-true method-for every one cup of safe/regular milk, add 1 Tbls. acid (I like apple cider vinegar). Mix and let it “clabber” for at least 5 minutes. It’s supposed to look broken and curdled so don’t worry! You can use regular heavy cream and buttermilk as well.
Ice water – Sounds like an odd thing to make a note about ice water, right? Well although this is pretty much as allergy friendly as it gets, the water at the wrong temperature can mess it all up. Let the ice water sit, then remove the ice and measure. Don’t measure the water and then add ice. The whole proportion will be off. Also, this is a guideline for water. A good rule of thumb is you can always add more but cannot take away. Depending on how large you’ve kept your fat and the humidity level outside (yes, weather affects pie dough and bread!), you may need more or less water. And with cassava flour, a little more usually is needed than even gluten free flour.
Pie Weights – This dough has to be blind baked, or pre-baked to keep the shell crisp and not get soggy from the custard filling. To do this, you need to lay parchment over the crust in the pie pan and use dried beans, pie weights or my choice, uncooked rice. It will weight down the crust, so it doesn’t puff up. Halfway during the baking remove the weights and let the bottom crust finish baking.
Grain Free Sweet Potato Pie
Author: Katie Martino Lopez
Prep Time: Crust (preparation with chilling)-1 hour; Filling- 10 minutes
Total Time: 5-6 hours, this includes baking and chilling
- 1 2/3 c. (265 g./9 oz.) cassava flour
- 4 oz. butter or vegan butter (for Paleo use grass fed)
- 4 oz. palm or regular shortening (I like Spectrum brand)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 6 oz. ice water (may need more)
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Sweet Potato Filling
- 1 c. (8 oz., about 1 ½- 2) cooked, skinned and mashed sweet potato
- ½ c. (4 oz.) coconut or light brown sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¾-1 tsp. ground ginger (to taste)
- ¾-1 tsp. cinnamon (to taste)
- ¼- ½ tsp. nutmeg (to taste)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 4 oz. safe milk or regular buttermilk
- 1 ½ tsp. apple cider vinegar (omit using regular buttermilk)
- Make Pie Dough: Measure and chill fat at least 10 minutes before starting recipe.
- Let water and ice sit while preparing dry ingredients.
- In a large bowl whisk salt and cassava flour. To measure cassava in cups, scoop flour into cups and level – do not scoop or you’ll pack the flour and have an inaccurate measurement. Add fat to the bowl and toss lightly with your fingers to coat with flour. Using fingertips, a pastry blender (my choice) or two knives, gently cut the fat into the flour. Don’t squeeze or flatten or the fat will be too small and will not be flaky. The pieces should be about the size of small blueberries.
- Measure out 6 oz. from the ice water. Drizzle about 2/3 around the bowl, not just in one spot. Gently blend until the dough comes together. It should not be sticky like a cookie dough but will hold together when lightly squeezed. Add more water by tablespoons if more is needed. Cassava and/or gluten free flour will require a bit more water because it absorbs more than wheat flour.
- Split the dough in half and flatten each half into a disk onto parchment paper. Wrap and chill the dough at least 30 minutes to let the flour absorb the water and chill the fat to keep the dough flaky when baked. The dough makes enough for 2-9” open top pies or 1-9” double crust pie. It can be frozen at this point as well, wrapped well.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare to roll out the dough. Remove from the refrigerator 10 minutes before you’re ready to roll out. The dough shouldn’t be rock solid but not warm enough that the butter softens.
- Between 2 pieces of parchment, roll out the crust to ¼” thickness and line a 9” pie pan with the dough. It is forgiving due to the lack of gluten so it can be patched if there are holes. Flute the edges to make it decorative if desired. Use little or no flour to roll out if possible. If the dough has gotten very soft, chill until the fat has firmed up. If not, prepare to blind bake.
- Cut a circle of parchment large enough to fill the pie shell and come over the edges. Push into the corners against the dough. Fill the shell on top of the parchment with the unbaked rice, unbaked beans or pie weights. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, then remove the parchment with weights. Have a container ready to dump them out into. THEY WILL BE HOT!! I grab opposite side of the parchment to make sling to pull of the dough. The base of the shell will be underbaked but should not be raw. Return to the oven about 10-15 minutes to finish baking. It should be a nice golden but not too dark. If the edges get darker before the base, cover the edges with strips of foil. When baked remove from the oven and cool while preparing filling.
- To Make Filling: Lower the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare buttermilk by adding apple cider vinegar to safe milk, mix and let sit 5 minutes.
- Have your sweet potatoes cooked, skinned and mashed in a large bowl. Add sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Add eggs, prepared safe/regular buttermilk and coconut/regular heavy cream and whisk until smooth. Don’t overmix.
- Place pie shell on a sheet pan and put on the center over rack. Pour the filling in while the shell is in the oven-it makes it easier to transport and not spill. The sheet pan will also heat up and help keep the bottom crust crisp.
- Bake about 40 minutes or until filling is set, the center will set after the edges. It will jiggle but should not be liquid and will continue to set as it chills in the refrigerator. Carefully remove from the oven and cool the pie on a rack OFF the sheet pan. When room temperature, chill in the refrigerator at least 2-3 hours to set completely.
- Serve with coconut or regular lightly sweetened whipped cream.
- The pie dough freezes great for up to 3 months, just wrap very well. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Keeping the fat cold is key for pie dough! If it gets warm it will melt right away in the oven and you won’t achieve the flakiness that’s key.
- The sweet potato filling will continue to set as it cools in the refrigerator. If it is loose when cutting to serve that means it was underbaked.
As we all know, reading labels and preparing food when managing allergies is a job within itself with much responsibility. All the brands I use are ones that I have contacted, and Casey has eaten safely. That being said, I must remind…
Please do your own research when deciding which products and foods are safe for the allergies you manage. These are the ones that are safe for our needs but may not be for you. Everyone has different comfort levels with manufacturing and production procedures.
And, as a friendly reminder, always have 2 epinephrine auto injectors on hand!