Pie History

 “There is a deep sense of belonging and love that flows through any room in which a sweet potato pie has been baked…cooking is an act of love at the most basic level. Somebody is saying they care about your survival.”

– James Beard award-winning chef Adrian Miller, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate At A Time

The yam is a delicious and nutritious root vegetable that’s foundational to West African food traditions. When West African people were captured, kidnapped and brought to the United States in the bondage of chattel slavery, captors loaded ships with the vegetable as a food source. Enslaved Africans used the words nyami, nyam or enyame, and over time that name was shortened to the term yam. Whole yams were roasted outdoors over fire for meals, and eventually pies were cooked for enslavers. The similar-tasting sweet potato, already in the U.S. from Christopher Columbus’ time, was also adopted as a favorite among unfree people — however, the two are definitely different, read this fascinating article on yam vs. sweet potato.  Adrian Miller writes in his book Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate, “Though it wasn’t the yam that was so popular back home, it was close enough. West Africa is a yam based culture…Sweet potatoes were embraced because [people] couldn’t get the true tropical yams.” The sweet potato became a comforting substitute and a connection to some of the flavors of home. After emancipation, when African American cooks gained more access to their own equipment and refined ingredients, they continued the tradition of baking with yams and sweet potatoes — especially the pie.

These deep roots became the foundation of a strong tradition in African American food culture. Miller continues, “It’s just one of those foods that evokes deep, deep nostalgia for either family situations or communal situations…It’s a taste of home. It’s a taste of church. It’s the taste of family reunions. You know those settings where you can kind of escape from everything else that’s happening in the world. You’ve got this bond, you’re feeling the love.”  Our organization draws on this same spirit of the extraordinary, sustaining and transformational power of everyday creativity and resilience. We are guided by the pie’s tradition of simplicity, community, comfort and love. 

Pie Activists of the Past. Educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune (born to enslaved parents) was known for her creativity and resourcefulness. In the early 1900s, she sold sweet potato pies from her bicycle to help raise funds for a school for Black girls. Today, Bethune-Cookman University remains as her legacy in Daytona, Florida. Read more about the remarkable Ms. Bethune, whose statue is now at the U.S. capitol. The sweet potato comfort pie was also a staple of Georgia Gilmore’s “Club from Nowhere,” which sold baked goods and other dishes to fund gas, repairs and insurance for cars during the year-plus-long Montgomery bus boycott.


Rose McGee’s Sweet Potato Comfort Pie


Makes Two 9” Pies

  • 4 medium size sweet potatoes, cooked
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 unbaked pie shells

Use a Hand-Mixer or KitchenAid™ Type Mixer

  1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees;
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mash the cooked sweet potatoes.
  3. Blend in sugar. Blend in eggs. Blend in melted butter.
  4. One at a time, add next 6 ingredients; mix well.
  5. Pour into pie shells.
  6. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 60- minutes.
  7. Remove from oven. Allow pies to set (firm) for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Eat warm or allow to cool longer before eating.

Note: Sweet potato pie can be left at room temperature up to two days without refrigeration. Can be refrigerated up to one week and remain fresh. Can also be frozen.

Rose McGee's Sweet Potato Comfort Pie + Rush City Bakery

Sweet Potato Comfort Pies
are now available to order ONLINE.

For a limited time, our delicious sweet potato pies can be ordered from Rush City Bakery who says, “Rush City Bakery is honored using Rose McGee’s award-winning sweet potato pie recipe, yet we also realize commercial production is not “exactly” the same flavor and coloring as those made from Rose’s own hands in her own kitchen.”

Sweet Potato Comfort Pies are shipped frozen to ensure freshness and to remain intact with an expedient 1 to 2 day delivery in the continental U.S.A.


$49.99 includes frozen shipping costs. A percentage of each pie sold goes to Sweet Potato Comfort Pie®: a catalyst for caring and developing community.


Rose McGee’s traditional sweet potato pie recipe made with fresh non-preservative ingredients. Gluten-Free pies additional $4.00.

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie Poem

by Pastor Roslyn Harmon  |  Circle of Healing Ministries, 2014

From the community of Golden Valley, Minnesota to wherever you reside

may this sweet potato pie soothe

and warm your insides.

Take time to laugh, cry and

remember those you love,

but never forget your

strength that comes from above.

From family to community

and community to your heart

unity and peace is where

comfort and joy start.

So today be BLESSED

remember to eat, pray and love

as you partake in making a difference,

for there is much to be proud of. Enjoy!

How sweet potato pie became African Americans’ Thanksgiving dessert