Brown Butter Is The Ingredient Your Sweet Potato Pie Has Been Missing

Sweet potato pie in pie dish with a slice taken out
Sweet potato pie in pie dish with a slice taken out - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Sweet potato pie is one of those culinary delights that sounds like it might not quite work — after all, very few vegetables get a starring role on the dessert section of a menu. And yet, a single bite will convert even the most skeptical with the tuber's natural sweetness complemented by the addition of spices all served in a flakey crust. But the ingredient that's hiding in plain sight that will elevate your pie to the next level of deliciousness is browned butter.

The reasoning here has to do with flavor affinities. Some of the sweet potato's favorite culinary dance partners happen to be nuts (from pecan to hazelnut to almond, the orange root is a fairly equal opportunity nut lover), as well as rich, decadent caramel (think about those sweet potato casseroles with the brown sugar caramelized in the oven). Since brown butter's most prominent flavor notes are nut and caramel, a brown butter sweet potato pie leverages all those good culinary synergies to create a superstar version of something we already know and love. Additionally, brown butter, which has less moisture than the straight-from-the-fridge yellow stuff, can help create an additional richness in your filling that's well worth the minimal effort it requires to make.

Read more: Cake Hacks Every Baker Will Wish They Knew Sooner

Making Brown Butter

Butter in frying pan on stovetop
Butter in frying pan on stovetop - Filmbildfabrik/Shutterstock

To give your pie the brown butter makeover it deserves doesn't even require any extra ingredients or equipment. It's one simple step that turns your butter from a standard-issue yellow stick to a bar of buttery gold.

Making brown butter is simply a matter of cooking your butter in a skillet over medium heat until melts and begins to bubble and foam. This means the liquid in your butter is evaporating, leaving behind a concentrated flavor, while the milk solids are getting toasty in the bottom of the pan. You'll want to be cautious not to burn your butter, so having a light-colored pan can help you keep an eye on things (pull from heat if you see your solids turning black). When it's ready to go, it'll produce a heady fragrance that's usually considered nutty and sweet.

Keep in mind that you'll lose some of the volume of your butter to this evaporation (about 2 tablespoons per stick), so you'll want to start out with a little more than a traditional sweet potato pie recipe calls for. Once you have your butter cooled and ready to go, mix it right in with your sweet potato puree, choice of spices and flavors (like vanilla extract), and dry ingredients like sugar and flour, along with the eggs and milk that are calls for. It's truly as easy as pie.

More Ways To Elevate Your Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet potato pie with torched marshmallow fluff
Sweet potato pie with torched marshmallow fluff - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Beyond the boost of brown butter, you can take your sweet potato pie in so many directions. Classic spices include nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove for a little kick, but you can even bring the heat to balance all that inherent sweetness with some cayenne, and even smoke your pie if you have the equipment. And while the traditional style is always a sight to behold, you can brighten things up with a purple sweet potato pie. For a little extra oomph, hit your pie filling with a splash of your favorite booze, like bourbon.

As far as toppings go, it never hurts to pile on the vanilla whipped cream or break out the kitchen blow torch to make a toasted meringue or marshmallow fluff. If you want to really play up that brown butter, nutty caramel quality, make a version spiked with caramel sauce and layered with pecan caramel streusel for the ultimate decadence. After all, with brown butter and sweet potatoes in the mix, you're getting your dairy and vegetables, too.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.