Apple, key lime, and pumpkin get all the love. Today, on National Pi(e) Day, why not celebrate with a Maryland classic: White Potato Pie! The origins of the White Potato Pie are murky, with some recipes noting that it was a poor man’s dessert, created by those who could not afford high-class ingredients. Joyce White, a culinary historian and consultant – who also leads The Great Maryland Recipe Hunt initiative – suspects this pie has its origins in Maryland’s agricultural history.

Tobacco was the dominant crop in the region, but growing the plant in the same plot of land year after year depletes the nutrients in the soil, so proper crop rotation was key. Maryland became known for growing corn, soybeans, potatoes, and wheat, among other things. In the years where the potato crop was abundant, Marylanders looked for ways to ensure it didn’t go to waste, and thus, the white potato pie was born.

According to White, most recipes for this sweet treat are simple and resemble those for sweet potato and even pumpkin pie. They involve mashed potatoes, eggs, sugar, lemon, nutmeg, and vanilla. White notes that this pie would have been easy to make and transport, and could withstand summer heat after a summer potato harvest.

Eastern Shore White Potato Pie

A Maryland White Potato Pie. Photo from A Taste of History with Joyce White 

Potato pies date to at least the seventeenth-century and were frequently made from white or sweet potatoes and contained many ingredients we use in pies today, like sugar, raisins, spices, eggs, and butter. While sweet potato pie is most commonly baked, there is a long tradition of white potato pie in Maryland. Here is a recipe for sweet Eastern Shore White Potato Pie via Joyce White:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • 3 cups mashed white potatoes
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups light cream (half & half)
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. of nutmeg
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon

Combine potatoes, cream, eggs, and sugar. Beat at a high speed until well blended. Add flavorings and spices. Pour into two 9” prepared pastry shells. Bake 1 hour or until silver knife inserted in center comes out clean.