Sweet Potato Versus Pumpkin: The Great Southern Debate

I knew it was a thing to have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.  But growing up, we did not in our household. My family always had sweet potato pie as Thanksgiving dessert.  Due to popular culture in film and television shows I honestly thought that pumpkin pie was just a Yankee thing.  

Then the advent of the pumpkin spice lattes happened.  So now pumpkin is the big thing everywhere it seems. So with Thanksgiving less than a week away, let’s have a chat about these two holiday favorites. 

Sweet Potato vs Pumpkin
Sweet Potato Pie and Pumpkin all share that beautiful orange color.

Sweet Potato It’s a Southern Things

There are few reasons people believe that sweet potato is such a popular Thanksgiving food in the southeast.  It can be found on tables from Louisiana to Georgia. For one thing, it is grown easily and cheaply. Another explanation is that African slaves were able to adapt the recipes for the yams of their home continent with the sweet potato.  

Some families have pie or casserole recipes that have been handed down for generations.  Often these recipes are simple with similar ingredients with pumpkin pie. This quote from chef Gregory Cole in this food article

“If you give someone a sweet potato pie or bring one to someone’s house, that’s love.”

Sweet Potato versus Pumpkin
Sweet Potato is wonderful baked, sweet, and even fried!

Is There REALLY a Difference?

Some argue that there is little or no difference between the taste of pumpkin and sweet potato.  However, there are some big differences if you look at them before they are mushed to be cooked. In the squash family pumpkin certainly looks more attractive to the tuber family of the sweet potato.  

As of now, 42 different types of pumpkins exist, while only 5 sweet potato varieties exist. (This despite over 4,000 varieties of potatoes!)   There is even a white sweet potato I discovered at the Woolmarket Produce Stand a few months ago! Both host a range of health benefits.  

Sweet Potato Versus Pumpkin
This year, I ordered a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

How I Like Them:

I enjoy both in their own way.  I love sweet potato casseroles and pies.  However, I feel like my southerner citizenship may be revoked for ordering a pumpkin pie this year. ( It is from Le Bakery on Oak Street, and I know it will be delicious.)

Like any good former sorority girl and teacher, I enjoy a good pumpkin spice latte.  Now they are super sweet so I usually get them with soy and half the syrup. This year, Starbucks released a pumpkin cold brew with foam.  It is delicious and the D’Iberville Target sold out the first day it was released.

I also enjoy a good pumpkin beer.  There are some good pumpkin beers made because of the craft beer movement that is finally becoming a thing in the southeast.  However, pumpkin beer has been made in America since the 1770s!

Lazy Magnolia also has a Sweet Potato Stout if you are interested in something different.  Don’t forget to give sweet potato fries a try. I find them enjoyable whether they are at Southport Line or JFK Airport.  

Sweet Potato vs Pumpkin
Pumpkin Cheesecake

It’s All Delicious Anyway

Honestly, I like both sweet potato and pumpkin equally.  They both represent fall comfort food at its best! As long as there is a dollop of cool whip on top.  

What will be served at your Thanksgiving this year? Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie? 

Sweet Potato vs Pumpkin
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