These old-fashioned Southern-style Sweet Potato Biscuits are flaky, fluffy, and just like Grandma made them! Stir together the easy recipe from scratch for a perfect side dish with a holiday turkey, a tasty vehicle for a country ham sandwich, or a quick make-ahead breakfast. These simple tips will teach you how to make sweet potato biscuits that rise a mile high!
Sweet Potato Biscuit Recipe
Biscuits are a way of life in the South, and every home cook has her favorite version. Here in Virginia, old fashioned sweet potato biscuits date all of the way back to our founding fathers. In fact, Thomas Jefferson's sweet potato biscuits were served at the first meeting of the First Continental Congress in 1774, and are still enjoyed to this day!
While some homemade sweet potato buttermilk biscuits recipes can be dense and flat (thanks to the added moisture from the mashed sweet potato), that is certainly not the case here! With a couple of simple tricks, you can make biscuits from scratch that are perfectly golden brown and slightly crisp on the outside, with light, airy layers on the inside. They are truly the best sweet potato biscuits!
Pair them with country ham for a simple appetizer, snack or breakfast; serve them alongside other roll recipes for Thanksgiving or Christmas; or add them to your bread basket at your next Sunday supper. These crowd-pleasing sweet-and-savory buttermilk biscuits are a convenient and simple treat that you can prep ahead and stash in the freezer for busier days.
How to Make Sweet Potato Biscuits from Scratch
This easy sweet potato biscuit recipe comes together in exactly the same way that you would prepare traditional Southern Buttermilk Biscuits -- with one exception: you'll add mashed sweet potatoes to the dough.
Ingredients for Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Biscuits
- All-purpose flour: I prefer an extra-fine soft winter wheat flour made by White Lily. This low-protein, low-gluten flour gives Southern buttermilk biscuits that perfectly crisp-on-the-outside, light-on-the-inside texture.
- Baking powder and baking soda: the leavening that helps the biscuits rise.
- Kosher salt: highlights the flavors in the biscuits.
- Sugar: just enough for a touch of sweetness, or add more for sweeter biscuits.
- Butter: for great flavor! Make sure that it’s very cold (or frozen).
- Shortening: for puff! Keep this very cold, too!
- Buttermilk: for its acidity, as well as its fat and liquid content. Make sure that it's cold before adding it to the dough!
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes: add flavor, subtle sweetness, and body to the biscuits.
What Type of Sweet Potatoes to Use?
I prefer using roasted, mashed sweet potatoes for this old-fashioned recipe. The texture of the sweet potatoes is ideal and they're not too wet. That said, if you don't have time for the added step of roasting your own potatoes, you can substitute with canned yams (drained, patted dry, and mashed) or with canned sweet potato puree.
To roast your own potatoes at home, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Poke holes all over the outside of two large (or 3 small) sweet potatoes. Place on the foil-lined baking sheet and roast until tender, about 45-60 minutes. Cut a slit in the top of each potato to release steam. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and mash to a smooth puree. Chill the mashed sweet potato before using it in the biscuit recipe.
Step 1: Sift Dry Ingredients
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
Step 2: Cut in Butter, Shortening and Sweet Potatoes
Use a pastry cutter, two forks or a food processor to cut the butter, shortening and mashed sweet potato into the dry ingredients until completely incorporated. You will still see flecks of butter and shortening throughout, which is good!
Step 3: Add Buttermilk
Gradually add the buttermilk, stirring with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. The total amount of buttermilk that you need will vary depending on how much moisture is in your sweet potatoes, so add it slowly and stop when the dough comes together. If the dough feels too wet, just add some extra flour.
Step 4: Cut Out Biscuits
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead the dough for 1 minute (folding it over on itself). This process will help add those flaky layers to the biscuits. Feel free to flour your hands, the countertop, and the dough itself, as necessary, to prevent sticking.
Then pat the dough to ¾-inch thickness and use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. I like to use a 2-inch cutter to make small, tall biscuits, but you can use any size that you like. Arrange the cut biscuits in a parchment-lined round cake pan with sides touching. Brush the tops with a little bit of melted butter (this will help them brown in the oven).
Step 5: Bake
Bake in a 450 degree F oven for 12-16 minutes. The biscuits are done when the tops are golden brown and you can see that the inside layers are cooked through — not doughy or wet. Once they come out of the oven, brush the biscuits with additional melted butter (for great flavor), and serve warm!
What to serve with Sweet Potato Biscuits
Biscuits are a staple in many homes because they’re so versatile! Serve them on their own for breakfast with honey butter, jam, or apple butter. Add eggs on the side, or stir up a skillet of sausage gravy. In Virginia, country ham biscuits are a classic snack or meal at any time of day!
For a regular family dinner, or on a Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday table, here are a few entrées that go well with sweet potato biscuits:
- Crispy Fried Chicken
- Pecan-Crusted Chicken
- Virginia Crab Imperial
- Roasted Turkey Breast or Slow Cooker Turkey
- Cola Glazed Ham or Virginia Brown Sugar Baked Ham
- Southern Chicken Salad
- Crock Pot Chicken and Gravy
- Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce
- Shrimp and Grits
- Slow Cooker Cowboy Pork and Beans
- Cornflake Chicken
- Crock Pot Ribs
- Pulled BBQ Chicken in the Crock Pot
- Crab Cakes
- Shrimp Creole
- Beef Barbecue
- Chili con Carne or “Good Luck” Southern Chili
- Smothered Pork Chops
- Southern Fried Catfish
- Sheet Pan Low Country Boil
- Smoked Sausage Pasta Bake
- Sweet Heat Southern Glazed Salmon
- Mississippi Roasted Pork Shoulder
Make Ahead Sweet Potato Biscuits
While they’re best served warm, straight-from-the-oven, you can bake the biscuits up to 3 days in advance and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Reheat day-old biscuits by placing them on a baking sheet in a 300 degree F oven for about 10 minutes.
Allow the biscuits to cool to room temperature, then wrap tightly in an airtight container or Ziploc freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter overnight or in the microwave for a few seconds.
Shortening, Lard or Butter?
This is the buttermilk biscuit recipe that I grew up with, but with one exception: I add Crisco shortening, whereas my parents use all butter. The most traditional Southern home cooks will tell you that old-fashioned sweet potato biscuits were made with lard, which is a pork product, and therefore has a nice flavor. You can substitute with lard instead of shortening in this recipe, if that’s your preference. The shortening (or lard) helps the biscuits get nice and puffy in the oven, while the butter adds great flavor. As a result, I think the best sweet potato biscuits include both shortening (or lard) and butter.
If you only have butter in your house, you can omit the shortening and just use ¼ cup of salted butter.
What does buttermilk do for biscuits?
Buttermilk is a classic Southern pantry staple that we always keep on hand! From fluffy pancakes to salad dressing, hoe cakes to fried chicken, it’s an important ingredient in so many of our favorite recipes — including these flaky sweet potato biscuits! The buttermilk serves a couple of purposes that you can’t achieve with regular milk:
- Flavor: the buttermilk gives the biscuits a nice, subtle tanginess
- Acidity: the acid in buttermilk helps the biscuits rise, because the acid reacts with the alkaline baking soda, causing it to give off carbon dioxide. Baking powder will also react with buttermilk’s acidity to a small degree.
The amount of buttermilk that you need will vary, depending on the day and depending on how much moisture is in your sweet potatoes. Start with ½ cup, and then add more if the dough feels too dry and crumbly. If it’s humid or rainy, there’s already moisture in the air and in the flour, so you will likely need less liquid in your dough. On a cold, dry winter day, you may need ¾ cup of buttermilk to bring the dough together. If the dough feels too wet and sticky, don't worry -- you can sprinkle in extra flour until you get to that firm consistency.
- Some sweet potato biscuits include warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves. You can even keep it simple with a dash of pumpkin pie spice.
- Omit the sugar for a savory biscuit, or add more sugar for a sweeter biscuit.
- Use canned sweet potato puree instead of the roasted, mashed sweet potatoes. Just make sure to pat it very dry before adding it to the dough.
- Add cooked, chopped bacon to the dough for a salty, smoky contrast to the sweet biscuits.
Tips for the Best Sweet Potato Biscuit Recipe
- Use a round cake pan. While you can bake these biscuits on a rimmed baking sheet, I find that they rise really high when tucked inside a round pan. The biscuits "climb" vertically on the sides of the cake pan, and don't spread horizontally. This creates tall, fluffy, flaky sweet potato biscuits.
- Keep the ingredients COLD. It’s really important for the butter, shortening, sweet potatoes and buttermilk to stay as cold as possible. Leave them in the refrigerator until the last possible minute, and try not to touch the dough too much with your fingers, which can cause the butter and shortening to start to melt. You want those little pieces of butter and shortening to melt in the oven, releasing steam and reacting with the baking soda to form bubbles of carbon dioxide, which help the biscuits rise a mile high!
- Grate Frozen Butter. My dad always freezes his butter and grates it into the dry ingredients, rather than cutting it in with a pastry cutter or forks. Feel free to use that trick to keep your butter (and shortening) really cold, too!
- Knead the Dough. By folding the dough over itself (or “laminating”) for about a minute, you’ll add those nice flaky layers to the biscuits. No need for any fancy process or technique — just push out, fold back over on itself, and repeat. Don’t do this for too long, though, or you’ll get the dough too warm.
- Don’t Twist the Biscuit Cutter. Firmly press the cutter down into the dough, but don’t actually twist. Twisting the biscuit cutter seals off the edges of the biscuits and they therefore will not rise as high.
- Arrange the Biscuits with Sides Touching. Place the biscuits in the pan so that they’re all touching their neighbors. This will help them “climb” in the oven so that you get that great, tall lift!
More Biscuit Recipes that You'll Love
- Drop Biscuits
- Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
- Aunt Bee’s 3-Ingredient Buttermilk Biscuits (with self-rising flour)
- Cheddar Biscuits with Chives and Bacon
- Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Sweet Potato Biscuits
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (such as White Lily brand), plus extra for rolling and kneading
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons salted butter, diced into small pieces and chilled, plus about 2 tablespoons of melted butter for brushing tops
- 2 tablespoons shortening, diced into small pieces and chilled
- ½ cup – ¾ cup cold buttermilk
- 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes, chilled (see note below to roast and mash your own sweet potatoes)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a round 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper; set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the butter, shortening, and mashed sweet potato into the flour mixture until incorporated. You will still see flakes of butter and shortening throughout, which is good!
- Gradually add the buttermilk (a small amount at a time), stirring with a wooden spoon until a fairly wet, sticky dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 1 minute, adding flour to the counter, the dough, and your hands, as necessary, to prevent sticking. Roll or pat to ¾-inch thickness. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds (I use a 2-inch cutter for small, tall biscuits). Firmly press the cutter down into the dough, but do not twist. Twisting the biscuit cutter seals off the edges of the biscuits and they therefore will not rise as high. Gather together scraps, and repeat to cut out more biscuits with remaining dough.
- Arrange biscuits (with sides touching) in the cake pan. Place the biscuits in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes (if you have time) to chill before popping them in the oven. Brush the tops of the biscuits with a little bit of the melted butter.
- Bake for 12-16 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and dough is cooked through. Brush the tops with additional melted butter and serve warm.