Family Traditions: Sweet Potato Biscuits From a Southern Grandmother

December 26, 2018 Updated: January 9, 2019

Caroline Chambers, a food writer and cookbook author from North Carolina, now calls Carmel, California, home. But her sweet potato biscuits, a beloved family recipe, take her back to her Southern roots.

From Oct. 1 through Jan. 1, it’s sweet potato biscuit season in my family. As soon as the weather starts to cool, we break out our biscuit cutters and get to work making the easiest biscuits ever. I slotted them in the appetizer section of my new cookbook, “Just Married,” because that’s the way I associate them—cut into tiny biscuits, halved and stuffed with country ham and honey mustard, smooshed onto one of Mom’s big platters and covered in foil for transport—but they’re just as wonderful as a dinner roll substitute, or stuffed with eggs and bacon for breakfast.

My earliest memories of sweet potato biscuits involve my brother, sister, and me in an assembly line: one of us cutting the biscuits in half, the next swiping them with honey mustard, and the last placing a piece of country ham inside and closing it up. In these early memories, we were also always late to whatever holiday party Mom was bringing said biscuits to.

woman poses with two laughing daughters
The author with her mother and sister. (Courtesy of Caroline Chambers)

What started as my Southern maternal grandmother’s recipe was whittled down and simplified by my mother, who loves to eliminate recipe steps, crank up the oven heat to cook things faster, and use whatever ingredients are in her pantry to eliminate a trip to the grocery store. Often these “shortcuts” work against her (the amount of baked goods she has burned in her lifetime is truly shocking), but just as often, they wind up creating beautifully simple, easy to execute recipes, as is the case with these sweet potato biscuits.

Sweet potatoes are a staple in Southern cooking, especially at the holidays. Some families swear by a marshmallow-laden sweet potato casserole, some can’t live without sweet potato pie, and mine makes these sweet potato biscuits by the dozens. The recipe in my book dresses my mother’s recipe up a bit by layering a goat cheese honey mustard sauce, prosciutto (because it’s more accessible across the country than country ham), and arugula onto the biscuits, but if you’re running late for your holiday party, a swipe of honey mustard and a slab of salty cured meat are all you need.

grandmother and granddaughter
The author and her grandmother. (Courtesy of Caroline Chambers)

Sweet Potato Biscuits With Prosciutto, Honey-Mustard Goat Cheese, and Arugula

My grandmother raised five children and still managed to host beautiful dinner parties regularly for her friends and family. Her sweet potato biscuits are a timeless, sure-thing crowd pleaser. They’re still my mom’s go-to contribution to any potluck dinner. They may now become yours, too.

Makes 10 (2-inch) biscuits

For the sweet potato biscuits:

  • One 8-ounce sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk, as needed
  • 1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

For the honey-mustard goat cheese spread:

  • 4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 ounces prosciutto slices
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

To make the sweet potato biscuits: Place the sweet potato slices in a small pot or saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until very soft. Drain and transfer the sweet potato slices to a large bowl. Add the 3 tablespoons room-temperature butter and mash together.

In a separate large bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt. Add the flour mixture to the sweet potato mixture and use your clean hands to combine. If the dough holds together when pinched, it’s ready. If not, stir in 1 teaspoon of milk at a time until the dough holds together when pinched.

The amount of milk needed will depend on how moist your potatoes are.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Use clean hands to gather the dough into a ball and transfer it to the floured surface. Knead the dough into a smooth ball and use your hands to lightly pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Use a 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut out 10 biscuits from the dough, re-rolling the scraps a maximum of two times.

Place the biscuits 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to coat the biscuit tops with the 1 tablespoon melted butter and sprinkle with the sea salt. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the biscuit tops are golden brown. They will not rise significantly like other biscuits.

While the biscuits bake, make the honey-mustard goat cheese spread: In a small bowl, stir together the goat cheese, Dijon mustard, and honey. The spread will look lumpy at first; keep stirring until smooth.

Let the biscuits cool slightly, halve them, and spread the goat cheese mixture over the biscuit bottoms.

Divide the prosciutto and arugula evenly among the biscuits. Put the tops on the biscuits and serve.

Do Your Thing

Use a 4-inch biscuit cutter to make breakfast biscuits. Pile them high with scrambled eggs, Cheddar cheese, and bacon.

Cooking School

Biscuit bottoms burning? Place another baking sheet underneath the one the biscuits are on; your oven heat is just baking too strongly from the bottom, but this will fix it.

Make Ahead

Make the dough as much as 48 hours before baking the biscuits. Allow the dough to come up to room temperature and cut into biscuits before baking, otherwise add a couple of minutes to the cook time.

Recipe reprinted with permission from “Just Married” by Caroline Chambers. Copyright 2018. Published by Chronicle Books.

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