A good biscuit can make a meal. You know this to be true, right?
Of all the dishes that I’ve made – and eaten – at Thanksgiving meals over the years, it’s often the bread that makes me happiest, and none so much as a warm biscuit.
This year, I’m making Erika Council’s sweet potato biscuits from Bryant Terry’s groundbreaking recent book, “Black Food.” I knew I’d make them the first time I saw them in the book’s prologue section because I’m a longtime sweet potato lover – and because Council has some of the strongest biscuit cred in the business.
A North Carolina native, she’s the force behind the website Southern Soufflé, she has her own biscuit company (Bomb Biscuit in Atlanta), and biscuit-making runs through her veins. Her grandmother, Mildred “Mama Dip” Council, in the 1970s founded the acclaimed Mama Dip’s Kitchen in Chapel Hill, N.C., which has been operated by three generations of Councils since she died in 2018.
So when I read in “Black Food” that sweet potato biscuits were one of her grandmother’s most popular dishes and that Council had adapted them to make them vegan – using coconut milk – well, I was sold. And they didn’t disappoint: They’re as easy to put together as the simplest rolled-and-cut biscuits can be, and they puff up nicely. These are soft, fluffy biscuits, not the super-flaky mile-high kind (which also can be glorious), and they get extra oomph from just enough nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar to play up the sweet potato.
Coconut milk acts as both liquid and fat. Do you taste it? I know some of you will ask. Maybe just a hint. What you really taste is warmth, through and through. At Thanksgiving, that’s what I want.
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Vegan Sweet Potato Coconut Biscuits
Active time: 25 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes, plus 2 hours for chilling
10 servings (makes 10 biscuits)
These soft biscuits have a beautiful light orange hue from the sweet potatoes and a hint of fall flavor from the spices. Serve slathered with your favorite vegan butter.
Make Ahead: The sweet potato needs to be cooked, mashed and chilled with the coconut milk for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day before making the biscuits. The biscuit dough can be frozen: After cutting out the biscuits, freeze them on a baking sheet, then transfer to zip-top bags. Bake directly from frozen, for 18 to 20 minutes.
Storage Notes: Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 months.
1 large sweet potato (14 ounces/400 grams), scrubbed
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) full-fat coconut milk, divided, plus more as needed
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
Prick the sweet potato in five or six places with a sharp knife. Place it on a microwave-safe plate and microwave it on HIGH for 5 minutes, rotating it halfway through. Check to see if it’s fork-tender, and continue microwaving in 1-minute increments until it is. Let it cool enough to handle, then cut it in half, scoop out the flesh into a small bowl and mash. Add 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) of the coconut milk and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate until cold, 2 hours.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour your work surface.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add the chilled sweet potato-coconut milk mixture and mix just until the dough comes together. If the dough is not holding together, add more coconut milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface, flour your hands, and press the dough together with the heel of your hands. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1-inch thick.
Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into rounds. Place the rounds about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly brush the tops of the biscuits with the remaining 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) of coconut milk.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the biscuits are puffed and the bottoms are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Nutrition information per serving (1 biscuit) | Calories: 157; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 201 mg; Carbohydrates: 30 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 4 g; Protein: 4 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
Adapted from a recipe by Erika Council in “Black Food” by Bryant Terry (4 Color Books, 2021).