Hawaii public schools celebrate Thanksgiving with local Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie

  • Make this delicious Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie for your family and friends during the holidays. (Dana Shapiro/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Celebrate Thanksgiving with a nutritious local favorite. (Dana Shapiro/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Big Island's locally grown Okinawan sweet potatoes will be included in student meals this month. A special recipe was created by Keolu Elementary's Cafeteria Manager Edita Montgomery and her cafeteria staff. (Hawaii Department of Education/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Hawaii public schools will celebrate the upcoming holiday season with an Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie as part of November’s Aina Pono: Harvest of the Month program.

The pie will be served on a day selected by participating schools, which includes more than 200 cafeterias statewide. Bake this delicious dessert at home for your family and friends.


“This is the first time we’ll be including local Okinawan sweet potatoes from the Big Island in students’ meals,” says Dexter Kishida, Farm to School coordinator, School Food Services Branch. “We wanted to create a local spin-off of the traditional pumpkin pie that many enjoy during Thanksgiving.”

Keolu Elementary School Cafeteria Manager Edita Montgomery and her cafeteria staff created the original recipe, which was modified to enhance the pie’s flavor, accommodate mass production and meet nutritional guidelines. As a skilled baker, Montgomery said it was also important for the recipe to use ingredients that are available to schools.

“The whole wheat flour that schools normally use changed the taste of the crust, so we adjusted the ingredients by modifying it after our shortbread cookie recipe to improve the flavor,” said Montgomery. “It’s an honor to be a part of the Aina Pono program as we transform student meals and incorporate more locally grown ingredients.”

Kishida added that one of the great things about the Aina Pono: Harvest of the Month program is how students have an opportunity to try new local foods and expand their palate.

“As a child, exposure to different types of food is highly dependent on what the child’s family members provide for them,” he said. “If students haven’t tried Okinawan sweet potatoes before, this is a chance to try something new. We’re thankful for our sponsors and community partners who make it possible to continue this program and allow our students to explore the different flavors our local agriculture community has to offer.”

Locally grown products previously featured in the program include beef, bananas, papayas and pineapples.

The state Department of Education continues to increase local food in student meals through its Aina Pono programs, including Farm to School and Harvest of the Month. These programs help to connect students with the ‘aina (land) through food, while using products from Hawaii’s local agricultural community.

The original Farm to School Initiative was spearheaded by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office in 2015, after Senate Bill 376 was signed into law as Act 218. Today, the Farm to School Initiative is included under Aina Pono, which features the department’s School Food Services Branch’s other educational programs, test kitchens, meal programs, menu planning, nutrition, school gardens and more.

For more information about the Aina Pono programs, visit https://bit.ly/2pj4ntD.

Aina Pono: Harvest of the Month Recipe

Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie

The provided recipe has been adapted for home use, courtesy of Dana Shapiro at Hawaii Ulu Cooperative. It’s not too late to celebrate Thanksgiving with a nutritious local favorite.

Servings: 12


Pie Crust

3 tablespoons softened butter

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon water, as needed

Pie Filling

1/2 pound Okinawan sweet potato (1 1/2 cups, mashed)

1 large egg

3/4 cup evaporated milk (6 oz. can)

1 tablespoon butter, softened

pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoons orange juice, fresh squeezed or concentrate

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of ground cloves or nutmeg


Pie Crust

Mix butter and sugar on low speed until combined.

Add vanilla and increase speed to high; cream for 5 minutes. Add flour, mix on low to combine. Do not over mix. Add water as needed to bring dough together.

Lightly coat pan with cooking oil spray or butter.

Spread and flatten dough directly in 9-inch cake pan or pie tin. Note that the dough will be soft and delicate and should not be overworked. Dock crust by poking dough several times with a fork.

Bake at 375 degrees in middle rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Edge of crust should appear light brown in color.

Pie Filling

Steam, peel and mash sweet potato by hand. Use mixer on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until very smooth and free from lumps.

Add eggs, milk, butter, salt, brown sugar, flour, orange juice, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until smooth and well blended.

Pour pie filling into crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce to 375 degrees for 15 minutes until inserted knife comes out clean.


Cool and enjoy.

Nutrition information: Serving Size: 1 piece; 90 calories; 4 g total fat (saturated fat: 2 g); 14 g carbohydrates; 1 g fiber; 1 g protein; 11 mg sodium. Click here to view the carbohydrate count.