This decadent Sweet Potato Caramel Cheesecake is a must-try dessert recipe for anyone who loves the warming flavors of pecan pie. A buttery pecan graham cracker crust, creamy sweet potato cheesecake and a drool-worthy homemade caramel sauce makes the perfect trifecta of textures and flavors.
Due to my Southern roots, growing up in Florida, I’ve always had a fondness for pecan pie. In fact, I’ve made several versions of this classic Southern dish before. Try this delightful dairy-free Classic Southern Vegan Pecan Pie or my Pecan Pie Cheesecake Bites if you’re in the mood for more buttery, nutty goodness after trying this sweet potato caramel cheesecake.
Sweet potatoes are another popular and beloved Southern dish. So I decided to unite these two family favorites into one delectable caramel-covered pecan sweet potato cheesecake. I think you’ll be glad I did! Every bite has a bit of buttery crunch from the nutty graham cracker crust, creamy luscious sweet potato cheesecake filling, and a slick of sticky-sweet homemade caramel sauce on top. It’s the perfect combination of flavors for the sweet lover in your life.
You cn serve this sweet treat for birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving, or just on a Tuesday night because why not? It’s a dessert that works any time of year and is always a crowd-pleaser with kids and adults.
Pecan-Graham Cracker Cheesecake Crust
The first layer of this three-layered masterpiece is the nutty graham cracker crust.
To make the crust, you’ll need:
Graham crackers. Use 12-14 cracker sheets for this recipe.
Toasted pecans. you can use more pecans if you like, just reduce the amount of graham crackers accordingly so you have 3 cups total. See the recipe notes for how to toast your pecans. Toasting the nuts is important to bring out their deep, rich flavor.
Brown sugar. Use organic for the best flavor and quality. Brown sugar gives just the right amount of caramel flavor to the crust.
Cinnamon. For a hint of warmth to compliment the pecans.
Butter. Choose unsalted and make sure your butter is melted so it can bind the nuts and crackers together for the crust.
To make the crust, you’ll need a food processor. Simply blend everything together until you have a coarse meal. Don’t worry if there are a few chunks, that will only add to the crunchiness of the cheesecake crust.
Press your crust into the bottom of a 7 to 8-inch springform pan that’s been well greased with butter for easy removal. Then pre-bake the crust for just five minutes. The crust shouldn’t darken too much, but it should set nicely. Then let the crust cool while you make the sweet potato cheesecake filling.
Sweet Potato Cheesecake
While your butter crust bakes and cools, get to work mixing up the sweet potato cheesecake layer.
Cream cheese. Make sure your cream cheese is fully softened to room temperature for easy blending.
Sweet potato puree. You can make your own easy sweet potato puree, see how below. Or, f you’re short on time, you can substitute canned pumpkin puree.
Vanilla extract. A hint of vanilla highlights the natural buttery flavor of pecans.
Eggs. Use room-temperature eggs so that your cheesecake filling doesn’t break when it’s mixed.
Low-fat sour cream. This adds tons of delicious tangy flavor to the mix.
Sea salt. I love the play of salty and sweet here!
Cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. These three add the perfect amount of warming spice without overwhelming the nutty flavor of pecans.
I recommend making the cheesecake layer with an electric mixer. Either a stand mixer or a hand-held mixer will do the trick. I like to start using the paddle attachment to cream the cream cheese, brown sugar and flour. I’ll continue with the paddle to work in the sweet potato, vanilla, eggs, sour cream, and spices.
At this point, the mixture will be light and fluffy. Then, to really work air into the batter for a light and creamy cheesecake, I’ll switch to the whisk attachment and beat for a good five minutes.
Finally, transfer the sweet potato cheesecake mixture into the cake pan with your pecan crust and bake!
The cake is done when the center is mostly set and a toothpick comes out clean.
How to Keep Cheesecake from Cracking
I have a few tricks to prevent cracks in a cheesecake:
I recommend placing a pot or baking dish of water in the oven when the cheesecake cooks. The steam evaporates and helps the custard cook evenly all the way through. Otherwise, if your cooking environment is too dry, the edges may cook quickly and dry out before the center cooks through, which can cause cracking.
After the cheesecake is done baking, turn the oven off and leave the cake inside for five minutes with the door halfway open.
Then remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for up to 15 minutes on a wire rack.
When it’s fully cooled out of the cake pan, wrap the cake with plastic wrap and let it set in the fridge. If you have time, the cheesecake will have the best texture if it chills in the fridge overnight.
Homemade Caramel Sauce to Decorate Sweet Potato Cheesecake
The final step in this recipe is a dreamy and luxe homemade caramel sauce.
Heavy whipping cream
A pinch of sea salt
Making caramel is like a fun science experiment. It does require close attention to the stove, however, as caramel can go from solid sugar to burnt in no time. I recommend using low heat once your brown sugar is well melted. And when you add the cold cream, be prepared for some splattering. If you have young helpers in the kitchen, have them stand away from the stove for this step.
This silky smooth caramel sauce should cool for about 20 minutes on the counter, then in the fridge for at least an hour before you decorate your sweet potato cheesecake with it.
To decorate this masterpiece, pour the sauce over the cheesecake. I like to place the cake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to catch any drips. The caramel sauce should spread out into a smooth, glossy layer. You can add a sprinkle of toasted pecans on top for a nice garnish and a bit more texture if you like.
More Delicious Pecan Treats
If you can’t get enough buttery and sweet pecan dessert recipes, I have plenty more where this came from! Try these treats next:
2cupsGraham crackers, chopped(About 12-14 Graham Crackers)
1cuptoasted pecans(Add more if desired; just reduce Graham Crackers amount; See Notes!)
3Tbspsorganic brown sugar
4-5Tbspsunsalted butter, melted
SWEET POTATO CHEESECAKE:
16ozs.organic cream cheese, softened at room temp.(That's 2 packs!)
1cupsweet potato puree(See Notes!)
3/4cuporganic brown sugar
4Tbspsorganic all-purpose flour
2largeorganic eggs, at room temp.
3Tbspslow-fat or full-fat sour cream
HOMEMADE CARAMEL SAUCE:
1cuporganic brown sugar
6Tbspsunsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2cuporganic heavy whipping cream
pinch ofsea salt
Toasted pecans(See Notes!)
PECAN GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a 7 or 8-inch cheesecake pan by lightly greasing it with butter.
Grind the pecans + graham crackers, until almost finely ground (it’s OK to leave a few medium chunks, if your’e a lover a little crunch!). Combine the Pecan-Graham cracker mixture, cinnamon, brown sugar and melted butter in a small bowl and mix with a spatula until well incorporated.
Add the mixture into the prepared pan and press down into the bottom with your fingers (focusing on the middle) to ensure that it’s perfectly covering the bottom and sides (like a deep well).
Bake the crust for about 5 minutes and then remove from oven and allow it to cool until you’re ready to use.
SWEET POTATO CHEESECAKE:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together on low speed: the cream cheese, brown sugar, and flour until combined. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl if needed.
Next, add the sweet potato puree, vanilla extract and the first egg and beat slowly until mostly combined. Then add the remaining egg and mix until well combined, still mixing everything on low speed. Now, add the sour cream and spices, and continue mixing.
Change mixer attachment to a whisk and beat on medium-high speed for 5 minutes or so until completely smooth and lump-free.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan until 3/4 filled. NOTE: Leaving a bit of room at the top prevents the cheesecake from spilling over while baking.
Bake the cheesecake for 35-40 minutes (until center comes out mostly clean when tested with a toothpick or knife), then turn off the oven and allow it to sit in the oven for another 5 minutes with the oven door halfway open to avoid cheesecake from deflating. NOTE: When baking, I always prepare a medium pot with water and add it to the oven as well, to keep cheesecake temperature even and to add moisture.
in the meantime, make your caramel sauce.
HOMEMADE CARAMEL SAUCE:
Heat the brown sugar in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and stir constantly using a rubber spatula until clumps are formed. Add butter and continue to stir until everything has melted and become a dark 'amber-like' color. Continue to stir consistently until fully melted and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes.
Now, slowly whisk in the heavy cream and continue stirring until well incorporated and sauce has fully thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before using. Set aside.
Once done, remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to continue to cool for another 15-20 minutes, before putting it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Once cheesecake has fully chilled, top with caramel sauce, and additional toasted pecans, if desired. Slice and enjoy.
Tips & Tricks
STORAGE: Leftover Cheesecake can be stored (tightly wrapped) in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. For best results, keep cheesecake in the freezer until the night before you’re ready to serve. Defrost by refrigerating.
STORAGE (CARAMEL SAUCE): Leftover caramel sauce can be stored in a tightly sealed mason jar for up to two weeks. When ready to use, simply reheat sauce in the microwave at 15 second intervals until softened and at room temp.
TOASTED PECANS: Add chopped pecans to a baking sheet and toasting them in the oven (400 degrees Fahrenheit) for 5-10 minutes, tossing them halfway to avoid browning on one side.
SWEET POTATOES: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Rinse sweet potatoes (about 2 medium-sized) and pat dry. Lightly coat potato with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and place in oven, baking for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until tender and juices begin to bubble outside of skin. Remove from oven, let cool for 10-15 minutes and slice in half. Remove sweet potato insides and place in a bowl, mashing it until “pureed”. Continue recipe.