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Sweetie Pie: Learning to Love the Navy Bean Pie


Banana Bean Pie
You know those little ad words that google oh so sweetly places at the top of your email browser? Well, recently one of those intrigued us, because it was for a type of baked good we'd never heard of before: the navy bean pie. Now, upon first thought the idea of a navy bean pie isn't necessarily attractive, but then again, when you really think about it, does "sweet potato pie" or "zucchini cake" really sound delicious at first? So, we decided to give these bean pies a try.


Pie Tasting
OK, so what are they? According to Wikipedia, a bean pie is a "sweet custard pie whose filling consists of mashed beans—usually navy beans—sugar, butter, milk, and spices." But beyond that, where do these pies come from? While the bean pies are associated with soul food cuisine, a very interesting wrinkle is that they are also associated with the Nation of Islam movement: its leader, Elijah Muhammad, encouraged their consumption in lieu of richer foods associated with African American cuisine, and the followers of his community commonly sell bean pies as part of their fund-raising efforts. And as trybeanpie.com says,


"The Navy Bean Pie is a nearly century old recipe that originated in the Holy
City of Mecca.
The Bean Pie was introduced in America around 1930 in the community known as Black Bottom Detroit, the Black community. It was originally formulated as a healthy alternative for sweet potato pie."


Now, while the Nation of Islam movement (and the pies) seem to have roots in Detroit, we first encountered the pies through Sister Nadine's, which is based in Boston (if you're interested in their story, read about it here.) Cakespy Note: We feel we should give them props for packaging the pies very securely; they and arrived in Seattle in perfect condition.

OK, and so now that you're educated, how did they taste?


Original Bean Pie
First we tried the "Original" bean pie. The texture was on par with that of a pumpkin pie, slightly custardy and not overly sweet; surprisingly, the beans did not lend any grittiness to the chewing process--had we not known that these were bean pies, we might not have known what they were (but of course, that would not have stopped us from continuing to eat it). We ate ours plain, but bet it would attain a few degrees of additional deliciousness if paired with vanilla ice cream or a thick layer of whipped cream.

Blueberry Bean Pie


The second one we tried was the Blueberry bean pie. We thought this was a strange flavor, but it was ultimately rewarding--the blueberries were the first taste that hit the palate; as Mr. Cakespy put it, if this pie could speak, it would say "Hi, my name is blueberry...and this is my pie". This sweet initial taste, paired with a more substantive bite of the bean filling, made it an unusual, but addictive, pie. Of all of them, this was probably our favorite.


Banana Bean PieBanana Bean Pie


Finally, we went for the banana bean pie. Once again, it was an unusual flavor combination, but somehow it worked. The banana didn't necessarily hit you right away--it was more of a complement than a contrast to the bean filling, and the flavors sort of, if you'll allow us to be poetic for a moment, well, blossomed inside of the mouth. Paired with the substantive crust, these reminded us fleetingly of banana pakoras (but of course, baked, not fried). Overall, a very nice pie for banana fans.



All things considered? Our investment was well worth it--we were happy to discover a new baked good, and rewarded to find them delicious. They're definitely a more substantial dessert, but a very tasty one too--the perfect addition to a fall baking repertoire.
To buy Sister Nadine's bean pies, visit sisternadines.com; if you want to try your own, why not give this recipe a whirl?


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Reader Comments (36)

I've heard of this before actually, but I always assumed it was a southern thing. I love it's actual backstory.

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterEB

Wow - who'd've thunk it? Certainly not I! I've never even heard of navy bean pie, but it sounds most intriguing. Thanks for another informative post!

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterWandering Coyote

You know *someone* has to ask, and it might as well be me 9I fancy myself a lady, but really, my manners are kinda dreadful)...what about the fartiness of bean pie? Are you in trouble if you're greedy and take too large a slice? Or a second helping?

Or are we talking a pretty low bean : other ingredient ratio?

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Wow! I'm definitely going to have to try and get a hold of a piece of bean pie. I'm traveling to the Midwest soon, so maybe I'll run across it in Chicago . . .

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Looks like the recipe simply swaps out what would have been pumpkin for navy beans.

I may actually give this a go for Thanksgiving this year and see how it's received.

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterOwl Chick

my first encounter with "Bean Pie" was when Otis, of the OK Corral BBQ in Seattle, slid a pan of it towards us. we cut slices and ate them straight up ~ it was similar to sweet potato pie, but less sweet! but none the less, delicious.

Ms Cakespy, now you have a local source for Bean Pie!

October 8 | Unregistered Commenterelicia

I just found your site and I looooove it so much! Maybe that is because I love everything that has to do with cupcakes.

Have you seen this blog?


She makes the most ADORABLE cupcakes!

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterSerena

This is really interesting. I ve never heard of bean pie,

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterSnooky doodle


I've never heard of a Navy Bean Pie either... but here in Australia we don't do many other sweet pies except for apple and such.

Amanda - You're hilarious. :P

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterChantelle

oh, i always thought the bean pies that the guys from nation of islam were selling were more savory and i wasn't that interested...now i am. thanks for testing this out. now i have to go make one for myself.

October 8 | Unregistered Commenterren

AWWWW soooo thick so delicious, can I have some? Definitely going to make this one.
Maybe you'd like to check my blog too every now and then, maybe you'll see something there you may wanna try too.

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterRico

okay, i'm game. going to make this because i see alot of potential in this! cool, i love posts where i learn something!

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterKrysta

Fascinating - I'd never heard of a bean pie either. Thanks for introducing me to something new.

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterDana McCauley

Serena, that link is precious! Thanks for posting it.

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Your photos are delightful and I love the history, but not so sure I'd stop eating bienenstich and all things pumpkin for a bean pie. I'd certainly try the blueberry though. I wonder if they make pumpkin.

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterJeanna

QUITE intriguing - glad it was a worthy investment!! :0)

October 9 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

I've actually heard of bean pie but I've never seen a more appetizing picture of one. After "Mr. Cakespy's" comment, I'm thinking the blueberry may be worthy of a try. Thanks for the added touch of history, Jesse. You know I'll be saving this post!

October 9 | Unregistered Commenter~~louise~~

Hmmm I may just have to try one of those. I love beans...


October 9 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

I have never heard of a bean pie. You always manage to find the most interesting desserts!

October 9 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

Never ever heard of a bean pie...this is like an IRON chef thing...lol....


October 9 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Evans

Jessie bean pies are very popular here in Portugal.I don't know if they're related to Islam, but maybe because we are so close to Nothern Africa... I allways though it had appear because beans were cheap, and in the old days people were very imaginative trying to invent baked goods with little money. Bean little pies as served everywhere here and in my grandma's village they also have a pie with garbanzo beans filling. They're delicious!

October 9 | Unregistered CommenterClumbsy Cookie

I've just learned something new. Thank you!

October 9 | Unregistered Commenterchou

Seriously, I won't buy any more books from now on. Cakespy is my enciclopedia! Haha, thanks for sharing the info =) Very interesting, though it doesen't seem like my kind of pie

October 9 | Unregistered CommenterIsa

I lived in Detroit for over 18 years and never heard of bean pie. I've got to hunt one down now.

October 10 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Love this post! I think it was in my subconscious when I went shopping yesterday and bought some navy beans!

I've never had the pie, but I'm going to try some. Thanks for the great link to Sister Nadines. I'm right near where her pies are sold, so I'll have to get some soon. ;)

October 10 | Unregistered CommenterAnali
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