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Among the legends of classic Southern desserts, Chess Pie ranks right up near the top thanks to its rich, creamy custard filling and gloriously crackly top. Making it inch up even further in the rankings is the fact that it’s incredibly easy to make with ingredients you likely have in your kitchen already!

slice of southern chess pie on plate

Why You’ll Love This Easy Chess Pie Recipe

  • Old-Fashioned Favorite. Chess pie dates back to the 17th century, where it ventured over from England to the colonies. It’s now most often associated with the American South, along with other pantry baked custard pies like Buttermilk Pie and Bourbon Pecan Pie. Canada’s version is Butter Tarts!
  • Layers of Fabulous Texture. While the custard flavor of chess pie is top-notch, what really makes it delectable is the contracting textures: a flaky, buttery crust, rich and creamy filling, and a crisp, crackled, caramelized top.
  • A Cinch to Make. Not to knock Apple Pie Filling, but chess pie is one of the easiest pies you can make. You stir together kitchen staples, and a fabulous pie comes out the other side. No peeling and slicing fruit, and no other complicated techniques for making the custard. Easy!
southern chess pie topped with powdered sugar

How to Make Chess Pie

The Ingredients

  • Pie Crust. I use my signature Darn Good Whole Wheat Pie Crust, but you can use your own favorite homemade pie crust—or make this easy chess pie even easier by swapping in store-bought.
  • Yellow Cornmeal. Fine cornmeal gives you a smoother chess pie filling, while coarse adds some texture (I’m a texture fan!)
  • All-Purpose Flour. This works with the cornmeal to thicken the filling.
  • Granulated Sugar. One of the key players in chess pie, which helps create the caramelization on top.
  • Unsalted Butter. Using unsalted butter gives you more control over the flavor.
  • Milk. I used 1%.
  • Lemon Juice. I recommend freshly squeezed lemon juice, which has a brighter flavor than flat, lackluster bottled juice.
  • Pure Vanilla Extract. For something a little different, you can use almond extract or a combination of half almond, half vanilla extract.
  • Eggs. As with Lemon Cream Pie, eggs are one of the main components of the filling.
  • Powdered Sugar. A dusting of powdered sugar is the perfect finishing touch.

Substitution Tip

Some classic chess pie recipes use vinegar, so that’s also an option if you don’t have lemons on hand. Just don’t skip the acid, as it’s essential for adding balance to the sweet filling.

The Directions

pouring butter into filling ingredients for chess pie
  1. Start the Filling. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, and sugar in a bowl, then add the butter.
butter, sugar, and corn meal mixture for chess pie
  1. Mix. Whisk the butter into the dry ingredients.
ingredients for chess pie filling in bowl
  1. Add Remaining Liquid Ingredients. Milk, lemon juice, vanilla, and eggs all go in.
chess pie filling in bowl with whisk
  1. Mix Again. Whisk until the eggs are broken up and the mixture is smooth.
pouring custard into crust for chess pie
  1. Finish. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Bake chess pie at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees F and bake until the center barely jiggles when shaken, about 30 to 40 minutes. Cool for 2 hours, then dust with powdered sugar, slice, and ENJOY!
overhead view of chess pie with lemon juice

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Cover leftover chess pie and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. If you prefer to eat your leftover pie warm, gently reheat it in the oven at 325 degrees F until warmed through.
  • To Freeze. Cover the chess pie with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Meal Prep Tip

You can prepare the pie crust dough and refrigerate it wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 2 days.

sliced chess pie in pan

What to Serve with Chess Pie

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t Tweak the Filling. Chess pie filling is a custard, which means it requires a specific egg-to-sugar ratio. If you change that ratio, your filling won’t set properly.
  • Cool the Butter After Melting It. If it’s piping hot when you make the custard mixture, you run the risk of cooking the eggs. Scrambled egg pie isn’t what we’re going for here!
  • Use Room Temperature Eggs and Milk. They’ll mix more smoothly than cold ingredients. (In fact, it’s always a good idea to bake with room temperature eggs and liquids, unless a recipe specifically says otherwise.)
  • Watch the Pie Crust. Use a pie crust shield or strips of foil to keep the edges of the crust from over-baking if you notice they’re browning too quickly.
slice of old-fashioned chess pie on plate

Chess Pie

5 from 4 votes
This Southern chess pie recipe is an old-fashioned favorite that's easy to make with basic ingredients you probably have in your kitchen now!

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes

Servings: 1 (9-inch) pie

Ingredients
  


Instructions
 

  • Place racks in the lower third and center of your oven and preheat to 425°F.
  • Roll out the pie dough and fit it into a 9-inch pie dish. Gently ease the dough into the dish and settle down so it’s touching the sides smoothly (do not stretch it, or it will shrink back). Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch, then tuck it under and either flute the edge or crimp it simply with the tines of a fork. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, and sugar. Whisk in the butter until evenly blended – it will look like very moist chunks. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice, vanilla, and eggs. Carefully pour into the prepared crust.
  • Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the lower third rack for 10 minutes at 425°F (this sets the bottom to prevent a soggy crust)
  • Carefully transfer the pie to the center rack and lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Continue baking until the filling looks set and the middle barely jiggles when you gently shake the dish moved back and forth, about 30 to 40 minutes more. Check the periodically—if at any point the crust starts to brown too quickly, shield it with a pie crust shield or aluminum foil.
  • Place the pie on a wire rack. Let cool AT LEAST 2 hours before serving. Dust with powdered sugar, then slice and enjoy.

Notes

  • Use finely ground cornmeal for the smoothest filling; medium grind will add a little texture to the pie (and will still taste great).
  • You’ll notice this recipe skips the blind baking—I found that if I started the pie at a higher temp on a lower rack, it wasn’t needed, saving us all time and getting us to the chess pie more quickly.
  • Nutritional information will depend on the exact crust you use; the filling is calculated here.
  • TO STORE: Cover leftover chess pie and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • TO REHEAT: If you prefer to eat your leftover pie warm, gently reheat it in the oven at 325 degrees F until warmed through.
  • TO FREEZE: Cover the chess pie with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 8)Calories: 277kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 4gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 113mgPotassium: 66mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 32gVitamin A: 493IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 29mgIron: 1mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. Chess pie has always been my favorite pie! Never made one because I thought it would be too difficult. Made it for the first time last night and it turned out so good! It’s not too sweet, just perfect. Thank you, Erin.5 stars

  2. Thank you for a walk down memory lane. My grandmother used to make this pie, but I have honestly forgotten all about it. I decided to make it for Easter this year and it brought back so many good memories…and the pie was better than I remember. So fun to have this recipe again. Delicious!5 stars

  3. I made this for Easter with my two girls and everyone loved it! It was simple enough for the kids to help and everyone was impressed. This will be a new go-to dessert5 stars

  4. This was perfect. My fiancé is from Texas, and all he ever talks about is chess pie. I had never had it, but I decided to make it for Easter. Since I couldn’t find a recipe in any of my cookbooks, I looked here and luckily found this one. I love that it’s not complicated to make, in fact very easy. It is nice and sweet and goes well with a cold glass of milk. We loved it! Thanks so much!5 stars