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Chess Pie

This old-fashioned chess pie recipe is one you’ll come back to again and again. It’s sweet, buttery, and delightfully chewy along the edges; a classic pie every baker should know!

Slice of chess pie on plate

Easy Southern Chess Pie Recipe

Sometimes when you have a food blog—or even when you just love to bake!—it’s hard to resist the flashy recipes. You know, the twists on classics, the elaborate flavor combinations. But today, we’re going back to basics with this old-fashioned chess pie.

Over the years, I’ve made Chocolate Chess Pie, Peanut Butter Chess Pie, and Coconut Chess Pie. I’ve made chess pie with brown butter, chess pie in the form of a tart, and even little Lemon Chess Tartlets. But despite all of those variations, I’ve never shared my family’s classic chess pie—until now.

Well, there’s a reason classics are, well, classic. Sometimes simple is best. Inside the flaky homemade crust is a chewy-yet-also-custardy, buttery, absolutely delectable filling. Resist the temptation to add mix-ins—all you need are some fresh berries and maybe a dollop of whipped cream for the perfect dessert.

Slice of chess pie on plate

Is Chess Pie the Same as Custard Pie?

Chess pie is very similar to custard pie, but the primary difference is that chess pie is made with cornmeal in the filling, which adds a nice texture to the recipe. 

What Does a Chess Pie Taste Like?

Chess pie is sweet and rich, with a lovely vanilla flavor and a beautifully caramelized top. The crust is flaky, and the filling gets chewy on the edges, which might just be the best part!

Overhead view of chess pie ingredients

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

For the crust:

For the filling:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Milk – This should be room temperature; I recommend using whole milk.
  • Eggs – Let these come to room temperature, then lightly beat them.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cornmeal
  • Salt 
Overhead view of slice of chess pie on plate

How to Make Chess Pie

You can get a head start on this recipe by making either the dough or the entire pie crust in advance. 

To make the crust:

Make the dough. Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Incorporate the butter with a pastry blender or fork, until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas. Add the water a tablespoon at a time, and stir until a dough forms. 

Overhead view of ball of pie crust dough

Chill. Shape the dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk about 1-inch thick. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. 

Form the crust. Once it’s chilled, place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out into a 1/8-inch thick circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan, then trim and crimp the edges. 

Chill again. Place the pie crust in the refrigerator while you make the chess pie filling. 

To make the filling and assemble:

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 325°F. 

Make the filling mixture. Stir together the butter, sugar, milk, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Once the mixture is well-combined, stir in the cornmeal and salt. 

Bake. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set. Let the chess pie cool completely before slicing and serving.

Overhead view of chess pie in pan

Tips for Success

Here are some pointers for making perfect chess pie.

  • Food processor instructions. You can make the crust in your food processor by pulsing the dry ingredients, then pulsing in the butter, followed by the water.
  • About the pie crust. I’ve included my favorite all-butter pie crust in this recipe. But feel free to use your favorite basic pie crust recipe. If you’re short on time, you can use a store-bought crust, too.
  • Keeping your chess pie from cracking. Setting the pie pan on a baking sheet and letting it cool completely before moving it will help keep the pie from cracking. But even if it does crack, it’s still delicious!
  • Knowing when it’s done. The center of a chess pie should have a very slight jiggle when the pie is ready; if the filling seems liquid-y, it needs more time in the oven.
Overhead view of chess pie with slice removed

Serving Suggestions

A simple dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream is the perfect finishing touch for chess pie, although it’s also delicious as-is. Candied pecans or fresh fruit are an excellent pairing with chess pie, too.

Overhead view of chess pie slice on pie server

How to Store

Once the your chess pie has cooled completely, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 3 to 5 days.

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

Yes, you can freeze chess pie for up to 3 months. Wrap the slices individually or store them in an airtight container. Let them thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

Piece of chess pie on fork

Chess Pie

Yield 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes

This chess pie recipe is sweet and buttery, beautifully caramelized on the top, and the edges are perfect and chewy. It’s so easy to make, too!

Overhead view of slice of chess pie on plate

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 & 1/4 cups (150g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 & 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk (room temperature)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

To make the crust:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix with a pastry blender or a fork until the largest pieces of butter are the size of large peas. (You can also pulse in a food processor.) Add the water, about a tablespoonful at a time, and mix just until a dough forms. 
  2. Shape the dough into a ball, and then flatten into a disk about 1-inch thick. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. 
  3. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a circle 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Trim and crimp the edges as desired. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. 

To make the filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. 
  2. Place the butter, sugar, milk, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in the cornmeal and salt. 
  3. Transfer the filing to the crust. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set with a slight jiggle in the center. Cool completely before serving. 

Notes

Once your chess pie has cooled completely, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 3 to 5 days.

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    3 Comments on “Chess Pie”

  1. Definitely my favorite type of pie though my favorite was lemon.  Chocolate is pretty good too. I like the bit of texture the cornmeal adds.  My mom made quite a few of them. Great idea!

  2. True chess pie always had a little cornmeal (which you DID include, but also an acid to balance the sugar, either vinegar or lemon juice) I still use my Dad’s great great grandmother’s recipe. Our family’s recipe uses vinegar, as lemon was hard to come by in Nashville way back in the day) and it wouldn’t be the same without it!

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