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!
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.
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!
What You’ll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
For the crust:
- All-purpose flour – Learn more: How to Measure Flour
- Granulated sugar
- Cold unsalted butter – Learn more: Unsalted or Salted Butter: Which is Better for Baking?
- Cold water – It should be ice cold to keep the butter from melting when you work with it.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5 Comments on “Chess Pie”
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!
I’ll take pretty much any variety! 🙂 It’s definitely comfort food for me.
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!
Our family chess pie is made with buttermilk, but no lemon or vinegar. The lemon and vinegar are used to turn your whole milk into buttermilk. Chess pie, southern style, is part of the “desperation pies” found in Southern kitchens. I wanted to try a plain milk recipe. They’re both delicius!! but I still prefer the buttermilk.
Hi, Katrina! I should try the buttermilk version. I just have such a nostalgia for this one that I have a tough time making a different one!