This Old Fashioned Chess Pie is a simple, classic, authentic Southern custard pie recipe with cornmeal that makes an absolutely delicious dessert.
What is Chess Pie?
Chess Pie is a simple pie made with eggs, butter, sugar, and milk that is an iconic dessert most commonly associated with the American Southern states.
How Did Chess Pie Get Its Name?
It is not known for certain how Chess Pie got its name. Theories abound. According to the Washington Post, some say it came from a mispronunciation of “just pie” or “jes’ pie”, others say it is because it was served to gentlemen as they retreated to a room to play chess. Others say that it got its name because it would be stored in a pie chest. Another possibility is that it was because it came from chestnut flour.
Why Is Chess Pie So Sweet?
One of the reasons Chess Pie is so sweet is that hundreds of years ago, people would add sugar to milk and unsalted butter to keep them from going bad. This pie originally had 2 cups of sugar. Since that was overly sweet to us today and we don’t need to use the sugar as a preservative, I have cut back on the sugar in the recipe by 1/2 cup. It remains still very sweet but not overly sweet. Be sure to read my notes below about recommendations on adding the sugar.
Why You’ll Love This Chess Pie Recipe
- Delicious. Sweet but not too sweet.
- Requires only a few common Ingredients that you likely already have on hand.
- Easy to make
- Step By Step Photos with recipe
- Tips For A Perfect Chess Pie Every Time
- Authentic Southern recipe handed down from generation to generation
This recipe is an adaption of the recipe handed down to my Mother-in-Law from her Mother, who lived in rural Oklahoma during the 1930’s “dust bowl” during the Great Depression. They actually lived through the situation that John Steinbeck’s book, Grapes of Wrath, described in Oklahoma. At that time, available ingredients were very limited. However, for special occasions, they liked to make this simple chess pie. It was one of my Mother-in-Law’s favorite desserts growing up, and today I’m happy to be sharing it with you.
What Do I Need To Make Chess Pie
Below are tools to use to make this recipe. If you click on the affiliate links below, you can view the product on Amazon.com. If you choose to purchase the item from Amazon.com, I will receive a very small commission at no additional cost to you.
- Stand Mixer – I like this KitchenAid model Stand Mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a hand mixer or whisk and large mixing bowl.
- Pie Plate
Ingredients And Substitutions
Below are the ingredients needed, as well as a few substitutions, to make Old Fashioned Chess Pie. For specific amounts of each ingredient, scroll down to the bottom of this article, just above the comments, for the complete printable recipe card.
- One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust – or a homemade pie crust.
- Butter. You will need 1 stick of butter. Either salted or unsalted butter will work.
- Granulated sugar. You will need between 1 cup to 2 cups of sugar. I give a range because chess pie is extremely sweet. Some people may think it is too sweet. If you have never tried Chess pie before, you may want to start with 1 cup of sugar and see if that is sweet enough for you. If not, you can always add more sugar but you can’t take it away.
- 4 eggs. Yes, that number of eggs is correct. It is a very rich custard pie.
- Vanilla. I recommend using pure vanilla and not imitation vanilla. If you use imitation vanilla then you may only want to use 1/2 teaspoon instead of 1 teaspoon.
- Cornmeal. You will need 1 – 2 tablespoons of cornmeal. Yes, this pie has cornmeal in it. While the pie cooks, the cornmeal rises to the top to create a thin crust.
- Milk. I recommend using whole milk or buttermilk. I don’t recommend using low fat milk or skim milk.
- White vinegar. You will need just 1 tablespoon white vinegar. If you don’t have white vinegar, you could use lemon juice instead.
- Ingredient Amounts. Once again, if you are looking for the list of ingredients with the specific amounts of each listed, scroll down to the bottom of this article, just above the comments, for the printable recipe card.
How To Make Chess Pie
Below are high level instructions for the major steps of How to Make Chess Pie. However, for more detailed instructions with specific ingredient amounts, scroll down to the bottom of the article, just above the comments, for the printable recipe card.
- Start out beating butter and sugar in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer and mixing bowl.
- Add eggs, vanilla, cornmeal, milk, vinegar, and salt and mix until smooth.
- Pour into a prepared 9-inch pie shell.
- For more specific instructions, scroll down to the bottom of the article, just above the comments, to the printable recipe card.
How Long To Bake Chess Pie
Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for about 60 – 65 minutes. Watch the edges of the pie crust to make sure that they don’t brown too quickly. If needed, shield the edges of the pie crust by covering them with strips of aluminum foil.
Cooling The Chess Pie
Let the Chess Pie cool for about 1 hour at room temperature before serving.
How To Store Leftover Chess Pie
Cover the pie and refrigerate it until you are ready to serve again.
Tips For Perfect Chess Pie
- Sugar. Traditional Chess Pie is a very sweet pie. Start with 1 cup of sugar and if you need to add more, add 1/4 cup at a time to see if it meets your desired level of sweetness. The old recipe originally called for 2 cups of sugar but my family and I found that it made the pie much too sweet for us.
- Room Temperature. Start with eggs and butter at room temperature. This will soften the butter and ensure a better filling.
- Vanilla. Use pure vanilla and not imitation vanilla. It does make a difference. If you still decide to use imitation vanilla, then I recommend reducing the amount of vanilla to 1/2 teaspoons because imitation vanilla tends to be stronger than pure vanilla.
- Shield Edges of Pie Crust. If the edges of the pie crust start to brown too fast, cover them with thin strips of foil to prevent them from overcooking.
- Cooling. Don’t serve the Chess Pie immediately out of the oven. Instead, let it cool on a wire rack for about an hour, and then refrigerate the pie after that until ready to serve.
Variations of Chess Pie
- Chocolate Chess Pie – Add 4 tablespoons cocoa powder to the pie filling.
- Lemon Chess Pie – Add 1/4 cup lemon juice to the pie filling.
- Coconut Chess Pie – Add 1 cup of flaked coconut to the pie filling.
- Eggnog Chess Pie – Replace whole milk and vinegar with 1/3 cup eggnog.
What To Serve With Chess Pie
Make an entire meal by serving Old Fashioned Chess Pie as a dessert to go with these other Southern dishes.
- Instant Pot Smothered Pork Chops
- Instant Pot Pulled Pork
- Instant Pot Chicken And Dumplings
- Apple Walnut Cranberry Salad
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon and Balsamic
- Cheesy Bacon Ranch Hash Brown Casserole
More Southern Pie Recipes
- Crustless Pumpkin Pie – This pumpkin piekeeps only the best part of the pumpkin pie, the pumpkin pie filling, and is so delicious that you won’t miss the crust.
- German Chocolate Pecan Pie – This German Chocolate Pecan Pie combines German Chocolate Cake and Pecan Pie into one fabulous holiday dessert!
- No Bake Banana Pudding Cream Pie – This easy No Bake Banana Pudding Cream Pie recipe is super easy to make and requires no baking!
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Old Fashioned Chess Pie
- 1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust (or a homemade pie crust.)
- 1/2 cup butter, softened (8-Tablespoons or 1 stick butter)
- 4 eggs
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar (See note below)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1-1/2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a stand mixer, or mixing bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together.
- Add eggs, vanilla, cornmeal, milk, vinegar, and salt and mix until smooth.
- Pour into a prepared 9-inch pie shell and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for about 55 - 65 minutes.
- Watch the edges of the pie crust to make sure that they don't brown too quickly. If needed, shield the edges of the pie crust by covering them with strips of aluminum foil.
- After the pie has finished baking, remove it from the oven onto a wire rack and let it cool at room temperature for 1 hour.
- I used a refrigerated pie crust for my pie.
- Amount of Sugar. Chess Pie is a very sweet pie by design. If you have never had chess pie before, I recommend starting out with a lower amount of sugar, like 1 cup of sugar and see if that is sweet enough for you. If not, gradually increase the sugar by 1/4 cup until you get the desired level of sweetness. You can always add more sugar, but you can't remove sugar once it has been added.
- Variations of Chess Pie
- Chocolate Chess Pie - Add 4 tablespoons cocoa powder to the pie filling.
- Lemon Chess Pie - Add 1/4 cup lemon juice to the pie filling.
- Coconut Chess Pie - Add 1 cup of flaked coconut to the pie filling.
- Eggnog Chess Pie - Replace whole milk and vinegar with 1/3 cup eggnog.
- More Southern Pie Recipes
- Crustless Pumpkin Pie - This pumpkin piekeeps only the best part of the pumpkin pie, the pumpkin pie filling, and is so delicious that you won’t miss the crust.
- German Chocolate Pecan Pie - This German Chocolate Pecan Pie combines German Chocolate Cake and Pecan Pie into one fabulous holiday dessert!
- No Bake Banana Pudding Cream Pie - This easy No Bake Banana Pudding Cream Pie recipe is super easy to make and requires no baking!