Classic Chess Pie

Classic Chess Pie Recipe

5/5 (1)
1 hour 20 mins
Vadim Rachok
1 Comment
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0.8 / 10
Health score
Nut Free DishVegetarian Dish

Chess Pie is a delicious, simple dessert for celebrations or holidays. This tasty dessert is absolutely delightful. Once you’ve tasted it, you’ll find yourself craving it time and again. Try our classic chess pie recipe; it’s easy to make and promises a delicious treat for any occasion!

Chess Pie is a time-honored classic, and this recipe brings out the best in its simplicity. The blend of sugar, butter, and a hint of vinegar creates a rich custard with an irresistible taste. Perfect for any occasion, this dessert is a delightful journey into the world of traditional baking. Enjoy every slice!

What is Chess Pie?

Chess pie comprises a few basic pantry staples, making it an accessible treat for home bakers and a timeless favorite for gatherings and special occasions. This cake is simple to make and at the same time an incredibly tasty dessert that will surprise and delight your guests. 

The filling typically consists of sugar, eggs, butter, and a dash of cornmeal or vinegar, creating a rich and smooth custard-like texture. The blend of these humble ingredients harmonizes to create a unique flavor. 

Classic Chess Pie Recipe

There are several versions of why it is called chess pie. Some suggest that the name “chess pie” evolved from “cheese pie” or “chest pie”, referring to the storage of pies in a pie chest or “pie safe”. Others link it to a mispronunciation of “jes’ pie,” a dialect term meaning “just pie,” indicating the simplicity of its ingredients.

Absolutely, the etymology of the name “Chess Pie” might be shrouded in mystery, but one thing’s for sure – this dessert is a real treat! The beauty of Chess pie lies in its versatility. You can read more about them below. Moreover, you can serve it with additions or toppings, such as whipped cream, fruit compote, or a dusting of powdered sugar, enhancing its allure and appeal.

Chess Pie Ingredients

  • Pie shell: You can simplify the process by using a refrigerated pie shell.
  • Sugar: Adds sugar to make your custard sweet and thick.
  • Salt: If you want to balance the pie’s sweetness, add a little salt.
  • Cornmeal: Cornmeal helps thicken up the chess pie’s custard.
  • Butter: You can use salted or insulted butter. If you have only salted, add less salt to the custard.
  • Milk: Adds to the custard’s rich flavor.
  • Eggs: You’ll need 4 large eggs.
  • Vanilla extract: Elevate the flavors of the guard with a little vanilla extract.
  • White vinegar: Distilled white vinegar helps to balance the sweetness.

how to cook Classic Chess Pie

How to Make Chess Pie

The chess pie recipe comprises several steps, yet they are incredibly simple. With minimal effort and no complications, you can easily create this dessert. Let’s take a look at the main steps to get you started:

  1. Prepare all necessary ingredients.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  3. Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Then mix in eggs and stir in evaporated milk, cornmeal, and vinegar until smooth. 
  4. Carefully pour this mixture into the prepared pie shell.
  5. Bake the filled pie at 325°F for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 300 degrees F and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes.

How to Store Chess Pie?

Allow your pie to cool to room temperature. Then place it in an airtight container. It is better to store your chess pie in the refrigerator. It can be kept for up to 2 days.

Make Ahead And Freezing Instructions:

To make ahead: The pie filling can be made 1-2 days ahead. Remove the filling from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking to allow it to come to room temperature, then pour into the pie shell and bake. Pie crust can be made 1-2 days ahead and refrigerated or frozen for up to 3 months.

To freeze: Allow baked Lemon Chess Pie to cool completely, then cover well and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight, then reheat in oven at 300 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. 

What Makes a Chess Pie a Chess Pie?

The classic chess pie combines a traditional butter pie crust with a sweet, custard-like filling made with sugar, butter, and eggs. Flour and cornmeal are used to thicken the filling, and vanilla enhances the creamy custard. Did we mention that the improbable secret ingredient in this sweet, gooey cake is vinegar?

the best Classic Chess Pie Recipe


  • Lemon Chess Pie: Replace vinegar with Tbsp lemon juice. Also, add 2 Tbsp lemon zest.
  • Coconut Chess Pie: Stir in 11/2 cups shredded coconut and 1 tsp coconut extract after adding eggs. Also, it is necessary to brown butter.
  • Buttermilk Chess Pie: Substitute the milk with 1/2 cup of buttermilk.
  • Honey Chess Pie: Replace 11/4 cups of sugar with 1 cup of honey.

Why Does Chess Pie Need for Vinegar?

As little as a tablespoon of white vinegar in the filling will balance out the sweetness of the sugar.

That was probably the reason why vinegar was used a couple of hundred years ago, when fresh lemon juice, which we often use to cut the sweetness in baking recipes today, would have been in short supply. It doesn’t really taste like vinegar, but it completes the flavor of the sugar.

This recipe calls for white vinegar, but you can substitute any other light vinegar you have on hand, such as rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar.

Is Chess Pie the Same as Pecan Pie?

No, there are no nuts in chess pie! But these two Thanksgiving pies share a similar caramelized, custardy base that’s decadently rich and sweet.

What makes Chess Pie Different From Buttermilk Pie?

Both pies are very similar. However, there are some distinct differences. Buttermilk pie starts with the same main ingredients-butter, sugar, and eggs-as chess pie. But instead of milk and lemon juice (or vinegar), it calls for straight buttermilk. This gives it a tart, sweet flavor. A chess pie is thickened with cornmeal (and sometimes a little all-purpose flour!), while a buttermilk pie is made only with all-purpose flour. Many buttermilk recipes enhance the acidity by adding lemon juice and zest for a nice citrus taste.

Certainly, I cannot unequivocally recommend this dish as a healthy dessert option, but if you incorporate a serving of this pie within your daily calorie intake and enjoy a slice during the first half of the day with a cup of your favorite tea or coffee, it won't negatively impact your figure. You can also adapt this recipe to a healthier version by simply replacing sugar with a natural sugar substitute (such as erythritol or stevia). In this case, you'll have a lower-calorie and low-carb dessert that is suitable not only for those looking to lose weight but also for diabetics.

Jenny Dobrynina
Jenny Dobrynina
Nutrition Editor
Health score:
0.8 / 10
Classic Chess Pie Recipe
5/5 (1)
Author:Vadim Rachok
Best Chess pie recipe. A delicious classic Southern dessert.
Classic Chess Pie
Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
50 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 5 mins
The ingredients you need:
Butter_ ingridient
½ cup butter
2 cups white sugar
Vanilla_Extract_ ingridient
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chicken_Egg_ ingridient
4 large eggs
¼ cup evaporated milk
Cornmeal_ ingridient
1 tablespoon cornmeal
Distilled_White_Vinegar ingridient
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Unbaked_Pie_Shell ingridient
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell
Let’s start !

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).


2.Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix in eggs, then stir in evaporated milk, cornmeal, and vinegar until smooth. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.


3. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) and continue baking for 40 minutes.


4. Let cool before cutting. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information
Servings Per Recipe: 8 Calories: 460
% Daily Value *
 % Daily Value *
Total Fat 22g28%
Saturated Fat 10g52%
Cholesterol 126mg42%
Sodium 242mg11%
Total Carbohydrate 62g23%
Dietary Fiber 1g3%
Total Sugars 51g 
Protein 5g 
Vitamin C 0mg1%
Calcium 40mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
Potassium 80mg2%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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Watch How To Make It

For an extra touch, try adding a dollop of freshly whipped cream or a drizzle of fruit compote when serving your Chess Pie. These simple additions complement the sweetness and elevate the overall experience, making your dessert table truly memorable. Happy baking!

Vadim Rachok
Vadim Rachok
Pro tip from chef
1 comment
10 December, 2023
The best recipe I've ever made in my life
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