Chess Pie

Chess Pie

With a sparkling bright lemon flavor, this classic Southern buttermilk chess pie filling is poured into a shortbread crust with hints of spice from freshly ground black pepper. The coarse cornmeal gives the beautiful custardy filling the slightest bit of texture once baked. Consider the baking time below as a guide: The pie is done when it jiggles slowly when moved back and forth. A sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar is enough as a garnish to top the pie, and you’d do well to serve each slice with a dollop of whipped heavy cream. It’ll help temper the pie’s vibrant sweetness.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 8 persons



  1. Step 1

    Prepare the pie crust: Generously butter a 10-inch round, fluted tart pan. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, salt, black pepper and lemon zest. Working quickly, rub the cold butter into the dry mixture using your fingers or a pastry cutter. Cut the butter into the flour until the pieces are the size of small pebbles. (Alternatively, use a food processor to pulse the dry ingredients with the butter.) Add the egg yolks and the cold water. Using your hands, combine just until the dough comes together in clumps. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill at least 30 minutes.
  2. Step 2

    Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out chilled dough between two sheets of parchment or on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch round. Using the rolling pin, transfer dough into the prepared tart pan. Press the dough into the fluted sides and trim any overhang to 1/4 inch above the pan. Chill the dough again for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Step 3

    Line the pie dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is lightly browned along the edges and beginning to firm up, about 18 minutes. Remove the pie weights and parchment and bake for another 5 minutes to lightly brown the edges. Press down the surface with the back of a spoon if the crust bubbles. Allow the crust to cool completely before filling. Adjust the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  4. Step 4

    As the crust cools, prepare the filling: Whisk together eggs, yolks, sugar, cornmeal, lemon juice and zest and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in buttermilk and the melted butter.
  5. Step 5

    Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and carefully pour the filling into the cooled pie shell. Bake until the filling is set and jiggles slowly when the tart pan is moved back and forth, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool pie completely before slicing. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar and serve at room temperature or cold, with some whipped heavy cream on the side.