Classic Chess Pie is a Southern custard pie with a golden brown sugar crust. Creamy pie filling made with sugar, butter, eggs, white vinegar, and cornmeal.
There are times for giving classic recipes an Oreo or cinnamon sugar twist, and then there are times when you are craving an old fashioned, all-American down home pie. Chess Pie is one of those traditional Southern recipes that is simple to make but full of so much flavor. There’s no wonder it’s been in American kitchens for hundreds of years!
Chess Pie is also known as Sugar Pie due to the simplicity of the main ingredients being sugar, eggs, and butter. Don’t be fooled though, this doesn’t mean that Chess Pie is overly sweet. The savory cornmeal and tangy buttermilk give it balance, making a slightly sweet custard like filling.
The sugar and the starchy cornmeal also give Chess Pie a crackled, crispy top crust that goes perfectly with the custard pie filling. It will remind you of crème brûlée but richer with a bit of tang. The creamy buttermilk pie filling is smooth and buttery and is perfect topped with fruit like Strawberry Topping.
Chess Pie is meant to cook low and slow so that it will set correctly and you won’t end up with a quiche consistency. It’s important note that the bake time is going to be longer than 50 minutes because you allow the oven to fully cool before you remove the pie, similar to making a cheesecake in a water bath.
Patience really is the name of the game for a successful Classic Chess Pie. This pie needs to sit at room temperature for at least 2-3 hours before you start to slice it. If you are making Chess Pie for the holidays, you should make it the day before so it has plenty of time to set up.
After your Chess Pie is set, it’s time to dig in and enjoy every sweet tangy bite. To slice your pie neatly, run your knife under hot water for 15-20 seconds between each slice. Top your pie with a dollop of homemade Whipped Cream or dust with powdered sugar before serving.
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Tips to Make a Perfect Chess Pie
- Chill your pie dough in the pie pan before you start making your filling so everything is the same temperature when it goes into the oven.
- For a silky smooth Chess Pie, cream eggs, cornmeal, vanilla and sugar together before adding buttermilk and butter.
- Top your Chess Pie filling with a little more sugar, no more than 2 tablespoons, before baking for a thicker, golden brown crème brûlée-style topping.
- Place your pie pan on a baking sheet before placing in the oven to ensure an even bake on your pie crust.
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VARIATIONS ON CHESS PIE
- Chocolate: Make a Chocolate Chess Pie by swapping evaporated milk for the buttermilk and vinegar, and adding ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Lemon: To adjust this recipe to make Lemon Chess Pie, leave out the buttermilk and vinegar and add 2/3 fresh lemon juice and use 5 eggs. It will be a rich custard pie and super lemony!
- Buttermilk: Instead of Buttermilk, you can add another tablespoon of white vinegar and substitute ¼ cup milk of your choice, including non-dairy milk.
- Flavoring: Use other flavoring in place of (or with) the vanilla extract like maple syrup, a bit of espresso, or almond extract. This simple buttermilk pie can take on most of your favorite flavors!
SOME DELICIOUS TOPPING IDEAS:
HOW TO STORE
- Serve: Keep this pie at room temperature until it has fully set, about 4 hours. After that, it is ready to be served or stored in the fridge.
- Store: Cover your set Chess Pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Freeze: Cool and set pie completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then place in a freezer-safe bag sealed airtight. Freeze for up to 3 months and reheat from frozen.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Add the pie crust to your 9" pie plate and put in the refrigerator so it stays cold while you make the filling.
- In a large bowl whisk together the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, cornmeal, flour, buttermilk and vinegar until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into the pie crust carefully.
- Reduce the heat 350 degrees when you put the pie in and bake for 50 minutes.
- Turn off the oven, crack open the door and let pie sit in oven until completely cooled. Do not remove from oven until cool.