Luscious Lemon Chess Pie

Luscious Lemon Chess Pie

This delightfully easy recipe for Lemon Chess Pie comes together in almost no time thanks to using a store bought frozen pie crust. Make this simple and classic Southern dessert and bring a little sunshine into your day no matter what time of year it is! A bright and tangy lemon pie, this recipe is sure to please anyone who tries it.

Quick Notes:  This post was originally published in February 2019 and updated in November 2020.  This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure statement for details. Thank you.

Welcome to My Kitchen Serenity!  I’m glad you’re here. Now, let’s talk about this Lemon Chess Pie recipe! Lemon Chess Pie is a tart, ooey gooey pie that bakes up with a sweet delicate candy-like top crust. Made with simple ingredients and easy directions, chess pie is an old fashioned Southern favorite that everybody loves.

lemon chess pie with a slice taken out on a pie server

Are you a lemon lover? I absolutely love everything lemon. Lemon pie, lemon cake, lemon chicken, etc. So if you’re here because you’re wondering how to make a lemon chess pie, then you’ve come to the right place. And it’s a super easy dessert! Not just for a summer or holiday dessert either, this chess pie is a wonderful dessert any time of the year.

 

What is Chess Pie?

Chess pie, a traditional Southern dessert, has several conflicting – or perhaps converging – origin stories.

One story is that a freed slave in 19th century Alabama made pies that she sold to make a living. Her pies were delicious, but had a different filling than what many people of the time recognized. When asked what kind of pies she made, the story goes she responded “oh, it’s jes’ pie.” Her twangy “just” became “chess” in common parlance.

Another story says that the pie received its name because it was shelf-stable. People could put it on the counter in a bread box, or “chest,” and the pie would keep for several days without refrigeration.

The final story I’ve heard about comes from renowned Southern chef Phila Hach. In a footnote in one of her (17!) cookbooks, she asserts that chess pie got its name from the use of chestnut flour, which was more commonly available in the olden days than cornmeal.

Whatever the true origin of the name, chess pie is a delicious dessert that is steeped in centuries of Southern tradition. Made with just sugar, cornmeal, flour, eggs, and lemon juice, this simple pie was arguably born from necessity when people didn’t have a lot. 

slice of lemon chess pie on a white plate with a silver fork and a twist of lemon zest

How to Make This Easy, Two-Step Lemon Chess Pie

Like I said earlier, this lemon chess pie recipe is super easy.  Buy a ready-made pie crust and pre-bake (blind bake) according to package directions. Alternatively, you could press the thawed, ready-made pie crust into a tart pan for that fancy crinkled pie look; then bake as directed.  

TIP: If you’re one of those bakers that makes your own pie crust, good for you! I recommend that you always double up on your favorite recipe and freeze your own pie crusts for easy use in the future. This comes in handy when you have an unexpected guest coming over and want a last-minute dessert or a crust to whip up an easy chicken pot pie.

Once you have your parbaked (or blind baked) pie crust ready to roll, the rest of this recipe is simple as pie! (Pun absolutely intended.)

Always refer to the “recipe card” for additional helpful information!  In a large bowl, mix together the:  sugar, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice.  Then stir in butter, a little flour, and a little cornmeal. The cornmeal ensures that yummy, almost crispy topping so don’t leave it out!

lemon chess pie filling ingredients in silver mixing bowl

Pour into prepared pie crust. 

unbaked lemon pie filling ingredients in pie crust

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Voila!

baked pie with lemon peel decoration on top

BAKING TIPS:

  • It’s OK if the pie filling doesn’t appear to be fully set when you remove it from the oven. As the pie cools, it will thicken. Once completely cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or top with whipped cream. 
  • If the crust starts to brown too quickly while baking, take a strip of foil and cover just the edges of the pie crust.  Continue to bake as directed.

 

I think chess pie is at its best flavor and texture when fully chilled, but some people eat it while it’s still warm or room temperature. Either way, it’s oh so delicious.

lemon chess pie with slice removed

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to transport pie?

So now that you’ve made this delicious pie, what the best way to transport it?  I recently discovered a plastic carrier that’s perfect for transporting pies, muffins, and cupcakes.  It’s the Southern Homewares 3-in-1 Plastic Holder Container.  It offers easy-grip handles, a snap-tight lid, and it’s made out of durable plastic.  Available now on Amazon!

 

Are chess pie and vinegar pie the same thing?

Vinegar pie and buttermilk pie can both be categorized under the broad term “chess pie.” Any sort of acid added to the eggs – whether citrus juice in this recipe, or buttermilk or vinegar in others – will help lower the temperature at which the egg will achieve a custardy consistency.

So, in short, vinegar pie is a type of chess pie. Think of it this way: all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are square. In this analogy, vinegar or buttermilk pies are the squares, and chess pies are the rectangles.

 

Could I substitute another citrus for lemon?

While I happen to LOVE lemon everything, there is nothing at all preventing you from trading out a different citrus for this recipe. Lime would easily be the most comparable switch and you likely wouldn’t need to change anything else about the recipe.

Bitter citrus like grapefruit might require more sugar, depending on your taste preferences. Oranges and mandarins, which are naturally sweeter, would likely require less added sugar. If you try these options, please let me know how you tweaked the recipe in the comments below! 

 

What is the best way to par-bake a pie shell? Mine always seem to collapse.

Par-baking your pie crust is an essential step in many pie recipes. It ensures that your crust gets cooked all the way through and that you avoid the dreaded soggy bottom.

The absolute best way to ensure that your pie shell remains even during this initial bake is to:

  1. Prick holes in the dough along the base of the pie dish – this will help to ensure that air pockets don’t bubble up and give you a wobbly bottom.
  2. Line your unbaked pie shell with foil or parchment paper and weigh it down with dry rice or dried beans. Once you use the rice or beans as pie weights, set them aside in a separate container so you don’t accidentally try to cook with them. They are reusable as pie weights for many rounds of baking. For more information on pie weights, check out this useful post.

 

Need more pie inspiration? Check out these other pie recipes from My Kitchen Serenity:

 

If you made this deliciously easy lemon chess pie recipe, please be sure to rate and review it below. I love hearing about your kitchen adventures! 

 

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slice of lemon chess pie by My Kitchen Serenity

Lemon Chess Pie

Lemon Chess Pie is an easy, tart ooey gooey pie that bakes up with a sweet crispy candy-like top crust.  Chess pie is an old fashioned southern favorite that everybody loves.
4.15 from 7 votes
Print Pin For Later Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 8

Equipment

  • large mixing bowl
  • whisk
  • measuring cup(s)
  • measuring spoons
  • wire rack

Ingredients

  • 1 ready-made deep dish pie crust
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon

Instructions

  • Bake ready made pie crust according to package directions. This is known as blind baking or par baking.
  • Heat oven to 375F.  Combine sugar, cornmeal, flour, and eggs in large bowl using a whisk.  Stir in melted butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Mix well.  Pour into prepared pie crust and bake for 35 minutes or until filling is mostly set but no more than 40 minutes. Check on the pie after about 25 minutes to see if the crust is starting to brown too quickly -- see recipe note below if this happens.
  • Cool on a wire rack.  Transfer to refrigerator to chill.  When chilled, sprinkle with powdered sugar or top with whipped cream.  TIP:  Can be served at room temperature but I think it's better served cold.

Notes

  • Put the pie on a baking sheet for easier handling in and out of the oven; also great for catching spills and drips.
  • If the crust starts to brown too quickly while baking, take a strip of foil and cover up just the edge of the crust. Continue to bake as directed.
  • It's OK if the filling doesn't appear to be fully set when you remove it from the oven.  As the pie cools, it will thicken. 
Tried this recipe?Mention @mykitchenserenity or tag #mykitchenserenity on Instagram!!

A couple of the items used in this recipe include:

Flashback to November 2019 photos!

slice of baked lemon chess pie topped with powdered sugar on a rectangular white plate.

Whole lemon chess pie in a baking tin, topped with a sprinkling of powdered sugar



22 thoughts on “Luscious Lemon Chess Pie”

  • I love all the lemons! This recipe looks delicious and perfect for a summer get together. Thanks for posting…adding it to my recipe file now.

    • Hey Shirley! I love lemons and this pie is wonderfully sweet and lemony! Thanks for your comment! Hope you enjoy it!

    • Cynthia, thanks for the question. I’m excited you are giving it a try! You can use either, but I used salted. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Happy Thanksgiving!

      Anne

  • 4 stars
    So easy to make, and delicious. This is the first pie I’ve ever made, and it turned out pretty well. I was so surprised at how simple it was. The center was still a litte runny, which I think may have been a combination of the size of the pie crust I bought, or my oven. However, it still tasted great. I think the next one I make will be much better. Thank you!

    • I’m glad you liked this pie, Rae. Thank you for letting me know how your first pie turned out! I’m a BIG lemon lover so this lemon chess pie is my favorite. I’m so happy you enjoyed it, too!

  • 4 stars
    I made this filling and it turned out super watery/ liquid so I tossed it and used another recipe but that one used less lemon which I didn’t like. The texture of that was more thick though almost as thick as pudding. I would like to try this one again but is that how the texture of the filling is supposed to be?

    • Hi JW. I’m sorry the pie didn’t turn out right for you. I know the filling doesn’t appear to be fully set when you remove it from the oven, but as the pie cools, it will thicken. I just made this pie last week, and it set just fine so I’m not sure what with wrong on your end. Did you follow the instructions in the “recipe card” at the bottom of the post? Did you leave any ingredients out or make any substitutions? Do you live in a high altitude area? Maybe it just needed to bake a little longer. I wish I had the answer for you. I know how disappointing it is when a recipe doesn’t turn out just right. If you do decide to try this recipe again, please let me know.

      • My apologies I wasn’t clear with my statement. I only made the batter, I didn’t pour it in the shell and bake it because it was watery. I didn’t want to take the chance of it not baking correctly and then I would have to make another shell as well. So the consistency of the batter is typically watery/ runny until baked fully? I figured maybe it was because it says 1/2 C. Of lemon juice where most recipes say 2-3tbsp. I just wanted to be sure because I want to try this recipe again tomorrow

        • Ahh, thanks for clearing that up, JW. Yes, 1/2 cup of lemon juice is correct. The filling will be watery/runny before baking it…you may want to place the pie on a cookie sheet before placing into the oven for easier handling. After the pie bakes, it will be a little jiggly but will firm up after it cools off. The consistency after it cools off will be ooey gooey, sweet & tart! I can’t wait to hear back from you!

  • 3 stars
    I haven’t made it yet but it’s sounds great and seems super easy. I was wondering if you could use Keebler Ready Crust Graham pie crust where you just put it in the oven for five minutes for the pre baking. It’s all I can find in the stores right now.

    • Hi Maya. Thanks for your question. Although I have not tried it myself, I don’t see any reason why a graham cracker crust wouldn’t work. In fact, it sounds really good to me. If you try it, let me know how it turns out; I’m curious!

      • 5 stars
        My Graham cracker crust got pretty burnt, but it was still very good. Very lemony which is my boyfriends favorite. Wasn’t really enough for a deep dish though, not sure if that was on me or not.

  • I am going to give this Chess Pie a go for sure, I LOVE to read on the history of food and it’s origins and this was a lovely post to read. I used to have a shop bought lemon tart when I visited my grandparents and this reminded me of them so I’m going to give it a go in their memory. #MealPlanMonday

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