Chess Pie

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield:


    or More Servings.

Appears in

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1987

  • About

The origin of the name “chess pie” was explained to me on a visit to Kentucky as follows: A visitor to the South went to a dining establishment. At the time for dessert, the waitress told him that pie was included. He said he would like apple pie and she replied that it was not served. “Then I’ll take peach,” he said. No peach either. “What kind of pie do you serve?” he asked. “Jes’ pie,” she told him.

When in the course of reporting recipes for publication in The New York Times I have mentioned the dessert known as chess pie, the response has always been impressive beyond my wildest imagination. I have been told repeatedly in each letter that I did not know how to prepare the genuine article. The following recipe came to me anonymously. It was signed “A True Southern Belle.”


  • Pastry for a 9-inch Pie
  • ¼ pound butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoons white cornmeal
  • Salt to taste, if desired
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon rind
  • Sweetened whipped cream for garnish, optional
  • Freshly grated nutmeg for garnish


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line a 9-inch pie plate with the pastry and flute the rim.
  • Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until creamy. Beat in the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in the milk, lemon juice, and lemon rind.
  • Pour and scrape the mixture into the pastry-lined pie plate and place on the lowest shelf of the oven. Bake 45 minutes, or until the filling is golden and firm. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Serve cut into very small wedges with, if desired, a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on each serving. Before serving, sprinkle each portion with a small amount of freshly grated nutmeg.