Chess Pie is a southern classic dessert for every sweet tooth! This sweetened vanilla pie is great with ice cream or whipped cream.
This old-fashioned chess pie recipe is super easy to make and when you read the ingredients list, you’ll see that you probably have most, if not all of the ingredients in your refrigerator and/or pantry. My dad makes this Chess Pie year round just like most southern kitchens. It’s perfect in the summer and perfect in the winter.
I remember coming home from middle school one day and daddy was in the kitchen baking a pie I’d never seen before. I asked him, “What are you making?” He said, “Jest Pie”, with a big ole smile on his face! Ok, let me break this southern speak down for you…
“Jest Pie” is pronounced “Chess Pie”, but there’s a story associated to this pie’s history. Back in the 1930’s and 1940’s my grandparents didn’t have a lot of money to buy fancy foods, so they made do. My grandmother would often just throw ingredients they had in the house together to make meals. My dad told me this is a recipe that his mom used to make all the time and her kids raved over it! Nanny Peach (my grandmother) also told them….”Jest Pie, ya’ll.”. That really translates to “It’s just pie, you guys.”
But what’s so funny is that the “Jest Pie” in a slow southern accent sounds like “Chess Pie”…so that’s where it the name Chess Pie comes from. For years, people thought Nanny Peach was saying “Chess Pie” because she has the thickest southern drawl in her voice! Gosh…I love this story and every time daddy re-tells it, I love it that much more!
Why You’ll Love This Classic Chess Pie Recipe
- Made with basic ingredients
- A classic pie that has been around for generations
- Can be made in a store-bought pie crust
- Perfect for a dessert table
- Makes two pies
- Simple steps to prepare
- Rich, buttery, sweet with a custard filling
The full printable recipe card with measurements and instructions is found at the bottom of the post.
- Just a few simple ingredients to make the best chess pie.
- White granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter
- Large eggs
- All-purpose flour
- Vanilla extract
- White vinegar
- Unbaked pie shells
- Powdered sugar
How to Make Chess Pie
- Step One: In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with a hand mixer or standing mixer.
- Step Two: Add all other ingredients into the bowl with the butter (excluding the pie shells) and mix on high speed until well blended.
- Step Three: Pour mixture into two 9 inch unbaked prepared pie shells.
- Step Four: Bake in a 350F preheated oven for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.
- Step Five: Top with powdered sugar.
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What to Serve with Chess Pie
- Fresh fruit especially fresh berries. The tartness of the berries balances out the sweetness of the pie.
- Vanilla ice cream. A true southern classic combination. Try it with my homemade vanilla ice cream.
- Whipped cream. You can use either homemade whipped cream, store-bought whip cream or Cool Whip. Try my homemade Cool Whip!
- Coffee or tea. The perfect way to end a meal.
Variations and Substitutions
- Make a chocolate chess pie recipe instead. Add unsweetened cocoa powder or melted chocolate to the filling mixture to make a luscious chocolate pie.
- Try a lemon chess pie. Add fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to the filling mixture for a bright and tangy version.
- Make it a buttermilk chess pie. Replace some or all of the white vinegar with buttermilk.
- Try it with pecans to make a pecan chess pie. Add chopped pecans to the filling mixture for extra crunch.
- Make it with maple syrup for a maple chess pie. Substitute some or all of the sugar with maple syrup.
- Use a graham cracker crust instead of the prepared pie crust.
After your sweet custard pie has cooled completely, you can wrap it either in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for about 3 to 4 days.
You can also store it in an airtight container if you prefer.
Can I Freeze?
Yes, you can freeze chess pie. Wrap the pie tightly in plastic wrap and then again in aluminum foil or place in a freezer bag. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to eat the pie again, thaw it out overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature for a few hours. Reheat at 350F for 10 to 15 minutes, until heated through.
Can I Make Ahead?
Yes, you can make this traditional chess pie recipe ahead of time. Make it up to 2 days in an advance and store it in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap. You can either let it come to room temperature before serving or warm it up in the oven for a few minutes.
What Pie Crust Should I Use?
I often use a store-bought crust to save time. You can also use your own pie dough if you prefer. Try a flaky pie crust or a butter pie crust.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Use a store-bought prepared pie shell if you’re short on time. If you have the time, use your favorite pie crust.
- Use good quality ingredients and you’ll have a better result. Think fresh eggs, high quality butter, pure vanilla extract. That said, I have used artificial vanilla extract and still had a yummy pie.
- Don’t overmix the filling. Just mix enough until everything is combined. You don’t want the pie to be too dense and not set properly.
- Let the pie cool completely before slicing. I know it’s tempting to want to dig right in and cut a slice, but your pie will not be set and it will be messy.
Chess pie is a classic southern recipe that is still quite popular in the Southern United States. It’s a custard pie made with eggs, sugar, butter, cornmeal, flour and vanilla. It’s name originally comes from a 19th century popular British dessert, cheese pie, to which it’s similar to.
If you can find it in your area, use fine-grind cornmeal (corn flour). The pie will have a smoother, less gritty texture. If not, use whatever cornmeal you have at home or can find at the grocery store.
Irresistible! Chess pie has a creamy, rich and sweet filling with a slight crispness on top. If you like custard pies, you will enjoy it!
Classic Southern Pies
Try this Fudge Pie and Oatmeal Pie, too.
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- 3 cups white granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 6 eggs
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp cornmeal
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 2 unbaked pie shells
- Powdered sugar optional
- In a large bowl, cream the butter with a hand mixer or standing mixer.
- Add all other ingredients into the bowl with the butter (excluding the pie shells) and mix on high speed until well blended.
- Pour mixture into two 9 inch unbaked pie shells.
- Bake at 350F for 1 hour.
- Top with powdered sugar.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Really unique ingredient to vinegar is in this pie recipe, interesting.
John Smith says
That does look delicious and simple! I imagine the vinegar adds piquancy!
I’ve made so many different kinds of pies, but seeing this post I realize I’ve not yet made a chess pie! This one looks so good, I’d love to try it!