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Traditional Southern Chess Pie Plus 5 Variations


Jo loves to cook and has been doing so for family and friends for many years. She enjoys sharing her family recipes with others.

Chocolate chess pie

Chocolate chess pie

What Is Chess Pie?

According to some sources, chess pie was brought to the United States from England. It was found in recipe sources from several American states, but today is associated with the American South.

Chess pie is a simple pie to make, with a single crust and a basic filling that includes eggs, sugar, butter, and a small amount of thickening. Instead of flour, however, cornmeal is used for the thickener.

Our Family's Basic Chess Pie

This was my mother's chess pie recipe, passed down to her daughters. For me, about as basic as you can get. Perhaps you have a different version of chess pie. I'd love for you to share with us.


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 (9-inch) pie shell, unbaked


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, beat the eggs; then add sugar, cornmeal, butter, and vinegar.
  3. Mix thoroughly and let set for 10 minutes.
  4. Pour into 9-inch pie crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

Variation #1: Aunt Nellie's Pineapple Chess Pie

Years ago one of my best friends shared with me this variation on chess pie concocted by one of her aunts. I have tried this variation of chess pie through the years and found it, like our family's original chess pie, to be delicious. After trying this version of the basic pie, through the years I've looked for other variations on the original pie.

Here's the recipe that Aunt Nellie passed down to her niece:


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornmeal
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple (partially drained)
  • 1 deep-dish pie shell or 2 regular 9" pie shell


  1. Sift together sugar, salt and flour.
  2. Cream butter and sugar mixture together.
  3. Add cornmeal and eggs.
  4. Mix in vanilla and pineapple.
  5. Mix well and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Variation #2: Browned Butter Chess Pie


  • 9" pie crusts, cooked and cooled
  • 6 TBS. unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 TBS. lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place butter in a skillet and cook 5 or 6 minutes over medium heat, stirring often, until butter starts to turn a medium brown. Transfer to bowl.
  3. Whisk together eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add sugar, cornmeal, flour, and salt. Stir until smooth. Add browned butter. Stir until thoroughly mixed and pour into cooled pie crust.
  4. Bake 30-35 minutes until browned. Place on wire rack to cool.

Variation #3: Black Walnut Chess Pie

In the fall each year, we gather the black walnuts from the trees growing in our area, hull them, store them for a short time, then crack them and harvest the nuts. We store them in our freezer and make delectable treats from them throughout the years. This recipe is one of our favorites, and it takes only 1/2 cup of those precious walnuts we've harvested to make it. And it is so easy to make.

Here's the recipe: Enjoy!


  • 1 unbaked pastry shell, chilled
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped black walnuts


  1. Beat butter and sugar in a medium-sized bowl until well mixed.
  2. Add flour, salt, egg yolks, and evaporated milk. Beat until well mixed.
  3. Stir in vanilla and walnuts.
  4. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell.
  5. Bake on lower rack of oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cook.
Lemon Chess Pie

Lemon Chess Pie

Variation #4: Lemon Chess Pie


  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice:
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 TBS. cornmeal
  • 2 tsps. all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt


  1. Beat eggs for 3 minutes. Gradually add sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in lemon juice, butter, cornmeal, flour, and salt.
  2. Pour into pastry shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Variation #5: Chocolate Chess Pie

Chocolate makes everything better—even chess pie.

Of all the chess pies I have listed here, this chocolate chess pie is one of the easiest to make—and it's one of our favorites. Chess pie, generally speaking, is an easy pie to make. Just a few easy steps: Mix up ingredients, pour into crust, and cook pie and crust at the same time. Simple. Easy. Enjoy!


  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 small can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell


  1. Mix together sugar and cocoa.
  2. Add eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

How to Make Chess Pie


Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 11, 2021:

It does taste great, John. Thanks for stopping by.

John Murphree from Tennessee on August 11, 2021:

Looks great to me. I'm sure it tastes wonderful.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 10, 2021:

Running over them in a car was a common way to crack them, Flourish. Hardly anyone collects and hulls them now. We purchased a heavy duty nutcracker for this type of nut. I wrote about harvesting black walnuts in another article I have here. It's hard work, which is why few people bother with them now. We just kind of play at living off the land here and enjoy this type of activity.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 09, 2021:

How do you crack them, Jo? My dad (although not raised in the South) has just enough commonness in him to place them all on a tarp in the driveway and run over them with the car.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 09, 2021:

The chocolate is one of the easiest to make, Pam, and one of our favorites.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 09, 2021:

It's a very common pie here in the Southern U.S., John. And very easy to make.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 09, 2021:

You could easily make your own, Glenis. It's such an easy pie to make.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 09, 2021:

Black walnut is definitely our favorite, especially since we pick up, hull, and crack all our own black walnuts.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 09, 2021:

Of course you haven't heard of Chess pie, Bill. You're not southern

Glen Rix from UK on August 07, 2021:

Interesting, Jo. It’s probably correct that the original recipe was brought from England. Here we have a simple sweet egg custard tart. It’s a frequent indulgent treat in my house - but I don’t bake it as it’s available from most bakeries and supermarkets. I have never heard of variations on the theme. Like the idea of the lemon one - which sounds similar to the filling of a lemon meringue pie.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 07, 2021:

You’ve got me with the black walnut!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 07, 2021:

Never in all my life have I heard of this. How did it escape my notice for 72 years? lol Thanks for sharing!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 07, 2021:

Thank you for sharing these recipes, Jo. I have never heard of chess pie, but the chocolate one sounds yummy.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 07, 2021:

Thank you for all of these good recipes, Jo. I especially like the lemon, but there are others that look excellent also. This is a very good article for chess pie.

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