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Quick and Easy Chocolate Chess Pie

Delicious with whipped cream and chocolate sauce or ice cream!

Delicious with whipped cream and chocolate sauce or ice cream!

Easy Recipe With Deep Chocolate Flavor

Love rich chocolate pie? This quick dessert has about the richest chocolate flavor I know. Never heard of chess pie? As a Californian transplanted to Texas, I hadn't heard of it, either. Think of chess pie as a chocolate pecan pie without nuts. Although you certainly could throw in the pecans if you'd like to, as well! Like pecan pie, chess pie is rich, dense, and full of flavor.

Luckily, most people have the ingredients for this pie in their cupboard, and since it bakes so quickly, you can whip it up in a jiffy and have it baking in the oven and ready to pull out for dinner. Meanwhile, everyone will be in anticipation since the smell of this pie baking is lovely.

This smooth chocolate-baked pie was passed on to me by a friend who served it for a ladies' luncheon. It is based on an old Southern classic called chess pie. This version is so quick and easy that it has become a go-to dessert for me. Unlike pudding-based pies, this one doesn't get runny or fall down if not refrigerated, so it is great to bring for a picnic or to take to a potluck—or, as they say in the South, a "covered dish."

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

45 min

55 min

8-10 slices of pie


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 oz. evaporated milk (or cream)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 unbaked pie crust


  1. Add sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder into a bowl. Mix with a whisk until well blended.
  2. Add eggs and evaporated milk. Mix with a whisk until blended. Add melted butter or margarine and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth.
  3. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.
  4. Serve warm or cold. You can serve it with whipped cream and chocolate sauce or ice cream.

Serving Chocolate Chess Pie

The smooth filling is excellent on its own, or you can dress it up with one of the toppings below. You can sprinkle on some nuts, chocolate chips, or a bit of powdered sugar to make it fancy, too. Frankly, I'm a lazy cook and just open my cupboard and see what I have hanging around to decorate the top of the pie! Try this easy dessert and see if your family doesn't rave.

Topping Ideas

  • Whipped cream
  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Caramel sauce
  • Strawberries and whipped cream
  • Fresh raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries
  • Crushed chocolate mint candies
  • Crushed toffee bars
  • Crushed Twix or another candy bar
  • A sprinkling of powdered sugar.
  • Crushed Oreo (on whipped cream)
  • Whipped cream with Andes Mints in a circle
  • Meringue

Company Dessert

I love serving this at a tea party or bringing it to a potluck picnic. It slices very cleanly and is so rich that you can serve smaller slices (maybe putting some fruit or ice cream alongside it) if you have unexpected company. It can be stored at room temperature for a day, so it is easy to transport for a party. If we don't eat it up in a day (not often!), I usually put it in the refrigerator.

Original Chess Pie

To make the original version, you just change a few ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix and pour into unbaked pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.

Variation: Mocha Chocolate Chess Pie

Along with all the different things you can serve on top, you can also vary the recipe by making it into a mocha-flavored pie by adding 1 tablespoon of instant coffee (or more if you like a deep coffee flavor). Add the coffee to the evaporated milk and let it sit until it melts before mixing it with the other ingredients for the best results. I top this with mocha ice cream and chocolate sauce for a really decadent treat!

Lemon chess pie

Lemon chess pie

Variation: Lemon Chess Pie

Lemon chess tastes thicker and creamier than lemon meringue. Better yet, it holds up when taken somewhere and doesn't need to be refrigerated to stay fresh. The ingredients are similar to the chocolate version, but you need to add flour and cornmeal to make it set up.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice


  1. Mix everything together and pour into an unbaked 9-inch pie shell.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the middle is set.

You can add whipped cream on top or a meringue.

Meringue Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • Pinch cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

Meringue Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients and beat until stiff peaks form.
  2. Spread on the pie with a knife, or put it into a pastry bag and pipe on in swirls like the photo above.
  3. Bake 10-12 minutes in a 375-degree oven or until lightly browned.

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Recipe History

I love old cookbooks and learning the history of recipes. In fact, I inherited some wonderful old cookbooks from my mom and mother-in-law. While developing this recipe, I looked up the history of this pie and a lot of different variations. In my older cookbooks, this is listed under "custard pies."

Plain custard pie is not seen often in the United States, although it was served everywhere we went in China as a tiny tart. However, no American Thanksgiving is complete without the two custard pies we associate with that day, pumpkin and pecan. I suppose that lemon meringue is another sort of custard pie that is still well known, and one of my older cookbooks suggests putting meringue on top of chess pie.

My Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking (1959), the cookbook I grew up using, states that "custard pie fillings consist of eggs, milk, and sugar" and claims it is difficult to bake them well, offering a wealth of information about oven temperatures. My guess is that older ovens did not offer as good of baking conditions as we have today.

My Joy of Cooking (1975) offers a recipe for "chess tarts" as a variation of "Jefferson Davis pie." The latter recipe adds spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as dates and nuts, which makes the pie even closer to pecan. The recipe for chess tarts in Joy of Cooking merely says, "omit the dates and spices and when cool cover with whipped cream."

Understandably, the end of the Civil War may have caused the name change of this pie in my other cookbooks to "vinegar pie" or "transparent pie." While I don't use any vinegar in my recipe, some chess pies have a small amount of vinegar added, which may have helped the pie to rise, helped preserve it in an era before refrigeration, and perhaps cut down on the sweetness.

Why the name "chess pie?" It might be because pies were kept in pie chests before there were refrigerators, and chests became "chess" in the South!