Lemon Chess Pie

Lemon Chess Pie

You know a pie recipe is old when several stories are told about its history. Some say the term “chess pie” goes back to an eighteenth-century English cheese pie. Another links the origins of the name to the Southern pie chest, or pie safe, a piece of furniture that holds kitchen confections. Another anecdote tells of a man who stopped to eat at a diner in Alabama. He loved the pie he was served, and when he asked what its name was, the waitress replied, “jes pie.” Whatever the truth may be, as food writer Stephanie Anderson Witmer says, “So many Southern pies, like the chess pies, are elegant in their simplicity. They use staple ingredients, but are divine.”–Mollie Cox Bryan

LC What Occasion? Note

Given that this pleasantly homey dessert comes together from pantry staples, it’s perfect for any afternoon or last-minute occasion.

Lemon Chess Pie

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 10 M
  • 55 M
  • Makes one 9-inch
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies cookbook

Want it? Click it.



Preheat the oven to 350° F (180°C). Line a 9-inch pie plate with the rolled-out Vinegar Pie Crust. (For a particularly crisp crust, consider parbaking the crust per the instructions in the pastry recipe.)

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then stir in the cornmeal, followed by the lemon juice, mixing just until combined. Pour the filling into the crust.

Bake the pie for 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling is a deep golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

Print RecipeBuy the Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Rolling down hills, catching lightning bugs in jars, running barefoot in the grass, and the smell of pies cooling on the windowsill—eating this pie grants me flashbacks of more innocent times. If you have lemons, you most likely have everything you need in your kitchen to make this pie. It takes very little prep time to assemble and, though a frozen pie crust will cut back even more on prep, making the crust from scratch is so much tastier (I’ve tried this pie both ways). TIPS: I’d definitely recommend par-baking the crust as suggested, as the bottom of the pie won’t crisp up after you fill it. If you can wait the hour or so to let the pie set properly, you’ll be happily rewarded with a sweet-tart slice of memories.

I’ve never had chess pie, so I wasn’t sure what a Lemon Chess Pie would taste like. Turns out it’s like lemon meringue, though with a lightly crispy top of cornmeal in lieu of the meringue. I used Trader Joe’s frozen pie crust and didn’t par-bake it like the recipe suggests, and it still was nice and crisp. I let the pie bake for 45 minutes, because at 40 minutes it was still a little too jiggly. Though it’s a struggle to let the pie cool for an hour, it’s a necessary step for the filling to set up. Overall, this is one of the easiest pies to get into the oven—especially if you have pie dough ready to go. A dollop of whipped cream balances the sweet-tart lemon filling perfectly (ice cream would be too much). Now I’m curious to see how a plain chess pie would turn out.

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. Making this pie was a piece of cake! I didn’t par-bake the dough (as the recipe suggests) and found that the crust was perfectly crisp without it. However, I do recommend rotating the pie while in the oven—even if using a convection oven—to ensure even browning of the filling. If, like me, you happen to keep homemade pie dough in the freezer at all times, then this is a fantastic last-minute recipe, using ingredients that you probably already have at home. I made two of these for a dinner party of 14, and found one pie was really enough to serve everybody. A small piece goes a long way. I also tried pairing it with ice cream, but found the pie was really best served on its own.

    The process is simple, and the result was like luscious lemon bars in pie form!

  2. Love me some citrus! I want to make this pie, but need a more specific measurement for lemon juice – sizes vary widely. Thanks in advance.

  3. My family ate lemon cake a few weeks back, but now after reading all the wonderful reviews by your LC Testers, I’m going to be making this tomorrow.
    Today, I’m cleaning, but tomorrow I’m going to make something tasty to eat and enjoy. Thanks for the recipes.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish