Chess Pie

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 3 hr 25 min (plus cooling)
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Southerners have passed down recipes for this custardy dessert since it originated in the late 1800s. As the story goes, when a customer asked a pie seller in Alabama what kind she had, she replied, "It’s just pie." But with her accent it sounded like "chess pie," and the name stuck.


For the Crust:

For the Filling:


  1. Make the crust: Pulse the flour, granulated sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the shortening and pulse until just incorporated. Add the butter and pulse until just combined with some pea-size pieces. Add the cider vinegar and 3 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough comes together but is still slightly crumbly. If the mixture seems too dry, add up to 1 more tablespoon ice water, a little at a time. Turn out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
  2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 13-inch round. Ease the dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim any overhanging dough, then crimp the edges with your fingers. Refrigerate the crust at least 1 hour before filling and baking.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the pie crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly golden brown around the edges, about 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and continue baking until golden brown all over, 10 to 15 more minutes. Let cool while you make the filling.
  4. Make the filling: Whisk the melted butter, granulated sugar, cornmeal, flour and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Whisk in the milk, white vinegar and vanilla, then whisk in the eggs. Pour into the crust. Bake until lightly browned and the center is set and no longer jiggly, 45 to 55 minutes (tent with foil if the pie is getting too dark). Let cool completely on a rack, then dust with confectioners’ sugar.