Lemon Chess Pie


Lemon chess pie! This is one of my longtime favorite pies. My kids won’t eat it. (Too much LEMON!!!) So I get the whole pie!!! It is a very lemon-y pie, so if you love lemon, you’ll love this pie.

A “chess” pie is a Southern-style custard pie made with eggs, sugar, butter, and either flour or (more often) cornmeal, plain (which is a delicious custard pie) or with some kind of extra flavoring added, such as lemon or chocolate. The old English lemon curd pie is very similar to lemon chess, which was also called a cheese pie. Presumably, the name chess pie comes from a mangling of the original cheese pie (despite chess pie being cheeseless!). Kinda interesting how the odd names of things came to be, huh?

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How to make Lemon Chess Pie:

pastry for single-crust pie
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel, divided

Prepare pastry in a greased pie pan. Prick piecrust all over with a fork. Bake pastry at 450-degrees for 8-10 minutes. (Watch it so it doesn’t overbrown.) Remove to wire rack. Reduce oven to 350-degrees.

Beat eggs till combined. Add sugar, butter, cornmeal, vanilla, and lemon juice.

Reserving two of the four teaspoons of lemon peel, add two teaspoons to the filling mixture. Stir well to combine.

Pour into pie shell.

Bake at 350-degrees for 35-40 minutes. After the first 20 minutes of baking on the top rack, remove pie from the oven. Sprinkle the reserved two teaspoons of grated lemon on top. Place pie back in oven on the lowest rack until done.

Cool on a wire rack. (Keep refrigerated after cooled.)

I like to decorate the top with lemon slices.

Then eat the whole thing all by myself!

See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

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  1. Kelleh says:

    I think I just might have to try this. It looks delicious! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  2. Kathryn says:

    This is my absolute favorite pie of all time.

  3. Gwen says:

    I really love your recipes, among your stories, even the photo’s make my mouth water……


  4. Heidi says:

    This is not cooking – this is food porn….. LOL Do you know that I gain weight with each of your posts!!! LOL

  5. Charlene Teglia says:

    I love lemon pie. I may make this today. Thanks!

  6. maddie says:

    Oh, yummy! I love lemon chess pie. This recipe is fabulous and the pictures awesome. I’m hungry now…

  7. missyakamelissa says:

    Thank you!!! I know what I’m doing today:-).

  8. Becky says:

    That looks delicious!
    I thought I had found the perfect lemon pie recipe, but I’ll have to try this one and compare.

  9. Sheila says:

    OMG! that looks delish! This is one that I will have to remember for our next family get together.

  10. Tori Lennox says:

    Oh, man, I want some of that pie NOW!!! If was there you’d have to share. *g*

  11. nancy h. says:

    Yummy! I could have used this pie when I was pregnant. I had such a craving for citrus, I ate about a dozen oranges a day. If I ran out of them I’d eat lemons,limes, even that awful bottled lemon juice. I would not have shared this pie either.

  12. mim says:

    I will keep this in mind when I am thinking about a pie….My mom used to make a “lemon” pie but I think she put vinegar in it..Have looked thru all of her recipes & can not locate the recipe…Is anyone out there familiar with this version? :treehugger: :treehugger:

  13. Nancy in Atlanta says:

    Can I send you my keyboard to have the layers of drool cleaned off?

  14. jayedee says:

    this is like food porn or something! be still my heart!

  15. Amy in West TX says:

    It was interesting you posted this today. Chess Pie was my grandfather’s favorite. My girls and I have been talking alot about him this week thanks to the “Twilight” movie. If Edward Cullen was real, he would have been 2 weeks older than my grandfather. I have used Edward to teach my children about what my grandfather went thru growing up, what his time period was like when he was a young man of 17. There are things I distinctly remember and one of them was making a Chess Pie and my grandfather (who had early onset and very long Alzheimers) didn’t know my name, but he knew I baked a pie just like his mother!

  16. catslady says:

    I admit I won’t be making it but I still really enjoy reading and seeing your recipes – I like the history lesson too :mrgreen:

  17. sc says:

    I really, really love lemon pie. It is the only dessert that I can eat the whole of it. (not sure if that is a real sentence) Lemon pie is the reason I learned how to bake. When I was around 12 or so, I just had to have lemon meringue pie and my mother wouldn’t buy or bake one, so I learned how to make it myself. Apparently my younger brothers-5 of them, liked it too and always asked for one for their birthdays. From then on, it became a tradition for their birthday, until I left home. I’m really liking this recipe!!!

  18. Mary Lou Middleton says:

    Can you save a piece for me? Now, just how long would it take me to drive to your house? Well, on second thought, go ahead and eat my piece, and think of all of us who would love to be there with you. We will just have to make our own pie. Thank you for the recipe. I have made this pie but never with lemon. Now, I can’t wait to try it.

  19. Leah says:

    May I please have a slice of your pie? :hungry:

  20. Donna says:

    Oh yum!!! My 2nd cousin received a recipe and Dutch Processed Cocoa by Droste, as a gift at one of her bridal showers and I heard her say how she LOVED “Chess Pie” (funny, I never heard her mention it or saw her eat it). Anyway, I had wondered what it tasted like, over the years, seeing other recipes- just never tried it.
    I have been craving Lemon meringue pie, since I had a slice at Christmas. That looks so good and I always have large bottles of lemon juice handy. I also have a wonderful little zester, to zest the lemon peel.

  21. Claudia in Drippin Springs TX says:

    That sure look’s like yummy pie! I am looking forward to trying out the recipe, my family are lemon lovers! I baked some Grandmother bread last week and it was wonderful… time to make some more! Love your recipes and photos!

  22. tillie says:

    wow…that is one gorgeous pie! enjoy every last bite!

    lol @ the “food porn” comments!

  23. Mia says:

    I remember my Grandmother making chess pie. I grew up in Arkansas but now live in Maryland. Not too many people around here know what I’m talking about when I say ‘chess pie’. The lemon sounds wonderful.

  24. Minna says:

    Ooh, I have try that one. :hungry: But I wonder what I could use instead of cornmeal… There might not be cornmeal in the local shop, as I live in the middle of nowhere!

  25. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Minna, I think it would be okay to use regular flour if you can’t get cornmeal! Some chess pie recipes call for flour instead of the cornmeal. I think the cornmeal is just more Southern.

  26. Sunnid755 says:

    I never met a pie I didn’t like, and this one looks like a keeper. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks&Me says:

    I will definitely have to try this recipe.

    I first tried lemon chess pie at our favorite “nice cafeteria” in our town. I had to share some with hubby, he loves anything lemon. He was also hooked.

    Thanks for the recipe. :hungry:

  28. Susan says:

    I still think you should put your recipes in a book and find a publisher. If you send them some baked goods they definitely won’t turn you down! Or better yet your local TV station could use you as the Martha Stewart of WV!!

  29. Estella says:

    My husband loves lemon pie. Will haveto make this for him.

  30. Joanna Wilcox says:

    thank you, thank you Suzanne, for resurrecting the lemonchess pie. I’ll try this recipe. I live in the NC Appalachians now, however, when I was a child and we used to vacation up here, we always got the lemon-chess pie. Fond memories.

  31. Brandy says:

    I’m going to have to show this to my hubs. He loves anything lemon. *G*

  32. Winifred says:

    My goodness that looks delicious.

  33. mmHoney says:


  34. liz in NY says:

    Thank You!! I am the designated pie baker in the family and I can’t wait to try this one. I usually make lemon meringue but one can never have too many variations can they?? I love reading all about life far away from me and my life.

  35. IowaDeb says:

    I would have to keep this pie all to myself. Suzanne, i noticed how yellow your lemons are there. Ours here are so pale looking.

  36. Wheezay says:

    I had chocolate chess pie in Benton KY, best thing I’ve ever had.. I love lemon so I bet this is awesome! :hungry: Thanks for sharing.

  37. Sonja Foust says:

    Oh my GOD I am seriously making one of those tomorrow. I don’t bake, though, so it’s Pillsbury crust for me. I’m a total cheater, I know. But YUM what a delicious looking pie! And, better yet, my husband says he’s on a diet, so it’s ALL MINE!!! :hungry:

  38. Debbie in PA says:

    Suzanne….how do you manage to stay so slim? I mean really….I could gain weight just looking at the pictures!(which are terific, BTW)

    I am going to have to try this….it looks so good! I want to make that pumpernickle bread you posted the other day as well.

  39. Minna says:

    Thanks, Suzanne! I’ll try that… As soon as I can go to a shop to get some lemons! :hungry:

  40. Kari says:

    Oh Mah Gawd – Suzanne, you are killing me with these recipes! I’m the only one that likes lemon anything in our house so that would mean a whole lemon cheese pie to myself! It looks so yummy – I especially like the slices of lemon on top. :mrgreen:

  41. carolyn says:

    I have made the pie, have not cut it yet waiting for it to cool. Looks yummy. Just wanted to let you know that in the method for baking the pie, that you have tablespoons instead of teaspoons for the lemon zest. I used teaspoons as in the ingredient listing, thought you would want to know in order to correct the error. I am going to make the bread tomorrow. Love the website. My hubby found it in the paper and has forwarded it to our entire family. Keep it up, we are hooked.

  42. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Hi, Carolyn! Thank you! I’ll fix that!

  43. ruth_dt says:

    I expect it’s not called cheese because it has cheese in it, but because the filling can be fruit cheese. Here in Britain, there are traditional fruit cheeses which I have come across from time to time (but they are not common). You can cut slices and eat it on bread or biscuits like normal cheese. I suspect that it is a similar recipe to that US staple, apple butter. Here is a recipe from a UK paper.


  44. ruth_dt says:

    In case you want to try that recipe, I should probably add that when a Brit says “cider” he means “hard” cider. In this case probably at least 5% alcohol.

  45. Carolyn says:

    I have made the pie a couple of times. It does not set up really well though. Am I doing something wrong? The first time it set up all except for a little in the middle. The last time I made it, it was really a mess. Tasted good, but messy. Help……

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Carolyn, the only thing I can think of is that it’s not being baked long enough. I’ve made this pie many times and have never had trouble with it setting up. Is it possible that your oven is not keeping the right temperature?

      • Carolyn says:

        I baked the last one even longer than the first. It was so brown on top I thought I almost burned it. It just did not set up. I have baked the bread and it did fine. So I guess I am just a zinx on the pie. It was sooooooooo good too, just had to eat it with a spoon. hee hee. Thanks for the wonderful webpage, and all that you offer. And for such quick answers to questions. Carolyn

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