Chess pie is a dessert with a filling composed mainly of flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and sometimes milk, characteristic of Southern United States cuisine.[1] It is similar to pecan pie without any nuts.[1]

Chess pie
Buttermilk Chess Pie, August 2009.jpg
A slice of vanilla buttermilk chess pie
Place of originEngland
Main ingredientsPie crust, eggs, butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, corn meal
VariationsLemon chess pie, vinegar pie

Jefferson Davis pie is similar to chess pie, but Jefferson Davis pie may also contain spices, nuts, or dried fruits and is usually topped with meringue.[2]


Chess pie was brought from England originally and was found in New England as well as Virginia.[2][3] It has some similarities to English lemon curd pie.[4]

It is likely derived from recipes for cheeseless cheesecake that appeared in cookbooks as early as the 17th century, such as in Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery and the English A True Gentlewoman's Delight (1653).[5] A recipe explicitly called chess pie appeared in the 1877 cookbook by Estelle Woods Wilcox, Buckeye Cookery.[5][6]

Today chess pie is most commonly associated as a dessert of the American South.[4] Common types of chess pie are buttermilk, chocolate, lemon, and nut.[citation needed]


Several derivations of the name chess pie have been proposed. The most likely is a derivation of cheese pie, as early cookbooks grouped cheesecakes together with pies made of curd or custard.[7][8][9][6] Other possible derivations include: the town of Chester, England;[5] chest pie, from pie chest, a type of furniture used to store pies prior to home refrigeration; or an eggcorn of "It's just pie" due to a misinterpretation of the pronunciation "It's jes' pie" in Southern American English.[10][4]


The basic chess pie recipe calls for the preparation of a single crust and a filling composed of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs and milk or condensed milk. Some variations call for the addition of cornmeal as a thickener. Many recipes call for an acid such as vinegar, buttermilk, or lemon juice.[11][8]

In addition to standard chess pie, other flavor variations include lemon, coconut, and chocolate chess pie.[12] Some nut pies, including some pecan, fall under the category of chess pies.[13] Traditional pecan pie recipes do not include milk or condensed milk in the filling, and are typically regarded as a type of sugar pie similar to British treacle rather than a milk-containing custard (see Pecan pie § Variations).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Weinstein, Jay (2007). "Karo Syrup". In Smith, Andrew F. (ed.). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford. p. 339. ISBN 978-0-19-530796-2. OCLC 71833329.
  2. ^ a b Kaufman, Cathy K. (2007). "Pastries". In Smith, Andrew F. (ed.). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford. p. 438. ISBN 978-0-19-530796-2. OCLC 71833329.
  3. ^ Beard, James (28 February 2009). "Chess Pie or Tarts". James Beard's American Cookery. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-06981-6. OCLC 1302952840. Brought from England and prevalent mostly in New England and the Virginias, this was served more as a tea accompaniment than as a dessert pie. Traditionally it is made in patty pans as tarts.
  4. ^ a b c "Chess Pie Recipes: Taste of the South". Southern Living. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  5. ^ a b c Olver, Lynne. "Food Timeline: history notes-pie & pastry". The Food Timeline. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  6. ^ a b Stradley, Linda (2015-05-19). "Chess Pie history". What's Cooking America. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  7. ^ Belk, Sarah (1991). Around the Southern Table. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 367–8). Quoted in "Chess pie". The Food Timeline. Lynne Olver.
  8. ^ a b "Classic Chess Pie". Southern Living. Meredith Home Group. Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  9. ^ "Chess Pie". Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  10. ^ Linda (2017). "Chess Pie History". What's Cooking America. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  11. ^ "Southern Chess Pie: Tips and Variations". The Spruce. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  12. ^ Schneider, Crady (2017-03-14). "Chess Pie: Nothing More Southern". Porter Briggs. Retrieved 2017-06-19.
  13. ^ "Everything You Need to Know About Classic American Pie". Eater. Retrieved 2018-02-21.