There are a huge number of different, delicious pies out there, from simple and sweet to complex and savory. This recipe for lemon chess pie uses a classic technique to produce a delicious chess pie but flavors it with lemon in three different ways to make it truly flavorful.
Lemon Chess Pie
Chess pie is often considered the ultimate Southern pie, being equal parts both simple and delicious.
Made from easy to find and cheap ingredients, chess pie is that universal dessert dish for when you don’t have much on hand.
This variation replaces the vinegar typically used to create chess pie's unique texture and flavor with lemon juice. The lemon flavor is then further reinforced with extra lemon extract and some lemon zest to produce a fruity, simple, and acidic pie, perfect for serving after a heavy meal.
Lemon Chess Pie Ingredients
Make sure you look at the recipe card at the very bottom for the exact amounts so that you know exactly what to buy for this recipe.
• Pie crust
• White sugar
• Whole milk
• All-purpose flour
• Lemon juice
• Lemon extract
• Lemon zest
How To Make Lemon Chess Pie
• Prepare the pie shell
• Mix the flour with the sugar in a bowl
• Cream the sugar mixture and butter in a large mixing bowl until fluffy
• Beat the eggs slightly and add to the butter and sugar mix
• Add in the milk and mix
• Add the cornmeal, lemon juice, lemon extract, and lemon zest
• Mix it all well until combined and smooth
• Pour the mixture into the pastry shell
• Bake in a preheated oven at 350 Fahrenheit for 50 minutes, or until the center is set and the top0 is golden brown
• Let the pie cool completely for 1 hour on a cooling rack before slicing
• Sprinkle the top with icing sugar before serving
Why Does This Recipe Call For Three Different Kinds Of Lemon?
This recipe calls for not only lemon juice but also lemon zest and even artificial lemon extract as well.
The reason for the lemon juice makes sense: chess pie requires a good amount of acidity from somewhere, and lemon juice works just as well as using vinegar.
The other two types of lemon flavor, however, simply help to reinforce the lemony qualities of the pie.
The lemon zest helps to contribute those bright lemon oils to the dish, bringing a more rounded lemon flavor than just simple acidity.
The lemon extract, meanwhile, helps to make the entire pie taste more like a lemon, rather than just tasting lemon juice and lemon zest separately.
Though it can sometimes feel really weird to add an artificial ingredient like an extract, lemon extract really helps to improve this dish and transform it into something that tastes so much more than just sweet lemon.
Why Is It Called “Chess Pie”?
Chess pie is one of those names that makes it seem like there is going to be some long, esoteric origin story behind the meaning. Like, maybe it has something to do with the game of chess?
Indeed, there is a supposed origin story for pie and its name, which is that, because of its high acid content, it was able to be left outside of any refrigeration for a long time. Instead, the pie would be kept in the kitchen chest, where crockery and other items were stored in frontier and Southern homes.
Thus, it was called “chest” pie, which over time wore down to just “chess” pie.
However, the more likely story is even more interesting: it is basically just someone mishearing some explained dessert!
Someone not familiar with chess pie might ask their host what the pie is because they have never heard it before. Their Southern host would reply, probably a bit confused, that it was “just pie?”
In Southern dialect, “just pie” easily sounds like “jes’ pie,” which isn’t much of a leap to turning it into “chess pie” if it is misheard enough times.
Perhaps even more weirdly, this origin makes “chess pie,” something linguistics refers to as an “egg corn!” A phrase or name that came about due to mispronunciation but still makes perfect sense in its own right.
Make sure you share this interesting fact with everyone you serve this pie to, as well.
Looking for more delicious Pie recipes? Try these out:
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Lemon Chess Pie
- Prep Time
- 15 minutes
- Cook Time
- 55 minutes
- Karlynn Johnston
- 1 single pie crust (9 inch)
- 1.5 cups white sugar
- 1/4 cup butter (softened)
- 3 eggs (beaten)
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon cornmeal
- 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon Lemon Extract
- 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
- Prepare Pie shell
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Mix the flour with the sugar in a bowl.
- Cream the sugar mixture and butter in a large mixing bowl until fluffy.
- Beat the eggs slightly and add into the butter and sugar mix.
- Add in the milk and mix.
- Add the cornmeal, lemon juice, lemon extract and lemon zest. Mix it well until combined and smooth.
- Pour mixture into pastry shell.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 45 – 55 minutes, until set in center and golden brown on top.
- Let the pie cool for about 1 hour on a cooling rack before slicing.
- Sprinkle the top with icing sugar before serving.
All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.