Chess pie
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

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]

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 also


  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.