Chess Pie is an old family favorite that my grandma used to make. This pie is a rich, creamy, buttery dessert, made with basic pantry items, and is super simple to put together.
What is Chess Pie?
It seems the big questions about Chess Pie floating around the Internet are how it got its name and where it originated. There are so many theories, but after a lot of research, I found several consistent articles that say it came from England and is a southern staple in the United States. Another consistency among most articles is that the pie uses very basic ingredients, because there was a point in time when many people could only afford very basic pantry staples. Some articles even refer to it as the Pantry Pie.
My grandparents lived through the Great Depression, and at one point my grandpa worked for a payment of milk and eggs while my grandma stayed home with their four children. My grandma would speak often about the simple dishes she would make because she only had basic ingredients and a large family to feed. The Chess Pie was one of those simple, yet inexpensive dishes.
ingredients in Chess Pie
Chess Pie has many recipe variations across the Internet. Some use buttermilk, some use lemon, and there are articles that claim chestnut flour was used at one time. However, my grandma’s recipe uses basic ingredients like eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar and butter. The odd ingredients you wouldn’t expect…cornmeal and vinegar.
Vinegar is used in the recipe to help cut the sweetness. As I mentioned, some recipes call for lemon, but back in the early days when this recipe was popular, citrus was hard to find. Therefore, many cooks used vinegar because it was an ingredient stocked in most pantries.
I’ve read several reasons for using cornmeal in the recipe. Some say the cornmeal gives the pie it’s golden brown top; I also read that it was used in place of chestnut flour when that was hard to find; and some articles say it was a replacement for flour when cornmeal was all the cook had on hand. I tend to believe in my grandma’s recipe, she used whatever ingredients she had available, and I know my grandma always had cornmeal in her pantry. My grandparents were super thrifty and could make good use of whatever they were blessed to have during hard times.
How to Make Chess Pie
Honestly, this is probably one of the easiest pies I’ve ever made. All you do is mix the ingredients together with a whisk and pour into an unbaked pie shell. I even took a shortcut with this pie and used a frozen pie crust. It only bakes for 35-40 minutes and you have a delicious pie ready to serve.
My Grandma’s Recipes
I love having this space on the Internet to document some of my grandma’s recipes. Many of her recipes are so simple, since money was often tight and she only had few ingredients.
She was an amazing cook and taught me how to cook many of her favorite family recipes. I used to sit with her and write them down, because she knew most of them by memory. At one time, my dad documented several of them for a family cookbook.
You can find the recipes I’ve documented in Grandma’s Recipes. Stay tuned for more to come.
- ½ cup melted butter (1 stick)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp. corn meal
- 1 tsp. vinegar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 5 tbsp. milk
- 3 whole eggs
- 1 unbaked pie shell
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Melt butter and let cool slightly.
- Mix ingredients in order, except for pie shell.
- Pour mixed ingredients into unbaked pie shell.
- Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until set.
- Let cool and enjoy!