Lemon Chess Pie

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Lemon Chess Pie is a classic southern dessert with phenomenal flavor. The curd-like filling rests on a flaky pie crust and it all comes together with just a handful of ingredients!

Overhead view of lemon chess pie with a lemon slice on top.

I first made this Lemon Chess Pie at the request of a reader. I had actually never had one before, so when a reader asked for a recipe for one, I went in search of one before coming up with my own version.

Once I tried it, I was hooked. It’s so good, I was embarrassed that as a self-proclaimed pie-fanatic it took me this long to try this delicious bursting with citrus flavor bright and sweet lemon pie.

Chess Pie is a funny name. It’s debatable as to why they call it chess pie. Some say it is a mispronunciation of “cheese” pie while others say it got its name because it was served to men as they played chess.

Classic chess pie uses vinegar and reminds me of vinegar pie but the lemon version is by far the best.

If you are a fan of lemon curd and lemon bars, you’ll love this pie. It’s tangy, sweet, and oh so creamy. You should know by now I’m a sucker for creamy desserts. If you need a reminder, check out my honey pie!

The incredible thing about this pie is it is so easy. You bake the crust, whisk the filling together and pour it into the hot crust, then pop it back in the oven until the filling is almost set.

It’s similar to a lemon meringue pie, but without the gooey sweetness from the meringue, and with a little more thickness, so that the filling is more like a pie version of my lemon bars. Trust me when I say this pie is one worth making.

It’s easy to make, delicious, and will be sure to be a fan favorite in your house.


Try my chocolate chess pie for a rich chocolaty version.

Recipe Snapshot

  • TASTE: Bright and lemony
  • TEXTURE: Crisp crust with a curd-like filling
  • EASE: Super easy
  • TIME: About 6 hours, including cooling time.

What You’ll Need


  • Pie crust – Make your own homemade pie crust or use store-bought refrigerated pie dough.
  • Sugar – The tanginess of lemons needs to be offset with a good amount of sugar. This recipe uses just enough white granulated sugar to do that without being overly sweet.
  • Lemons – The recipe calls for the zest and juice which is around one to two lemons depending on their size.
  • Cornmeal & flour – Both are used together to stabilize the filling.
  • Butter – Unsalted sweet cream butter is almost always my butter of choice.
  • Eggs – There wouldn’t be a curd-like filling without eggs!

Recommended Tools

  • Pie pan
  • Whisk
Overhead view of a single slice of lemon chess pie on a white plate.

How to Make Lemon Chess Pie

Start with a hot oven for this pie – preheat it to 450°F – in which to bake the crust. Once the crust has baked, turn the oven down to 325°F.

Be sure to check out the full recipe and ingredient list below

  1. Bake the crust. Make the crust according to instructions, and prebake until it looks dry and begins to bubble, about 8 minutes.
  2. Prepare the filling. Whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice, cornmeal, flour and salt together and pour them into the hot pie crust.
  3. Bake the pie. Turn the oven down. Bake the pie for an additional 40 minutes or until the edges are set but the center jiggles slightly when shaken.
  4. Cool. Let cool on a wire rack for 4 hours before serving.
overhead view of bake pie crust
angled view of lemon filling being poured into a pie crust
overhead view of a finished lemon chess pie

Handy tip:

Cornmeal is a bit of a secret ingredient in this pie. It adds flavor and texture and thickens up the pie filling just a bit. If you have the option, use regular yellow cornmeal not stone-ground. The stone-ground cornmeal will have a slightly grittier texture and may not dissolve as well.

Angled view of a slice of lemon chess pie with a fork taking a bite out.

Tips For Success

  • You can serve this pie immediately after it has cooled to room temperature without refrigerating it. If you have leftovers, it is best to refrigerate them.
  • Sprinkle a little confectioners sugar over the top when serving, if desired. Serve plain, with whipped or ice cream.
Overhead view of two slices of lemon chess pie on white plates.

Storage & Freezing

This lemon pie will keep for up to 2 days covered in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.

More Pie Recipes

Chocolate pies, fruit pies, mini pies, handheld pies, cream pies… I love them all. Here are some of my can’t-miss recipes:

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Printable Recipe

Overhead view of lemon chess pie with a lemon slice on top.

Lemon Chess Pie

Yield: 10 Servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 48 minutes
Additional Time: 5 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 33 minutes

Lemon Chess Pie is a such a classic southern dessert that yields phenomenal flavor. The curd-like filling rests on a flaky pie crust and it all comes together with just a handful of ingredients!


  • 1 (9-inch) homemade pie crust, or use store-bought refrigerated pie dough
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, from about 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from about 1-2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal - SEE NOTE 1
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly


  1. Prepare the pie crust according to the recipe and chill for at least 1 hour.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pie crust to fit a 9-inch pie dish. Place in pie dish; trim off any excess along the edges. Flute the edges with fingertips. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Freeze for 20 minutes.
  3. Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F.
  4. Whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornmeal, flour, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in the butter. Set aside until the crust is finished baking.
  5. Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, until it looks dry and small bubbles begin to form on the surface. Remove and lower the oven temperature to 325°F.
  6. Give the filling a quick whisk then pour it into the hot pie crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the surface is light brown and the center jiggles slightly when shaken.
  7. Cool on a wire rack for 4 hours before serving.


  1. Use regular yellow cornmeal not stone-ground for best results.

Make ahead tip

  1. Pie will keep for up to 2 days covered in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 189Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 213mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 5g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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  1. I found this recipe when doing a search for lower sugar lemon Chess Pie. I made it for Christmas. I was told that the lemon flavor was good but there is too much sugar in the pie. Does anyone know how much I can reduce the sugar and still get a good flavor?

    1. My recipes aren’t meant to be low-sugar recipes. There are websites that focus on low sugar or sugar-free desserts. You may have better luck looking to them for lemon chess pie with reduced sugar.

  2. I made this pie for Thanksgiving and everyone loved it…kids included. They now want a repeat performance for Christmas! It was easy to make and a delight to eat.

  3. Very good, used fresh lemon juice. The pie wasn’t super sweet, just the right level of sweetness, and very smooth. This is my go to recipe now. All the things people dislike about chess pie are missing with this recipe.

  4. I followed the recipe as written, but after letting my pie cool for 4+ hours it was still extremely gooey, very little solidity. Any tips?

    1. The filling is meant to be soft and creamy, much like homemade lemon curd. But it shouldn’t be so soft it’s oozy. Double-check that you are measuring ingredients correctly and use an oven thermometer to check your oven temperature. Also, depending on your oven, it may take a few minutes longer to bake. Use the visual cues noted in the recipe to check for doneness before removing the pie from the oven.

  5. James Wood says:

    @450 for 29 minutes in my oven resulted in a very burned mess.

    It’s very possible my oven runs hot. I burned an $80 macadamia/pistachio baklava for Christmas too – I cook, an awful lot, but I don’t bake much because my wife is pretty low-carb. Baked goods don’t tend to fit well with that – and the things I do use the oven for, such as stuffed peppers also tend to be much more forgiving. I’ll be testing my oeven with my dual probe in the near future, and will follow-up before offering a final rating.

    Based on other recipes, I suspect 350 might be the more appropriate temp, and 45 minutes to an hour a more appropriate time.

    We’re also still gonna try it tonight after it cools for 4 hours as prescribed.

    1. Nowhere in the recipe does it say to bake the pie for 29 minutes at 450. The crust alone bakes at 450 for 8 minutes then the temperature is to be lowered to 325 for the rest of the baking time.

  6. Growing up in the South, the tale that was always told was that back in the old days, someone would ask, ‘what kind of pie is that?’ and the answer would be, ‘it’s jes’ pie’ (it’s just pie). Over years, it became ‘chess’ pie. Never, ever heard of it being served to men playing chess.

    1. I am so glad you wrote the origin of “Jes” pie! I, also, have never heard the story of men playing chess and eating pie. Even my Grandmother and Great Aunte’s in Indiana told me the ‘it’s just pie’ story! Thank you ?

  7. Evelynmaria says:

    I was gonna do the King Arthur Flour recipe but they call for a whole 3/4 cups of lemon juice to about the same ingredients as you and i was going to combine you and the other one together but i dont know which is better for the lemon juice, any thoughts??

    1. I’m not familiar with the other recipe so I can’t give you advice on that. But, 3/4 cup of lemon juice is going to yield a very tart pie. If that’s something you like, use that one.

    2. 3\4 cups is in my Mom’s recipe but we love lemon. Everyone we’ve made this pie for loved it. You can make adjustments to any recipe. Play around with it. We also adjusted the amount of flour for consistency and not taste the flour.

  8. Tresha Lusk says:

    Hello, should I pre bake the pie shell if it’s store brought ?

    1. Yes, you’ll still need to blind bake the crust according to the recipe instructions.

  9. This looks great but with a Casein allergy, could I use Ghee instead of butter

  10. Anything lemon is a hit in my book! Love how creamy this pie looks!!