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

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.

Lemon Chess Pie

4.44 from 69 votes
Overhead view of lemon chess pie with a lemon slice on top.
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!
Jen Sobjack
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 48 minutes
Additional Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 6 hours 33 minutes
Serving Size 10


  • 1 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
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly


  • Prepare the pie crust according to the recipe and chill for at least 1 hour.
  • 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.
  • Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cool on a wire rack for 4 hours before serving.


  • 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.


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 106mg | Sodium: 161mg | Potassium: 60mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 403IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg

The nutrition information provided is for convenience and as a courtesy only. It is not guaranteed to be accurate because nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator and input the exact ingredients and brands you used in the recipe.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American


  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. Jen Sobjack says:

      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.

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