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Lemon Chess Pie is sweet, tart and so delicious!
A luscious pie for lemon lovers!
Everyone loves this Lemon Chess Pie! It’s easy to make and never disappoints. This pie is tangy, sweet, creamy and loaded with intense lemon flavor. If you crave tangy lemon bars, intense lemon curd, or lemon squares, this pie is for you!
What is Lemon Chess Pie?
Lemon Chess Pie is an old-fashioned classic southern dessert originally based on the classic Chess Pie. Traditional recipes for Chess Pie are similar but may also include a little milk and vinegar to add tartness in place of the lemon juice and zest.
Chess pie recipes typically include flour and cornmeal to help thicken the filling. Other popular chess pie recipes include coconut, buttermilk, nut and chocolate chess pie to name a few.
Overview of ingredients:
To make this Lemon Chess Pie recipe you’ll need a single, unbaked 9-inch pie crust.
Use homemade, store-bought refrigerated or frozen pie crust. If using a frozen crust follow the directions to thaw before baking. Once your unbaked pie crust is ready, store in the refrigerator until ready to fill.
If you’re making homemade pastry we recommend trying our Perfect Pie Crust recipe in 3-easy steps. Our recipe makes enough pastry dough for two single crusts. Divide the dough and freeze half for later. Frozen unbaked pie dough will keep for 4 months if well sealed.
For our pie crust recipe you’ll need:
- all-purpose flour
- granulated sugar
- unsalted butter
- solid vegetable shortening
- ice cold water
For the lemon filling you’ll need:
- granulated sugar
- all-purpose flour
- unsalted butter
- lemon zest from 1 lemon
- fresh lemon juice from 3 lemons
- 5 large eggs
Why is there cornmeal in the filling?
Cornmeal adds a nice textural feature to the pie filling. While it doesn’t make the filling grainy or lumpy, cornmeal helps give the top of the pie a beautiful golden brown color. You can’t tell there’s cornmeal in the filling, nor can you taste it. Cornmeal is a terrific thickening agent, even in the small amount included in this recipe.
Overview: How to make this Lemon Chess Pie recipe
- First, prepare a single 9-inch pie crust in a metal or aluminum pie pan and refrigerate until needed.
- Place a baking stone, pizza stone or rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat.
- Mix the filling ingredients together and pour into the chilled unbaked pie crust.
- Place the pie in the oven on the preheated stone and bake until the top is light brown and the center jiggles slightly when shaken.
- Cool to room temperature and serve!
Bake this pie on a hot stone or baking sheet.
By placing the unbaked pie crust directly onto a hot stone or baking sheet, the bottom of the crust will bake more quickly. This quick baking method helps prevent a soggy bottomed pie. If you prefer to blind-bake the crust before filling, follow the directions on our pie crust recipe.
I’ve never had to blind-bake a crust for this pie. However, if you do, please cover the edges of the crust with foil before filling, to prevent over-browning. This lemon pie needs at least 45 minutes in the oven for the filling to completely set.
Do you have to use fresh lemon juice for this pie?
I’m going to say yes. Fresh lemon juice makes all the difference in this pie, just like fresh key lime juice makes the best Key Lime Pie. If you use bottled lemon juice I cannot guarantee you’ll get the best flavor.
What is the best way to store lemons?
Lemons, and other citrus fruits, do not continue to ripen after harvest. The good news is they stay fresher longer than other fruits like apples, pears and bananas. To keep your lemons juicy and fresh, they must be refrigerated and sealed in an airtight zipper bag. Also, keep lemons whole whenever possible.
Properly stored, lemons should keep fresh for up to 4 weeks
If you zest a lemon but don’t need the juice, wrap the zested lemon tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Lemon juice and lemon zest are also freezable if sealed in an airtight container. The color and flavor may be a little diminished, but when used in small amounts it’s perfectly acceptable.
How to properly zest a lemon
Over the years we’ve received a few comments about lemon desserts having a bitter flavor. This is most likely because the baker zested more than the yellow outer skin of the lemon. You cannot include any of the white pith or I guarantee you’ll have a bitter flavor in your baked goods.
Use a good quality rasp-style zester and don’t worry too much about getting every tiny bit of yellow skin off the lemon. I would rather zest two lemons lightly, than over zesting just one.
Do you have to refrigerate Lemon Chess Pie?
Lemon Chess Pie is not like a cream pie made with dairy so it doesn’t require refrigeration. However, I prefer to refrigerate leftovers for longer storage.
Can you freeze Lemon Chess Pie?
Absolutely! Lemon Chess Pie can be frozen whole or in individual slices. However, it’s such a simple and quick pie to make it’s easily thrown together the day before, or the morning of the day you plan to serve.
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Lemon Chess Pie
- 1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell, homemade or store-bought
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar (392g)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornmeal
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (76g)
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon (no white pith)
- ⅓ cup lemon juice fresh squeezed (2 or 3 lemons) (80g)
- 5 large eggs lightly beaten
- Prepare a single unbaked pie crust recipe and refrigerate until needed. The unbaked crust should be well chilled before filled.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a large rimmed baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven to preheat.
- Combine sugar, flour, cornmeal and salt in a large bowl. Add melted butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix well. Add the beaten eggs and whisk until well blended. Pour the lemon filling into the cold prepared pie crust. Place the pie in the oven directly on the preheated stone or baking pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the top is light brown and the center jiggles slightly when shaken.
- Cool completely on a wire rack, about 4 hours. Serve with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, if desired.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
- You can also blind-bake the crust first, if desired. Follow the directions for blind baking found on our post for Perfect Pie Crust in 3-Easy Steps.
- Recipe updated July 2020
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Originally posted March 2011, updated August 2020