You’re in for a mouthwatering treat with this step-by-step guide to making the heavenly Southern Lemon Chess Pie. Get ready to indulge in the perfect combination of tangy lemon and sweet custard filling that melts in your mouth with every bite. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or a beginner in the kitchen, this easy-to-follow recipe will have you whipping up this classic Southern dessert in no time. So roll up your sleeves, grab your apron, and let’s dive into the art of creating the ultimate lemon chess pie.


To prepare a Southern lemon chess pie, you will need the following ingredients:


Butter is an essential ingredient that adds richness and flavor to the pie. Make sure to use unsalted butter for the best results.

Granulated sugar

Granulated sugar provides sweetness and helps to balance the tartness of the lemon. It also helps to create a smooth and creamy texture in the filling.


Flour acts as a thickening agent and helps to give the pie filling structure. It ensures that the pie sets properly and holds together when sliced.


Cornmeal adds a unique texture and depth of flavor to the pie. It also helps to prevent the filling from becoming too dense or overly sweet.


Eggs are essential for binding the filling and adding richness. They contribute to the smooth and velvety texture of the pie.

See also  Southern-style Creamed Corn

Lemon juice

Freshly squeezed lemon juice is key to achieving the bright and tangy flavor that defines a lemon chess pie. It provides a refreshing citrusy taste that complements the sweetness of the other ingredients.

Lemon zest

Lemon zest adds an intense lemon flavor and aroma to the pie. It enhances the overall citrus profile and adds a burst of freshness.


Buttermilk adds a subtle tanginess and creaminess to the filling. It helps to balance the sweetness and adds a delightful richness to the pie.

Vanilla extract

Vanilla extract adds depth and warmth to the pie filling. It enhances the overall flavor profile and complements the tartness of the lemon.


Salt is important for balancing the sweetness and enhancing the flavors in the pie. It helps to bring out the natural flavors of the other ingredients.

Pie crust

A flaky and buttery pie crust is the foundation of any good pie. You can use a store-bought crust or make your own from scratch. Either way, it will provide the perfect base for the luscious lemon chess pie.

Preparing the Pie Crust

To ensure a delicious and perfectly baked lemon chess pie, it is important to prepare a well-made pie crust. Here’s how to do it:

Gather the ingredients

Before you begin, make sure you have all the ingredients needed for the pie crust. This includes flour, butter, salt, and cold water.

Combine the dry ingredients

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Give it a quick whisk or stir to evenly distribute the salt throughout the flour.

Cut in the butter

Take your cold butter and cut it into small cubes. Add the butter to the flour mixture and use a pastry cutter or your fingertips to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add cold water

Gradually add cold water to the mixture, a tablespoon at a time, and mix until the dough begins to come together. Be careful not to overmix. The dough should hold together but still be slightly crumbly.

Mix and form the dough

Gently knead the dough a few times in the bowl until it forms a cohesive ball. Be gentle and avoid overworking the dough, as this can result in a tough crust.

Chill the dough

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Chilling the dough allows the gluten to relax and prevents shrinkage during baking.

Roll out the dough

Once the dough has chilled, lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough into a circle, about 1/8 inch thick, slightly larger than your pie dish.

Place the crust in a pie dish

Carefully transfer the rolled-out dough into your pie dish, gently pressing it down into the bottom and sides. Trim any excess dough, leaving about 1/2 inch overhang for crimping the edges.

See also  Exploring the Delights of Spoonbread

Making the Filling

Now that your pie crust is ready, it’s time to make the luscious lemon chess pie filling:

Preheat the oven

Before you start preparing the filling, preheat your oven to the appropriate temperature as indicated in your recipe.

Melt the butter

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat until it is completely melted and smooth. Set it aside to cool slightly.

Combine the sugar, flour, and cornmeal

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, flour, and cornmeal until well combined. This helps to ensure that these dry ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the filling.

Beat in the eggs

Add the eggs to the dry ingredient mixture and use a whisk or electric mixer to beat them until smooth and creamy. This step helps to bind the filling and create a rich, custard-like texture.

Add lemon juice and zest

Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest to the egg mixture. The lemon juice provides the tartness while the zest enhances the lemony flavor. Mix well to incorporate the citrusy goodness.

Mix in buttermilk and vanilla extract

Pour in the buttermilk and add the vanilla extract to the egg and lemon mixture. The buttermilk adds creaminess and tang, while the vanilla extract adds depth and warmth. Mix everything together until well combined.

Add a pinch of salt

Don’t forget to add a pinch of salt to the filling mixture. The salt helps to balance the sweetness and enhances the flavors of the other ingredients. Mix it in gently.

Pour the filling into the pie crust

Carefully pour the prepared lemon chess pie filling into the prepared pie crust. Be sure not to overfill the crust, as the filling will expand slightly as it bakes.

Baking the Pie

Now that your pie is filled and ready to go, it’s time to bake it to perfection:

Preheat the oven

Before placing your pie in the oven, ensure that it is preheated to the specified temperature in your recipe. This ensures even baking and prevents the crust from becoming soggy.

Place the pie in the oven

Carefully place the filled pie on the oven rack in the center of the preheated oven. Make sure there is enough space for the pie to bake evenly and for air circulation.

Bake for the initial time

Follow your recipe’s instructions for the initial baking time. This time period allows the crust to set and prevent any sogginess.

Reduce the oven temperature

After the initial baking time, reduce the oven temperature as indicated in your recipe. This lower temperature helps the filling to cook evenly and ensures a smooth texture.

See also  Can You Use A Dutch Oven To Bake Bread?

Continue baking until set

Continue baking the pie until the filling is set and lightly golden brown on top. You can test the doneness by gently shaking the pie. The filling should be slightly jiggly but set around the edges.

Allow the pie to cool

Once the pie is baked to perfection, remove it from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. Allowing the pie to cool to room temperature helps to set the filling and makes slicing and serving easier.

Serving and Storing

Your Southern lemon chess pie is now ready to be enjoyed. Here are some tips on serving and storing:

Serve the pie at room temperature

For the best flavor and texture, serve the lemon chess pie at room temperature. This allows the flavors to fully develop and the filling to set properly.

Optional: Serve with whipped cream

To add a delightful touch to your pie, consider serving it with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. The creamy, fluffy texture of the whipped cream complements the tangy sweetness of the pie.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator

If you have any leftovers, cover the pie with plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. The cold temperature helps to preserve the flavor and texture of the pie.

Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days

Lemon chess pie can be refrigerated for up to 3-4 days. However, for the best taste and quality, it is recommended to consume it within the first couple of days.

Tips and Variations

Here are some tips and variations to enhance your Southern lemon chess pie:

Use fresh lemon juice and zest for the best flavor

To maximize the tangy and bright flavor of your lemon chess pie, always use fresh lemon juice and zest. This will ensure the best taste and aroma.

Experiment with different crust recipes

While a traditional flaky pie crust works wonderfully, feel free to experiment with alternative crust recipes. Try a graham cracker crust or a shortbread crust for a unique twist on the classic lemon chess pie.

Add a touch of nutmeg or cinnamon to the filling for added flavor

For an extra layer of flavor, you can add a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon to the filling mixture. These warm spices complement the lemon and add complexity to the pie’s taste profile.

Try using different citrus fruits instead of lemon

While lemon is a classic choice, you can also experiment with other citrus fruits. Try making a lime chess pie or a grapefruit chess pie for a refreshing twist on the original recipe.

Make mini chess pies instead of a full-sized pie

If you prefer individual servings or want to switch things up, consider making mini chess pies instead. Use a muffin tin or small pie tins to create adorable personal-sized pies.

Add decorative lemon slices on top of the pie before baking

For a visually stunning presentation, arrange thin slices of lemon on top of the pie before baking. This adds an elegant touch and hints at the vibrant lemon flavor within.

Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar for extra sweetness

Just before serving, dust the top of your lemon chess pie with a light sprinkle of powdered sugar. This adds a touch of sweetness and a beautiful finish to the pie.


Making a Southern lemon chess pie is a delightful experience that results in a wonderfully tangy and sweet dessert. By following these step-by-step instructions, you can create a homemade pie that showcases the bright flavors of lemon and the creamy richness of buttermilk. Whether you’re serving it for a special occasion or simply indulging in a sweet treat, a slice of lemon chess pie is sure to bring smiles to the faces of those who enjoy it. So gather your ingredients, prepare the pie crust, make the luscious filling, and let your oven work its magic. Get ready to savor every bite of this classic Southern dessert!

Jenny Jones

By Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones is a passionate culinary enthusiast hailing from the heart of the South. Born and raised in a small town known for its rich culinary traditions, she developed an unwavering love for Southern cooking from an early age.