Old-Fashioned Lemon Chess Pie

published Mar 4, 2023
Lemon Chess Pie Recipe

A classic chess pie with a bright and tart lemon butter filling.

Serves 6 to 8

Makes1 (9-inch) pie

Prep10 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook35 minutes

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Lemon chess pie sliced on a serving plate and in a pie plate.
Credit: Kelli Foster

Whether you’re new to baking or you’re a confident baker, one of the best (and brightest!) desserts to make is a lemon chess pie, which features a tart, custardy lemon filling. No matter your level of expertise, or whether you use a store-bought crust or make your own flaky pastry from scratch, you can prepare this old-fashioned classic with ingredients you probably already have on hand.

Key Ingredients for Lemon Chess Pie

Lemon chess pie comes together with just a few pantry and refrigerator staples. Begin with a homemade pie crust or store-bought crust. To make the filling, you will need unsalted butter, fresh lemons, eggs, granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, finely ground cornmeal, and kosher salt. If you want to make this pie gluten-free, buy a gluten-free pie crust or make your own, and replace the flour with cornstarch. 

Credit: Kelli Foster

What Does Cornmeal Do in Lemon Chess Pie?

The cornmeal in lemon chess pie aids in thickening and adding texture to the filling. Its inclusion distinguishes it from creamy custard pies. Finely ground cornmeal makes for the most subtle texture, but whether you opt for yellow or white cornmeal is up to you.

Tips for Making the Best Lemon Chess Pie

  • Use room-temperature eggs. Room-temperature ingredients combine more easily without curdling or seizing.
  • Opt for regular lemons here. Meyer lemons are less acidic, which can affect how the filling sets and the final flavor of this pie.
  • Check for doneness indicators. The pie is done when the filling is puffed and slightly golden on top. The center may jiggle slightly, but should appear just set. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the pie should register 200ºF.
  • Cool completely before serving. The filling will continue to set after it comes out of the oven. Allow three to four hours for the pie to fully cool before cutting clean slices.

More of Our Best Lemon Baking Recipes

Lemon Chess Pie Recipe

A classic chess pie with a bright and tart lemon butter filling.

Prep time 10 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 4

    large eggs

  • 1

    homemade or store-bought pie crust, thawed if frozen

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 2

    large lemons

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon

    finely ground cornmeal

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt


  1. Place 4 large eggs on the counter and let come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

  2. If needed, roll out 1 pie dough into a 12-inch round. Line a regular 9-inch pie pan (not deep dish) with the dough, pressing it into the bottom and up the sides. Trim all but 1 inch of the pie dough from around the edges, then crimp the edges. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until very cold and firm. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

  3. Place 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until almost completely melted, 40 to 60 seconds. Set aside to cool slightly, about 2 minutes.

  4. Finely grate the zest of 2 large lemons until you have 1 tablespoon. Juice the lemons until you have 1/2 cup juice.

  5. Add lemon zest, juice, eggs, 1 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon finely ground cornmeal, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the melted butter. Whisk until smooth and the sugar mostly dissolves.

  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the crust on the baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust.

  7. Bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and bake until the center of the pie is puffed, slightly golden, just set, and registers 200°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes more. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool completely, 3 to 4 hours.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers, loosely wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.

Gluten-free variation: Use a homemade or store-bought gluten free pie crust and substitute 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch for the all-purpose flour.