Southern Buttermilk Pie

updated Oct 10, 2022
Buttermilk Pie Recipe

Once you've nailed down the flaky crust and the sweet yet tangy filling, you can confidently and casually bake one as an anytime dessert.

Serves6 to 8

Makes1 (9-inch) pie

Prep15 minutes

Cook36 minutes to 41 minutes

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Credit: Kristina Vanni

There was a time when pies were as much an everyday sweet as Rice Krispies treats and cookies are today. Now they’re reserved for the holiday buffet, meaning many of us lack the low-stakes opportunities to practice our pie prep skills. If you are finished with soggy bottoms and cracked custards, begin your pie training now with an old-fashioned classic: buttermilk pie.

Buttermilk pie requires basic technique, yet delivers a surprisingly stunning flavor, making them the perfect pie for practice. Once you’ve mastered the flaky crust and the sweet and tangy buttermilk filling, you can confidently and casually bake one as an after-school snack or an elegant holiday dessert.

What Is the Difference Between Buttermilk Pie and Chess Pie?

Both buttermilk and chess pies are old-fashioned, single-crust pies made from pantry ingredients including eggs, sugar, and butter.

  • Chess pies are British in origin and often include vinegar and cornmeal. The flavor of this pie is intense, rich, and very sweet. Pecan pie, Derby pie, chocolate chess, and citrus chess pies are all variations on the classic chess pie.
  • Buttermilk pie is a Southern staple that includes buttermilk, lemon, and vanilla in the filling to balance the sugary sweetness with a fresh tang. A few tablespoons of flour are added in lieu of cornmeal as a thickener.
Credit: Kristina Vanni

What Does Buttermilk Pie Taste Like?

If you’re used to using buttermilk in only pancakes and as a fried chicken brine, it can be hard to imagine what a buttermilk pie might taste like. This humble pie may surprise you with its simple and subtle sweetness. The creamy custard filling has a sweet vanilla flavor that is balanced with the slight tang of buttermilk and lemon (although this fruit is optional).

How Do You Know When a Buttermilk Pie Is Done?

Buttermilk pie is done baking when the filling is puffed and barely set in the center. The perimeter of the pie should be stable and softly set while the center jiggles slightly if you gently shake the pan. Alternatively, if a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or an instant-read thermometer reaches 200°F, the pie is done cooking. The pie will continue to set as it cools, so wait until it cools to room temperature before serving.

Should Buttermilk Pie Be Refrigerated?

Buttermilk pie is made with both dairy and eggs, so it is best stored in the refrigerator. After everyone has had a slice, loosely cover any buttermilk pie leftovers with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. The humidity of the refrigerator can cause the crust to soften, so this pie is at its best the day it is made.

Buttermilk Pie Recipe

Once you've nailed down the flaky crust and the sweet yet tangy filling, you can confidently and casually bake one as an anytime dessert.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 36 minutes to 41 minutes

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    unbaked homemade or store-bought pie crust

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1

    medium lemon (optional)

  • 1 cup


  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Finely grate the zest from 1 medium lemon if using into the bowl of butter (about 1 tablespoon). Add 1 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 3 large eggs. Whisk until smooth and combined.

  4. Place 1 cup granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour in a small bowl and stir to combine. Add to the buttermilk mixture and whisk just until the sugar dissolves.

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

  6. Bake, rotating halfway through, until the center of the pie is puffed, just set, and registers at least 200°F on an instant-read thermometer (a tester inserted in the center should come out clean), 35 to 40 minutes total. 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.