Both chess pie and buttermilk pie are Southern pies, and they have similar ingredients that form a sweet custard filling, so what’s the difference? And is one really better than the other?
To put it simply: All buttermilk pies are chess pies, but not all chess pies are buttermilk pies.
The chess pie originates from England, but has long been known as a traditional Southern dish. How and where it got its name is a whole different story. “Some say gentlemen were served this sweet pie as they retreated to a room to play chess. Others say the name was derived from Southerners’ dialect: It’s jes’ pie (it’s just pie). Yet another story suggests that the dessert is so high in sugar that it kept well in pie chests at room temperature and was therefore called ‘chest pie.’ Southern drawl slurred the name into chess pie.”
Buttermilk is the main factor in differentiating the two pies. Adding an acidic ingredient, like buttermilk or vinegar, to the pie will cut down on the sweetness and change the consistency of the filling. More specifically, these ingredients affect the cooking of the eggs.
Simple Buttermilk Pie
- 1/2 c buttermilk
- 1 1/2 c sugar
- 2 eggs
- 4 Tbsp flour
- pinch salt
- 1/2 c unsalted butter melted
- dash es nutmeg
- 1 prepared pie crust
- Mix all ingredients except nutmeg and pie crust in the bowl of a mixer. Beat on medium high until combined thoroughly.
- Pour into an unbaked pie shell, either homemade or store bought. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
- Bake at 400 for 15 minutes; then 350 for 45 minutes, or less, or until set.
- Let cool to room temperature before serving or refrigerate 1-2 hours before serving.