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1820s Lemon Chess Pie

1820s Lemon Chess Pie

This Southern classic’s name is a bit of a mystery, but the story goes that when asked what kind of pie the inventor made, she said “jes’ pie” and culinary history was made. This version has the requisite flaky pastry crust and sweet lemon custard filling but it’s healthier with canola oil and a touch less sugar than the sticky-sweet traditional version, so the lemon really shines through.



  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour 125 mL*
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 125 mL
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 5 mL
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 mL
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold 1% low-fat milk 20 mL
  • 1/3 cup canola oil 75 mL


  • 2 medium lemons
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk 60 mL
  • 1/4 cup canola oil 60 mL
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 5 mL
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 250 mL
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour 10 mL
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 mL


  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar 15 mL


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Spray 9-inch (22-cm) pie plate with canola oil cooking spray.
  2. To prepare crust, in medium bowl, whisk whole-grain pastry flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt.
  3. Beat milk into canola oil until frothy.
  4. Make well in flour mixture, pour in canola oil mixture then combine with fork until crumbly. Pat mixture into prepared pie plate like Graham cracker crust. Prick pie crust in several spots with fork.
  5. Line crust with foil and cover with pie weights or raw rice and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove weights or rice and foil and bake for another 5 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool 5 minutes.
  8. To make filling, finely zest lemons and squeeze to get 1 tablespoons (15 mL) zest and 3 tablespoons (45 mL) juice.
  9. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer. Add buttermilk, canola oil, vanilla extract, sugar, flour, salt, lemon juice and zest and beat until smooth.
  10. Pour filling into pie shell and bake until pie is just set in center, about 30-40 minutes.
  11. Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

* Whole-wheat, all-purpose flour can be substituted for whole-wheat pastry flour.

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: Serving size: 1 slice Calories 340 Total Fat 19g Saturated Fat 2g Cholesterol 105 mg Sodium 190mg Carbohydrates 38g Fibre 1g Protein 5g

Source: Recipe developed by Ellie Krieger, RD

Recipe and photo credit:


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