1820s Lemon Chess Pie

This version of 1820s Lemon Chess Pie has the requisite flaky pastry crust and sweet lemon custard filling.

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.

1820s Lemon Chess Pie



  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour*
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

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


  • 2 medium lemons
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.


  1. To prepare crust, in medium bowl, whisk whole-grain pastry flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt.
  2. Beat milk into vegetable oil until frothy.
  3. Make well in flour mixture, pour in vegetable 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.
  4. Line crust with foil and cover with pie weights or raw rice and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove weights or rice and foil and bake for another 5 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.


  1. Finely zest lemons and squeeze to get 1 tablespoon zest and 3 tablespoons juice.
  2. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer. Add buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, sugar, flour, salt, lemon juice and zest and beat until smooth.
  3. Pour filling into pie shell and bake until pie is just set in center, about 30-40 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

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