Buttermilk Chess Pie. Perfect for Any Season.

by Min Merrell

Buttermilk chess pie is perfect for showcasing seasonal fresh fruit like summer peaches.

Buttermilk chess pie is a great southern classic that features tangy buttermilk along with a tiny bit of heft from cornmeal and enough sugar to give you the shakes. It’s a fine recipe, but a little goes a long, long way. A few years back, I developed a whole series of chess pie variations for the Jack Daniel’s Cookbook and I remember musing about the versatility of the chess pie can be because it’s made with such simple pantry ingredients. The pie is essentially an eggy vanilla sugar canvas so serve in small slivers alongside whatever fresh fruit is in season. The fruit balances out the sweetness. Right now, it’s fresh peaches, berries, and mangoes. Later in the summer, we’ll go to plums, apricots and fresh figs. In the fall, how about sauteed apples or fresh pear slices? In the winter, we’ll plop a big spoonful of tart cranberry compote on the plate.  

Unlike southern biscuit shortcake, where we advocate a less sweet biscuit for carrying sweetened fruit, this is a 180-degree reversal. The pie is uber sweet so keep the fruit fresh and light. And if you don’t keep buttermilk around the house, go for a straight chess pie. All you have to do is substitute milk for the buttermilk and add one tablespoon of vinegar.  


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