One of my favorite simple desserts is this brown butter bourbon chess pie! It has a flaky, buttery pie crust and a rich custardy filling! It's simple and absolutely delicious! All you need is a little homemade whipped cream to top it off!
What is Chess Pie?
Chess pie is a classic southern dessert that features a simple filling made of eggs, sugar, and butter. Like many classic southern dishes, it's made with ingredients that were cheap and readily available since luxuries like chocolate weren't always available.
If you've ever had Christina Tosi's Crack Pie from Milk Bar (I've been to both the NYC and DC locations and omgggg), this brown butter bourbon chess pie is similar to that!
If you're curious about how "chess pie" got its name, you can read more here!
You just need a few super simple ingredients to make this classic southern chess pie!
- Pie Crust - I use my homemade flaky pie crust for this recipe. You can check out this blog post for all my pie crust tips and tricks!
- Brown butter - My favorite ingredient of all time is brown butter!! Brown butter is just unsalted butter that has been melted and gently cooked to bring out a toasty, nutty flavor. If you've never made brown butter before, you can check out this post with all my tips for how to make brown butter!
- Cornmeal - This might seem like a strange ingredient, but cornmeal adds flavor and texture to the pie! There are several different types of cornmeal (this is a great article that breaks it down) but for this pie I recommend using either fine or medium ground cornmeal. You should be able to find it next to the flour in the baking aisle! Do NOT use self-rising cornmeal as it will make the pie filling rise weirdly.
- Heavy cream - You can also substitute buttermilk for a slightly tangier flavor!
- Vanilla extract - I use my homemade bourbon vanilla extract for extra bourbon flavor and it's so good! You can also find delicious bourbon vanilla on Amazon and at Trader Joe's! But regular vanilla will also do in a pinch.
- Bourbon - I use Bulleit bourbon because that's what I like to drink, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
The complete list of ingredients and amounts is located in the recipe card below.
Homemade Pie Crust
In order to get a super crispy, flaky pie crust I use a method call par baking. It literally means "partially bake" and it's a great way to get the crust to set before adding in a soupy filling like this chess pie.
Roll out the pie dough and shape into your pie pan.
Freeze the pie crust for at least 30 minutes before baking (if you skip this step, the pie crust will shrink). While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Place a piece of parchment paper or heavy duty aluminum foil inside the pie crust and fill with pie weights (uncooked rice or dry beans also work great).
Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the parchment paper and pie weights then return the pie crust to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes or until the bottom just starts to brown.
Set aside and let cool slightly while you make the filling.
How to Make Chess Pie
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the browned butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, bourbon, vanilla, and eggs until fully combined and smooth.
Add in the cornmeal, salt, and heavy cream and whisk until fully incorporated.
Pour the filling into your partially baked crust and carefully transfer to the oven.
Bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes or until the center of the pie is set and the top is a light golden brown color.
Let the pie cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then place in the fridge to fully set (at least 2 hours but overnight is best).
Lightly dust with powdered sugar (it's delicious AND it covers the cracks!)
Tips for the Best Pie!
For all my pie recipes, I like to use my classic flaky pie crust! I have a whole blog post with tons of tips and tricks for perfect pie crust, but the most important are listed below. Be sure to check out the rest of our pie recipes too!
Keep it cold! The secret to a super flaky pie crust is keeping the dough cold at every step. Use cold butter and cold water while making the dough, and try to keep the dough as cold as possible while working with it. I often refrigerate my pies for at least 10-20 minutes after each step so that the dough stays as cold as possible. You want very cold dough going into a very hot oven for the best results!
Use a metal pie pan! Not all pie pans are created equal! Most pie pans on the market are either metal, glass, or ceramic. Overall, metal pie pans are the best of the best because they keep the crust very crispy and they're also the most durable and affordable. A fun alternative to classic aluminum pie pans that yields the same results is a cast iron skillet! I know ceramic pie plates certainly are pretty, but unfortunately the bottom crust just never gets crispy so I just don't recommend them.
Brush the crust with egg wash before baking! Brushing the crust with an egg was (just a beaten whole egg) before baking, gives a beautiful, glossy, golden brown appearance! For savory pies I like to sprinkle with flaky sea salt and for dessert pies I like to sprinkle with sparkling sugar.
Par bake for extra crispy crust! For pies with more runny fillings (like a berry pie or custard based pie), par baking the crust before filling helps ensure a super crispy bottom! It also helps prevent overcooking the filling. Place a piece of parchment paper or heavy duty aluminum foil inside the pie crust and fill with pie weights. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the parchment paper and pie weights then return the pie crust to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is just beginning to brown.
Let it rest! Letting the pie rest for a bit after removing from the oven helps the filling thicken up and prevents a runny pie. For pies that you want to eat immediately while they're still hot, it's still best to let it rest for 20-30 minutes before cutting so that the filling can thicken up slightly. But for fruit pies or custard pies, letting the pie rest for at least 4-6 hours is ideal!
Most of the time (but not always) the chess pie filling with bubble up a bit in the oven, and then deflate and crack as it cools. I honestly love the way it looks when it cracks because it evokes that rustic, southern feel. However, a light dusting of powdered sugar covers up any cracks if you prefer!
Gently shake the pie pan; the center should jiggle just slightly. Alternatively, insert a butter knife near the center and it should come out clean.
Store covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Yes!! After baking, let the pie cool completely to room temperature. Then cover and freeze for up to 2 months! Simply thaw in the fridge overnight 1-2 days before you plan on serving it!
Tips for Success!
For best results I always recommend using weight measurements (especially when baking) because it's the most accurate. Kitchen scales are super affordable and also reduce the number of dishes you have to do! However, all my recipes also include US customary measurements for convince. Use this chart to convert measurements for common ingredients!
Substitutions: In all my recipes, I've included substitutions that I know will work, but I cannot guarantee results if you substitute ingredients that I have not recommended. [For example, granulated sugar and honey are indeed both sweeteners but they have very different properties so they can not always be swapped 1:1. Using honey in a cookie recipe that calls for granulated sugar will yield a giant mess.] In the recipe card you'll find links to the specific ingredients/brands that I use.
A note on salt: I almost exclusively use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt because it's the best all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If you're not using kosher salt, consult this handy guide for a conversion chart! When in doubt, if you're using table salt just reduce the amount by half for baked goods. When cooking, I prefer to under-salt because you can always add more! If you've over-salted, adding a little bit of acid (like lemon juice) can help.
More Pie Recipes!
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Brown Butter Bourbon Chess Pie
- powdered sugar
- homemade whipped cream
- Prepare one half of my perfect pie crust according to directions. Form a disk and place into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- While the pie dough is chilling, make the brown butter. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, stir frequently and watch closely for the formation of brown specs on the bottom of the pan and a nutty aroma. Once you see brown specs, stir for just a few more seconds (it browns super quickly). Remove from the heat and immediately pour into a different bowl to prevent it from burning. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Remove the pie dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to about ¼ inch thick and about 2 inches wider than your pie pan. Roll the pie crust into the pie pan and be sure to poke the bottom a few times with a fork to allow air to escape during baking. Cut away any undesired excess crust and crimp, curl, or decorate the edges however you like!
- Chill the pie crust in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before baking (if you skip this step, the pie crust will shrink). While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Place a piece of parchment paper or heavy duty aluminum foil inside the pie crust and fill with pie weights (uncooked rice or dry beans also work great).
- Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the parchment paper and pie weights then return the pie crust to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is just beginning to brown.
- Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the browned butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, bourbon, vanilla, and eggs until fully combined and smooth.
- Add in the cornmeal, salt, and heavy cream and whisk until fully incorporated.
- Pour the filling into your partially baked crust, then bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes or until the center of the pie is set and the top is a light golden brown color.
- Let the pie cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then place in the fridge to fully set (at least 2 hours but overnight is best).
- Lightly dust with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream!
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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