I am making a chess pie, and the recipe calls for vinegar and cornmeal-why? Can I leave it out?

  • I just looked at a recipe - that's a heck of a lot of sugar!
    – GdD
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 14:26

2 Answers 2


Chess pie is characterized as a custard pie with cornmeal. Without the cornmeal it would cease to be a chess pie.

The cornmeal does thicken the filling. It also makes the texture coarser that other custard pies. Often, but not always, when I make them there is a chewier layer from some cornmeal that has separated. This texture difference is a lot of what makes chess pies delightful.

Chess pies often include acid to balance the sweetness a bit. This is not necessarily a dessert pie and tempering the sweetness is desireable. Given that it is a recipe popular in the south, recipes will often call for buttermilk. Vinegar is ok but the buttermilk versions are better, IMO.

Wikipedia has this to say about it:

Chess pie is closely related to vinegar pie, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. Vinegar pie generally adds somewhere between a teaspoonful and tablespoonful of vinegar to the above ingredients to reduce the sweetness. Some variations are called Jeff Davis or Jefferson Davis Pie, and Kentucky pie.

  • Im sorry, but this is definitely a dessert pie-it is extremely sweet. I was born and raised in the south, and this is an iconic dessert here-but I was just wondering what was the purpose of the vinegar and cornmeal.
    – user27099
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 19:11

The vinegar is there to balance out the amount of sugar. If you leave it out, it may be sickeningly sweet. If you don't have vinegar, look up recipes for 'lemon chess pie', which use lemon juice instead.

As for the cornmeal ... it typically thickens the filling, to get it to the proper consistency. The typical replacement is a bit of flour, but it can leave an off (raw flour) taste if used in significant quantities.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.