I confess. I’m a little obsessed. Ever since I went to Paper Plane and split the deconstructed grapefruit pie with my friend Shannon, I can’t get enough of grapefruit. On a completely reasonable level, I’ve taken to squeezing a grapefruit and mixing it with sparkling water for a tasty and refreshing beverage. On a the more ridiculous side of things, I’ve made four grapefruit pies. Yep. Four. One grapefruit meringue. One grapefruit “key lime-style” pie. Two chess pies. Let’s just let that sink in for a moment.



Okay, as with the pimento cheese, if you’ve never lived in the South you may be wondering what in the world a chess pie is. A chess pie falls in the range of custard pies and is typically thickened with cornmeal. No one really knows the etymology of the name. There are three commonly accepted theories: (1) the name chess is a derivative of a British lemon curd pie called “cheese” pie; (2) when asked what kind of pie she had made, a woman told her husband that it was “jes” (just) pie; and (3) the high sugar content allowed the pie to be stored at room temperature, so it was kept in a pie chest rather than the refrigerator. Apparently there’s a fourth theory: that men indulged in this pie when they retired to their man rooms to play chess, but I don’t buy that for a hot second. Anyone worth his (or her) salt knows that there wasn’t any chess going on in ye olde man caves. This is the South. Those dudes were drinking bourbon like it was their job.


Grapefruit Chess Pie
A fresh take on the southern classic.
Recipe By:
Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
  • 1 uncooked pie crust in pie plate
  • 1 Egg
  • Filling
  • 1⅔ C Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Stone-ground Cornmeal
  • 1½ Tbsp Cornstarch
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • Zest of one Red Grapefruit
  • 5 Eggs, large
  • 5 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
  • ½ C Cream
  • ¾ C fresh Red Grapefruit Juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Dock the pie crust, cover with crumbled parchment paper and fill pie pie weights or dry beans. Place the pie crust on a rack in the bottom third of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the crust from the oven and remove the pie weights and parchment paper.
  4. Beat the egg with a dash of water and brush the pie crust with the egg before returning the pie crust to the oven for another 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the pie from the oven and set it aside to cool. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.
  6. Whisk together the sugar, cornmeal, cornstarch and salt. Rub the grapefruit zest into the dry ingredients with your fingers.
  7. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, followed by the butter, cream and grapefruit juice.
  8. Pour the filling into the pie shell. At this point, I like to cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil or a pie shield before placing the pie back in bottom third of the oven.
  9. Let the pie bake for 30 minutes and then remove the foil or pie shield.
  10. Continue to bake for another 10 to 20 minutes - until the middle has set.
  11. Remove the pie from the oven and set it aside to cool to room temperature. Once is has cooled, put it in the refrigerator to chill for several hours before slicing and serving.
When set, the middle of the pie will still be jiggly, but it will no longer be liquidy.

I used a deep dish 9½ inch pie plate, which was a little too big. I would go for a normal 9½ inch pie plate or a deep dish 9" pie plate.

If you can't eat gluten, you can try baking the filling in ramekins and have little chess pie cups.