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Luscious Lemon Chess Pie with Sweet Pomegranate Glaze

As I dust off my grandmother’s china to serve this delectable lemon chess pie, I think of the pleasure and homeyness I feel every time I eat it. I then think of the tradition of baking pies, a treat meant to be passed around the table and shared after a delicious meal and comforting conversations. 

Southern families commonly serve lemon chess pie around the holidays. This year, I added a special touch, a beautiful pomegranate glaze, to the classic dish. The sour lemon flavor, delicate textures, and sweet glaze of pomegranate in this lemon chess pie make it an incredible dessert, light enough to enjoy seconds and sufficient to complete a decadent meal. 

Lemon Chess Pie
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Ingredients

For the Pie

  • 1 Store-Bought Pie Crust (or you can follow this homemade pie crust recipe.) 
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk 
  • Zest of 2 Lemons
  • Juice of 3 Lemons 
  • 3 TBSP Yellow Corn Meal 
  • 1 TBSP All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (Melted) 
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Some Lemon Chess Pie ingredients.

For The Sweet Pomegranate Glaze

  • 2 tsp. Honey 
  • Juice of 1 Pomegranate 
  • Zest of 1 Lemon 
  • 1 tsp. of Room Temperature Water 
  • 1 tsp. of Corn Starch

For The Pie

Hands working a pie crust.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Pie Crust 

A classic pie crust works excellently with lemon chess pie. I love the sturdy surface it provides against the delicate, almost custardy texture of the pie filling. 

You can buy a frozen or roll-out pie crust at the store or follow this pumpkin pie crust recipe.

Hands placing a pie crust in a glass pie pan.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
The Process

Once you have laid your pie crust across the pie pan, beat your eggs together and lightly glaze the edges of the pie crust to add an unctuous mouthfeel to your pie. 

Overhead view of hand dipping a brush into a bowl of egg wash next to crust in a pie pan.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Replacements

If you do not have flour to bake a traditional pie crust, a graham cracker crust may be used in its place. Keep in mind though, that the sour flavor of this pie makes it unique. Additional sweetness in some crusts may distract from the sharp, bright flavor that lemon chess pie provides.

Closeup of 4 whole eggs in a blue and white dish.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Eggs 

Eggs add extra moisture and body to this pie. While several dry ingredients go into the filling, eggs play the role of creating moisture and buoyancy. The full-bodied structure of chess pie can be compared to a more granular flan, something tender that holds its form on the fork. 

Hands cracking an egg.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
The Process 

This irresistible lemon pie is also easy to make. You simply blend all of the ingredients together, pour them into your pie crust, and bake! (More details below.) 

Pouring pie filling into an unbaked pie crust.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Sweetened Condensed Milk 

Try a little sweetened condensed milk on its own before pouring it into your pie filling. You will notice a caramel-y sweetness.

As you pour it into the bowl with your other ingredients, the creamy, sticky goodness lingers a little. This thick, velvety product adds all the sweetness you need to your pie. 

Hands measuring sweetened condensed milk into a measuring cup over a bowl of lemon chess pie ingredients.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Replacements

Many variations of lemon chess pie recipes call for sugar, honey, evaporated milk, brown sugar, and other ingredients in place of sweetened condensed milk. Feel free to replace sweetened condensed milk with any of these products. Keep an eye on your pie as it bakes, because some ingredients can alter the texture and cooking time of your pie. 

Hands grating lemon zest into Lemon Chess Pie filling.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Lemon Zest 

You might be tempted to skip this step, hoping to cut a little time and avoid the extra work of zesting lemons, but with a proper zester, this step takes very little time.

Side view of a grater.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

The zest actually tastes less sour than the juice of a lemon, and it adds a mild sweetness and subtle, enhancing texture. 

Closeup of lemons that have been grated for their zest.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
The Process

Zest 2 lemons and add their zest directly to the other ingredients. In a separate bowl zest your third lemon, and set its zest aside for the pomegranate glaze. 

Bowl of grated lemon zest.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Additions 

On some occasions, I add toasted coconut flakes to my lemon chess pie to add a new layer of textural composition to an already incredible filling.

Closeup of three ungrated lemons.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Lemon Juice

The sour component of this recipe, lemon, gives brightness to the pie. I especially love sour desserts after a heavy meal, because their acidic balance feels light and invigorating on your taste buds, rather than heavy and sleep-inducing.

Hand holding half of a grated lemon.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Replacements

 Oranges, limes, or grapefruits can be used to make different versions of the same pie. You might even try adding some of the pomegranate juice used in the glaze.

Hands juicing a lemon half.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Yellow Corn Meal and All-Purpose Flour

These two ingredients work to bind the wet ingredients together, creating a thicker, pastier filling when initially poured into the pie shell. 

Sweet, and earthy cornmeal tastes especially great and homey in this pie.

Butter 

What would pie be without butter? Melted butter adds fat to this pie which makes your taste buds salivate, keeps food lingering on your palette, and makes you want to go back for seconds and thirds. Please and thank you!

Salt

Even in sugary desserts, salt enhances the flavor. Many people associate salt entirely with savory cooking, but this ingredient works to make other ingredients shine whether savory or sweet. 

Nutmeg

This ingredient adds a nutty flavor to the pie, intensifying the warmth of any baked good it touches. 

Hand adding ground nutmeg to a bowl of pie filling ingredients.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Note: Those with nut allergies should avoid this step. Do not worry though. You will still end up with a delicious lemon chess pie. 

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract deepens the flavors of desserts. It works similarly to wine in cooking, pairing down its strong raw flavor to meld into the lemon, cornmeal, and other ingredients, breaking them down to extract more of their innate flavor. It also adds a slight buttery sweetness to your filling.

Hands measuring vanilla extract into a measuring spoon.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
An unbaked Lemon Chess Pie.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Lemon Chess Pie on an oven rack.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Replacements

Lemon, almond, or any other extracts may be used in place of the vanilla extract to establish your preferred flavor profile. 

Overhead view of lemon chess pie filling ingredients prior to being mixed together.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

For The Sweet Pomegranate Glaze

Honey 

Honey adds natural sweetness to this lovely glaze. When available, I try to use local honey rather than sugar, because it helps fight allergies and has many other health benefits. 

Hand pouring honey from a measuring spoon into a small pan.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Replacements 

Sugar can replace the honey in equal amounts with similar results. 

Closeup of a whole pomegranate.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

The Juice of 1 Pomegranate

Pomegranates remind me a bit of raspberries in their flavor. They are slightly tart, succulent, and sweet. The texture of a pomegranate is unlike any other fruit. Its seeds have a tough texture, and they can be hard to extract or juice. 

Closeup view of a pomegrantate cut in half.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
The Process

Cut one large pomegranate in half. Press on the outside of the pomegranate gently to release the seeds. Tap lightly on your pomegranate until the seeds fall out. (Sometimes you may have to extract the seeds using a spoon. Be careful to discard the waxy veins.) 

Hand holding section of pomegranate arils.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Once the seeds are extracted whip them up in a blender or food processor, strain through a fine-mesh into a cup. 

Pomegranate arils being added to a food processor bowl.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Hand holding lid down on food processor bowl while pureeing pomegranate arils.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Straining pomegranate juice through a sieve.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Note

Using one pomegranate resulted in a small amount of glaze. For more glaze use more pomegranates, increasing the other glaze ingredients as necessary for desired texture. 

Replacements 

For an express version of this glaze, just buy pomegranate juice and measure out about 4 TBSPs. Follow the rest of the steps as necessary. 

Any other fruit juice can be used for a different flavor of glaze: raspberry, blueberry, orange, etc…

Pomegranate juice with lemon zest on the surface.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Lemon Zest 

Use the lemon zest you set aside earlier to balance the sour and sweet flavors in this glaze. It will echo the flavors in your pie and bring all of the pie flavors into perfect harmony. 

Closeup of label on canister of corn starch.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Water and Cornstarch

Blending these two ingredients together creates a smooth paste called a cornstarch slurry. They work to thicken your glaze without clumping. (Do not skip the water, or you will end up with a lumpy mess.) 

View of pomegranate glaze thickened with cornstarch and water.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Pairings 

The sour lemon flavor in lemon chess pie makes it an accessible dessert after any meal. The cornmeal in its filling nods to southern fare, making it appropriate to recommend a nice chicken bog, fried chicken, pork chops, or chicken-fried steak as an entree. Corn cakes, butterbeans, and mashed potatoes for “Fixin’s” (As we call them down south) and this pie for dessert will form the perfect southern feast. I am salivating just thinking about it. 

Closeup of slice of Lemon Chess Pie.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Closeup of Lemon Chess Pie in a glass pie pan.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Storage 

Wrap your pie pan tightly with saran wrap and store for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. You can reheat this pie in the microwave or oven, or enjoy it cold. 

Pie server cutting Lemon Chess Pie into wedges.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Lemon Chess Pie 

In every part of my meal, from appetizer to drinks, to dessert, I search for a balance of flavor. This pie’s bright acidic notes round out a heavy meal perfectly. It has all the warmth of great comfort food without the heavy feeling afterward.

Overhead view of whole Lemon Chess Pie next to plate of whole lemons and a candle.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Lemon chess pie deserves a spot at your next holiday party. Serve it next to the other traditional favorites like pecan pie or pumpkin pie, and make it a new tradition for your friends and family. They are sure to love it. 

Pinterest image of wedge of Lemon Chess Pie garnished with drizzle of Pomegranate Glaze.
Lemon Chess Pie

Luscious Lemon Chess Pie with Sweet Pomegranate Glaze

Yield: 8

The sour lemon flavor, delicate textures, and sweet glaze of pomegranate in this lemon chess pie make it an incredible dessert, light enough to enjoy seconds and sufficient to complete a decadent meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 Store-Bought Pie Crust (or homemade)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Zest of 2 Lemons
  • Juice of 3 Lemons
  • 3 TBSP Yellow Corn Meal
  • 1 TBSP All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (Melted)
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • For The Glaze:
  • 2 tsp. Honey
  • Juice of 1 Pomegranate
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 1 tsp. of Room Temperature Water
  • 1 tsp. of Corn Starch

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Gently spread pie crust over a lightly buttered pie pan.
  3. Beat together your eggs and glaze your pie crust with the egg mixture using a baster.
  4. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, cornmeal, all-purpose flour, butter, salt, nutmeg, and vanilla extract to your remaining egg mixture. Mix together and pour over pie crust.
  5. Place pie on the bottom rack of your preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. (The pie will no longer jiggle when you shake it.)
  6. While the pie bakes mix room temperature water and corn starch together to create a cornstarch slurry.
  7. Heat a saucepan over low to medium heat. Add your honey, pomegranate juice, and lemon zest to the pan. Cook for about one minute.
  8. Add your cornstarch slurry and stir. (This will thicken your glaze, so you can add as little or as much as you prefer.)
  9. Once fully baked remove pie from the oven. Slice pie and serve with your beautiful pomegranate glaze drizzled over the top.

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