How to Make a Chocolate Chess Pie

Front view of a slice of chocolate chess pie with whipped cream and chocolate curls on top.
Recipe At-A-Glance
...
Holiday Recipe1 hour, 10 min
Our chocolate chess pie is a chocolate custard pie with a buttery pie crust. It is a Southern classic, and perfect for special occasions. Learn how to make chocolate chess pie with this recipe.

Share this post:

We love a good fruit pie here at Wholefully, but there is something incredibly decadent and delightful about a custard pie, too! Especially one spiked with rich dark chocolate and espresso powder like this chocolate chess pie.

A good chocolate pie should be silky and creamy—imagine the texture somewhere between good fudge and silky chocolate pudding. This pie is not for the chocolate-phobic! It’s packed with dark chocolate pie flavor, and just a little slice will more than satisfy your sweet tooth. Let’s get baking!

A pie server scoops out a slice of pie from a pie plate.

How would you describe a chocolate chess pie?

A standard chess pie is a custard pie that is basically like a cooked pudding or thick custard in a pie shell. Chess pie—similar to Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie—is a type of pie that was common when harder-to-procure ingredients like fruit were in short supply.

While a regular chess pie is thickened and flavor with cornmeal, our chocolate version is spiked with chocolate (and a little bit of espresso powder to add richness) and thickened with cornstarch. The chocolate custard is thick, buttery, and reminiscent of brownie batter! You pour the custard into a standard pie shell (a gluten-free pie crust works well, too).

A fork holds up a bite of pie with whipped cream.

What does a chocolate chess pie taste like?

This is a chocoholic’s dream dessert! The chocolate custard is set in the fridge, making it thick and rich—the texture is somewhere between chocolate fudge and chocolate pudding. The flavor is sweet and buttery, with rich chocolate flavor.

Wholefully Protip

Whenever you are baking with chocolate, a little dash of instant espresso powder can go a long way to deepen the flavor of the chocolate. It doesn’t necessarily taste like coffee, but it just adds another dimension of flavor.

Overhead of a slice of pie on a plate beside the baked pie in its pie plate.

What is chocolate chess pie made of?

Because chess pie is a custard-based pie, you’ll need eggs, butter, milk, and granulated sugar for the filling. We use evaporated milk here, because we’ve found it gives a richer result—plus it’s easy to keep on hand in the pantry at all times. This pie is the definition of a pantry dessert!

To make this a chocolate chess pie, we add in cocoa powder and instant espresso powder to the filling as well. Not a coffee fan? No problem! You won’t actually taste the espresso, but the espresso powder will work to amplify the chocolate flavor. You can skip it if you want, but we recommend giving it a try and adding it in!

Beyond these key ingredients, you’ll need a few other pantry staples (vanilla extract, salt), a pie crust, and whipped cream and chocolate shavings for garnish.

A slice of chocolate chess pie garnished with whipped cream and chocolate curls sits on a plate.

How do I make chocolate chess pie?

Getting this pie from ingredients to assembled in the oven basically amounts to:

  1. Make the pie dough and roll out the bottom crust.
  2. Whisk together the ingredients of the filling.
  3. Pour the filling into the crust.
  4. Bake.

It is a quick and straightforward process, especially if you’ve already made your pie crust in advance.

Wholefully Protip

If someone at your Thanksgiving can’t eat gluten, just use our gluten-free pie crust. No other substitutions needed to make this pie gluten-free!

Top view of a slice of chocolate chess pie with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top.
<

When is the pie done?

You’ll know your chocolate chess pie is ready to come out of the oven when the filling looks mostly set. It should no longer look wet, and instead should have developed a light brown crust over the filling. The filling should appear just a little jiggly—if it is super wobbly, it probably isn’t done!

Wholefully Protip

Chocolate chess pie is best served cold. This helps set up the filling to be more solid, and the cold temperature really does seem to enhance the chocolate flavor.

Close view of a garnished slice of pie beside the rest of the pie in its pie plate.

How long does chocolate chess pie last?

The two cups sugar in the filling works in favor of chocolate chess pie here—the sugar works as a preservative, so this pie will last for longer than most other pies. It should be fine in the fridge for 7-10 days.

How do you store chocolate chess pie?

Thanks to all the dairy and eggs in the filling, this pie can’t be left on the counter—you’ll need to chill this baby. Plus, the filling only holds its shape when it stays cold. This pie has to be refrigerated. We recommend covering the pie in the fridge so the custard doesn’t absorb odors.

Close view of a slice of chocolate pie with a bite out of it.

Can you freeze this pie?

We’d recommend skipping freezing this pie recipe. Custard tends to perform unexpectedly when frozen, so we can’t guarantee it’ll be the same silky, rich texture coming out of the freezer as it was going in. You can absolutely make and freeze the pie shell ahead of time, and then just whisk up the filling (which takes just a couple of minutes) and bake off on the day you need the pie.

 
A slice of chocolate chess pie garnished with whipped cream and chocolate curls sits on a plate.

Chocolate Chess Pie Recipe

Yield: 1 9-inch pie
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

Our chocolate chess pie is a chocolate custard pie with a buttery pie crust. It is a Southern classic, and perfect for special occasions. Learn how to make chocolate chess pie with this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie crust (gluten-free pie crust works well, too)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional but recommended!
  • 1/4 cups cornstarch
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Whipped cream and chocolate shavings, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Roll out and fit the pie crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Trim and crimp the edges of the crust and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder (if using), cornstarch, eggs, melted butter, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, and salt until very smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust. 
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the mixture looks mostly set, but it is still slightly jiggly. The top of the pie should have formed a light brown crust.
  5. Cool pie on a wire rack until completely cool, then refrigerate before slicing. Serve pie topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. 
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1/8 pie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 495Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 236mgCarbohydrates: 72gFiber: 1gSugar: 56gProtein: 8g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

Starter Guide

The free Living Wholefully Starter Guide is packed full of tips, tricks, recipes, and a 14-day meal plan to get you started on the road to vibrant health.

Meet Cassie
Meet Your Host

Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

Learn More About Me →

Skip to Recipe
Close up of the finished cake on a cake stand with orange glaze and sugared cranberries on top.

No-Stress Holiday Cooking, Simplified!

Tips, recipes and time-saving secrets to magical holiday meals

FREE HOLIDAY GUIDE