Southern buttermilk pie has a sweet and tangy, custard-like filling. Top your slice with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries or enjoy it plain!
What Is Buttermilk Pie?
Come Thanksgiving, almost every home in the South is sure to have buttermilk pie on the dessert table.
Buttermilk pie has a slightly tangy, custard-like filling made with buttermilk, eggs, butter, and a little flour. Some recipes flavor the filling with lemon zest, coconut, or nutmeg.
The recipe for buttermilk pie that I’m sharing with you today is as classic as it gets! There’s a little lemon juice and nutmeg in the filling to round things out, but not so much that the sweet buttermilk flavor is masked.
Chess Pie vs. Buttermilk Pie
Chess pie and buttermilk pie are similar, but they have a few distinct characteristics.
Chess pie is often thickened with flour or cornmeal, whereas buttermilk pie is only ever thickened with a little flour. Buttermilk pie is also made with buttermilk, and has lemon juice in the filling to brighten up the flavor.
Buttermilk pie isn’t as intensely sweet as chess pie — although it’s still plenty sweet, don’t worry! The sweetness is just balanced by a hint of tanginess thanks to the lemon and buttermilk.
This is an easy recipe for Southern buttermilk pie that uses traditional ingredients. Here’s an overview of the key ingredients you’ll need to have on hand:
- Pie crust: You can use a store-bought crust or you can make your own.
- Nutmeg: Just 1/4 teaspoon adds body to the filling without making it taste like nutmeg.
- Buttermilk: Because the buttermilk is the star ingredient of this recipe, I highly recommend buying actual buttermilk rather than making a substitute using regular milk and vinegar. A buttermilk substitute won’t deliver the same tangy flavor and creaminess!
- Fresh lemon juice: This adds a little extra tanginess and flavor to the pie.
- Butter: Needs to be melted and allowed to cool slightly before being mixed into the filling. The butter makes for a rich, creamy custard filling.
- Eggs: Helps bind together the filling and give it some structure.
How to Make Buttermilk Pie
This may be a simple pie, but it’s not short on flavor! It’s especially great for making ahead of family gatherings or holidays since it has to cool completely before being sliced.
I’ve gone into more detail in the recipe card at the end of this post, but let’s quickly review how the pie is made.
- Prepare the pie crust: You’ll first need to roll out the pie dough into a large circle. Then, fit the dough into a 9-inch pie plate and trim off any excess. Chill the pie for about 15 minutes while the oven pre-heats to 400°F, then decorate the edges as desired.
- Blind bake the pie crust: For more details on how to blind bake a pie crust, you can refer to my post here. This will ensure that the bottom of your pie crust stays crisp and doesn’t end up soggy. You’re essentially weighing down the crust with pie weights, then baking until partially cooked. Once the crust has cooked for about 15 minutes with pie weights, remove them and let the bottom of the crust cook for another 5 minutes.
- Cool slightly: Let the partially baked pie crust cool while you make the filling.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F: While the pie crust needs to be partially baked at a higher temperature, the filling needs to bake at a lower temperature. This will ensure that it fully bakes through without cracking.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: Simply whisk together the sugar, flour, nutmeg, and salt until well combined.
- Whisk in the wet ingredients: Add the buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Gently whisk the mixture together until it’s fully combined.
- Pour the filling into the partially baked pie crust: Don’t worry if the crust is still warm, it’s going straight into the oven to bake.
- Bake the pie: You’ll know it’s ready to come out when the filling is mostly set in the center, with a slight jiggle to it.
- Cool completely: Let the pie sit at room temperature until it’s completely cool. Only then will it be firm enough to slice.
How to Serve This Pie
Southern buttermilk pie doesn’t require any toppings, but if desired you can serve it with a dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkle of ground nutmeg or lemon zest, and/or fresh berries. A pop of fresh fruit nicely balances out the sweet and tangy filling!
Can the Buttermilk Be Substituted?
No, you need to use real buttermilk in this recipe. Although you can technically use a DIY buttermilk substitute in the filling, it won’t deliver the same depth of flavor or richness. Real buttermilk is a must in this recipe!
Can This Recipe Be Made in Advance?
Absolutely! You can make the pie the morning you plan on serving it and let it rest on your counter until you’re ready to slice and serve. Or you can prepare the entire recipe as written and refrigerate it for up to four days.
Does Buttermilk Pie Have to Be Refrigerated?
Yes, you must refrigerate the pie after it’s cooled to room temperature. Cover the pie with plastic wrap to keep it fresh.
- If you’re in a time crunch or simply don’t like making pie crust, you may use your favorite store-bought pie crust to save time. If using a store-bought pie crust that’s thinner, you may need to reduce the baking time slightly when you’re blind-baking it.
- Use real buttermilk for the best flavor and texture. A lower fat variety will work fine, but I don’t recommend using a substitute.
- If you prefer more lemon flavor, you can add an extra teaspoon or two of lemon zest.
- You’ll know the pie is ready to come out of the oven when the center is almost set, with a slight jiggle to it. The pie will continue to set up as it cools to room temperature.
- I prefer to serve this pie cold, but it may be served at room temperature as well.
More Southern Pie Recipes You’ll Love!
- 1 pie crust (homemade or store bought)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (16 grams)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature (240 ml)
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled (1 stick; 115 grams)
- 3 large eggs at room temperature and lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (15 ml)
- To prepare the pie crust: Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).
- Roll out the pie dough to about 12-inches in diameter. Carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, gently fit it in the dish, and trim any excess dough from the edges or tuck it under.
- Place the pie plate in the refrigerator and allow the dough to chill for about 15 to 20 minutes while the oven is preheating.
- Once the oven is preheated, remove the pie plate from the refrigerator, decorate the edges, and line the dough with parchment paper or foil, making sure to cover the bottom and the sides. Fill with pie weights or beans, making sure to press them up against the sides as well.
- Bake with the pie weights for 15 minutes or until the edges of the crust start to lightly brown. If using a store-bought pie crust that's thinner, you may need to reduce the baking time slightly.
- Remove from the oven, carefully remove the parchment paper (or foil) and the pie weights. Return to the oven to bake for 5 to 6 more minutes or until the bottom of the crust is set.
- Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly on a wire rack while you prepare the filling.
- To make the filling: Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C).
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, salt, and nutmeg. Then, whisk in the buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon juice until just combined and no lumps remain.
- Pour the filling into the partially baked pie crust.
- Carefully transfer the pie to the oven. If needed, you can place the pie crust on a baking sheet in the oven first, then pour the filling into it. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until mostly set in the center.
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.