Chess Pie vs. Sugar Cream Pie: Differences & Which Is Better?

Chess Pie vs. Sugar Cream Pie

Chess pie and sugar cream have become the signature desserts during the holiday season. Since they are so easy to make, they have secured their places in many households and are beloved members of the weekly menus of many families. Given their similar appearances and ingredients, you can easily mistake one for the other, while they are not the same dessert. So, what are the differences between chess pie and sugar cream pie, and which is better? 

Chess pie originated in the south of North America, and sugar cream pie around Indiana. Chess pie is made with cornmeal and sugar cream pie with flour. Chess pie and sugar cream pie are made by mixing all ingredients and pouring them into the pie, whereby the sugar cream pie doesn’t contain eggs.

Chess pie and sugar cream pie are very similar as they contain the same ingredients, but the way they are made is different and therefore differ in taste, but not too much. However, they are easy to mix up as they look similar and have similar textures. In the following paragraphs, I will explain the differences between chess pie and sugar cream pie and discuss their making, ingredients, nutrition, and popularity. 

Chess Pie vs. Sugar Cream Pie: Differences 

Chess and sugar cream pies are also known as “make-do” pies, which contain only the essential ingredients that qualify them as pies. Back then, it wasn’t easy to find many ingredients and those ingredients people could find weren’t cheap. Therefore, these pies were “working-class dishes” or “poverty dishes.” 

At first, they gained popularity among the communities composed of working-class citizens, and later on, they spread to the rich, as the working class people worked as servants in the houses of the rich. 

Today, sugar cream pie is a signature dish in Indiana, and Tennessee is famous for chess pie. Both pies have shifted from “poverty dishes” to wholesome American symbols and compulsory members of the holiday menus. 

Making and Ingredients 

Chess pie is made of sugar, cornmeal, eggs, and butter. Some variations use regular flour instead of cornmeal or a combination of cornmeal and flour. However, the traditional recipe calls for cornmeal. 

The making process is very straightforward, consisting only of mixing the ingredients together and pouring them into a pre-baked pie crust. The result is creamy, crumbly pie, moderately sweet, and incredibly rich. 

RELATED: 7 Substitutes for Cornmeal in Chess Pie [+ Recipe]

Unlike chess pie, sugar cream pie doesn’t contain eggs and is sweeter-tasting than chess pie. It is made with flour, sugar, butter, and cream. There are alternative recipes containing milk or heavy cream instead of cream, but the taste doesn’t vary much. 

The making procedure for sugar cream pie is almost the same as that of the chess pie. The dry ingredients are mixed first and then combined with the melted butter, cream/milk, or heavy cream. Then the filling is poured into the pre-baked crust and baked. 

Because it contains cream/milk or heavy cream in the filling, sugar cream pie is creamier and much smoother than chess pie. Due to the larger sugar amount, it is sweeter too. Nevertheless, both pies are very delicious and, therefore, very popular. 

Taste 

As I mentioned, sugar cream pie is sweeter than chess pie, which doesn’t make chess pie any less tasty. The cornmeal in the chess pie does its magic and gives it a crumbly yet soft, creamy, and silky texture. The discrete corn flavor intertwined with the butter and eggs makes chess pie a finger-licking dessert, and it is very hard to believe that something that rich was once considered a “poverty dish.”

Sugar cream pie is sweeter and creamier than chess pie. Its texture is very smooth and even. It has an expressed butteriness and milkiness and is incredibly rich-tasting and satisfying. Because it is so creamy, sugar cream pie resembles a pudding-like mixture that, combined with the crunchy texture of the crust, results in a heavenly merger of two opposing sides. 

Serving Styles 

Since chess pie is the simpler of the two, it has a wider choice of serving styles. It fits excellent with fruity additions, as well as creamy toppings. It pairs great with chocolate, jam, and honey or chocolate cream topping. 

Since chess pie is already slightly acidic, it goes with neutral-tasting cream cheeses such as mascarpone or crème Fraiche. You can pair it with chocolate or milk-based drinks and juices, coffees, and teas. 

Sugar cream pie is expressively sweet and creamy, so it doesn’t offer as many options as the chess pie. Still, sugar cream pie pairs perfectly with chocolate, in any form, nuts, and citrus fruits. It goes with black coffee to oppose the pie’s milkiness and cocoa, whereas tea or juice don’t sit well with sugar cream pie. 

Chess Pie vs. Sugar Cream Pie

Popularity and Variations 

While chess pie is most popular in the American south, sugar cream pie is more prevalent in the midwest. However, they are both popular throughout North America and Western Europe. 

Many diners and cafes offer chess pie and sugar cream pie as coffee desserts, but these two pies are also popular in households as they are straightforward and cheap to make. 

Since they use the essential ingredients, both chess pie and sugar cream pie are prone to variations. They serve as bases for buttermilk pie, pecan pie, or custard pie. Both pies offer many serving combinations with ingredients that make them different from their base form and, therefore, variation of the same pie. 

RELATED: Why Is It Called Chess Pie? 

Nutrition 

Although both chess pie and sugar cream pie are rich in carbohydrates, sugars, calories, and fat, sugar cream pie is the more nutritious. 

Chess pie doesn’t offer a significant nutritional value, but it does contain protein from the eggs. 

Sugar cream pie contains protein from the cream/ milk or heavy cream and Lacto bacteria that promote gut health. Due to the milk/milk derivative in the filling, it contains calcium, but on the downside, it is richer in carbs than chess pie. 

However, while chess pie contains cholesterol because of the eggs, sugar cream pie doesn’t. 

Chess Pie vs. Sugar Cream Pie: Which Is Better? 

As different as they are similar, chess pie and sugar cream pie are served in different moods. Therefore, none of them can be labeled as better. Choose the chess pie if you want something simpler and lighter yet rich and satisfying. If you crave creaminess and self-indulgence, you should go for the sugar cream pie. 

  • Laura is the owner of Julie's Cafe Bakery. She started this blog with her grandma Julie who introduced her to the amazing world of cooking. She likes to experiment with different flavors, and her favorite flavors combo is chicken with coconut milk, curry and peanuts!