Cornmeal is one of the constituent ingredients in chess pie. Cornmeal is a permanent and mandatory element of chess pie, whether it is just cornmeal or a mixture of cornmeal and flour. Still, if, for whatever reason, you can’t use cornmeal, there are cornmeal substitutes you put in your chess pie. So what are the best cornmeal substitutes for chess pie?
Corn flour, polenta, coarse wheat flour, durum wheat flour, rice flour, corn starch, and corn grits are some of the best cornmeal substitutes for chess pie.
Substituting cornmeal in chess pie will certainly alter its taste and texture. Cornmeal has a distinctive silky texture giving the chess pie a soft and almost creamy consistency. However, even though the taste and consistency may differ, the chess pie would still be delicious if you were careful about how you use the substitutes.
What Can You Use instead of Cornmeal in Chess Pie?
To know how to substitute cornmeal in chess pie, you first need to know why you need cornmeal in chess pie in the first place. So, cornmeal has a very distinctive sweet taste. Since cornmeal is, in essence, corn kernels ground into a flour-like substance.
The texture of the cornmeal can vary from soft and silky to more robust, depending on how intensely and how long the kernels have been ground. For chess pie, you need the cornmeal to be coarser to sustain the rest of the filling ingredients. The final texture of the pie should be slightly grainy and chewy.
Therefore, when substituting cornmeal in chess pie, you must consider a suitable substitute for the taste, texture, and consistency.
Corn flour is always a good substitute for cornmeal, as they are both made of corn. The difference between cornmeal and corn flour is that cornmeal is made of whole corn kernels, and corn flour is the cornstarch derived from the corn. So while cornmeal is processed corn, corn flour is a derivative of cornmeal.
What makes corn flour a suitable substitution for cornmeal in chess pie is its recognizable corn sweetness. However, although slightly rough, corn flour is still a bit smoother than cornmeal, so replacing cornmeal with corn flour in chess pie will give you a bit creamier and less grainy result.
Instead of two tablespoons of corn flour, use three and mix it with one tablespoon of white flour. White flour will increase the elasticity of the chess pie filling.
Like corn flour, polenta is also an excellent substitute for cornmeal in chess pie. Unlike corn flour, polenta is softer and tenderer; therefore, it is perhaps an even better cornmeal substitute for chess pie.
To get the best consistency of the chess pie, use equal parts white flour and polenta. So two tbsps. polenta and two tbsps. white flour.
Coarse Wheat Flour
Coarse wheat flour has almost the same texture as cornmeal since the cornmeal used for chess pie is a bit coarser. Therefore your chess pie would have the same consistency and texture- grainy.
However, the taste won’t be the same, as wheat flour and cornmeal come from different sources. So, wheat flour chess pie will taste a bit stronger and will require a slightly larger amount of sugar.
If you use coarse wheat flour, use the quantity as cornmeal, i.e., two tbsps. coarse wheat flour and one tbsp. white flour. Increase the sugar amount by half a cup, so instead of two cups of sugar, use two and a half.
Durum Wheat Flour
Durum wheat flour is the flour usually used for pasta. It is rich in protein and is very firm and stable. It is a suitable substitute for cornmeal in chess pie as it will create a nice stable filling with a lesser chance of the filling becoming runny.
However, it is better to use slightly less of this flour instead of two tbsps., use one and a half. Increase the sugar amount by half a cup, so two and a half cups. This flour lacks the sweetness of cornmeal, so you’ll need to compensate for it by using more sugar.
And lastly, mix this flour with one tbsp of regular white flour.
Sweet, tender, and silky, rice flour is an excellent substitute for cornmeal in chess pie. Since rice flour is more elegant and softer than cornmeal, your chess pie will likely be more chewy than grainy. Therefore to get the right consistency, increase the rice flour content by half a spoon, so two and a half tbsps. rice flour and two tbsps. white flour.
As a corn derivative, cornstarch is yet another great cornmeal substitute, though it lacks sweetness. The consistency will not be grainy, but it will be stable enough, so you won’t be risking a runny chess pie. Use the same quantity of cornstarch as cornmeal, i.e., two tbsps. cornstarch mixed with two tbsps. white flour.
Corn grits are ground dry corn and are very similar to cornmeal. Corn grits are usually boiled and then used as an ingredient in other dishes. Therefore, using girts as a cornmeal substitute will give you a slightly creamier pie, but delicious nevertheless.
You should add half a tbsp. white flour to get the right consistency of the chess pie filling.
Why Do You Put Cornmeal in Chess Pie?
Cornmeal makes the chess pie filling denser and more stable. Using cornmeal and chess pie gives the pie a more robust filling, and since chess pie is a custard dessert, it helps the filling hold on its own instead of leaking through the bottom crust.
In addition, chess pie doesn’t have a top crust, so cornmeal creates an excellent protective layer on top of the pie, keeping the medium part of the pie soft and gooey.
What Makes a Chess Pie a Chess Pie?
Chess pie is a very old Southern recipe that includes basic ingredients- flour, cornmeal, sugar, butter, and eggs. It doesn’t involve much else in terms of the ingredients nor in terms of the making. So very simple and very basic.
Therefore, one of the theories on how chess pie became chess pie is that it was initially called “just pie”, which, in a Southern accent, sounded much like “chess pie”.
Another theory is that chess pie is cheeseless cheesecake, as cheesecake is chess pie plus cheese. Again due to the resemblance of the words “cheese” and “chess”, this pie became known as chess pie.
In essence, whether the name derives from “just” or “cheese”, what makes a chess pie a chess pie is its simplicity and use of just the very essential ingredients.
Chess Pie Recipe without Cornmeal
- 3 tbsp corn flour
- 1 tbsp white flour
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract optional
- 1 pie shell
- Melt the butter in a saucepan.
- When the butter melts, add the sugar until they homogenize, but see that you don't caramelize the sugar. You should get a thick grainy substance.
- Remove the pan from the stove and let it cool for a bit.
- Beat the eggs until frothy in a separate bowl and add the vanilla extract. Sift the corn and white flour into the eggs and continue mixing.
- Slowly add the butter and sugar mixture into the eggs.
- Mix while all ingredients homogenize.
- Prebake the pie shell for ten minutes at 300 °F (150 °C).
- Let the crust cool for ten minutes, and then add the filling.
- Bake at 350 °F (180 °C) for ten minutes, lower the temperature to 300 °F (150 °C) and continue baking for another 40 minutes.
- Ten minutes before taking it out, check to see if the pie is ready by putting a toothpick or a knife in the middle and the edges of the pie. It is ready if the toothpick/knife comes out clean from the edges and slightly smeared from the middle of the pie.