Lemon Chess Tartlets

In my childhood, there were usually two kinds of pie at almost any big dinner. Pecan Pie and Chess Pie. I, of course, adore Pecan Pie, and so did everyone else in the family. But, I clearly remember making the conscious decision that Chess Pie would be my favorite.

Somewhere along the way, I kind of abandoned it. I didn’t do it on purpose. It was one of those desserts that someone else always made. In fact, I made my first one not that long ago.

Truth be told, I am fascinated by this pie and its variations. It’s one of the best examples of how just a handful of ingredients can make something so very good. These mini versions have a lemon twist to them that’s just perfect for summer.

Lemon Chess Tartlets are sweet, tart mini pies that are so simple to make and a pleasure to eat! - Bake or Break

I had some lemons left over from that amazing Lemon-Strawberry Shortcake and looked around specifically for a lemon tart recipe that would be both quick and simple. Not surprisingly, I found what I had in mind at Southern Living. Chess Pie is generally thought of as a Southern dessert, after all. Their basic chess tart recipe has a few variations if you’re looking for something a bit different.

You can dress these up easily with some toasted coconut, toasted almonds, or just a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar. You could even add a teaspoon of almond extract or coconut extract to the filling. I opted to go all lemon on these beauties. I think they’re pretty perfect in their sweet, lemon glory.

Lemon Chess Tartlets

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 22 minutes

Yield: 48 tartlets

Lemon Chess Tartlets


    For the crust:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • For the filling:
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted


To make the crust:

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add flour. Mix just until combined.

Shape dough into 48 balls, using a scant tablespoon of dough at a time. Place dough balls on a baking sheet. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

To make the filling:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease 48 mini muffin cups.

Place 1 dough ball into each cup. Press dough into the bottom and up the sides of the cups, forming a pastry shell. If you have a tart tamper, this is a perfect use for it. Coat it lightly with a bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking to it.

Whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and melted butter. Fill each pastry shell with mixture.

Bake 18-22 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Then, carefully remove tarts from pans to cool completely on wire racks.


If you'd like, garnish these with with toasted coconut or toasted almonds.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living.


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  1. Holiday Baker Man June 26, 2013 Reply

    I bet these are so tasty you can’t eat just one!

  2. Tahnycooks June 26, 2013 Reply

    Lemon is absolutely one of my favorite flavors, all year round, not just summertime! I could pop a easy dozen of these in my face in 5 seconds flat!

  3. JEP June 26, 2013 Reply

    Mini-sized desserts are the best! I have been hoping to see more lemon flavor on BoB. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Joanne June 26, 2013 Reply

    I’ve never had chess pie but it sounds like I would love it, especially with the lemon to balance out all that sweet!

  5. vanillasugarblog June 26, 2013 Reply

    I’ve heard of chess pie, but vaguely remember trying it.
    These look like they just melt in your mouth.

  6. Susan Broughton June 27, 2013 Reply

    I love anything that is lemon. These sound so good! I just stopped in to say Hello from The Country Cook Brandi’s giveaway! thanks

  7. Kaitlin June 27, 2013 Reply

    I have never heard of chess pie! I am very intrigued! I will definitely be trying this out!

  8. venita June 27, 2013 Reply

    You left the melted butter out of the filling in the directions.

  9. jennifer June 27, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for catching that, Venita! I’ve corrected the recipe.

  10. I could eat like 40 of these. And that’s not hyperbole.

  11. vicky June 28, 2013 Reply

    Any suggestions on how long to cook these in a regular size muffin tin?

  12. Nancy July 3, 2013 Reply

    These are excellent! I made them a little bigger, in regular muffin tins, baked at 385 degrees for 25 minutes, and they were perfect! (I patted in the pastry half way up the tins and poured the filling a little below the lowest edge of the pastry. Worked great.) We tried them with some raspberry jam – yum! and they were also excellent with fresh raspberries or a simple raspberry sauce.
    This recipe is a keeper!

  13. jennifer July 3, 2013 Reply

    Hi, Vicky. I’m sorry for the delay in answering your question. (I’m taking a little time off.) It looks like Nancy’s comment below yours might answer your question. Enjoy, Vicky! And thanks, Nancy!

  14. Kat July 8, 2013 Reply

    These were great. My family really enjoyed them, even the ones who don’t usually love lemon. I made a few with a single blueberry in the center. They were really nice too. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Dawn November 28, 2013 Reply

    I made these for my mom who adores lemon! We have pie night every year on the night after Thanksgiving. I make everyone their own pie, (I made nine last year!) and hand them a fork. I collect pie plates all year so everyone can take home their own pie & not have to worry about returning the plate. My mom wanted to be surprised this year, so I made these to bring for Thanksgiving/pie night! They are delicious; (so tiny I got to try a few early!) I only wish I had the tart tamper so they would have looked as uniform and lovely as yours did! My mom will LOVE these! Thanks!

  16. Phyllis G Davis January 4, 2014 Reply

    So many think of using the end of a wooden spoon or a tart tamper, I have always saved wine corks, they are the perfect size and I seem to have one around most of the time. Hope this will help someone else!

    • Author
      Jennifer McHenry January 5, 2014 Reply

      That’s a great idea, Phyllis! We always have plenty of wine corks around here. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Sharon February 5, 2014 Reply

    These were delicious, but really sweet. Any ideas on how to tone down the sugar without losing the custard-y texture?

    • Author
      Jennifer McHenry February 10, 2014 Reply

      Hi, Sharon. You can probably reduce the sugar by a few tablespoons without altering anything else. More than that, and I’m afraid these might not turn out well.

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