According to James Beard's American Cookery (1972) chess pie was brought from England originally, and was found in New England as well as Virginia. The origin of the name of chess pie may have come from the term "pie chest", another name for a pie safe.
Recipes vary, but are generally similar in that they call for the preparation of a single crust and a filling composed of eggs, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. What sets chess pie apart from many other custard pies is the addition of cornmeal. Some recipes also call for corn syrup, which tends to create a more gelatinous consistency. The pie is then baked. The finished product is often consumed with coffee.
Chess pie is closely related to vinegar pie, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. Vinegar pie generally adds somewhere between a teaspoonful and tablespoonful of vinegar to the above ingredients to reduce the sweetness. Some variations are called Jeff Davis or Jefferson Davis Pie, and Kentucky pie.
Although preparation of a pecan pie is similar (with the obvious addition of pecans), pecan pies usually contain corn syrup.
Lemon chess pie is a form of chess pie that is popular in Southern states in America made with lemon juice.