This buttermilk pie recipe uses a ready-to-bake flaky pie crust and has a velvety, custardy filling made with simple ingredients. It is quick to prepare and makes the perfect indulgent Southern dessert for the holidays. Get our pie crust recipe to make it from scratch if you prefer!
Buttermilk pie was one of the first pies that I tasted when I immigrated to the United States.
I went to a ‘Praise and Pie’ church event a few days before Thanksgiving. One of the things that caught my attention was how smooth and custardy the pie filling was. It tasted mildly sweet and tangy because it had lemon juice and lemon zest among its ingredients.
Needless to say, I ate a slice and, shamelessly, went back for a second slice. 🙂
I have tried to re-create that magical experience in our recipe.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did (and my whole family too!).
This is no Pioneer Woman’s, Cracker Barrel’s, Patti Labelle’s, or Paula Deen buttermilk pie recipe. This is a very Southern recipe, Texas-Style (my home sweet home!)
Well, ready to prepare our super delish yet easy buttermilk pie recipe?
Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie Recipe (Origins)
Buttermilk Pie actually originated in England. But the recipe came to the United States through Southern settlers.
In the beginning, the pie was mainly made in Texas, where buttermilk was plenty and inexpensive.
When fruit was not in season to make fruit pies, such as this apple pie, Texans could gather simple pantry ingredients (sugar, flour, butter, eggs, and buttermilk) to make this pie all year round.
The old-fashioned buttermilk pie recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar combined with buttermilk (sour flavor), resulting in a very sweet and tangy pie filling.
But in order to cut the sweetness of the pie, many enjoy this old-fashioned Southern dessert with a cup of coffee. I preferred to simply reduce the amount of sugar.
The thing is, this is one of those desperation pies (it contains humble ingredients made into dessert using whatever one has on hand) that graces the table of many families, especially in the South, on Thanksgiving.
In Texas, we enjoy it the entire year... it is a staple-- almost like our Texas pecan pie.
It's one of those classic Southern desserts that never gets old!
What’s the difference between buttermilk pie and buttermilk chess pie?
Although both pies have a custardy filling, the main difference between them is the classic buttermilk pie recipe contains buttermilk (hence its name) but it doesn’t use cornmeal like chess pie does (e.g. chocolate chess pie and lemon chess pie).
What are the ingredients in a Southern buttermilk pie?
Not all buttermilk pies are made the same. Yes, all of them contain the basic ingredients of the old-fashioned buttermilk pie recipe (butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and buttermilk). However, a few of them show slight variations (mainly in flavorings), as you can see below:
- Butter: Use unsalted butter at room temperature. This will help to cream the butter more easily. Choosing a good-quality butter (Irish or most European butters) will make your pie taste much better. This is real butter without water.
- Granulated sugar – This is one of the ingredients that you can use a little more or less than the amount called for in our recipe. I initially used 2 cups of sugar. I thought the result was too sweet, so I backed it down to 1 ¼ cups of sugar. The pie was mildly sweet and still quite custardy. You can play around with it to find an amount that is perfect for your palate.
- Eggs – Use whole eggs, at room temperature. Beat them until well combined.
- Flour – I used all-purpose flour as a thickener for the filling. But if you are using a gluten-free pie crust because you are gluten intolerant, substitute cornstarch instead of flour. The ratio is 1:3 (cornstarch:flour). That means, for every 3 tablespoon flour you will only need 1 tablespoon cornstarch as a thickener.
- Buttermilk – Use full-fat buttermilk for the filling. It will be creamier and more custardy than if you use 2% buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk available, check out the suitable substitutes listed above to make your own buttermilk.
- Flavorings – I used freshly ground nutmeg, lemon juice and lemon zest, pure vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt, which are characteristic of a Southern buttermilk pie. It is an old-fashioned recipe with added flavor! You can adjust the amount of lemon juice to suit your taste. I added the juice of a whole lemon, but if you are not a big fan of lemony desserts, reduce the amount to 1 tablespoon or 1-2 tsp. Mine produced quite a tangy dessert, but yours can have just a light zing instead, if you prefer.
- Pie crust – I used a store-bought pie crust instead of a homemade pie crust, cutting down the prep time. But you can prepare your own pie crust from scratch. It’s up to you!
What are buttermilk substitutes?
If you don’t have buttermilk at home, no worries! Just grab a measuring cup (240 ml) and add one of the following combinations to make a cup, mixing well:
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) white vinegar or lemon juice and finish to fill the cup with whole milk or lactose-free milk to the 1-cup line (240 ml);
- 1 ¾ teaspoons (5 grams) of cream of tartar per 1 cup (240 ml) of milk, Make sure to add just a little bit of milk at first and whisk well until the cream of tartar has dissolved into a smooth mixture. Only then should you whisk in the rest of the milk; otherwise, the mixture will be clumpy;
- ¾ cup (172 grams) of sour cream or plain yogurt with ¼ cup (60 ml) of water or milk (whisk the mixture until smooth);
- 1 cup of plain kefir (240 ml) – an unflavored fermented milk beverage;
- ¼ cup (30 grams) of powdered buttermilk with 1 cup (240 ml) of water.
These substitutes are useful to make our buttermilk pie recipe even when you don't have one of the main ingredients readily available!
How to make buttermilk pie
- Set the oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- For the pie crust: Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out into a round (12-inch diameter). Then, line an ungreased 9-inch pie pan with the dough and trim off the excess crust. Crimp the edges! SEE PIC. 1 If you prefer your pie to have a crisp bottom, place a sheet of parchment paper on top and add some dried beans or pie weights onto the bottom. Bake until the crust starts to set, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let it fully cool before filling. But if you don’t mind for your crust to have a soft bottom, skip the pre-baking pie shell step.
- Prepare the buttermilk filling: In a large bowl, cream the butter and whisk in the sugar with a hand mixer. Add eggs, preferably one at a time, while whisking until combined. Then add the flour and salt and whisk until combined. Next combine buttermilk, vanilla, nutmeg, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and whisk until they form a homogeneous mixture. SEE PIC. 2
- Bake the pie: Pour the buttermilk mixture into the unbaked pie crust. SEE PIC. 3 Bake for 55-70 minutes, or until set on top and slightly jiggly (not liquidy) in the middle.
- Let it cool: Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely (about 2 hours). SEE PIC. 4 Cover, chill in the fridge, and slice before serving. You can decorate as you prefer. I added some cut-out pie crust leaves on top. Serve it with a cup of coffee or with a dollop of whipped cream on top and some fresh berries.
Did you know you can add a few twists to the old-fashioned buttermilk pie? Yep! It is as easy as pie! 😉
The 5 most popular variations are:
- Lemon buttermilk pie – Both lemon juice and zest are added to the old-fashioned buttermilk pie. Quite common among Southern buttermilk pies like ours.
- Buttermilk chess pie – in contrast to a traditional buttermilk pie, this uses cornmeal as one of its ingredients. It is like a fusion between buttermilk pie (it contains buttermilk) and chess pie (it calls for cornmeal). Or you can say it is a chess pie that replaces milk with buttermilk.
- Chocolate buttermilk pie – Follow our recipe and stir about ⅓ cup of Dutch-process cocoa powder into the filling when adding the flour.
- Buttermilk pecan pie – Either 1 cup of chopped pecans is added to the filling or is poured over pecan halves. After baking the pie, the chopped pecans will appear mixed into the filling, while the pecan halves will rise to the top, forming a topping-- just like in a Texas pecan pie.
- Butterscotch coconut pie – About 1 cup of shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened) is mixed (not whisked) into the filling.
Why is my homemade buttermilk pie runny?
This happens when you didn’t bake the pie enough for the filling to set on the edges and get jiggly (not liquidy) in the middle.
Store Southern buttermilk pie covered in the fridge for up to 3 days. Make sure to place plastic wrap loosely over the top and seal around the edges of your pie plate.
Can I freeze it?
Buttermilk pie is a type of custard pie. By freezing it, you will change the texture of the filling. It can become soggy after thawing it, although it is still edible.
Some people freeze the leftover pie for up to 3 months but I don’t recommend it.
Other pie recipes to enjoy:
PIN & ENJOY!
Southern Buttermilk Pie Recipe
- pie plate
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 4 tablespoon all-purpose flour sifted (for a gluten-free pie, use 1 ⅓ tablespoons cornstarch instead)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup full-fat buttermilk chilled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Dash nutmeg preferably freshly grounded
- 1 lemon zest and juice If you are not a fan of tangy desserts, use just 1 or 2 teaspoons of the juice. Our pie is very tangy to balance the sweetness.
- 1 9-inch ready pie crust, thawed and unbaked
- Set the oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- For the pie crust: Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out into a round (12-inch diameter). Then, line an ungreased 9-inch pie pan with the dough and trim off the excess crust. Crimp the edges! If you prefer your pie to have a crisp bottom, place a sheet of parchment paper on top and add some dried beans or pie weights onto the bottom. Bake until the crust starts to set, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let it fully cool before filling. But if you don’t mind yours having a soft bottom, skip the pre-baking pie shell step.
- Prepare the buttermilk filling: In a large bowl, cream the butter and whisk in the sugar with a hand mixer. Then add eggs, preferably one at a time, while whisking until combined. Add the flour and salt and whisk until combined. Next combine buttermilk, vanilla, nutmeg, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and whisk until homogeneous.
- Bake the pie: Pour the buttermilk mixture into the unbaked pie crust and bake for 55-70 minutes, or until set on top and slightly jiggly (not liquidy) in the middle.
- Let it cool: Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely (about 2 hours). Cover, chill in the fridge, and slice before serving. You can decorate as you prefer. I added some cut-out pie crust leaves on top. Serve it with a cup of coffee, or with a dollop of whipped cream on top and some fresh berries.
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