Inspired by a dessert made for a certain horserace in early May, Chocolate Walnut Pie will make you feel like you’re there, even if you’re not! Brown butter, chocolate, walnuts, and bourbon baked in a flaky pie crust…it’s the surest bet you can make.
If you’re a fan of Southern living, Chocolate Walnut Pie is as southern as it gets. Serve it with a big dollop of freshly whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And it’s delightfully easy to bake, crust and all.
Making pies for a crowd of hungry betters? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What is Chocolate Walnut Pie?
Chocolate Walnut Pie is a chocolate laced nut and bourbon pie. In other words, maybe the best pie in the world.
There is a rich tradition of serving this pie at a horserace at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May. While people consider the race to be “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” Chocolate Walnut Pie could be considered “the most exciting two minutes in desserts.”
History of Chocolate Walnut Pie
Legend has it that George Kern invented the original recipe for this pie when he worked as a manager of the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky. It quickly became the house specialty and was adopted in the mid-1950s as a tradition at the Kentucky Derby. After all, you need a little something to eat with all those Mint Juleps!
The original recipe for Kern’s pie is a closely guarded secret (and the name is trademarked and heavily policed!), but this one comes close.
What you need to make Chocolate Walnut Pie:
- A 9-inch pie pan and a homemade or store-bought crust (make your own here, or follow along in my how-to for pie crust)
- Aluminum foil
- Pie weights or…use some past-their -rime dried beans in your pantry as pie weights. Line the inside of the pie crust with foil or parchment paper, and fill it with dried beans, rice, or even popcorn kernels. Then, bake your pie crust according to the instructions in the recipe. Store the homemade pie weights in a jar in the pantry to reuse. Once they’re baked, they’re too dry to cook with.
- Offset spatula (once you have one, you’ll wonder what you ever did without one all this time!)
Chocolate Walnut Pie ingredients
- Bourbon (just a little, but to make Chocolate Walnut Pie without bourbon, use ¾ cup brown sugar and ½ cup granulated white sugar)
- Sugar and brown sugar
- Eggs, at room temperature
- Vanilla extract
Can you make this pie with less sugar?
If you’re cutting back on the sugar, you should be able to omit as much as ¼ cup of granulated sugar in the recipe and still have it turn out delicious.
You could also use a sugar-free or higher cacao percentage chocolate.
Instead of sugar, substitute a sugar-free baking substitute. If you try any of these, please leave a comment below and describe how it went!
Can you make Chocolate Walnut Pie ahead of time?
Yes! No matter how you slice it, this pie tastes fabulous warm (hopefully with a scoop of vanilla ice cream) or cold (hopefully with a dollop of whipped cream). Once baked, refrigerate the pie until ready to serve; it will last for up to four days in the refrigerator.
Here’s how to heat up a cold pie: preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake the pie, straight from the refrigerator, for 15-20 minutes.
Can you freeze Chocolate Walnut Pie?
The texture will probably change a bit, and may affect the overall taste of the dessert, but you can freeze the pie for up to two months if you absolutely must.
Wrap the pie in plastic wrap and an outer layer of aluminum foil, and store inside a zip-top freezer bag. To thaw a frozen pie, take the pie out the day before and let thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
Chocolate Walnut Pie
For the crust:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
- 2-4 tablespoons cold water
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped
For the filling:
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 8 pieces
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 2 eggs plus one yolk (large, lightly beaten)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts toasted and chopped
To make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift the flour and salt together into the bowl of a food processor; add shortening and pulse until pieces are the size of small peas.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cold water over part of the mixture. Pulse again. Add more water as needed and repeat until all the mixture is moistened and just holds together when pressed with fingertips.
- Flatten dough onto a lightly floured surface by pressing with palm of hand three times across in both directions. Roll from center to edge until 1/8-inch thick.
- Fit pastry into a 9-inch pie plate and trim ½ to 1-inch beyond edge. Fold under and flute edge by pressing dough with forefinger against wedge made of finger and thumb of other hand. Prick bottom and sides well with fork. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Carefully remove crust from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Sprinkle chocolate over the bottom of the hot crust. Let chocolate sit for 5 minutes to soften. Using off-set spatula, spread chocolate into even layer; set aside crust.
To make the filling:
- Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 5 to 7 minutes. Off heat, slowly stir in bourbon; let cool for 5 minutes.
- Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in large bowl until combined. Add eggs, yolk and vanilla, whisking until smooth.
- Slowly whisk in warm butter mixture until incorporated. Stir in walnuts, then pour filling into chocolate-lined crust.
- Bake until filling is puffed and center jiggles slightly when pie is gently shaken, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating plate halfway through baking. Let pie cool on wire rack for 4 hours. Slice and serve. (Once sliced, pie can be covered with plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)