Key Lime Pie

For as much as I love pie, you’d have thought that I would have been all over key lime pie by now. The truth? I ate key lime pie for the very first time when I was in Florida back in March. As in, two months ago. The first time in my entire life. At first, I wasn’t sure how I had missed key lime pie for the last 32 years. Then, when I mentioned to my mom that I had made it this week, she said that she had never had key lime pie either. Mystery solved. Apparently, we are not very tropical people when it comes to our desserts? I also tend to sway waaaayyyy far to the side of pies made with traditional pie crusts. When given the option, I’ll always pick flaky and buttery over graham cracker. Yet another potential reason key lime pie slid down my pie priority list. Is this starting to feel like a Sherlock Holmes investigation to anyone else? (Speaking of which, have you seen the movies with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law? Two of my recent favorites!) Long story short, I may have been late to the party with key lime pie, but the good news is that I finally made it. To my surprise, this was one of the easiest pies I have ever made. Ever. It was also drop-dead delicious. A perfect balance of a creamy, tart filling, a fluffy, sweet topping, and buttery graham crust. This key lime pie now has a permanent place in my summer baking rotation!

As I mentioned above, this was one of the easiest pies that I’ve ever made. After eating it for the first time in March, I was convinced that the filling was some type of elaborate curd/custard that would need to be painstakingly cooked on the stove, and then baked in the oven. Not so! All you do is whisk together lime zest, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and lime juice, let it sit to thicken, and then pour it into the crust and bake briefly. Key lime pie dates back to the late 1800’s in Key West, Florida. At the time, modern refrigeration wasn’t available, so fresh milk wasn’t a common commodity. Instead, canned milk was widely used. As a result, this incredibly easy pie came to be. Believe it or not, up until recently, the pie wasn’t baked at all. The combination of the lime juice with the egg yolks and condensed milk creates a chemical reaction that causes the mixture to thicken all on its own (the acid causes the proteins in the yolks and milk to bond together). Nowadays, due to concerns over raw eggs, the pie is baked, which actually creates a much better filling consistency since it  sets wonderfully and is less droopy than its unbaked counterpart.

Aren’t key limes adorable? They’re so itsy bitsy! I had some questions on my Facebook page about the difference between key limes and regular (Persian) limes, which are the ones that you see year-round at the grocery store. The biggest difference is that key limes are more acidic than regular limes, which makes them more tart and much more aromatic. Key limes can sometimes be hard to find in regular supermarkets, so if you can’t get your hands on them, you can absolutely substitute standard limes in this pie. No sweat!

Key lime pies can be made with a meringue topping (more traditional) or a whipped cream topping (more modern). I am a whipped cream girl all the way, so there was no question which way I was going here, but feel free to customize based on your personal preferences. Now that I know how easy and delicious this pie is, there is zero excuse for me not to make it. That goes for you, too! Make this part of your summer baking agenda!

Five years ago: Cheesy Baked Ziti with Sausage

Key Lime Pie

Yield: 8 servings

Prep Time: 1 hour (active) + 3 hours (inactive)

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Lime Filling:
4 teaspoons grated lime zest
4 egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup fresh lime juice

For the Graham Cracker Crust:
9 graham crackers, pulverized into crumbs (about 1 cup cracker crumbs)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm

For the Whipped Cream Topping:
1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
½ cup powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Make the Filling: Whisk the lime zest and egg yolks together in a medium bowl for 2 minutes. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, then the lime juice. Set aside at room temperature to thicken while you prepare the crust.

3. Make the Crust: In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and the granulated sugar. While stirring and mixing continuously with a fork, slowly drizzle the melted butter into the graham cracker and sugar mixture. Once you are done, all of the dry ingredients should be moistened and it should look like wet sand. Transfer the crumbs to a 9-inch pie plate and evenly press the crumbs into the pie plate. Bake the crust until it is fragrant and beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

4. Once the crust has cooled to room temperature, pour the lime filling into the crust. Bake until the center is set, yet still wiggly when jiggled, 15 to 17 minutes. Return the pie to a wire rack; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 3 hours. (At this point, the pie can be covered directly with plastic wrap sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

5. Make the Whipped Cream: Using an electric mixer, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. At this point, add the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while continuing to whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Decoratively pipe the whipped cream over the filling or spread the whipped cream evenly with a spatula. Garnish with lime slices, if desired, and serve. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

(Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated)

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94 Responses to “Key Lime Pie”

Comment Pages 1 2
  1. Janine (sugarkissed.net) on May 16, 2012 at 12:35 am

    Pies scare me… they seem very advanced compared to cookies! But you do have me tempted with this ones. Sounds perfect for summertime!

    Reply

  2. Averie @ Averie Cooks on May 16, 2012 at 12:51 am

    Apparently when my dad was in boot camp he ate key lime pie in South Florida and it was such a far cry from his Minnesota farmland roots…so every year for his bday or special occasions, that was his request. I have fond memories growing up with this “exotic” pie b/c where I grew up, anything other than apple or cherry was just that!

    Your pie looks amazing!

    Reply

  3. j3nn on May 16, 2012 at 3:16 am

    I have been enjoying citrus flavors lately, so key lime pie sounds right up my alley!

    Reply

  4. Jolene @ Yummy Inspirations on May 16, 2012 at 4:51 am

    Looks amazing & sounds delicious! Love lime & also never had a Key Lime Pie before so I must try this!

    Reply

  5. Sarah, Maison Cupcake on May 16, 2012 at 5:38 am

    I only made key lime pie once, took it into work and an American colleague said “nah that’s not key lime pie”. I thought it was pretty good myself and would like to try this version.

    Reply

  6. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious on May 16, 2012 at 5:41 am

    I haven’t made key lime pie before but it’s been on my bucket list for quite some time so I will most definitely be making these soon! Glad to know that it’s super easy to make.

    Reply

  7. Coleens Recipes on May 16, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Beautiful photos!! Your pie just screams spring!!

    Reply

  8. Tanya Schroeder on May 16, 2012 at 6:58 am

    Key lime pie is the best!!!! I didn’t eat key lime until I was an adul either. Now I am always thinking of new things to “floor” with key lime!

    Reply

  9. Katrina on May 16, 2012 at 7:17 am

    I’ve been wanting to try this pie for so long – I’ve NEVER had it!!

    Reply

  10. Katie on May 16, 2012 at 7:35 am

    I just made my first Key Lime Pie at Easter this year. It was a big hit with the whole family! Even my aunt and uncle who visit Key West every year!

    Reply

  11. Lori on May 16, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Thanks for posting….I will give this a try now that crew season is coming to an end. My son is struggling to keep his weight down in the lwt weight division. After Stotes this weekend it will be a pig fest.

    Reply

  12. katerina on May 16, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Looks yummy! Great photos and colours :)
    xxxFiC.

    Reply

  13. Cornelia Cree on May 16, 2012 at 8:14 am

    I don’t like to waste egg whites. How much sugar should I add and how long should I cook a meringue topping instead of the cream? Thanks.

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 17th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Cornelia, You could always save the egg whites for an omelet! :) If you want to do a meringue topping, this is the recipe:

      1 tablespoon cornstarch
      1/3 cup water
      1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
      1/2 cup granulated sugar
      4 egg whites
      1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

      Mix the cornstarch with the water in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally at the beginning and more frequently as the mixture thickens. When the mixture starts to simmer and turns translucent, remove from the heat. Mix the cream of tartar and the sugar together. Beat the egg whites and vanilla until frothy. Beat in the sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture forms soft peaks. Add the cornstarch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue to beat the meringue to stiff peaks. Bake the pie for 7 minutes, then remove from the oven and apply the meringue gently, first spreading a ring around the outer edge to attach the meringue to the crust, then filling in the center. Return the pie to the oven and bake 20 minutes more.

      Reply

  14. Melissa @ Treats With a Twist on May 16, 2012 at 8:16 am

    I had never had Key Lime Pie until a few months ago! My boyfriend was shocked; he said that, as a baker, he thought I surely had tried the most common summer pie…but no! And when I did, I loved it! I was hooked. This looks beautiful and it’s definitely on my list of treats to tackle :)

    Reply

  15. Cathy on May 16, 2012 at 8:38 am

    LOVE Key Lime Pie – have you ever tried making a crust with Biscoff cookies instead of graham crackers? I just leave out the additional sugar – BEST crust EVER!!! Can’t wait to try it with this recipe!

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 17th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      Hi Cathy, I haven’t heard of that, but it’s genius!! I just had a Magic Pop spread with Biscoff for breakfast this morning ;-)

      Reply

  16. Scott @ Beyond The Shaker on May 16, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Making it early this summer! Looks amazing… and I’ve never attempted it. Also love your ‘100’ (surprised you haven’t made lasagne, but love that you have a food bucket list). Thanks for posting!

    Reply

  17. Jessica Arnoldy on May 16, 2012 at 9:20 am

    i am not a big key lime fan…that is until I had it frozen on a stick and dipped in chocolate. ridiculous.

    Reply

    • Beth Cook on May 16th, 2012 at 9:50 am

      Oooooooh yeah!! My favorite part of visiting Key West is frozen chocolate dipped Key Lime pie on a stick!!

      Reply

      • Angela on May 16th, 2012 at 11:51 am

        Chocolate dipped key lime pie??!! Um, yes please! That sounds delicious- I’m going to use some white chocolate though so it doesn’t over power the lime. :)

        Reply

    • Michelle on May 17th, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      That sounds insane. Insane, of course, in the best way possible. I must find one of those the next time I’m in Florida!

      Reply

  18. Lauren on May 16, 2012 at 9:24 am

    One of my favorite desserts! Mmmm….

    Reply

  19. Erin @ Brownie Bites on May 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Fact: I have never eaten key lime pie. Which is ridiculous to me since I’ve never met a pie I didn’t like, and I love graham cracker crusts (though like you, I prefer flaky and buttery crusts)

    Reply

  20. Jennifer on May 16, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in the south or because we lived so near the FL state line, but Key Lime Pie was something pretty regular around our house during the summers because it’s my Daddy’s favorite. However, when we went to FL for beach trips, it was much easier to find the pie everywhere.

    Your pie looks beautiful! Makes me think of home.

    Reply

  21. Kim Daly on May 16, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Key Lime Pie is my absolute fav. Thanks for the recipe (and the beautiful pictures!) :-)

    Reply

  22. Emilie on May 16, 2012 at 9:39 am

    You choose a great recipe –I’ve been making this version for years and it’s always a big hit. And actually it’s just as delicious with a shortbread-type pie crust as it is with graham crackers. I make it with either, depending on whether or not I have graham crackers. But I’m wondering what decorating tip you used for your cream. It’s beautiful!

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 16th, 2012 at 9:53 am

      Hi Emilie, Thank you! I used the Ateco #827 jumbo open star tip (it came in a small set I bought at Williams-Sonoma).

      Reply

  23. Beth Cook on May 16, 2012 at 9:51 am

    My brother has a key lime tree in his back yard in Florida. Every year at Christmas he brings a bunch up to Maryland and makes us a homemade key lime pie for dessert made from freshly squeezed limes from his tree. A bit untraditional but amazing….

    Reply

  24. Shawn @ I Wash...You Dry on May 16, 2012 at 10:16 am

    So tasty! I love Key Lime Pie!

    Reply

  25. Jeannie on May 16, 2012 at 11:04 am

    I am so glad you put this up! I have been wanting to make a key lime pie, but could never find the right recipe online…everyone argues whether it is authentic or not, and you can tell by the recipes, they most aren’t. I trust you with all my dessert recipes, and this looks delicious!

    Reply

  26. Catalina @ Cake with Love on May 16, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I love key lime pie, it always tastes so fresh to me, its one of my summer favorite desserts!

    Reply

  27. FoodFlurries on May 16, 2012 at 11:36 am

    I love all your pie / tart recipes and pictures. I really do.

    Reply

  28. Stephanie on May 16, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Key Lime Pie will now always remind me of Dexter. Never knew it was such an easy pie to make! Thanks!

    Reply

  29. Evan Thomas on May 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    These photos are beautiful. I’m not even a pie person and I want to make one right now.

    Reply

  30. Laura Dembowski on May 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I love key lime pie. I actually had an awesome piece at a local restaurant recently. Is there any way to make the pie without condensed milk? I’d really like to make key lime pie, but condensed milk is not an ingredient I like to use.

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 17th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Hi Laura, I am not sure, I think your best bet would be to check out Google and see if there are any other variations on the pie. From the research that I did, the sweetened condensed milk is the original/traditional way to make it, and the only way that I saw. You could probably use some type of custard or curd, but I’m not sure how it would set up or if you’d still need to bake it, etc.

      Reply

  31. Coby on May 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I was JUST looking for a key lime pie recipe yesterday! It’s my husband’s favorite, and I’ve never made it for him (shame on me), so I’m making it for him SOON!

    Reply

  32. Pam S on May 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I’ve been making this pie for years and love it because it is so easy and never fails. Since key limes are often hard to find, I buy bottled Key Lime juice (right next to the bottled lemon juice in the grocery store). It works great and I honestly can’t tell any difference between it and using the fresh lime juice. I did notice a big difference the one time I made the pie with regular lime juice, however. It did not taste right at all!

    Reply

    • Karen on July 1st, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      We use Key Lime juice to make Limeade3 like in Belize. It turns out GREAT. No reason why it wouldn’t work for pie. I will make mine that way and let you know! Karen

      Reply

  33. amy on May 16, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I’ve been looking for a good recipe for this. Do you think these would work as bar cookies too?

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 17th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Hi Amy, It probably would!

      Reply

  34. Tracey on May 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I have been keeping my eyes peeled for key limes in the store but so far haven’t come across any. When I do, this pie is *definitely* happening. Love the way you garnished it!

    Reply

  35. Kristin on May 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Michelle,

    I have been craving Key Lime pie since I left FL a couple weeks ago! You read my mind today! Just an idea if you want to try it for next time – the last time I made Key Lime Pie, I added finely chopped (from the food processor) cashews and shredded coconut to my graham cracker crust and topped it with a coconut rum meringue. It was out of this world! Definitely not traditional but a fun way to change it up should the desire be there :)

    Kristin Calise

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 17th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Kristin, That sounds amazing, I will definitely try your version next time! Love the sound of coconut rum meringue, although I’ll probably make it whipped cream :)

      Reply

      • Kristin on May 17th, 2012 at 4:29 pm

        I have made a whipped cream one too and it’s just as yummy! Can’t go wrong :)

        Reply

  36. Jennifer @ Raisin Questions on May 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Key Lime Pie just showed up on my radar too when a coworker mentioned she makes hers with a crushed pretzel crust! Imagine that salty zing! Thanks for the tutorial on the classic!

    Reply

  37. Vicki @ WITK on May 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Key Lime pie is my FAVORITE pie ever. I would ask my mom for it as my birthday cake because I loved it so much. Now I would like a big slice, or perhaps the whole thing. Until I can locate some, I’ll have to continue eating the entire box of girl scout cookies I have here….

    Reply

  38. Cookin' Canuck on May 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    It was only a few years ago that I first tasted key lime pie, too – and I was hooked. I love the ease of the graham cracker crust.

    Reply

  39. Amber @ Slim Pickin's Kitchen on May 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I’ve never made key lime pie either! But, I’m not really a baker either, so it makes sense. I looooove it though!

    Reply

  40. Jill on May 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Being from Western PA is why it wasnt in your family rotation… travel is good, makes us try new things. I lived in Western PA and now live in Amish country Lancaster County. Its a whole different menu just 4 hours East of you :)

    Reply

  41. Suzi on May 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    That’s a funny story, my husband is from Pittsburgh and I am from So. Florida so I asked him when the first time he had Key Lime Pie was and it was not until he moved to So. Florida, probably Key West. Maybe they don’t make key lime pie in the north, no limes, LOL. I’ve never seen it on a menu there. This pie of yours is a beauty and no you can’t make it without the graham cracker crust. Very impressive and there’s no doubt how delicious it was.

    Reply

  42. Renee on May 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Yum, citrus desserts are so perfect for summer.

    Reply

  43. Tracy on May 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Haha, how have you not had Key lime pie before?! I’m so glad you did and that you made your own version. It looks amazing!

    Reply

  44. Jamie | My Baking Addiction on May 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Key Lime Pie is one of my absolute favorite summer desserts! Yours is gorgeous and I agree, Key Limes are incredibly adorable.

    Reply

  45. madge @ vegetariancasserolequeen on May 16, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Ironic that you posted this recipe today!

    I’m in the Florida Keys on vacation at the moment and I just had a store bought version. Which was pretty darn good, I must say. Although, I told my family I wanted to make my own version for comparison. Thanks for the recipe! I’ll have to try this one…

    Reply

  46. amanda @ fake ginger on May 16, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Oooh, I love key lime pie! I totally hate making it since those dang limes are so tiny and you have to squeeze 62 of them just for a small pie. But I never turn down a slice!

    You should check out Dorie Greenspan’s Florida pie. It’s one of my favs! :)

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 17th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      I totally remember seeing that in her book, I’ll definitely give it a try! :)

      Reply

  47. angela on May 16, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    I’m not one for this type of pie, but it’s my husband’s number 1 favorite dessert and our anniversary is next week. I’m going to surprise him with breakfast of this key lime pie.

    Reply

  48. Diane on May 17, 2012 at 1:42 am

    One of my favorite pies and I am a pie person! By the way, it is wonderful the traditional graham cracker way but I have also had it with a flaky crust. Super yummy! ( I am with you all the way on the whipped cream over meringue)

    Reply

  49. Andrea on May 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    This looks as beautiful as I know it tastes, being a fan of key lime pie myself. FYI, you should check out Ina Garten’s Frozen Key Lime Pie in her Family Style cookbook. I make it in individual tart pans and keep them in the freezer for when I need a zap of summer.

    Reply

  50. Cornelia Cree on May 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks BEB for the meringue recipe. I tried lime pie once with a chocolate cookie crust and it was awful. Just for your info. I also have a tin of dry whites on hand which is very helpful if the egg whites are inadequate. They work very well.

    Reply

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