How to Make Key Lime Pie

Bring this Florida favorite recipe home! Sweet-tart Key lime pie is quite easy to make and can be completed 24 hours ahead, so it's ideal for entertaining. No Key limes? No worries. Follow our step-by-step directions and tips.


What Is Key Lime Pie?

This American citrus pie is traditionally made with Key limes from the Florida Keys. Unlike the more common Persian limes, Key limes are smaller and rounder, and both the inside and outside are a more yellowish-green color. They also taste a little different and are more tart. According to Jean A. Voltz, author of The Flavor of the South, Key lime pie was developed in the 1850s along with the introduction of sweetened condensed milk in 1856. Because there were few cows in the Florida Keys, the new canned milk provided a ready source of milk. The pie is usually topped with whipped cream and sometimes sports a meringue topping. The flavor of this pie is so popular that it is duplicated in other recipes and popular food products, including frozen yogurt and even chewing gum. Here's a classic recipe for Key Lime Pie.

How to Make Key Lime Pie

The ingredients are few and the hands-on preparation time is fairly quick for this tangy treat. Although Key limes are small, the juicing step takes a little time. You can also purchase bottled key lime juice or substitute regular Persian lime juice and peel, but the pie will taste a little different. If you want a green pie, you will need to add a drop or two of green food coloring.

1. Start with the Crust

Although you can use a 9-inch baked pastry shell, the most common crust for a Key lime pie is made from graham crackers. For this pie, use a 9-inch homemade graham cracker crust or a purchased deep-dish graham cracker crust.

2. Preheat the Oven to 325 Degrees F.

3. Whisk Together the Filling

To get the 1/2 cup lime juice required for this filling, you will need to juice about 20 key limes or 4 medium Persian limes. You can purchase a juicer specifically for limes or use a citrus juicer.

  • In a medium bowl whisk together 3 large egg yolks using a wire whisk or fork. Gradually whisk in one 14-ounce can (1-1/4 cups) sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon grated lime peel, 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, 3 tablespoons water, and, if you like a few drops green food coloring. Mix well. The mixture will thicken.
  • Spoon filling into the prepared crust.

3. Bake the Pie

  • Bake for 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 1 hour.
  • Cover loosely and chill for 3 to 4 hours.

4. Top with Sweetened Whipped Cream

While optional, whipped cream is a traditional topping for this pie and dresses it up a bit.

  • Chill a medium mixing bowl and the beaters.
  • In the chilled bowl beat 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.
  • Spoon or pipe whipped cream onto the cooled pie or individual pieces. If desired, garnish with lime slices or fresh berries.
    • Tip: Be sure to cover and chill any leftover pie within 2 hours of serving.
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