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Key Lime Pie

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Key lime pie with a graham cracker crust is beautiful, delicious and refreshing!

Today I’m sharing the best key lime pie recipe that’s perfect for a hot summer day. It brings the unique flavors and scents of the tropics to your kitchen. It evokes youthful visions of flip flops, swimsuits, and vacations at the beach!

PIN THIS KEY LIME PIE RECIPE FOR LATER!

A homemade key lime pie in a metal plate garnished with piped-on whipped cream and a twisted slice of lime.

WHAT ARE KEY LIMES?

Key limes, also known as Mexican limes, are native to Central and South America.

The once-famous lime groves of Key West, Key Largo, and Islamorada are now gone. Only one grove remains on the Florida mainland. In the U.S., Key limes are now imported from Mexico.

Measuring about 1 1/2 inches across, Key limes are round rather than oblong. They’re a citrus hybrid with thinner skins than traditional limes stocked at U.S. supermarkets. In California, I buy key limes at a specialty Mexican market.

In Mexico, Margaritas are made with Key limes! Their juice is distinctively tart and aromatic, with a beautiful spell-binding taste. In the tropics, they’re a must for authentic Key lime pie, a dessert first served during the late 1800s in Key West.

A beautiful Key lime pie on a wooden surface with a pie server.

INGREDIENTS FOR KEY LIME PIE

In 1856, Gail Borden patented condensed milk. At that time in the Florida Keys, refrigeration was an issue and domestic ovens were not common.

The Key lime pie was born when it was discovered that acidic lime juice reacts with condensed milk and eggs to “cook” the creamy pie filling. Graham crackers, also introduced in the 19th century, were used to form the pie crust.

Ingredients for the pie:

  • Unbaked Graham cracker crust (homemade or store-bought)
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Large egg yolks
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Lime zest
  • Optional: green food coloring

Ingredients for whipped topping:

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
  • Vanilla extract
Ingredients for Key Lime Pie laid out on a white rustic tabletop.

BEST DESSERT RECIPES

If you enjoy classic treats, like this flavorful Key lime pie recipe, these are must-make desserts!


A homemade Key lime pie displayed on a wooden cake stand on a dessert table.

QUICK RECIPE PREP

A good-quality citrus press is a great investment. It makes juicing lemons and limes quick and easy. In preparation for a Key lime pie, the fruit can be squeezed in advance and refrigerated. Or you can do the squeezing while the pie crust is pre-baked in the oven.

Today, when I was squeezing limes, I found a 2-pound bag of Key limes produced just over 1 cup of lime juice. Keep in mind, some limes are juicier than others, but this will give you a good idea of how much to buy.

Lemons and limes being cut then squeezed with a citrus press on a wooden surface.

EASY KEY LIME PIE

  • STEP 1: Brush a COLD/CHILLED graham crust with egg wash (one large egg white whisked with one tablespoon water). This will create a moisture barrier for the filling and help prevent a soggy crust. In a 350°F oven bake the pie crust for 10 minutes. Allow it to shed heat. Then chill it in the freezer while preparing the filling.
  • STEP 2: Using a mesh strainer, stain the lemon and lime juice to remove seeds and bits of pulp.
  • STEP 3: Separate egg yolks from whites. Discard the whites, or refrigerate and save for a different recipe like meringue cookies.
  • STEP 4: Add sweetened condensed milk and yolks to a large mixing bowl. Whisk well until fully combined.
4-image collage showing how to make Key Lime Pie step by step.

HOW TO MAKE KEY LIME PIE

RECIPE PREP: Adjust oven rack to the center. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • STEP 1: Add lemon and lime juice to the bowl. Whisk until fully incorporated.
  • STEP 2: Add lime zest to the bowl and mix. For a Key lime pie with a refreshing light-green color, add 2 to 3 drops of green food coloring. Mix well.
  • STEP 3: Pour the filling into the crust. If needed, smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake 15-20 minutes until the center of the pie is set. Overall, the filling will still be jiggly! Cool on a wire rack.
  • STEP 4: Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight. DO NOT cover the pie with plastic or the filling will stick to it. Instead leave the pie uncovered, or cover it with a large domed plate.
4-image collage showing how to make the best Key Lime Pie recipe.

FOOD COLORING VS NO FOOD COLORING

Today I made 2 delicious key lime pies! One is au natural, with no food coloring. For the second pie, I added 2 short drops of green food coloring to produce a lovely lime-sherbet shade. It gives this Key lime pie a fun, festive, tropical vibe. Which version do you like best? They both look refreshing. View the image below and judge for yourself!

Two Key Lime pies: one is natural colored, and the second has green food coloring.

HOW TO MAKE WHIPPED CREAM

It’s quick and easy to assemble homemade whipped cream!

RECIPE PREP: Chill a metal bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

  1. Add heavy cream to the cold bowl. Start whipping on low speed. Gradually increase the speed until soft peaks form. This will take about 2 minutes. 
  2. Sprinkle in powdered sugar. Add vanilla extract. Whip until mixture thickens and increases in volume. Make sure not to over-whip, or your homemade topping will fall flat.

PIE DECORATING: Spoon whipped topping into a piping bag fitted with a metal tip. For pies, I love using 18-inch Ateco piping bags and a bakery-quality Ateco #829 tip. No piping bag and tip? No problem. Spoon a large wide dollop of whipped cream in the center. Gently spread the dollop in a circular motion, leaving a 1 1/2-inch rim of visible filling.

An Ateco decorating bag filled with homemade whipped cream and metal tip.

HOW TO GARNISH KEY LIME PIE

Sprinkle the top of the pie with lime zest. For an added flare, crown the top of your pie with a twisted slice of lime! Serve immediately or refrigerate.

A fresh Key lime pie garnished with whipped cream and lime zest with a wooden pie server.

RECIPE TIPS AND FAQ

  • HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE FASTER: Use a store-bought, graham cracker crust. Use bottled lemon and lime juice. For the topping, buy a canister of whipped cream!
  • CAN I USE REGULAR LIME JUICE? If you can’t find Key limes at the market, you absolutely use regular limes or standard lime juice. There will be a subtle flavor difference, but your Key lime pie will still taste amazing!
  • HOW TO BALANCE OUT THE TANGY FLAVOR OF LIME: Using some lemon juice for this recipe balances out the tangy flavor of lime. It reduces the overall tartness in the creamy filling. Together lemon and lime deliver the perfect combination tangy and sour. 
  • IS THIS A MAKE-AHEAD DESSERT? Yes it is! Assemble your pie in advance, without the topping, and refrigerate for up to 4 days. It’s so convenient.
A green and white dessert table featuring Key lime pie.

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Dessert table with a Key lime pie on cake stand, and dessert plates and forks.

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Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com
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Dessert table with a Key lime pie on cake stand and dessert plates and forks.

Key Lime Pie


  • Author: Denay DeGuzman
  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes + 4 Hours Chill Time
  • Cook Time: 25 Minutes
  • Total Time: 35 Minutes + 4 Hours Chill time
  • Yield: 1 Key Lime Pie 1x

Description

With a perfect balance of sweet and tart, this classic Key lime pie is beautiful, creamy and delicious! Easy to make, it’s the ideal summertime dessert.


Scale

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS FOR KEY LIME PIE:

  • 1 unbaked graham cracker crust, chilled
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup Key lime juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest (plus more for garnishing)
  • Optional: 2-3 drops green food coloring

INGREDIENTS FOR WHIPPED CREAM

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

KEY LIME PIE – CRUST & FILLING

RECIPE PREP: Adjust oven rack to the center. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. Brush a COLD/CHILLED graham crust with egg wash (one large egg white whisked with one tablespoon water). This will create a moisture barrier for the filling and help prevent a soggy crust. Bake the crust in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Allow it to shed heat. Then chill it in the freezer while preparing the filling.
  2. Add sweetened condensed milk and yolks to a large mixing bowl. Whisk well until fully combined. Add lime juice, lemon juice, and lime zest to the bowl.  Whisk until fully incorporated. OPTIONAL: Add 2 drops of green food coloring. Mix well. If desired, add a third drop.
  3. Pour  filling into the crust. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake 15-20 minutes until the center of the pie is set. The filling will still be jiggly! Cool on a wire rack. The residual heat will continue “cooking” the filling. But refrigeration will make it firm.
  4. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight. DO NOT cover the pie with plastic or the filling will stick to it. Instead leave the pie uncovered, or gently place a large, upside-down domed plate on top.

WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING

RECIPE PREP: Chill a metal bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

  1. Add heavy cream to the cold bowl. Start whipping on low speed. Gradually increase the speed until soft peaks form. This will take about 2 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle in powdered sugar. Add vanilla extract. Whip until mixture thickens and increases in volume. Make sure not to over-whip, or your homemade topping will fall flat.

GARNISH KEY LIME PIE

  1. Spoon whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with a metal tip. Decorate as desired. Another option: place a large spoonful of whipped topping in the center of the pie. Gently spread the dollop a circular motion, leaving a 1 1/2-inch rim of visible filling.
  2. Sprinkle the top with lime zest. For an added touch, crown the pie with a spiral slice of lime!

Notes

  • HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE FASTER: Use a store-bought, graham cracker crust. Use bottled lemon and lime juice. For the topping, buy a canister of whipped cream!
  • CAN I USE REGULAR LIME JUICE? If you can’t find Key limes at the market, you absolutely use regular limes or standard lime juice. There will be a subtle flavor difference, but your Key lime pie will still taste amazing!
  • IS THIS A MAKE-AHEAD DESSERT? Yes it is! Assemble your pie in advance, without the topping, and refrigerate for up to 4 days. It’s so convenient.
  • MORE INFO ABOUT THIS RECIPE: Further details are included in the body of the post, along with step-by-step recipe images.
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven + Refrigerator
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Key Lime Pie

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

SUMMER DESSERT RECIPE > JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Do you enjoy making or eating Key lime pie? What do you think about this easy summer dessert? Join the conversation below!

8 thoughts on “Key Lime Pie”

  1. I have been to key west, but can you believe I have never had key lime pie. I need to try making it myself.

    Reply
  2. Tried this out – the key lime pie is amazing and I love the lemon juice to balance out the tartness. Excellent ratio and a super recipe all around. However, I couldn’t get my limes to look nearly as elegant as yours. Looks like I’ll be making another!

    Reply

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