key lime pie
photo by: Elkeflorida

Key Lime Pie

by GourmetSleuthReal Key lime pie is not green and it does not have a soft "pudding" texture. The pie gets its true pale yellow color from the egg yolks that predominate the ingredient list. And the texture is a "firm custard".

Article by: Barbara Bowman

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Key Lime Pie History

Key Lime Pie originated in Key West, Florida by the local residents referred to as "Conchs". The original version was made before the days of refrigeration. There were no cattle in the area so the only milk available was canned milk originally brought in by ship, later by train. This is why the recipe uses canned milk and not fresh. Also, the traditional key lime pie would not be cooked. The acid from the lime juice would set and thicken the egg yolks.

Precautions With Uncooked Eggs
Because of the potential of Salmonella bacteria it is best to cook the dessert and bring the yolks up to a temperature of at least 110 degrees.

Key Lime Pie Recipe

16 graham crackers, crushed
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cube (1/4 lb) margarine or butter

4 large or extra large egg yolks
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (approximately 12 Key limes)
2 teaspoons grated lime peel, green portion only

Whipping Cream For Garnish (Optional)
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the ingredients and press them into a 9" pie plate. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 10 - 12 minutes until lightly browned. Place on a rack to cool.

Pie Filling
Use an electric mixer and beat the egg yolks until they are thick and turn to a light yellow, don't over mix. Turn the mixer off and add the sweetened condensed milk. Turn speed to low and mix in half of the lime juice. Once the juice is incorporated add the other half of the juice and the zest, continue to mix until blended (just a few seconds). Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake at 350F for 12 minutes to set the yolks and kill any salmonella in the eggs.

If you are using the whipping cream garnish, prepare the cream. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

The Right Key Lime Juicer

key lime juicerIt's the easiest way to juice limes or lemons! It extracts only the juice and none of the pith like standard reamers do. This juicer makes quick work out juicing your limes for your Key Lime Pie and is quite a bargain besides.

Tips And Substitutions

Limes - You can also use the more common Persian lime. You will need fewer limes, approximately 4 to 6.

Don't Overcook
Don't overcook the pie or it will become rubbery.

Related Cookbooks

The Florida Keys Cookbook: Recipes and Foodways of Paradise by Victoria Shearer.  Learn all about traditional regional specialties from the Florida Keys.  Recipes like Key Lime Pie, Key Lime Cheesecake and Crab Claw Bisque.  Over 175 recipes.
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Ever since I had my first Key Lime pie in the Florida keys, I've been in love with this dessert.  This recipe beats the best pie I've ever had!  Hints: the crust is a bit hard to work with unless you add a little extra butter, but you won't like the taste if you add too much more, and I tend to like the zangy taste, so I add a bit more lime juice and key lime rinds.

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I think the graham crust makes the pie very sweet so I make mine with a regular baked pie crust & increase the juice by 2 Tbls cuz I love it tart & very smooth so don't use the zest. Also don't care for any meringue--whipped cream only. Sometimes I cut very thin slices & freeze w/ a stick in it & then dip it in melted chocolate-OH, BABY!!!

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This is the traditional recipe for the base of the pie, but I'm always surprised by Key Lime Pie recipes that call the topping optional, and worse yet, make it from whipped cream or the like.  After you've separated those four eggs, what are you going to do with the whites?  If you want to make a traditional Key Lime Pie, you make a meringue topping-- whip them (in a glass or metal bowl) til soft peaks form, then beat in a pinch of cream of tartar or cornstarch and a few tablespoons of sugar to taste, til peaks are stiff.  Top the pie with the meringue and pop back in the oven to brown. New spins on classic recipes are fine, but it's good to know the tradition first. :)

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We love this pie!  As far as toppings, I really don't think meringue is "traditionally" and I'm pretty sure topping-less is the way they were made, originally.  We'll have to research that more.  Whatever you do to the top, the filling is excellent.

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I'm not a huge key lime pie fan but my dad and father-in-law both LOVE this one, it's always what they ask me to bring to birthdays and Father's Day.  It doesn't fill the crust, but it's very rich so I think it's better that way.  I agree that the crust doesn't need as much sugar as they recommend, and maybe a bit more butter, 1-2 TBS.  Super easy too, especially if you get help squeezing the limes!

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Can we buy key limes in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada?

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Being a seventh-generation "Conch", I had to comment. Traditional key lime pie was made with a baked pastry pie crust and topped with meringue, then baked at high heat to brown the top. It's best to eat it up quickly if cooked this way because the meringue tends to "weep" after sitting in the refrigerator. Whipped cream was not used. A favorite family recipe variation: make meringue with the egg whites and instead of using it as a topping, fold it into the filling. Pour into a graham cracker crust and freeze for several hours. "Frozen" key lime pie is my favorite!

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More Key Lime Recipes

Key Limes; The Right Lime For Key Lime Pie

The Key Lime lime (Citrus aurantifolia Swingle), also referred to as a Mexican Lime,  bears a profuse amount of small, thin-skinned, greenish-yellow limes.  This juicy lime is known for its distinctive aroma high-acid content.  The picture below shows the size and color difference between the more common Persian lime and the Key Lime.

Key Limes
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