Key Lime Pie


Key Lime Pie History

Key Lime Pie originated in Key West, Florida in the 1850's 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. The sweetened condensed milk used in this recipe was developed in 1856.  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. 

The original pie was made with a simple pastry crust but the graham cracker version has gained in popularity.  As for toppings, recipes dating back to 1949 include version with no topping, whipped cream, and meringue.  

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 squeezersIt'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. 



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 compared to persian lime 

Persian lime compared to two key limes.

Fun Fact about Key Lime Pie

Nutrition Information For Key Lime Pie

Serving Size
1 fruit (2" dia)
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 1mg
Total Carbohydrate 7g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 1g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

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.


Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.