This is the CLASSIC Key Lime Pie Recipe you’d get in Florida: a graham cracker crust with a creamy key lime filling and homemade whipped cream on top. If you want to transport yourself to Key West, this is the recipe to take you there.
I promise, one bite of this creamy heavenly dessert and you’ll be hooked!
I’ve only been to Florida once, for a conference, several years ago. It was in Miami and I remember spending a full day in search of Key Lime Pie. Only one person had a car – believe it or not this was before Uber was a big thing – and I was at the mercy of people who didn’t care as much about pie as I did.
I finally got a slice of supposed key lime pie – but it was frozen. And once it thawed it was not what I’d expected…come to realize that’s because I didn’t have an authentic slice of Key Lime Pie!
I set out to research and test recipes until I came up with one that’s as close to the original as you could get – and this is it. An easy, classic Key Lime Pie recipe!
Table of Contents
Making Key Lime Pie from scratch
This pie is such a simple one that it’s easy to make entirely from scratch. There are three main parts to this pie:
- A Graham Cracker Crust
- Key Lime custard filling
- Fresh whipped cream topping
While my version of this pie is a baked recipe, you can make no-bake Key Lime Pie using Cool Whip instead of the eggs, but that’s a whole different recipe.
Graham Cracker Crust
Traditionally, this pie has a graham cracker crust. The crust is crunchy and not too sweet, which complements the sweet and sour creamy filling.
Making your own graham cracker crust is beyond easy and I highly recommend it because the store-bought ones aren’t as good.
Simply crush your graham crackers with a rolling pin or in a food processor and stir them with melted butter and brown sugar. Press into a 9-inch pie plate and pre-bake the crust for 7 minutes.
Normally I don’t cook my graham cracker crusts but it is important to do for this pie so that the crust forms a shell; that way the filling won’t drip through, making it soggy.
Learn all about making graham cracker crust from scratch.
What is the Key Lime Pie filling?
The filling of a key lime pie is a cooked custard. It’s like lime curd but it’s set, like in a lemon meringue pie.
The filling has just FOUR ingredients:
- Sweetened Condensed Milk
- Egg yolks
- Key Lime juice
- Key Lime zest
You can find sweetened condensed milk in the baking aisle; make sure to buy regular and not low-fat or nonfat. In the US, it comes in 14-ounce cans.
The egg yolks are what makes the pie set and gel without using gelatin, so they’re super important to the recipe. They’re also what makes it a baked pie (no eating raw eggs!) so if you want a no-bake version, omit the egg yolks and instead add an 8-ounce container of whipped topping and an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese (again, a totally different recipe).
To make your filling you just have to whisk all the ingredients together – that’s IT. Pour it into the partially baked crust and bake until set.
Can you use regular limes in place of key limes?
You can tell the difference between a regular lime (Persian or Tahitian lime) and a Key Lime by the size as well as the flavor. Key limes are smaller and rounder with more seeds and more aromatic and intense flavor.
It might be tempting to just use regular limes in a Key Lime pie but, then, it’s just a lime pie, so use real key limes!
Key limes have a shorter supply and aren’t fresh all year long like regular limes, so if you can’t find them then I suggest using bottled key lime juice, not regular limes.
When choosing between squeezing a ton of Key Limes and using a bottle of juice I will tell you that fresh is best but I won’t judge you for skipping all that juicing!
Once the pie is baked, cool it completely and then chill it until it’s cold and set. Before serving, top it with fresh whipped cream and slices of lime.
Storing Key Lime Pie
Always store this in the refrigerator, loosely covered. Whipped cream tends to run after it sits, so for best results, top it right before serving.
With the creamy tart filling, crunchy crust and sweet whipped cream, this is the Key Lime Pie of your dreams!
If you love lime in general, then you must try my Lime Curd Pie, too.
Have you tried this recipe? I’d love it if you’d leave a comment and review below!
Have you made this recipe?
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Key Lime Pie Recipe
Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 9 full graham cracker sheets)
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Key Lime Pie Filling:
- 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk full fat
- 3 large egg yolks
- 4 ounces key lime juice
- 2 teaspoons key lime zest
- 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar optional (see note)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
Make the crust:
- If starting from graham cracker sheets, place them in a bag and seal the bag except for the edge (to allow air to escape). Roll with a rolling pin to crush the graham crackers.
- Add crushed grahams to the melted butter with the brown sugar and stir with a fork. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate.
- Bake the pie crust for 7 minutes and leave the oven on.
Make the filling:
- When crust is done pre-baking, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, key lime juice, and zest. Pour into crust.
- Bake an additional 20-22 minutes or until top is set.
- Cool completely before topping with whipped cream or serving.
Make the whipped cream:
- Beat cold heavy whipping cream with powdered sugar and vanilla on high speed until stiff peaks form. If desired, add cream of tartar during mixing to create a more stabilized cream (see note).
- Store pie in refrigerator for up to 3 days. It’s best to top with whipped cream right before serving. Garnish with lime slices, if desired.
- Learn how to make whipped cream here.
- You don’t have to add cream of tartar to your whipped cream, but if you are planning to let the pie sit out for a bit or want to top it a few hours before serving, it will help stabilize the whipped cream.
- Can’t find key limes? Use bottled Nellie & Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice instead and the zest of regular limes.
Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate
This Classic Key Lime Pie Recipe has a graham cracker crust, key lime custard filling and whipped cream topping. It’s totally from scratch!
All text and images © DOROTHY KERN for Crazy for Crust. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Disclaimer: Nutrition information shown is not guaranteed to be accurate.
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Published on: March 8, 2020