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Since I was a kid one of my favorite desserts of all time was key lime pie. I remember ordering it on a trip to Florida when I was 7 and thinking it was the greatest dessert in the whole world. I am still head over heels for key lime pie, but these days I’m making it myself! I love how Tangy, creamy, cool, and sweet it is. And the crunchy lime zested graham crust just takes every bite to sweet satisfaction!
Over Labor Day weekend Grant and the girls begged me to make one, so I went to three different stores in search of fresh key limes so I could oblige. Then I realized I had yet to put up the recipe for the best key lime pie ever! So I hope you’re ready to close your eyes and take a trip to key west with just one bite!
Key Lime Pie
Authentic, fresh key lime pie is a staple of key west, where the little golf ball sized key limes are abundant. Key limes are more tart and acidic than regular limes and you want to use real key limes to make the namesake pie. If you cannot find fresh bagged key limes then opt for 100% Authentic Key Lime Juice 16 Oz.
While the story of the first key lime pie varies, legend has it that Florida’s first self-made millionaire, William Curry, had a cook, known as Aunt Sally, who created the famous pie in the 1890s. Though Borden claims they created the first key lime pie in their test kitchen in the 1930s.
Variations of key lime pie include: meringue topping or whipped cream, graham crust or pastry crust, and cooked or uncooked filling.
To learn all about the history of Key Limes and other Florida favorites, Check out this fun read,A Culinary History of Florida: Prickly Pears, Datil Peppers & Key Limes (American Palate).
When it comes to the crust, I always prefer a graham and butter based crust. I love the sandy, buttery, crunchy, and sweet attributes it lends the smooth and tart filling of the pie. For my key lime pie I add a touch of zest to the crust as well.
The first step of making key lime pie is to preheat your oven and get to work on that graham crust.
First,melt some salted butter and set aside. Salted butter will deepen the flavor of this sweet pie and give it some balance.
Next, use a food processor to make graham cracker crumbs. I used a whole sleeve of honey graham crackers. Or you can even buy Graham Cracker Crumbs to have handy for Key Lime Pie Cravings!
In a bowl, mix your graham crumbs with granulated sugar and the melted butter. Add in a touch of key lime zest if you’re feeling extra tangy! I use the zest from one little key lime.
Then press the graham mix into a Glass Pie Dish and make sure to go up the sides.
Bake the crust for about 10 minutes then set it on a cooling rack to cool.
Meanwhile, get to work on your key lime pie filling.
Key lime pie filling is made of a mix of fresh key lime juice,Sweetened Condensed Milk, and egg yolks. This filling is unlike a lemon meringue pie or other custard based desserts like Zesty Lemon Bars, that you may liken it to, as you don’t to make a custard for this filling. This is a surprisingly simple pie to make.
First, juice about 14 of those cute little key limes to get half a cup of juice with a Citrus Squeezer.
Next, use your hand mixer to beat your egg yolks until pale, about five minutes.Save those egg whites for Italian Meringue Buttercream!
Then add your key lime juice, lime zest, and the condensed milk. On low, get it all incorporated.
Pour the filling into the crust and bake it for 10 minutes.
The key lime pie will need to be chilled for about 3 hours before it’s ready to serve.
Key Lime Pie
Key Lime Pie has tangy, creamy key lime filling made with fresh key lime juice. The buttery graham crust has zest of key lime.
- 1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
- zest from 1 key lime
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons salted butter melted
Key Lime Filling
- 1/2 cup key lime juice from approx. 14 small key limes
- zest from 1 key lime
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream or sour cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 cup heavy whipped cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, grind up enough graham crackers to get 1 1/4 cup of crumbs.
In a bowl, mix graham crumbs, zest from one key lime, sugar, and melted butter.
Press into a 9 inch glass pie pan. This is smaller than deep dish and holds about 4 cups.
Bake for approx. 10 minutes.
While the crust is cooling, work on the filling.
Use your hand mixer to beat up the egg yolks until pale, about 5 minutes. Add zest, key lime juice, and condensed milk and mix on low.
Then pour into the crust and bake for 10 minutes.
Cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
After cooled, top with whipped cream.
After the pie is cooled, top with whipped cream.
With the whisk attachment of your hand mixer, beat the cream, then add in the powdered sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Put into a piping bag and pipe out onto pie. Alternatively, you can spread it on.
Garnish with a sprinkle of lime zest.
You can also buy bottled key lime juice at the store.