Authentic Key Lime Pie Recipe
Key lime pie is uniquely tart, sweet and made with a graham cracker crust. The rich custard filling includes egg yolks to make for an authentic key lime pie recipe!
I’m just going to come out with it. This key lime pie is amazing. Seriously, you will love it. I’m not one for custard pies (I much prefer fudgy brownies), but this pie got me. This filling is the perfect balance of tangy and sweet while the graham cracker crust is buttery and thick.
My dad always begs me to make key lime pie for him because it’s his favorite. Now I understand why. When a key lime pie is done right, it’s pure bliss. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Why this recipe works
This recipe works because it is authentic. An authentic key lime pie is made with key limes, key lime juice, egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. The tangy, sweet filling is like a custard—thick and creamy—and it sits on a graham cracker crust. Key lime pies are often topped with whipped cream or meringue.
Key limes are found in Florida and are smaller than standard Persian limes you buy at the grocery store. Key limes are packed more acidity and flavor.
Where did key lime pie originate?
History has it that key lime pie originated in Key West, Florida, in the late 1800’s by a cook known as Aunt Sally. She cooked for a ship salvager and Florida’s first self-made millionaire William Curry. Residents in the Keys relied on sweetened condensed milk because there was no fresh delivery of milk. The overseas highway to the Keys wasn’t built until 1930. The sweetened condensed milk and key limes are staple ingredients for the pie.
How to make authentic key lime pie
- Prepare graham cracker crust: Process graham crackers in a food processor. Add sugar and melted butter. Press mixture into a 9-inch spring form pan (or glass pie plate) and press graham cracker mixture up the sides of the pan 1 inch. Bake at 325 for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let crust cool completely on a wire rack.
- Prepare filling: Whisk egg yolks and lime zest together in a bowl. Add sweetened condensed milk and fresh lime juice. Let mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Transfer to graham cracker crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
- Make homemade whipped cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Use a spoon (or icing bag) to add dollops of whipped cream on top of pie.
I LOVE this springform pan. I use it for dozens of recipes!
Frequently Asked Questions
Technically yes, you can use regular limes in key lime pie. I have made this recipe with both key limes and Persian limes. There was no noticeable difference. However, that will not make the pie authentic, which is what we are going for here, right? If you can’t find key limes, the solution is to use Nellie & Joe’s key lime pie juice—I swear by this stuff. Do not use regular store bought lime juice. It doesn’t provide nearly enough flavor.
This pie will last in the refrigerator for 3 days. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
Yes, you can freeze key lime pie. Once the pie has cooled, place it as is in the freezer to set and harden (about 2 hours). Remove pie from the freezer and detach the side of the springform pan (leave the bottom). Wrap the pie in aluminum foil and then in a freezer-safe bag. Freeze the pie for up to a month. Defrost in the refrigerator before cutting and serving cold.
Related dessert recipes
If you love key lime pie, then you will definitely love these desserts! If you’re looking for an eggless option, try this eggless key lime pie recipe from Spoonful of Flavor blog. I suggest trying my key lime pie bars if you want individually sized bars with the same flavor as the pie! Key lime pie sandwich cookies have key lime cream cheese frosting sandwiched between two graham cracker cookies. If you prefer lemon desserts, then lemon curd tart is certainly a dessert worth baking.
Authentic key lime pie has a beautiful depth of flavor. The tangy sweetness is hard to resist! If you tried this key lime pie recipe, tag @ifyougiveablondeakitchen on social media so I can see your dessert!
Authentic Key Lime Pie
Graham Cracker Crust
- 10 graham cracker sheets/rectangles, (or 1 cup graham cracker crumbs)
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
Key Lime Pie Filling
- ½ cup fresh key lime juice, (about a dozen key limes or 4 standard limes)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
- 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
Homemade Whipped Cream
- ½ cup heavy cream,, cold
- 1 Tablespoon confectioners' sugar, sifted
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Graham Cracker Crust
- Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan1 and set aside. (I personally like to put parchment paper on the bottom of the pan, but it's not necessary.)
- In the bowl of a food processor, crush graham crackers into fine crumbs, about 30 seconds. Add sugar and melted butter. Process until combined, about ten 1-second pulses.
- Transfer mixture to prepared pan. Press the graham cracker crumbs into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until fragrant. Cool completely. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.
Key Lime Pie Filling
- In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and lime zest together until the mixture turns greenish yellow, about 2 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk until combined. Add fresh lime juice and whisk until incorporated. Let the mixture sit at room temperature to thicken, about 30 minutes.
- Pour the lime filling into the graham cracker crust. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until the center is set, but still jiggles slightly.
- Let pie cool on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature, then transfer it to the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours.
Whipped Cream Topping
- Place the metal bowl of a stand mixer into the freezer for 10 minutes. Place chilled bowl back on stand mixer with the whisk attachment.2 Turn mixer on low and add confectioners' sugar one tablespoon at a time. Add vanilla extract, then slowly start turning the mixer speed up to medium-high.
- After about 2 minutes you will see the whisk leaving trails in the cream. Mix until stiff peaks form (in other words, when the whisk is pulled out of the whipped cream a peak forms and doesn't fall). Avoid stopping the mixer or over-mixing the cream.
- Transfer whipped cream to a piping bag with tip and decoratively pipe the key lime pie. Garnish with lime slices and zest if desired. Alternatively, you can spread the whipped cream across the entire pie.
- This recipe also works for a 9-inch glass pie plate.
- Alternatively, you can make whipped cream by hand and get an arm work out. It will likely take twice the amount of time, but will taste just as good!