For being such a simple dessert, there are many different ways to make key lime pie. The essentials are just sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. This recipe relies on bottled key lime juice, which is available year round and requires no tedious squeezing. It is topped with a simple and optional meringue. This recipe was kindly given to me by a chef at one of my favorite beachfront restaurants many years ago. It is the best key lime pie you will ever have.
There are two important thing to remember when making key lime pie: key lime juice, and time.
You can’t use regular limes. You just can’t do it. If you can find key limes at the grocery store, you can certainly use them. But they are expensive, small, and super tedious to juice. Bottled key lime juice is readily available in the cocktail section of the grocery store, less than four dollars at bottle, and there is absolutely no difference in taste from juicing fresh. It makes this dessert very inexpensive to make, which is very satisfying when you consider that a purchased pie with be between fifteen to twenty dollars.
Using key lime juice means that your filling will be more yellow than green. That’s okay! It just means you’ve made key lime pie the right way. If it bothers you, you can add a tad of green food coloring, but it is better to not and instead teach people that key lime pie should not be green.
The second important element is time. You will make a graham cracker crust, the lime filling, and the meringue topping. None of the steps are particularly time consuming, but everything needs a lot of time to chill. Once the components are. chilled, they are assembled and baked, and then the pie must be chilled for at least 12 hours. So it’s best to make this the day before you need it.
But this pie is easy, inexpensive, and delicious. Here’s the recipe:
Key Lime Pie with Meringue Topping
A key lime pie made from scratch using real key lime juice, a graham cracker crust, and a fluffy meringue topping.
Graham Cracker Crust
- 11 graham crackers
- 6 tablespoons butter salted (or add pinch of salt)
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup key lime juice fresh or bottled (Nellie and Joe’s)
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 3 egg yolks save the white in a separate bowl
- 1 teaspoon lime zest (optional)
- 3 egg whites
- 6 tablespoons white sugar
- pinch cornstarch
Graham Cracker Crust
Preheat oven to 375
Using a food processor, crush the graham crackers into crumbs. Melt the butter and add it to the graham cracker crumbs along with the sugar and cinnamon.
Press crumbly mixture into 9 nine pie plate. Bake at 375 for 7 minutes. Do not overtake, or the crust will be too hard to slice. It will not look any different when it is done baking.
Cool at room temperature before filling
Key Lime Filling
Combine the sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, egg yolks, sour cream, and lime zest. Make sure to blend well using a whisk until there are no bits of egg yolk visible.
Put egg white into a separate bowl, and cover and chill at least 2 hours
Chill the bowl with the lime filling at least 2 hours
Preheat the oven to 350
Pour the lime filling into the graham cracker crust
Make the meringue by whipping the egg whites, sugar, and pinch of cornstarch until stiff peaks are formed (If you would like to pipe the topping on in a design, add an extra egg white + 2 additional T sugar.)
Pipe or spread the meringue on the pie and bake for 15 minutes, until topping is lightly browned
Cool at room temperature for 2 hours, then refrigerate for at least 12 hours. (You can chill in the freezer for a few hours before serving to firm up the filling even more, but don’t allow the pie to fully freeze as meringue does not freeze well.)