Key lime pie is a classic American dessert that you have to make! My filling is sweet-tart and perfectly creamy with just a little wiggle in the custard while still keeping together to make beautiful slices.
Make an easy (and traditional!) graham crust for crunch and top with a thick layer dreamy whipped cream for a dessert to wow everyone!
Key lime pie is a long been a favorite dessert of mine. I’ve had many on trips down to Florida to visit my parents – some in restaurants, others in bakeries, and some from frozen pies mom had picked up for a quick dessert.
And then I’ve come home and made a homemade one for us! What can I say? We like pie.
This year we didn’t get to go to Florida, so it seemed the right time to make one with my recipe and get some photos for all of you. And, yes, about 5 minutes after I finished up photos (and made sure I liked them!) we were all enjoying a slice. See above. We like pie. 🙂
What do you need?
This is a pie with three parts and you can’t skip any of them! Though you can go easy and just make the filling yourself – buy a crust and use whipped cream in a can.
Here’s what you need to make it all homemade.
- Graham Cracker Crust
- Graham Crackers – It’s in the name and you’ll need about a sleeve. Both regular and gluten-free work great here!
- Sugar/Salt – A little salt and some brown sugar.
- Butter – This brings it all together makes it a crust.
- Lime Juice – Traditionally you will use Key limes, however regular Persian limes work great and have a minimal flavor difference as well as being easy to find. Feel free to use either.
- Lime Zest – You will need a fair amount to flavor the custard.
- Egg Yolks – These give the custard richness, structure, and thickening.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk – Super creaminess with all the sugar you need in the filling.
- Heavy Cream – You can switch to the lighter whipping cream, but be aware it is a little fussier on whipping up.
- Confectioners’ Sugar – A couple of tablespoons sweetens the topping perfectly.
- Vanilla – Just a bit.
How to make this
To make key lime pie, mix the filling and let it rest. Then put together a graham cracker crust and bake until golden. Pour the filling in and bake until it just has a little wiggle. Chill, then make the whipping cream topping and serve.
Before I start chatting about how to make this, I want to be clear that this pie does take some time! Making it is fairly quick and each part is simple, but you will need to chill it before you slice. Put down that knife! You will be much happier if the custard has time to set.
1. Make the Filling
You want to get the filling mixed before you make the crust. That way you’re not sitting about while it rests.
First thing here is to whisk together the egg yolks and lime zest. Give your arm a workout and whisk for a few minutes, until lightened and thick. (Or use a hand mixer and save your arm. I won’t tell on you!)
Now mix in the condensed milk and then the lime juice. Whisk until well combined.
At this point the filling needs to hang out and thicken. This takes some time which is when you will make the crust.
2. Make the Crust
Combine graham cracker crumbs (which you make in a food processor or by crushing with a rolling pin) with sugar, salt, and butter. Then press into the pan.
Now bake until golden and then let cool before you fill. A little warm is okay but not hot.
3. Bake the Pie
You have a cool crust and thick filling – time to combine the two! Pour in the filling and bake until the middle just jiggles a little and the custard is 145F if you check with a thermometer.
Tip: Worried about making a hole in the custard with the thermometer? Don’t be! Whipped cream on top will cover it all up.
Take the pie out of the oven and let cool to room temperature, then into the fridge to chill.
4. Make the Topping
Once the dessert is all chilled, make the whipped cream. For best results use cold cream, a cold bowl, and cold beaters. You can pop the bowl and beaters in the freezer for a few minutes to make them extra cold.
Now use a hand mixer to whip up the cream with confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. You’re looking for soft peaks – where they stand up but the tops curl down just a little.
Spread out the whipped cream on top of the pie however you like to do it. I like to spread it over the middle and leave the edges bare.
Then you can garnish with some lime zest and lime slices.
- Lime zest – I use a zester which makes long, thin pieces. (This is also great for cocktails!)
- Lime slices – Make very thin slices of lime and then cut each slice once from edge to middle. Now you can twist and arrange them as you wish.
If you try my recipe for Key Lime Pie, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Stay Safe, Annemarie
Homemade Key Lime Pie
- 4 tsp lime zest
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 2/3 cup lime juice
- 10-12 graham crackers
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- pinch kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp confectioners' sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- shaved lime zest and lime slices, for garnish
- Heat oven to 325F.
- Whisk together the lime zest and egg yolks until the yolks are a lighter yellow and thickened, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the condensed milk and whisk in.
- Then add the lime juice and whisk until the filling is well combined.
- Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Crush the graham crackers into crumbs. Food processor - put into bowl of processor and pulse until done. Rolling Pin - put into a sealable bag and seal, then crush with the rolling pin until crumbs.
- Mix the crumbs with the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt. Either by pulsing in the processor or by moving the crumbs to a bowl and mixing with a spoon and hands if needed.
- Press the crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate to make an even crust all the way around.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Remove, place on a rack, and cool to room temperature.
- Pour the thickened filling into the cool crust. Smooth out the top if needed.
- Bake for 15-17 minutes. The center with jiggle a little when you bump the pie plate and the edges will be set. If you want to double check, the center should be 145F on an instant read thermometer.
- Remove the pie to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
- Then move it to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Topping and Serving
- Using a hand or stand mixer, beat heavy cream with sugar and vanilla on medium low until starting to thicken. Then increase the speed to medium high and beat until you get soft peaks.
- Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie. If you wish, decorate with lime zest and thin slices of lime.
- Pressing in the Crumbs: I like to use a measuring cup, which has a flat bottom and allows me to press them in evenly.
- Timing: The crust is quick to make and cools fast, which is why I have it second in the instructions. You can do the whole crust while the filling rests. Just remember to get the butter melting before you crush the crackers.
- Whipped Cream: For best results (and no worry of making butter), chill the beaters and bowl in the freezer before whipping.
- Limes: While key limes are traditional here, the usual and easy to find Persian limes make a great pie. Feel free to use either. (You will need 15-20 key limes or 6-7 Persian limes.)
- Garnishes: To make the long, thin pieces of lime zest, use a drink zester. And for the slices, cut thin rounds and then cut each slice from edge to center.
- Soft Peaks: These are when the whipped cream stands up into a peak when you lift the beater but the tops curl over a bit.