Classic Key West Key Lime Pie

A timeless sweet and tangy dessert featuring a graham cracker crust, zesty Key lime filling, and a dollop of whipped cream. Discover the authentic taste of the Florida Keys in every bite with this easy, amazing, and authentic key lime pie!

My family and I vacationed in Key West, Florida last June, right after the kids had finished their schooling. This was not our original plan as we wanted to go to Guadeloupe instead. But in God’s providence, it wasn’t meant to be.

I recently became a naturalized US citizen and because of that, I had to secure a US passport before I could go abroad. There wasn’t enough time to get one so all our plans and bookings for Guadaloupe had to either be cancelled or postponed. We thought, what’s the nearest thing to the Caribbean? After thinking it through, we thought it had to be Key West! Since it’s part of the US I didn’t need a passport! Yay!

So by God’s grace, we went and vacationed without a hitch! No regrets at all. We had the best holiday and most of all I got to taste this delicious Key Lime Pie right in Key West! And that gave birth to this delicious recipe! Isn’t that amazing?


What is key lime pie?

Key Lime Pie is a classic and iconic dessert that originates from the Florida Keys in the United States, particularly from the Key West region. It is known for its distinctive tart and sweet flavor, creamy texture, and graham cracker crust. As the name connotes, the pie’s main ingredients are key limes!

Key lime is a small, round citrus fruit that is native to tropical regions, particularly the Florida Keys, the Caribbean, and parts of Central and South America. Key limes are often referred to as “Mexican limes” or “West Indian limes” in addition to their regional name, as they are grown in various countries.

Key limes are distinct from the more common Persian or Tahiti limes, which are larger and typically have a bright green color when ripe. In contrast, Key limes are smaller, about the size of a golf ball, and have a yellow to yellow-green color when ripe. They are known for their intense, tart, and aromatic flavor, which sets them apart from the milder taste of Persian limes.

Why You’ll Love this Classic Key West Key Lime Pie

You’ll love this recipe for classic Key West Key Lime Pie because it captures the authentic taste of the Florida Keys with its perfect balance of tangy Key lime filling, sweet graham cracker crust, and creamy texture. It’s an easy-to-follow recipe that delivers a slice of tropical paradise in every bite, making it a delightful and refreshing dessert for any occasion.

Ingredients for Key Lime Pie

Here’s a description of each ingredient typically used to make a classic Key Lime Pie. Here’s a breakdown of its key components.

  1. Graham Cracker Crumbs:
    • Graham cracker crumbs are finely ground graham crackers. They serve as the base and crust of the Key Lime Pie. Graham cracker crumbs have a slightly sweet and mildly nutty flavor, which complements the tangy and sweet filling.
  2. Granulated Sugar:
    • Granulated sugar is used in the graham cracker crust to add sweetness and to bind the crumbs together. It also provides a touch of sweetness to the crust, balancing the tartness of the lime filling.
  3. Unsalted Butter (Melted):
    • Melted unsalted butter is mixed with the graham cracker crumbs and sugar to create the crust. Butter adds richness and helps bind the crumbs together, resulting in a crisp and flavorful crust.
  4. Sweetened Condensed Milk:
    • Sweetened condensed milk is a thick and sweet dairy product made by removing most of the water from regular milk and adding sugar. It plays a crucial role in the Key Lime Pie filling, providing sweetness and creaminess. It also helps set the filling as it bakes.
  5. Egg Yolks:
    • Egg yolks are used in the filling to provide richness, structure, and a creamy texture. They also contribute to the pie’s yellow color. The proteins in egg yolks help thicken the filling as it bakes.
  6. Key Lime Juice:
    • Key Lime Juice is the star ingredient that gives the pie its distinctive tart flavor. It’s extracted from Key limes, a smaller and more aromatic variety of limes found in the Florida Keys. Key lime juice is known for its zesty and bright citrus notes.
  7. Key Lime Zest (Optional):
    • The zest of Key limes, if added, provides an extra layer of citrusy aroma and flavor to the filling. Zest contains aromatic oils that enhance the pie’s taste and fragrance.
  8. Whipped Cream (for Garnish):
    • Whipped cream is a common garnish for Key Lime Pie. It’s made by whipping heavy cream until it becomes light and fluffy. The creamy, slightly sweet topping complements the tartness of the pie.
  9. Key Lime Slices or Twists (for Garnish):
    • Thin slices or twists of Key lime are often used as a decorative garnish on top of the whipped cream. They not only enhance the presentation but also add a fresh burst of lime aroma.

These ingredients come together to create the delightful and refreshing dessert known as Key Lime Pie, with its signature balance of sweet, tart, and creamy flavors.

How to Make Classic Key Lime Pie

For the Graham Cracker Crust:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. In a food processor or by hand, crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, and melted butter. Mix until the mixture resembles wet sand.
  4. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie dish, covering the bottom and sides evenly. You can use the back of a spoon to help compact the crust.
  5. Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until it’s just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool while you prepare the filling. Keep the oven on.

For the Key Lime Filling:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks until well combined.
  2. Gradually add the freshly squeezed key lime juice, mixing continuously. The mixture will thicken slightly and become smooth.
  3. If desired, add the zest of 2 key limes to enhance the flavor of the filling. Mix it in thoroughly.
  4. Pour the key lime filling into the pre-baked graham cracker crust, spreading it evenly.
  5. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the edges are set but the center is still slightly jiggly.
  6. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Then, refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or until fully chilled.

For Serving:

  1. Just before serving, garnish your classic Key Lime Pie with a generous dollop of whipped cream. You can use homemade whipped cream or store-bought.
  2. For an extra touch of elegance, add thin slices or twists of key lime on top of the whipped cream.
  3. Slice and serve your Key Lime Pie chilled, and enjoy the delightful balance of sweet and tangy flavors.

What can I substitute for key limes?

If you can’t find Key limes for your Key Lime Pie, don’t worry; there are alternative options that can still give you a delicious pie with a similar flavor profile. Regular Persian limes, which are more commonly available, can be substituted for Key limes. Here’s how to do it: (see book on tips!)

Key Lime Pie is a timeless dessert that captures the essence of summer in every bite. Whether you’re indulging in a slice on a warm beach day or bringing a taste of the tropics to your dining table, this classic recipe is sure to please. With its simple preparation and refreshing taste, it’s no wonder Key Lime Pie has become a dessert staple loved by so many. Give it a try and savor a slice of sunshine today!

Storage Tips for Classic Key West Key Lime Pie

  1. After baking, allow the Key Lime Pie to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Cooling at room temperature prevents condensation from forming inside the storage container.
  2. Once the pie has reached room temperature, cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Make sure the wrap is in direct contact with the surface of the pie to prevent air from getting in, which can cause the pie to dry out and develop a “skin.” If you prefer, you can place the pie in an airtight container instead of using plastic wrap or foil. This container should be large enough to accommodate the pie without the plastic wrap touching the filling.
  3. Store the wrapped Key Lime Pie in the refrigerator. It’s essential to keep it chilled to prevent spoilage due to the dairy ingredients in the filling.
  4. Key Lime Pie can typically be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. After that, its texture and flavor may start to deteriorate. For the best taste and texture, enjoy it within this time frame.
  5. If you need to store your Key Lime Pie for an extended period, you can freeze it. Wrap the pie tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, or use an airtight container suitable for freezing. It’s a good idea to slice the pie first if you plan to freeze individual servings. Frozen Key Lime Pie can be stored for up to 2-3 months. To thaw, place it in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. When you’re ready to serve, remove the Key Lime Pie from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before slicing. This allows it to soften slightly for easier slicing. Serve each slice chilled for the best flavor and texture.

By following these storage guidelines, you can enjoy your Key Lime Pie at its best, whether you’re serving it immediately or saving some for later indulgence.

Key Lime Pie is a timeless dessert that captures the essence of summer in every bite. Whether you’re indulging in a slice on a warm beach day or bringing a taste of the tropics to your dining table, this classic recipe is sure to please. With its simple preparation and refreshing taste, it’s no wonder Key Lime Pie has become a dessert staple loved by so many. Give it a try and savor a slice of sunshine today!

Classic Key West Key Lime Pie

Manila Spoon
A timeless and tangy dessert featuring a graham cracker crust, zesty Key lime filling, and a dollop of whipped cream. Discover the authentic taste of the Florida Keys in every bite with this easy, amazing, and authentic key lime pie!
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 358 kcal

Ingredients
 

For the Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, crushed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Key Lime Filling:

  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice, (about 20-25 key limes)
  • Zest of 1 lime (optional, for added flavor)
  • Whipped cream, for garnish
  • Key lime slices or twists, for garnish

Instructions
 

For the Graham Cracker Crust:

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • In a food processor or by hand, crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, and melted butter. Mix until the mixture resembles wet sand.
  • Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie dish, covering the bottom and sides evenly. You can use the back of a spoon to help compact the crust.
  • Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes, or until it's just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool while you prepare the filling. Keep the oven on.

For the Key Lime Filling:

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks until well combined.
  • Gradually add the freshly squeezed key lime juice, mixing continuously. The mixture will thicken slightly and become smooth.
  • If desired, add the zest of 1 lime to enhance the flavor of the filling. Mix it in thoroughly.
  • Pour the key lime filling into the pre-baked graham cracker crust, spreading it evenly.
  • Bake the pie in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the edges are set but the center is still slightly jiggly.
  • Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Then, refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or until fully chilled.

For Serving:

  • Just before serving, garnish your classic Key Lime Pie with a generous dollop of whipped cream. You can use either homemade whipped cream or store-bought.
  • For an extra touch of elegance, add thin slices or twists of key lime on top of the whipped cream.
  • Slice and serve your Key Lime Pie chilled, and enjoy the delightful balance of sweet and tangy flavors.

Nutrition

Calories: 358kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 7gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 137mgSodium: 239mgPotassium: 242mgFiber: 1gSugar: 37gVitamin A: 532IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 170mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Authentic Key Lime Pie, Easy Key Lime Pie Recipe, Key Lime Pie Ingredients, Key Lime Pie Serving Tips, Step-by-Step Key Lime Pie, Tropical Dessert Recipe
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2 Comments

  1. Katie Crenshaw
    September 13, 2023 / 7:12 am

    5 stars
    Came out delicious.

    • abigail
      Author
      September 13, 2023 / 2:10 pm

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed this!

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