This Key Lime Pie features a graham cracker crust filled with key lime curd and topped with freshly whipped cream. It’s a fresh, flavorful and untraditional homemade pie recipe made without condensed milk.
If you know me well, you know I love to entertain and have guests over. When I start my cooking for a dinner party, I usually always make the dessert first. Desserts can almost always be made ahead of time.
And this Key Lime Pie recipe sure saves the day. This recipe comes from my Nonnie and it is my brother’s favorite dessert and a top 5 for my husband.
What is Key Lime Pie? //
Key Lime Pie is a quintessential American dessert pie made of Key lime juice, egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. It can be topped with meringue, whipped cream or nothing at all.
Traditionally, it is served in graham cracker crust, but regular pie crust or no crust is also common.
This is an untraditional Key Lime Pie. Most Key Lime Pie recipes have sweetened condensed milk in them and this one does not. It probably should be called Lime Curd Pie, but let’s not be picky.
What’s the Difference Between a Lime and a Key Lime? //
Key Limes are a specific varietal of limes that are more aromatic, with tarter and floral juice. They are yellow in color and contain more seeds and less juice (hence why you need more of them to get a decent amount of juice).
They used to be grown commercially in the Florida Keys, but have since been replaced with Persian limes due to a hurricane that wiped out the land.
What Makes This Key Lime Pie Recipe So Good? //
Tart, sweet, rich and decadent, I love to make this pie recipe for dinner parties and friends because:
- The homemade lime curd provides an unmatched texture and flavor compared to sweetened condensed milk.
- It provides that special wow factor to impress all your friends!
- It’s the best make-ahead dessert recipe for any special occasion.
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup key lime juice
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon gelatin, softened
- 1 lime, zested
- whipped cream
- 9-inch graham cracker crust (homemade or store-bought)
Key Lime Juice. If you can get your hands on key limes, snag a bunch! Or purchase bottled Key West Lime Juice in the produce section of your grocery store or online. I cannot always find key limes or the juice. Use regular limes. I won’t tell if you don’t.
Gelatin. The gelatin helps stabilize and hold the curd together. This recipe only requires 1 teaspoon. Just make sure to dissolve it in 2 Tablespoons water beforehand.
Graham Cracker Crust. Homemade or store-bought both work beautifully. Follow the instructions below if you have the time to make it at home.
This easy key lime pie recipe is so simple to make with a homemade graham cracker crust. But if you go the store-bought crust route, you can start at step 2 below. It’s a complete no-bake dessert recipe.
Step 1: How to make the homemade Graham Cracker Crust:
Combine 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup sugar and 6 Tablespoons melted butter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan and pat into one even layer (the bottom of a measuring cup or glass helps here). Bake the crust in a 375-degree oven for about 9 minutes.
On the top of a double boiler (I don’t have one, so I use a saucepan filled halfway with water and a large metal bowl on top) combine the sugar, eggs and lime juice.
Whisk constantly over medium heat. When the mixture starts to thicken, add one piece of butter at a time. Whisk constantly until the butter has melted. Add one piece at a time until you have added all of the butter. The lime curd will be thick.
Add the softened gelatin (I sprinkle the teaspoon of gelatin over 2 Tablespoons water until it has dissolved) to the lime mixture.
Strain your lime mixture to guarantee that there are no egg pieces in your lime curd.
Add the lime zest.
Pour the lime curd into the cooled crust. Let chill for at least 3 hours before serving to let the filling set up. Garnish with whipped cream and extra lime zest.
Instructions for the Traditional Sweetened Condensed Milk Variation //
I absolutely adore this lime pie as written, but if you are short on time, you can go the more traditional route. Simply:
Omit the lime curd ingredients – eggs, sugar, butter and gelatin.
Use 2 (14-oz) cans sweetened condensed milk and 1/2 cup sour cream mixed with the a ¾ cup key lime juice and lime zest.
Pour it into the prepared graham cracker crust and bake for 10 minutes.
Cool for 3 hours in the fridge. Finish with whipped cream and extra lime zest.
Make-Ahead Dessert For A Party //
As mentioned, this is a great dessert for a party because you can make everything ahead of time.
It will keep in the fridge for about 4 days without the whipped cream. If you stabilize the whipped cream (instructions in detailed post), you can do the entire dessert the day before.
This is a gorgeous and refreshing summer dessert. One bite and your friends will be asking for the recipe.
More Summer Pie Recipes //
- Margarita Pie
- Oatmeal Scotchie Pie
- Toasted Coconut Cream Pie
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Bailey’s Irish Cream Pie
- Frozen S’mores Ice Cream Pie
Originally published in July 2010, updated August 2020 with updated images and updated recipe card.