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Key Lime Pie

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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.

easy key lime pie recipe topped with whipped cream and sliced with fresh limes on the side

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.

lime curd pie topped with whipped cream with fresh limes, plates and forks on the side

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.

Ingredients //

  • 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)
graham cracker crust, sugar, butter, key limes, eggs

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.

Instructions //

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.

Step 2:

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.

Step 3:

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.

Step 4:

Add the softened gelatin (I sprinkle the teaspoon of gelatin over 2 Tablespoons water until it has dissolved) to the lime mixture.

Step 5:

Strain your lime mixture to guarantee that there are no egg pieces in your lime curd.

Step 6:

Add the lime zest.

homemade lime curd filling in glass bowl with yellow spatula

Step 7:

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.

lime curd in graham cracker crust in pie pan

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:

Step 1:

Omit the lime curd ingredients – eggs, sugar, butter and gelatin.

Step 2:

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.

Step 3:

Pour it into the prepared graham cracker crust and bake for 10 minutes.

Step 4:

Cool for 3 hours in the fridge. Finish with whipped cream and extra lime zest.

slices of the best key lime pie recipe on white plates with forks and whole pie on the side

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 //

Originally published in July 2010, updated August 2020 with updated images and updated recipe card.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it goes! Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, too!

easy key lime pie recipe topped with whipped cream and sliced with fresh limes on the side

Key Lime Pie

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes

This Key Lime Pie features a graham cracker crust filled with key lime curd (without condensed milk) and topped with freshly whipped cream.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

!If you go the store-bought crust route, you can start at step 2 below.

  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.
  2. In 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the softened gelatin (I sprinkle the teaspoon of gelatin over 2 Tablespoons water until it has dissolved) to the lime mixture.
  5. Strain your lime mixture to guarantee that there are no egg pieces in your lime curd.
  6. Add the lime zest.
  7. 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.

Notes

How to make a traditional Key lime pie with condensed milk:

  1. Omit the lime curd ingredients - eggs, sugar, butter and gelatin.
  2. Use 2 (14-oz) cans sweetened condensed milk and 1/2 cup sour cream mixed with the ¾ cup key lime juice and 1 teaspoon lime zest.
  3. Pour it into the prepared graham cracker crust and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.
  4. Cool for 3 hours in the fridge. Finish with whipped cream and extra lime zest.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 256Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 94mgSodium: 145mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 1gSugar: 30gProtein: 5g

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Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

susan

Thursday 20th of May 2021

Do I use the whole egg or just the yolks for the curd

Bree Hester

Friday 21st of May 2021

Whole egg.

Amanda

Monday 1st of March 2021

Hello, I only just discovered your site the other day while searching yet again for “best banana bread recipe” (I never seem to eat all of my bananas before they get overripe!)—I tried yours and it was exactly what I wanted; so many claim to be the best but end up super dry!

So then I wanted to make something special for my boyfriend’s and my anniversary, and he loves Key Lime Pie—I saw that you had a recipe for it and figured that since your banana bread recipe was such a winner, this would probably be decent as well.

I had only ever made key lime pie with condensed milk before, so this was a new approach for me—I had to actually throw my first filling attempt out because I had the burner up too high and the egg was congealing before I added the other ingredients. But my second attempt was PERFECT. Wow. He emphatically swears that it’s the best key lime pie he’s ever had in his life, exactly what he’s been looking for; we went to Key West last fall and tried it a couple of times there (and also in other places in Florida) and he was disappointed! This one tastes even better the next day after setting for longer. He’s obsessed.

I am now a devotee of your site and can’t wait to try some of the other recipes—thank you for your beautiful photos and excellent taste/discernment in recipes!

Bree Hester

Friday 5th of March 2021

Isn't this the best? I am so glad that you both love it as much as I do. My grandmother introduced me to this recipe and I will never make another one!

Edna

Friday 25th of September 2020

What kind of gelatin? Will lime flavored jello work or does it need to be unflavored? I want to do the recipe with cornstarch instead of sweetened condensed milk for calorie count.

Bree Hester

Friday 25th of September 2020

Powdered, unflavored gelatin. I do think that amount of butter will equal the sweetened condensed milk calorie-wise though.

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