Sweet And Tart Key Lime Pie Recipe

Key lime pie, a Florida favorite, is a dessert that everyone can enjoy when the small, yellowish limes are in season. Tasting Table recipe developer Michelle McGlinn describes her creation as "a classic, creamy, tart key lime pie," but the best part of this recipe as she notes, is that "It is so easy, you'll be impressed with the results no matter what your level of baking skills are."

If you're wondering why there is no cream, milk, or sour cream used in this recipe, as is the case with many other key lime pies, McGlinn explains that this omission actually dates back to the pie's earliest days when fresh dairy products weren't readily available in the Florida Keys. Instead, she uses canned condensed milk, an ingredient that she says makes the pie "delicious, tart, and refreshing." As for the meringue that tops the pie, she points out that this type of French meringue is "very easy to prepare without special equipment" and describes it as "sweet and fluffy." If you're on board for this sweet and tangy pie, read on for the step-by-step directions.

Gather the ingredients for this key lime pie

Starting with the crust, get some graham cracker crumbs, salt, brown sugar, and melted butter. Per the name, to make this pie you'll need a lot of key limes — McGlinn says she uses about two bags of them. She notes that you can substitute regular limes for key limes if you can't get your hands on the latter, but adds that in this case, the pie "won't be quite as tart." 

In addition to the lime juice, the filling is made with lime zest, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and salt. For the meringue, you will need sugar and egg whites. You won't need quite as many egg whites as yolks for the filling, so you'll have a few leftover egg whites to store or use up. Make sure to first bring your eggs to room temperature for successful results.

Make the crumb crust

Before assembling the crust, preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine ½ teaspoon of salt, brown sugar, and the graham cracker crumbs in a bowl, then fold in the melted butter until the crumbs are moistened. Press the filling into the bottom and along the edges of a 9-inch pie pan, pinching the sides to even out the top of the crust. Once the oven is hot, bake the pie for 10 to 15 minutes. At this point, it will appear darker in color and the crumbs should be set. Take the pie crust out of the oven and let it cool, but don't turn the oven off as you'll be using it again within minutes.

If you want to save a little time and effort, McGlinn says, "You can definitely use premade crust." Meanwhile, if you prefer trying a crust with a slightly different flavor, she says you could also go salty by using pretzels or sweet with shortbread crumbs.

Fill and bake the pie

Stir the egg yolks together with the condensed milk, then add the lime juice, zest, and remaining salt. Keep stirring until all of the ingredients are well-combined and the filling is smooth. Pour the lime mixture into the crust, then bake the pie for 20 minutes, at which point it should be just set. McGlinn says it should "jiggle slightly when shaken, but will not move."

Let the pie cool down at room temperature, then put it in the fridge (keeping it on a flat surface) for at least 3 hours so it can completely set.

Top the pie with meringue

Shortly before you plan to eat the pie, you'll want to make the meringue topping. McGlinn explains that the meringue will start to separate, and thus wilt, weep, or generally "look sad," after just one day. Although she does say it will still taste fine, she points out that it "won't look as pretty." For your pie to look in peak form, she advises to "prepare the meringue right before serving for the best results."

To do so, beat the egg whites for about 3 to 5 minutes until they form soft peaks and start to look like foam. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time as you continue to beat. Keep on beating the egg-sugar mix until you have stiff peaks. At this point, the egg whites should appear glossy and resemble whipped cream. 

Generously spoon the meringue over the pie. As a final step, McGlinn recommends either using a torch to toast the top of the meringue or placing the pie under the broiler for a few minutes. This, she says, will "creat[e] a delicious s'mores-like flavor." If you wish, you can sprinkle extra lime zest over the pie as a garnish. Leftovers should be covered and kept in the fridge.

Sweet And Tart Key Lime Pie Recipe
5 from 123 ratings
Creamy meringue tops a bright Key lime custard in this citrusy summer pie. Whip up this flavor-packed pie for friends and family; they'll be begging for more.
Prep Time
Cook Time
slice of key lime pie
Total time: 3 hours, 55 minutes
  • For the crust
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • For the filling
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup fresh Key lime juice (about 30 limes)
  • 1 teaspoon Key lime zest, plus more for garnish (about 4 limes)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • For the meringue
  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
Optional Ingredients
  • additional lime zest
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix the brown sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt with the graham cracker crumbs, then fold in the melted butter until the crumbs are moistened.
  3. Press the graham cracker mixture into a 9-inch pie pan and pinch the sides to even the crust.
  4. Bake the pie crust for 10 to 15 minutes, until it has darkened and set.
  5. Remove the pie crust from the oven and let it cool.
  6. Combine the egg yolks and condensed milk, then stir in the lime juice, zest, and remaining salt until the filling is completely smooth.
  7. Pour the filling into the cooled crust.
  8. Bake the pie for 20 minutes, or until just set.
  9. Cool the pie at room temperature, then chill it in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight, until completely set.
  10. Beat the egg whites for 3 to 5 minutes until soft peaks form.
  11. Sprinkle the granulated sugar into the egg whites 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until all of the sugar is incorporated.
  12. Continue beating the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
  13. Spoon the meringue onto the chilled pie.
  14. Use a small torch or put the pie under the broiler for a few minutes to toast the top of the meringue.
  15. Garnish the pie with additional key lime zest if desired.
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