Authentic Key Lime Pie (2024)

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This Key Lime Pie is the real deal. Slightly tart, super creamy and yes, it's yellow, just like an authentic Key Lime Pie should be. It's simply the best summer pie ever - cool, delicious and so easy to make. A tasty tropical dessert brought to you straight from the Florida Keys. Gluten-free option available.

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Table of Contents

  • Florida Key Lime Pie
  • Key Lime Pie Origin
  • What is Key Lime Pie
  • What makes this key lime pie recipe authentic?
  • Key Lime Pie Ingredients
  • How to Make a Key Lime Pie
  • Key Lime Pie Garnish
  • Recipe Variations
  • How to Store the Pie
  • FAQs about Traditional Key Lime Pie
  • What else can key limes be used for?
  • More Key Lime Recipes

Florida Key Lime Pie

One of the desserts that South Florida and the Florida Keys are known for is their authentic key lime pie. And I am so spoiled from living in South Florida and being able to taste the pie directly from its source. No place makes it better! And, since this recipe comes directly from the Keys, you've come to the right place to find the absolute best key lime pie recipe.

Not only is key lime pie on everyone's menu in this southernmost city but so are key lime pie martinis, and tangy key lime desserts like key lime cookies, and even chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick! It's a flavor you never get tired of!

Key Lime Pie Origin

Key Lime Pie has long been known to have originated in Key West. It's been traced back to the early 1800s when Aunt Sally, a cook for ship salvager William Curry, one of Key West's first millionaires, made this very pie for him.

It's an easy pie to make and a cool refreshing treat for those long hot summer days. If you ever make it down to the southernmost point, try a delicious slice of the best classic key lime pie in Key West at Blue Heaven or Kermit's Key Lime Shoppe.

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What is Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie consists of a shortbread or graham cracker crust topped with a filling of key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk. It can be served plain, with a meringue topping or whipped cream.

Traditionally, it was not baked but, since it uses raw egg yolks in the filling, most people prefer the cooked version.

An authentic Key Lime Pie is yellow and not green. The color comes from the key limes and the egg yolks used in the filling.

What makes this key lime pie recipe authentic?

Ah, now if we're talking about capturing the essence of the original Key West key lime pie, we're diving into a recipe steeped in tradition, sunshine, and the kind of laid-back vibe that only the Florida Keys can offer. So, what exactly sets this key lime pie recipe apart and makes it as authentic as the pie you'd happily queue for in Key West? Let's break it down, Florida style.

The Pie

The Real Key Lime Deal: First and foremost, the star of the show is, without a doubt, the key lime itself. The original Key West key lime pies aren't just named after these tiny citrus fruits for the fun of it. It's because they're squeezed into the heart of the pie, offering that unmistakably tangy flavor that's both bold and delicate. This recipe doesn't cut corners with bottled juice or, heaven forbid, the juice of regular limes. It's all about that authentic key lime juice that gives the pie its signature taste.

Simplicity is Key: The beauty of the original pie lies in its simplicity. With just egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and key lime juice, the filling doesn't stray from the roots of Key West's culinary tradition. Once mixed and poured into the crust, it creates a filling that's creamy, tart, and oh-so addictive.

The Crust

A Crust with History: Then there's the crust – a buttery, crumbly base made from graham crackers. There's no denying that it's become the base of choice for this dessert. It provides just the right balance between sweet and crunchy and the smooth and tart filling, adding texture as well as flavor.

The Garnish

Garnishing Tradition: The garnish of whipped cream and lime slices might seem like a modern addition, but it's a nod to the pie's ability to adapt while still honoring its roots. The whipped cream adds richness and the lime slices are a bright reminder of the pie's citrusy roots.

This easy key lime pie recipe captures the spirit of the original Key West creation by sticking to the basics and doing them exceptionally well. It's a slice of the laid-back, sunny Keys life, no matter where you are. So, as you savor each bite, imagine yourself sitting on a breezy porch in Key West, surrounded by the scent of saltwater and key limes, enjoying a dessert that's as much a part of Florida as the sunshine itself.

Key Lime Pie Ingredients

Making homemade key lime pie starts with gathering your ingredients and each one plays a starring role in creating the perfect pie. Check out the printable recipe card below for the exact measurements.

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For the key line pie filling:

  • Egg yolks
  • Real Key limes - squeeze them for the best fresh key lime juice or, if you can't find real key limes, use bottled key lime juice (see note below)
  • Sweetened condensed milk

For the homemade graham cracker crust:

  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • White granulated sugar
  • Butter
  • Garnishes: whipped cream, lime slices (optional)

Optional key lime pie toppings:

  • Whipped cream
  • Key lime slices

Key Lime vs Regular Lime

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Key limes, aka Mexican or West Indian limes, are small, about the size of a golf ball, and are tarter and more aromatic than regular or Persian limes. They are more yellow in color and contain more seeds but well worth the effort of squeezing them for that prized juice.

Fresh Juice vs Bottled Juice

Don't have key limes in your backyard or neighborhood grocery store? Check the juice aisle for Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Juice. It's about as close to the real deal as you can get!

How to Make a Key Lime Pie

Making a traditional key lime pie is a simple process that yields big rewards in the form of a rich and creamy pie with that special key lime flavor. With a few easy steps and some basic kitchen tools, you'll transform a handful of simple ingredients into a dessert that's sure to disappear quickly.

Graham Cracker Crust

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The graham cracker crust has more steps than the actual pie so you know this is going to be easy! (Gluten-free key lime pie crust instructions can be found in the recipe card below)

  1. Place the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a mixing bowl and pour in melted butter.
  2. Stir the mixture until it resembles small moist crumbs.
  3. Pat the graham crust into a 9" pie pan.
  4. Either chill for 1 hour or bake at 350°F for 8 minutes then let cool.

Key Lime Pie Filling

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Key lime pie filling is made with sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and key lime juice. Here are the steps to make this creamy pie filling:

  1. Place condensed milk and egg yolks into a large bowl. Pour key lime juice over it and stir well.
  2. Pour mixture into the baked graham cracker crust.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes then set on a wire rack to cool.

Key Lime Pie Garnish

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Everyone has their favorite way to decorate this creamy key lime pie. I like to leave mine au naturel with a twist of key lime while others like to use the leftover egg whites for a meringue topping. Another option is to decorate it with whipped cream, either dollops or spread over the entire pie with possibly a little key lime zest for garnish.

Recipe Variations

While the classic recipe holds a special place in our hearts (and stomachs), there's a whole universe of variations out there, each with its own unique twist. Whether you're looking to add a bit of extra flair, fit a particular diet, or simply try something new, there's a key lime pie variation that's perfect for you.

  • Meringue Topping: For those who love a bit of drama and sweetness, topping your key lime pie with a lofty, golden-browned meringue adds both beauty and a light, airy texture.
  • Crust Variations:
    • Chocolate Cookie Crust: Swap out the traditional graham cracker crust for one made with chocolate cookie crumbs.
    • Gingersnap Crust: For a pie with a bit of spice, use crushed gingersnap cookies instead of graham crackers.
  • No-Bake Version: Perfect for hot summer days when you can't bear to turn on the oven, this variation uses pasteurized egg yolks and a chilled, not baked, crust.
  • Gluten-Free with a Nut Crust: For those avoiding gluten, a crust made from ground pecans, sugar, and butter offers a wonderfully crunchy, nutty base that complements the creamy filling.
  • Mini or Individual Pies: Everything's cuter in miniature form, and key lime pies are no exception. Making mini pies or individual servings is not only adorable but practical, allowing for easy serving!
  • Dairy-Free Version: By using a plant-based sweetened condensed milk alternative, you can make a dairy-free key lime pie that's just as creamy and delicious as the original. It's a great option for those with dairy sensitivities or anyone following a vegan diet.
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How to Store the Pie

Storing key lime pie properly ensures that you can enjoy its zesty freshness for days.

Refrigerating: First, let the pie cool to room temperature after baking to prevent condensation from forming under the cover. Then, cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Key lime pie can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If it starts to turn dark or separates, it should be thrown out.

Freezing: Wait until the pie is completely cool. Wrap the pie tightly in plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Properly stored, key lime pie can last in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you're ready to enjoy it, thaw the pie in the refrigerator overnight.

For the best experience, add any whipped cream or garnishes just before serving, as these can become soggy over time.

FAQs about Traditional Key Lime Pie

Can I use regular limes in place of real key limes?

Yes, you can but the taste of regular lime juice won't be quite the same. Key limes have their own unique flavor. They are smaller than a regular lime, higher in acidity, taste a bit more tart with more of an herbal flavor, and have a much stronger aroma.

Why does my pie have a spongy texture?

When a key lime pie is overcooked, it loses its creamy texture and turns spongy. Remember to only cook the pie for 15 minutes.

Does key lime pie have to be refrigerated?

Absolutely. The initial refrigeration will help the pie to firm up. Once the baked pie has cooled, it needs to be refrigerated due to its milk and egg base. It also tastes best served chilled.

How do I know when it's done?

When done, the center will be slightly jiggly when shaken but otherwise firm to the touch with no hint of browning. It will continue to solidify as it cools.

What does key lime pie taste like?

Key lime pie is a delightful blend of tangy and sweet, with a rich, creamy filling characterized by the vibrant, aromatic flavor of key limes. This is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of condensed milk, nestled in a buttery, crunchy graham cracker crust.

What else can key limes be used for?

Key limes make a fantastic ingredient in salsas and marinades, liven up traditional limeade, and look great as a garnish on co*cktails, pies, and cakes. It also lends its unique tartness to my magic Key Lime Pudding Cake and Key Lime Smoothie.

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This homemade key lime pie will become your favorite new recipe. It's the perfect spring or summer dessert with its creamy tart flavor or, if you're like me, just make it because you can't get enough of it. 🙂 Believe me, this easy key lime pie recipe is bound to become a family favorite.

More Key Lime Recipes

Chocolate Covered Key Lime Bites are creamy and have graham cracker crust.

Key Lime Cupcakes with Key Lime Buttercream Frosting from House of Nash Eats

Key Lime Bread with white chocolate and macadamia nuts.

Want more? Find lots of easy dessert recipes here on 2CM!


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Authentic Key Lime Pie

Take a bite out of this slightly tart & creamy key lime pie and you will think you're in the tropics! It is the real deal & a Florida Keys favorite.

5 from 7 votes

Print Rate

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: American

Prep Time: 10 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes minutes

Chill Time for Crust: 1 hour hour

Total Time: 1 hour hour 25 minutes minutes

Servings: 8 servings

Calories: 427kcal

Author: Linda Warren


Pie Filling (double quantities for deep dish pie)

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 20-25 key limes, juiced (about ½ cup)
  • 14 ounces can sweetened condensed milk

Graham Cracker Crust (optional gluten-free nut crust recipe can be found in notes)

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup butter melted
  • Garnishes: whipped cream, lime slices (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Graham Cracker Crust

  • Prepare crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs and sugar with melted butter.

  • Press into bottom and up sides of an 8" pie plate or, if doubling filling, press into a 9" deep dish pie plate.

  • At this stage you can either chill the crust for 1 hour or bake in 350 degree oven for 8 minutes and let cool.

Key Lime Filling

  • Combine egg yolks, key lime juice and sweetened condensed milk.

  • Pour key lime pie filling into prepared crust. Bake for 15 minutes.

  • Cool on wire rack then refrigerate.

  • Just before serving, pipe whipped cream into mounds then garnish with lime slices.


Gluten-free Nut Crust

Ingredients: 2-½ cups ground pecans, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ⅓ cup sugar, 4 Tablespoons melted butter

Directions: Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Press into the bottom and up sides of an 8" pie plate. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes prior to filling.


Calories: 427kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 145mg | Sodium: 309mg | Potassium: 322mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 41g | Vitamin A: 654IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 183mg | Iron: 1mg

This post has been updated with more helpful information. It was first published on March 16, 2014.

Authentic Key Lime Pie (2024)
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