The ‘Key’ to Key Lime Pie

best key lime pie recipeThe Key Lime* – different from Persian or Tahiti limes that one typically sees in the grocery store – was introduced to the Florida Keys during the 1830s by Henry Perrine, a diplomat and botanist who discovered the plant in Mexico.

It is little surprise, then, that the combination of refreshing limes and sweet condensed milk, which was also invented around the same time, eventually evolved to become Florida’s State Pie.

In fact, it was only on a recent trip to Florida that I discovered just how many varieties there are to Key Lime Pie – and how delicious the perfect one can truly be. From light and fluffy to a heavier custard-like filling, one quickly develops a discriminating palate for a dessert that is offered in just about every restaurant in the state.

The absolute best Key Lime Pie I sampled was a perfectly textured and flavored whipped cream/graham cracker crust creation at A12 Buoy in Fort Pierce, an all around excellent seafood restaurant. I have been on a mission to recreate it ever since.

In the meantime, the two recipes below are very satisfying. One is made with a graham cracker crust, the other with a flour crust; one with just cream and eggs, the other with condensed milk and eggs. Enjoy!

Also: check out Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe in Key West, voted one of the best Key Lime Pie makers. You can purchase one of their pies online at along with a variety of other items, such as Key Lime Soap and Key Lime Cookies.

*Key limes are smaller, have a more intense flavor and are considered sweeter than other types of lime. They also have a thinner rind and more of a yellowish color compared to other types of lime. They are sometimes referred to as a “bartender’s lime” because of the enhancing flavor they give to alcoholic drinks such as margaritas.

Key Lime Pie (adapted from several different recipes)

Ingredients for the crust:
2 cups crushed Graham Cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds
6 tbsp. melted butter

Ingredients for the filling:
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup Key Lime juice
2 & 1/4 tsp. grated Key Lime rind
1 & 1/2 cups whipping cream

Instructions for the crust:
Preheat over to350°F. Combine all of the above ingredients and press into the bottom and the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake in oven for approximately 8-10 minutes being careful not to burn.

Instructions for the filling:
Mix egg yolks, sugar and lime juice in top of double boiler. Cook over simmering water until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in grated rind. Refrigerate until mixture thickens, but do not let it become stiff.

Beat cream to soft peaks. Fold into lime filling. Spoon into baked crust and refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours. Serve with fresh whipped cream on top.

Key Lime Pie with a Flour Crust (taken from fine

Ingredients for the crust:
6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
½ tsp. table salt
3 oz. (6 tbsp.) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp. chilled vegetable shortening, cubed
2-1/2 to 3 tbs. ice water

Ingredients for the filling:
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
1 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 regular limes)
2 tbsp. finely grated lime zest (from about 2 regular limes)

Ingredients for the garnish:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 lime, zested into thin strips

Put the flour and salt in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the butter cubes and pulse until they’re the size of extra-large peas (about 10 quick pulses). Add the shortening and continue pulsing until the largest pieces of butter and shortening are the size of peas (10 to 15 more quick pulses). Sprinkle 2-1/2 tbps. of the water over the flour mixture and pulse a few times until the mixture just begins to come together. It should look rather crumbly, but if you press some between your fingers, it should hold together. (If it doesn’t, sprinkle on another 1/2 tbps. water and pulse a few more times.) Dump the crumbly mix onto a lightly floured surface and press the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a round that’s 1/8 inch thick and 12 to 13 inches in diameter. Drape the dough around the rolling pin and ease it into a 9-inch pie pan. With kitchen shears, trim the overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold the overhang under and crimp it to build up an edge. Prick the crust with a fork in several places. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position an oven rack on the middle rung and heat the oven to 350°F.

Grease one side of a sheet of foil with cooking spray, oil, or butter. Line the pie pan with the foil, greased side down, and fill it with pie weights or beans. Bake until the edges of the crust look dry and start to turn golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights; continue baking until the entire crust is deeply golden brown, another 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

Instructions for the filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk the condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice, and grated zest. Pour into the cooled pie crust and bake at 350°F until just set, about 30 minutes. The center may still be a bit jiggly. (Use an instant-read thermometer to double-check the doneness; the center of the pie should be at least 140°F.) Let the pie cool thoroughly on a rack and then cover with plastic and refrigerate to chill completely, at least 3 hours but no longer than a day.

Just before serving, whip the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread the cream on top of the pie, garnish with the strips of lime zest strips, and serve.

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