How to Make Key Lime Pie

February 13, 2015

Every other Friday, Yossy Arefi from Apt. 2B Baking Co. shares dessert projects that demand a little extra time and effort. Because your weekends should always be sweet.

Today: Beat the winter blues with a blast of bright, sunny citrus.

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In New York, we are experiencing weather the forecasters describe as a “wintry mix.” What that really means is that there is slush falling from the sky making sidewalks slippery -- and the sky is looking decidedly gray. It’s not exactly my favorite weather, but the chilly temperatures are a good excuse to eat lots of delicious, slow-braised foods and sunny citrus-flavored things. There are a ton of fancy citrus fruits this time of year that I love cooking with, but sometimes a classic recipe is the best choice for comfort baking.

More: Bring more sunshine into your kitchen with these 10 citrus desserts.

This Key Lime Pie from Cook’s Illustrated is a winter favorite. The crust is an easy, press-in-the-pan sort of thing made from crushed graham crackers, butter, and sugar. The filling is just 4 ingredients, puckery from a healthy dose of lime juice and zest and undeniably rich and creamy thanks to the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. I like to top the pie with a sweep of unsweetened whipped cream, but feel free to sweeten it a bit with sugar if that’s more your style. Oh, and even though this pie is calls for key limes, it’s also great with regular ol’ grocery store limes or lemons.

Key Lime Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lime juice

4 teaspoons lime zest

4 large egg yolks

1 pinch salt

Thoroughly whisk all of the filling ingredients together, and set aside to thicken while you prepare the crust.

For the crust:

11 graham crackers or about 1 1/4 cups crumbs

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Process the graham crackers in a food processor to fine crumbs. Add the sugar and salt, and pulse to combine. Last, add in the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand.

Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie dish (metal works best here) evenly on the bottom and up the sides. I like to use a dry measuring cup to help this along. Bake the crust until it is light golden brown and fragrant, about 10-12 minutes.

Cool the crust slightly, then give the prepared filling a final mix, and pour it into the pie pan. Turn the oven down to 325º F, and bake the pie until just set, but slightly wiggly in the center, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool the pie to room temperature, then set it in the fridge to chill completely, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Just before serving, whip the cream to soft peaks, and spread it on top of the pie.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Yossy Arefi

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Yossy Arefi is a photographer and stylist with a passion for food. During her stint working in restaurant kitchens, Yossy started the blog Apt. 2B Baking Co. where, with her trusty Pentax film camera, she photographs and writes about seasonal desserts and preserves. She currently lives in Brooklyn but will always love her native city of Seattle. Follow her work at apt2bbakingco.blogspot.com & yossyarefi.com.


Justin August 4, 2017
Note: Boo-hoo on your whipped cream. Read a book and chill some whipped HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM!

Note 2: If you have a recipe for a sweet flour crust, you'll be in ancient (sort of) heaven.

As for the recipe posted here. It's simple, to the point and nearly matches my own family concoction. Play with the crust as you will but please follow the filling directions as specified to enjoy a beautifully smooth finish.

- 1 Tablespoon of lime zest (green only)
- Make it two pinches OR 1/4 tsp of salt
- Feel free to use normal limes (todays key limes are too harsh and would require more sugar to balance).

Cheers to the poster! You've affirmed a family concoction and reminded me how much I enjoy this pie with fresh (Florida caught) fish tacos.

Kat May 29, 2016
Original Key West Lime Pie was NEVER made with nasty gram cracker crust. That was a product of a lazy cook. The original pie crust are the same as when making an apple pie, the flour variety.
Julia W. July 5, 2015
The ingredients list doesn't include cream for the top. I based my shopping on the ingredients you list, and now I have no cream. :-(
Antonia A. July 4, 2015
When I lived in South Florida, a local fish joint made their crust with ground almonds instead of graham crackers because someone on the fish market side of the operation had celiac. Now, I never use anything else because it's soooo delicious with the almonds—a perfect counterpoint.
BTW Trena: If you're talking about Calamansi, it's nearer in taste to Key limes than Persian limes are and should make a good substitute.
bletart1 February 16, 2015
If you put meringue on the top, put it in the freezer before you do.
catalinalacruz February 16, 2015
Making pies is like making love -- almost. So many differnt ways to do it, and all are satisfying :) I always spread meringue on hot filling (as per recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie in the Cook's Illustrated issue of Nov./Dec. 1994). What is also important is that the meringue makes contact with the crust. This anchors it so that it doesn't shrink. By the way, if anyone still has their early Cook's Illustrated mags, the Key Lime Pie recipe is in the Mar./Apr. 1997 issue.
Nancy C. February 15, 2015
True, but not everyone has access to Key Limes. My supermarket has them only once a year. I don't think I could use anything that comes in a bottle--- I would rather make it with Persian Lines and suffer the milder flavor. Actually I find meringue too sweet...Real whipped cream with minimal sugar is my favorite topping.
catalinalacruz February 15, 2015
I will have to agree with rreid01 -- if it's not made with key limes, it's not key lime pie. Key limes are a lot more puckery and really make this pie unique. Persian limes have a milder flavor.
I always top my key lime pie with meringue, since this recipe leaves one with leftover egg whites otherwise. Ths meringue adds a nice contrast to the rich filling. I use the CI recipe too -- it's the gold standard.
rreid01 February 15, 2015
Probably ought to call this lime pie rather than key lime pie since you are using persian limes instead of key limes. There is quite a bit of difference between the two, and frankly the more sour key limes is what makes key lime pie special.
Fresh key limes aren't that hard to find, and and you can always find bottled key lime juice.
Nancy C. February 15, 2015
The original recipe called for meringue rather than whipped cream.
bletart1 February 15, 2015
What do you thing of meringue with the leftover whites? Also, I got 1/2 cup juice from two large limes. Nice to know how many to zest.
dale M. February 24, 2016
freeze juice in ice cube tray, pop out when you need lime flavor!
Nancy C. February 15, 2015
You'll be sorry if you don't make this pie---it's irresistible, and never fails to impress! I have been making the exact recipe for years (and years)--found it originally in Cook"s Illustrated, but apparently invented in Key West in the early 20th c.)
MJ February 14, 2015
I followed the recipe exactly, it was delicious and easy. The hardest part was whisking the whipping cream. I usually cheat and get Redi-Whip. This was way better.
Jill F. February 14, 2015
This would also be great with the saltine crust from Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie!
Sini |. February 14, 2015
This recipe needs to be made!
aargersi February 13, 2015
Try this also with meyer lemon and a gingersnap crust - also delish!!!
Millie |. February 13, 2015
Great dessert recipe Yossy - such a classic!