Our Most Popular J. Kenji López-Alt Recipe of All Time

You only need four ingredients.

May 18, 2023
Photo by James Ransom

It’s only fitting that our most popular recipe from chef, cookbook author, and New York Times columnist, J. Kenji López-Alt is his four ingredient, 10-minute lime cracker pie. Part of our Genius recipe series, this convenient dessert is delicious, resourceful, and easily made in even the most bare-bones of kitchens.

More icebox cake than traditional pie, Kenji’s frozen dessert alternates layers of tangy, lime-flavored cream with salty Ritz crackers, creating an almost cake-like texture that is both rich and refreshing. With a clean, yet complex lime flavor at the front of every bite, this treat is like all of Kenji’s recipes: focused, intentional, and consistent.

The pie comes together in a few easy steps. Start by zesting and juicing some limes, then whisk the citrus into heavy cream and condensed milk until thickened. Next, pour a layer of the lime-dairy batter into a pie plate and top with a layer of Ritz crackers. Repeat this layering process until you’ve used all the batter and filled your pie plate—then, freeze the pie for at least two hours and enjoy at your earliest convenience.

Aside from its minimal prep time, this pie is a winner because it doesn’t require any special equipment: If you don’t have a whisk, combine the ingredients with a fork instead. If you’re without a zester, trim the skin off a lime with a knife and then slice it as thin as you can. No pie pan? Find any freezer-proof serving vessel with a bit of depth and rebrand it as the “new, trendy pie dish.”

Minimal equipment and only ten minutes of prep make this the ideal recipe for a celebratory occasion without any fuss or effort—exactly what you want at an impromptu dinner party or the last night of a long vacation. Think about it: Everyone’s tired of each other, the dread of returning to real life has set in, and you don’t want to cook a whole meal but still want to contribute. So, you make this four ingredient pie early on the last day. You pull it from the freezer after dinner, cut everyone a slice, and are showered in compliments over the bright, refreshing, absolutely delicious pie you seemingly pulled out of thin air. You’re the star of the trip and you come home happy.

Will you make this pie? Let us know in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • T
  • HalfPint
  • Smaug
  • jodyrah
Paul Hagopian

Written by: Paul Hagopian

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T May 28, 2023
This article says to freeze the dessert but the actual recipe calls for 2 or more hours of chilling it in the refrigerator. It doesn’t have to be frozen. Although, we usually pop the leftovers of this dessert in the freezer and are happy to find them a few weeks later as a more solid ice cream-like treat.
HalfPint May 22, 2023
I've made this a few times since it was published on Serious Eats. It's delicious and so easy to make (no baking, yay!). Definitely on the sweet side but the salt from the Ritz crackers cuts that sweetness nicely. This recipe is descendent from the popular Latino Carlota de Limon dessert which is based on the Charlotte Russe (created by Careme in honor of Queen Charlotte). I recommend using Ritz crackers or Maria cookies (add a pinch of salt), a cracker or biscuit that is more sturdy and firm. Saltines become gummy in this recipe. With graham crackers, it tastes like a key lime pie. Which is nice when you don't want to deal with raw eggs :)
Smaug May 19, 2023
I've found over the years that I generally disagree with KJLA's recipes on a very basic level- what I want from the dish. This is no exception; though salted limeade is popular in Thailand, the combination has never appealed to me, and this is going to be too sweet for my taste. However, it's not really his recipe, apparently he got it from his wife, and it's actually a quite old recipe, seemingly a descendant of Key Lime Pie (which is traditionally uncooked). There are a lot of comments on the recipe; several people suggested whipping the heavy cream as an improvement.
Smaug May 19, 2023
ps- the Saltines, too, are an old idea; they are traditionally used as a crust for North Carolina Lemon Pie, another descendant of Key Lime Pie that's been around forever. A version called "Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie" has been popular on this site.
jodyrah May 21, 2023
“Traditionally key lime pie is uncooked”. Uh, no. Key lime pie contains raw eggs. It is baked for 10-15 mins.
Smaug May 21, 2023
Uh, yes. Modern cooks mostly give it a bit of time in the oven (questionably enough to actually cook the filling) but traditionally it was uncooked. In the 19th century the Florida Keys area was very rural, refrigeration was rare; the whole point of Key Lime pie was that it could be made with unrefrigerated ingredients and that the acidity of the Key limes would cook it. Of course they weren't whipping cream either, and the dish predates the invention of Graham crackers. Raw eggs are not that uncommon; egg nog, mayonnaise etc., various health drinks, not unusual at all.