Serves a Crowd

Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie

July 22, 2014
75 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

A sweet-salty twist on a classic North Carolina lemon pie that's as lazy and beachy as summer should be. Adapted slightly from Bill Smith of Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Garnish with freshly whipped cream and coarse salt. —Genius Recipes

Watch This Recipe
Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Makes 1 pie
  • For the crust
  • 1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers (about 6 ounces or 60 crackers)
  • 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • For the filling
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
  • Fresh whipped cream, for garnish
  • Coarse sea salt, for garnish
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8-inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  3. While the crust is cooling (it doesn't need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • JCrys
  • Sharon Hanna
    Sharon Hanna
  • Vanessa R Leyba
    Vanessa R Leyba
  • tracy riser
    tracy riser
  • Marianne Paquette
    Marianne Paquette
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

232 Reviews

Lsilvano February 21, 2021
This was amazing! Easy breezy! Added an add’l 2 tbls of butter to the crust and lemon and lime zest to the custard! Rave reviews from toughest critics, my kids!
JCrys February 15, 2021
I read some of the reviews before I tackled this was so very different. The changes I made were to increase the butter (1/4c more)for the crust and added zest from one lemon to the filling. My husband loved the pie especially the crust. I loved the filling but on the fence with the crust. I sweetened the cream instead of adding salt and thought it was good.
JCrys February 15, 2021
Gg December 19, 2020
Veronica needs to stay out of the kitchen… I’ve made this recipe so many times and every single time it came out awesome don’t know what you’re doing
mnehring December 19, 2020
That’s great it turned out every time for you-this forum is to be helpful, though.
mnehring December 18, 2020
Did anyone else have issues w/ the crust? Mine really did not hold together very well. At first, I thought it was because the crumbs were too big, so I ground them further (they were actually slightly smaller than the ones in the pictures) but after I parbaked the crust and poured in the filling, the bottom of the crust lifted up into the custard.
Veronica December 18, 2020
Yes I had that issue too, and like you I tried different crumb sizes to no avail.

The pie has become so popular with my family that I've had plenty of opportunities to experiment. The solution I have found is:

1. do not overground the crumbs
2. make sure there is enough butter, AAAND
3. do not bake the first time it says to bake, instead put the crust in the freezer so it hardens while you prepare the custard. Then pour the custard on top and bake together. The more you bake it the more it disintegrates.

Let us know if it works!
Alec M. December 18, 2020
not me
Alec M. December 18, 2020
mnehring December 19, 2020
Thanks for the tips! :)
Sharon H. October 11, 2020
OMG so excited - it's just getting ready to go into the oven for the second time. Having it here in Vancouver (BC) for Thanksgiving dessert. It seemed like a lot of crackers far so good! Thank you so much for this and for explaining it so clearly.
Gg September 17, 2020
Love this recipe! Made it...came out great... before I knew was gone.. and everyone had smiles on their faces.
Vanessa R. September 8, 2020
I made this recently and understand the hype. Not only is it stupid good with minimal effort, it’s a 10 outta 10 salty/sweet dream for those who crave this flavor profile. So, after reading the reviews I opted to increase the citrus (I used Meyer lemons) from 1/2 a cup to 3/4 cup because I enjoy a tart treat and, I doubled the butter-no judgement! It yielded a spectacular crust that held together without issue. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as-is and would happily make this again and again.
tracy R. September 2, 2020
Bill Smith might call it, "that stupid pie", but WOW, did it impress! Every piece eaten and I have made it a total of three times. Only change is I add more lemon as my family LOVES tart desserts. Will now buy saltines regularly just so I have everything I need to make this great, easy and very tasty pie!
Oona S. August 24, 2020
Excellent. I used Townhouse crackers and some of the citrus zest in filling and cream. Otherwise no changes. A great recipe with good balance between filling, crust and topping. Thanks for a keeper recipe!
Marianne P. August 19, 2020
I made this pie for the first time, My family came over for a steamed cajun seafood boil and I thought that this would be a light desert. It went over great. It was so easy and so delicious. I will make it again. Never thought of crackers for a crust. Pretty nifty.
Vincent August 19, 2020
I truly do not understand the rave reviews for this pie. I am clearly in the minority when I say that it is not worth the trouble. Admittedly, it is a quick and easy recipe. The filling was fine, but there are much better "key lime pie type" filling recipes out there that set much nicer and have a better texture. As for the saltine cracker crust. It tasted like a saltine cracker crust, and to my mind it was off putting. If you are after the sweet/salty thing, I would make this with a graham cracker crust and add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

To me, this is a niche recipe for those who want to do something different when baking up at the cottage.
Lety August 18, 2020
Ohmygerd. This is so good. Like "eat until you're uncomfortable" good. I'm going to give it a shot with grapefruit. Loved the combo of lemon and lime, will try with just lime also. Insane.
Lety August 18, 2020
ohmygerd. This is so good. Like "eat until you're uncomfortable" good. I'm going to give it a shot with grapefruit. Loved the combo of lemon and lime, will try with just lime also. Insane.
Alec M. August 13, 2020
Well try it
Gio August 13, 2020
Last week was the first time I made this pie. I always follow the recipe to the ‘T’ at first then decide whether I will tweak it to my liking. The 6 oz. of crackers to 1/2 cup butter was fine just make sure you work the butter into the crumbled crackers. I love this pie! It is summer in a pie plate😊. I made it again this week because it’s so easy and quick to assemble. This time I added half lemon and half lime juice and zest from each to the filling. I only used 2 tbl of sugar in the crust because I prefer all my baked goods to be less sweet. Finally, not using any sugar in the cream is perfect but I topped it with a sprinkling of zest and fleur de sel. Delicious 😋
Alec M. August 13, 2020
Wow, then i thing i will try it!!!
tastysweet August 12, 2020
Have not made this yet, but plan on it for sure.
Question, love the handled pitcher bowl for mixing the batter. Where can I find this?
Alec M. August 13, 2020
on here?
tastysweet August 14, 2020
tastysweet August 14, 2020
Thank you 2tattered.
2tattered August 14, 2020
It’s under $25 online
tastysweet August 14, 2020
Where online did you find it at that price? I did look on Amazon and some were made in China not Portugal, over $25.00.
2tattered August 15, 2020
I guess they won’t let me tell you.
2tattered August 15, 2020
2tattered August 15, 2020
tastysweet August 16, 2020
Thank you 2tattered.
tastysweet August 16, 2020
Unfortunately the one they carry is made in China. So I pass.
Thank you for your help.
2tattered August 16, 2020
The same bowl is $40 on this website. Food52 also carries one made in Portugal ($60+) or Vermont ($175). There are other Mason Cash bowls, but they’re made in China, too. Mason Cash pottery originated in England, but unfortunately is now made in China. I wouldn’t buy it, either. I’d look on Etsy or on Ebay for a vintage piece.
tastysweet August 16, 2020
That’s great to know. Appreciate your information. I will look into it.
Marsha S. May 5, 2021
Homegoods using sells the the handled pitchers...They're great and not expensive. We actually have 2 of them now...Hope they still sell them as we bought ours a few years ago! Good luck!!!!!
Marsha S. May 5, 2021
Home Goods sells them. I have two with the handle, we love them. Hope the store still carries them! Good luck!
Suzanne L. July 20, 2020
What a fantastic and refreshing dessert for a hot summer night in July. Tart (🍋) but not over powering. This was my first cracker crust and it was amazing! This will forever be in my recipe collection and will be my go to potluck summer dessert
Veronica July 11, 2020
I've made it twice already and it's become a summer favorite with my family. To keep things simpler, I choose to use the 4 egg whites that remain from making the filling and, with confectioners sugar, whip up a meringue .
KSR August 12, 2020
Will you describe the meringue process you used? Thanks!
Veronica August 13, 2020
Yes, it’s very simple. Begin to whisk at medium intensity until it begins to whiten and peak, and then gradually add the powdered sugar and increase intensity. I use the 4 egg whites and about 150 grams of confectioners sugar (it helps keep the meringue firm for a few days)
Emily S. August 14, 2020
This may be a silly question, but did you put the meringue on while you did the initial bake? Or did you bake again after?
Veronica December 19, 2020
I’ve only seen your question now! The meringue goes well after the baking is finished and the pie has cooled.
Joanne July 6, 2020
Got rave reviews at a summer happy hour recently :-)
I used Club crackers and the butter seemed too much for my 60 gm of crackers. I assume because there is already butter in those?? SO I doubled the cracker amount and it turned out fine. Everyone loved the "crust". Keeper recipe!
Ashley W. July 14, 2020
This might be because of conversion to metric as well. The recipe calls for 60 crackers or 6 oz of crackers. 60 gm is only about 2.1 oz.