5 Ingredients or Fewer

J. Kenji López-Alt’s 10-Minute Lime Cracker Pie

May  5, 2021
36 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

This icebox cake has the spirit of a Key lime pie and can be layered up in 10 minutes (if you’re not too precious about lining things neatly), then sent to the refrigerator to meld into a glorious tart-sweet-creamy-cakey pudding. But it has a salty secret: its structure comes from Ritz crackers.

A recipe this slapdash is a bit unusual coming from J. Kenji López-Alt, Serious Eats’ Food Lab columnist-wizard who famously published a 21-ingredient meatloaf recipe, including gelatin, Marmite, anchovies, and soy sauce. But smart kitchen hacks are smart kitchen hacks. This one comes by way of his wife, Adriana, who learned it from her aunt Gloria in Colombia, though there they use Ducales, a local buttery cracker, instead.

This is not the first time we’ve seen Ritz tiptoe into a dessert—the original Mock Apple Pie, a Depression-era invention, was crackers masquerading as apple slices when the fruit was unavailable or too expensive. But it does serve as a good excuse for a PSA: (almost) anything can be an icebox cake. You can use any dry, crunchy cookie-like thing, store-bought or homemade. Excellent contenders include crispy chocolate chip cookies like Tate’s, graham crackers, brown-sugary Biscoff cookies, and now (insert your favorite salty cracker here). Recipe adapted slightly from Genius Desserts (Ten Speed Press, September 2018). —Genius Recipes

Watch This Recipe
J. Kenji López-Alt’s 10-Minute Lime Cracker Pie
  • Prep time 12 hours 10 minutes
  • Serves 8 to 10
  • 2 (14-ounce/396ml) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups (470g) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup (120g) freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 8 limes)
  • 10 ounces (285g) Ritz crackers (85 crackers, from about 3 sleeves)
In This Recipe
  1. Whisk together the condensed milk and heavy cream in a large bowl until combined. Add the lime zest and juice and whisk until thickened, about 1 minute.
  2. Spread 1 cup (240ml) of the condensed milk mixture on the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate, an 11-inch (28cm) oval casserole, or a similar large shallow dish. Top with a single layer of Ritz crackers. Repeat, alternating layers of filling and crackers, until the dish is full, finishing with a layer of filling. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight—the longer you wait, the more the crackers will soften and meld with the filling. Serve cold, zesting more fresh lime over the top, if you like.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sabine Gagnon
    Sabine Gagnon
  • SophieL
  • student epicure
    student epicure
  • Ikue Tashima
    Ikue Tashima
  • samanthaalison
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

72 Reviews

Sabine G. March 5, 2021
I've been making this at every opportunity I could. I love the flavors. Recently, I purchased my husband the cuisinart ice cream maker. He's been making just about every kind of ice cream. We were looking at this recipe when he got the idea to put the custard in the ice cream maker- and let me tell you- IT'S INCREDIBLE as an ice cream. We did everything the same in preparation- even layering the crackers (we bought ducales). You have GOT to try it as an ice cream if you haven't yet! Smooth, rich, and just a beautiful consistency!
Lndarln December 26, 2020
I whipped the heavy cream first and it was 100% better. I made it without whipping the cream and it was flat and condensed. I really liked it fluffy from whipping the heavy cream.
SophieL September 9, 2020
So easy and pretty darn good. I mistakenly bought one cup of heavy cream and rather than go back to the store, I subbed the other cup with creme fraiche and half & half. The chilled consistency turned out fine. Next time I'll add more lime juice to bump up the flavor. I'll also try a grapefruit version (tons of grapefruit trees around me). And I'll make mini pies for individual servings. Like the head notes said, lots of variations and combinations.
Vicky L. August 22, 2020
I uncharacteristically decided to take a lot of liberties with this recipe — and I regret it haha. I took bits and pieces from other reviews and this is what I did:
- halved the recipe, but kept lime juice amt the same. Added a ton more zest. Only needed 2.5 limes to get 1/2 c juice, zested all three limes.
- used evaporated milk instead of heavy cream bc I happened to have it.
- Subbed GF Tate’s choco chip cookies and Snyder’s GF mini pretzels for Ritz bc I’m GF. One layer of each.

The GF pretzels were a mistake — their outer coating did not break down really, leading to a weirdly rubbery situation. Not good!

The lime custard was also not great. Will try with heavy cream next time. I’m trying to eat the custard around the pretzels but it’s harder to do than I expected.

Also next time, while I’ll still halve the recipe, I’ll remember to use a smaller/narrower receptacle than the deep dish pie pan I used the first time around, to get a less wide but more tall final product.
student E. August 15, 2020
My daughter and I had a lot of fun making this. Based on the reviews, I doubled the lime juice and the lime zest, knowing that my family likes flavors to be intense. They still wanted more lime! I made some with Ritz crackers and a small portion with Tate's gluten-free cookies for a family member who doesn't eat gluten. Overall, the consensus was that it was enjoyable, but was too sweet for our preferences.
student E. August 15, 2020
My daughter and I had a lot of fun making this. Based on the reviews, I doubled the lime juice and the lime zest, knowing that my family likes flavors to be intense. They still wanted more lime! I made some with Ritz crackers and a small portion with Tate's gluten-free cookies for a family member who doesn't eat gluten. Overall, the consensus was that it was enjoyable, but was too sweet for our preferences.
Ikue T. August 11, 2020
I didn't love this as much as I hoped. I mean, it is good but I've had a better lime pie before.
samanthaalison May 25, 2020
So easy and so good. I didn't think it was tart enough after I added 1/2 cup lime juice, so I added another 1/4 cup. I might go up to a full cup of juice next time. But so delicious for so little effort!
twinjadojo May 19, 2020
We loved the technique and seeing what the acid does to the cream mixture, but we couldn’t shake the taste of those cheese flavoured sandwich cracker snacks in our finished product. So glad this is a hit for so many others, and glad we tried it.
Graciela May 19, 2020
Do not use the crackers. I have been making it for 50 years and have never used them.
Toddie May 21, 2020
Still trying to decide if this was a joke reply. I believe you're supposed to use plain Ritz.
Florence L. May 2, 2020
This is an amazing recipe. So simple and so deceivingly tasty!!!
Graciela April 29, 2020
I grew up eating a making this in Venezuela, without the crackers. We called easy lime ice cream. So easy and so good! Can be made with evaporated milk instead of heavy cream.
JLK August 8, 2020
I like your suggestion. I tried this recipe and its too sweet with the condensed milk, which is why the reviewers are adding more lime juice. I will definitely remake this with Evaporated milk and some sugar to my liking. Ritz crackers meh....I like this better with ground pretzels. I also used a melon baller to make tiny bites to freeze. I highly recommend it.
kathy August 13, 2020
Not a fan of Ritz, especially in my smooth creamy ice creams, so without suits me. You then have the freedom to add a small maybe ginger cracker on top dipped in or pastry on the side.
J. H. April 28, 2020
Wonderful and easy
Heather S. December 4, 2019
Absolutely amazing in its simplicity to make but, the wow factor in taste is where it's at. I watched the video three times just to make sure I wasn't missing something in the recipe. My household isnt that big on limes so I swapped them out with lemons. It tastes like summer to me. Next time I'm going to try blood oranges or maybe cara cara oranges. Thank you for this fabulous dessert recipe. It's going to get a permanent spot in my dessert cookbook
Leslie September 16, 2019
Ingenious and delicious, this recipe was a huge hit with friends. I gotta say though, I made one version with Ritz crackers as instructed and one with biscoff cookies instead, and everyone loved the biscoff even more. I think they're sturdier and retain more flavor once layered than the Ritz. Though obviously you get a different flavor (the idea of Ritz still appeals to me so much, they just didn't stay real ritzy when I did it). Just an idea if folks are interested in variation!
Danielle August 28, 2019
Any tips on a dairy free substitute for the condensed milk?
T August 28, 2019
Everyone loved it. We froze the leftovers and they were great. Hard to scoop, however. Thinking of trying a frozen version in a loaf pan next time so we can unmold it and slice it. Also will try with more lime zest and juice for extra tanginess. Not quite 'limey' enough for us the first time.
Tracey S. August 26, 2019
I just made this for a party. It was a huge hit. I made 1.5 times the recipe, in order to fit it into a 9x13x2" pyrex pan, and I used my stand mixer rather than a hand whisk. Aside from that, I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter. Everyone loved it. This is one of the easiest and best desserts around, especially since my oven vents into my kitchen (meaning I can't bear to turn it on during the warm months). To my surprise, it's quite easy to cut the dessert into uniform squares, which hold their shape. The balance of sweet and salty is perfect. I can imagine that this would be wonderful with other citrus fruits, though perhaps better with those on the sour/bitter end of the scale, since all the sugar comes from the condensed milk and I wouldn't want it any sweeter.
Fluffofstuff August 9, 2019
I’m only 5 hours in to this recipe and being 5 months pregnant I needed A preview taste. I had to use Persian limes because that’s all my store had I’m wondering if that’s affecting the acidity ? I was like where’s the lime ? I followed the recipe to a T, it was easy and beautiful. I’m hoping that overnight and the next two days the acid comes through more or if using Persian limes affected the taste ? Will try again though for sure, thank you for sharing !
Fluffofstuff August 23, 2019
Update:: I just made this again but used lemons and biscoff cookies.
Exact same proportions as the recipe calls for. It’s bangin. I think it set up in the fridge for about 7 hours. Go for the lemon too, why not? The biscoff cookies tastes like a perfectly balanced pie crust it’s just so good. Will try the lime again with bigger limes next time as well.
drbabs August 26, 2019
I just made it with lime juice and gluten free crackers for a party, and ended up using an extra 1/4 cup of the lime juice and tripling the zest in order to get the lime flavor. Everyone loved it.
CLK July 21, 2019
This is delicious. For some reason, I thought it might be good frozen. It is! It is like a frozen custard, also delicious. It scooped out easily like a no-churn ice cream.
melissa Y. June 17, 2019
It's the perfect summer party recipe: It really does take only ten minutes. And one bowl. And can be made the night before. The only bad thing: You will eat seconds. And thirds. And if you picnic long enough, fourths. It is crazy delicious exactly as written and will be a standard at all BBQs from today. (If you don't want leftovers, I'd halve the recipe for less than 10 adults. It makes a very large amount.)