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

August 28, 2018

Test Kitchen-Approved

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

Serves: 8 to 10
Prep time: 12 hrs 10 min

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  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.

More Great Recipes:
Cake|Pie|Colombian|Lime|Milk/Cream|Make Ahead|5 Ingredients or Fewer|Serves a Crowd|Chill|No-Cook|Quick and Easy|One-Bowl Baking

Reviews (39) Questions (1)

39 Reviews

judy November 25, 2018
HI: this is terrific. That being said, I did modify for my family needs/preferences, without too much difficulty. There are only two of us, so I easily halved the recipe. Used Graham crackers instead of Ritz and added a 1/2 tsp salt for teh saltiness of the omitted crackers. Used FULL amount of lime juice and zest as we like it to be puckery. Next time I will ad even more zest. But a GREAT and say substitute for key lime pie. Persian limes work great and are far juicer, in general than key limes. I only needed 3 to make my 1/2 cup, but use the full amount of juice yielded, about 2 tsp more--plus ALL the pulp and zest from these 3 limes. This will go in our rotation. Thank you again.
 
Virginia October 5, 2018
I rename this recipe Beach Pie. Because you can easily throw this together using a spatula, single bowl, a knife (all that was available in our rented beach house), and ingredients from the smallest corner store. And it is still delicious! I cut the recipe in half and then managed to whisk the remaining cream with a broken whisk to put on top (it really helped to cut the sweetness). The half recipe fit easily in a standard Pyrex pie pan. This recipe is a keeper.
 
Valerie September 16, 2018
Just made this for extended family. It was a hit, but so sweet people could only have very small amounts. Is there a way to reduce the amount of condensed milk but retain the texture of the mixture? Could it be made with just cream but add sugar? It’s so hard to control the sweetness when using condensed milk.
 
ninadora September 14, 2018
Outrageously good and easy. I need to make all the ice box cakes now. Everyone asked for the recipe. recipe
 
L E. September 13, 2018
So fast to make! Perfectly thick when chilled overnight. Used more lime juice, because we like things tart. Will definitely make again!
 
Emma September 11, 2018
Okay, this is good. And the taste reminds me of something but I can't think what. Unfortunately my husband is repelled by anything made with Ritz crackers due to being fed mock apple pie as a child. Luckily I made a half recipe!
 
Kim K. September 5, 2018
What a simple, delicious dessert that throws together in no time and gets even better over the next day or two. The Ritz crackers impart an almost pie-crusty flavor, making the perfect foil for the sweetness of the filling. Since I was serving a crowd, I tripled the ingredients and used a 9" x 13" pan. I'm thrilled to find this grown-up version of an icebox cake.
 
BakerRB September 4, 2018
Liked this a lot, but wasn’t quite tangy enough for me. Easily fixable for next time though. Love the idea of the passion fruit variation mentioned in the comments.
 
Zazzi September 3, 2018
I will be happy to share the recipe, but I figured it out it is from before the depression, so way older than 30 years. You will have to be a little patient, bought a new computer and not all files came over correctly, but will send as soon as I can.
 
Suzanne H. September 3, 2018
I’m making this tomorrow but was only able to get low salt Ritz. Will that work? Should I add more salt?
 
Kristen M. September 3, 2018
You might already have made it, but it should be good either way! I'm not familiar with low-salt Ritz, but I would probably just taste the cracker & cream together before assembling and decide if a couple pinches of salt would be nice for more balance.
 
Suzanne H. September 3, 2018
Thank you! I made without adding salt and it was delicious! But I would not hesitate to make with full salt Ritz
 
KB September 1, 2018
AHHH-mazing! So good. Hits the highlights of summer - light, easy, citrus, no heat! <br />
 
dinaofdoom August 30, 2018
This is a very good recipe I've made time and again during Texas summers, with gluten free crackers and regular. I would love to hear about variations.
 
Megan August 30, 2018
So I just made this and am letting it set overnight, but am a little worried. It only took me about 3 limes to make 1/2 cup lime juice so that seemed odd as it said 8 in the recipe. Also I got 3 layers of crackers in mine and I felt that the milk mixture didn’t really cover the crackers (it was a little bit thin) so now I’m worried I didn’t use enough lime juice to thicken it, even though it had the same consistency in the video. Will it thicken up overnight??
 
Kristen M. August 31, 2018
Don't worry! If you got a 1/2 cup, you're good (you must have had nice, juicy limes—the estimate of 8 is to help out people who end up with dry ones). It will thicken up overnight as the crackers absorb excess moisture and the creamy part chills.
 
dinaofdoom August 31, 2018
It has thickened up for me overnight/in the fridge. It takes some time for the crackers to absorb the liquid and soften.
 
Anna V. August 30, 2018
I lived in Colombia for a few years, and this was a requested dessert in my office for special lunches. The office cook would make a number of variations, including adding cream cheese for a cheesecake version or passionfruit. She is thrilled that her recipe is now in a cookbook :)
 
Maryann August 29, 2018
Is there any way to successfully halve this recipe? We are a family of two.
 
Cate August 29, 2018
Maryann, if you look above at the ingredients, I think you’ll find them very easy to halve. 1 tablespoon equals 3 teaspoons, so you will only need one and a half teaspoons of the lime zest. One can of sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup of cream, a quarter cup of lime juice and 5 ounces of Ritz crackers. It would be very easy to place the prepared dessert in individual desert containers as well. An 8 inch round dish, or an 8 x 8“ pan holds 6 cups which should be plenty for half size dessert. There are lots of options. Good luck!
 
HalfPint August 29, 2018
I have made this several times since Kenji posted it on Serious Eats. I can make this in my sleep. I think this even tastes better than traditional key lime pie.
 
chefpatty August 29, 2018
Would Pepperidge farms butterfly crackers work?
 
Kristen M. August 29, 2018
Yes, any crunchy, salty cracker (without something sneaky like onion or garlic powder) should work great—Ritz are relatively soft, so I'd be sure to give crisper crackers plenty of time to meld.
 
Zazzi August 29, 2018
I made the Atlantic Beach Pie with saltines, found it boring, changed to Ritz and is was much better. I have a recipe that is 30 years that is Ritz crackers, egg whites, sugar, walnuts. It tastes just like an apple pie. Oh, no crust is needed
 
LULULAND August 29, 2018
I would love the have the recipe for the 30 year old one with egg whites, please
 
Toddie August 29, 2018
Will this work with lemon? Not a big fan of lime.
 
Kristen M. August 29, 2018
Yes, it should, but you might want to taste after you've whisked it all together to make sure it tastes like a good balance of tangy and sweet to you (I bet it will).
 
Bob Q. August 29, 2018
Think crumbled graham cackers will work in this, or is the key the salt on the Ritz?
 
Jennifer H. August 29, 2018
The key is the salt. There is another pie, Atlantic Beach Pie, that uses Saltines and the key is the same...salt.
 
Kristen M. August 29, 2018
I agree with Jennifer—the salt is helpful in balancing the sweetness of the filling.