Traditional Key Lime Pie




Introduction: Traditional Key Lime Pie

Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a Key Lime Pie snob. Most just ignore me. Others put up with my quizzing the waitress on what color the Key Lime Pie is. (Hint: Its NOT green) My girlfriend just rolls her eyes and politely informs the waitress I am the a fore mentioned snob and orders a coffee.

The recipe I have used for the past 10 years I originally found on a site dedicated to key limes. Unfortunately I cannot find that site, but did come across the exact recipe on GourmetSleuth. I will say, once you see how easy it is to make, I really believe you will become a Key Lime Pie snob, too.

And for the record... Key Lime Pies are YELLOW!


  • Crust
    • 16 graham crackers, crushed
    • 1 stick (1/4 lb) margarine or butter
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Pie
    • 4 large or extra large egg yolks
    • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
    • 1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (approximately 12 key limes)
    • 2 teaspoons key lime zest (that is the green portion only)

*** Hey! If you like what I pulled together for this Instructable, perhaps you might give it a vote for the PI/E Day Contest!

Step 1: Mix Crust Ingredients...

To start off, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).

Now, let's NOT go and grab one of those store bought graham cracker crusts. Sure they can make it quick and easy, but they have so much more in them than graham crackers, butter and sugar. And its not that much harder to make it at home.

Start with crushing 16 graham crackers into a semi-fine powder. You can employ a food processor here and get a finer powder, but throwing them into a bowl and crushing them with your hands is rather satisfying, ah, I mean sufficient!

Mix in the 3 tablespoons of sugar

Soften or melt the 1/4 lb of butter and mix it through. 15 - 20 seconds in the microwave gets it soft enough to work into the mixture easily.

Step 2: Form the Pie Crust...

Grab your 9" pie pan. Mine happens to be glass, but go with the one you have.

Pour the graham cracker mixture into the pan and start forming the crust. Start with pressing the mixture evenly around the pan with the back of your fingers. Work out from the center all the way around to the edges. Then pinch up the sides with your left thumb and the knuckle of your right index finger. Be sure to press the mixture together firmly.

Place in the preheated 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) oven for 12 minutes or until toasted golden.

Place on cooling rack when done.

Step 3: Zest the Limes...

Prior to juicing the limes you will want to get the zest from them. Much easier with the limes whole. I have on more than one occasion missed this step and had to zest the juiced lime halves. No fun!

Remember, we want only the zest, which is the very outer part of the rind. Stop zesting when you see white, move on to a different part of the lime. While it's not easy getting the zest from these little guys, you will pick up a rhythm. I firmly hold the lime in position so it doesn't roll as I draw it down the grater. Use a medium pressure against the grater, you don't want it biting in too deep and get the white pith (very bitter). When you reach the end of the grater, rotate the lime so a different part list against the grater. Repeat this process of drawing the lime across the grater until you gather about two (2) teaspoons of zest.

BTW, a cheese grater will work, too. As always, mind your fingers.

Step 4: Juice the Limes...

Just a quick reminder. If you have not already zested the limes, do so now. I am not saying you can't do it later, but trust me it's not easy. OK?

Alright. Now at this point you may look at you pile of limes and think, "Do I really want to go through all that work just to get the juice? Heck, there's a bottle of the stuff in my fridge!". Now I am not going to tell you I have not gone the way of the bottled juice. There are times when key limes are not to be found. But I will tell you that the juice you get from the lime you juice yourself is SO much better.

So let's get started.

Halve the 12 limes. Begin juicing them with your citrus juicer. I have used both manual and motorized ones. Either way, these little limes get slippery and they can be tough to hold onto. Luckily, by the time you are about to loose your grip you are done. They are just that small. One thing to note; most juicers are sized to handle a lemon or an orange. The key lime barely covers the tip of the juicing cone. Be sure to move it around a bit side to side as the point doesn't get all the juice if you just push straight down .

After doing this 24 time, you should have about a 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice.

Step 5: Mix the Pie Filling...

At this point the hardest part is over. All that is left is to combine all the ingredients and stir.

Start with the 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk. It will be thick, so scrape out all of that sticky sweetness so as not to miss a drop.

Next, add the 4 egg yolks.

Followed by the 1/2 cup lime juice and 2 teaspoons of lime zest.

Stir until combined. You are looking for a homogeneous mixture

Step 6: Pour Pie Filling Into Crust...

This next step is even easier!

Take your prepared and cooled (doesn't have to be cold) pie crust and pour into it the pie filling. Give it a little shake to encourage those air bubbles out. Then place it in the 350 degree F (177 degrees C) oven for 12 minutes.

Now for the chemistry lesson. Stop groaning. I will be quick.

The key lime juice did most of the heavy lifting of killing the bacteria in the eggs and setting the pie thanks to a chemical reaction with the sweetened condensed milk. The heat really just sets the pie into a more firm state. The recipe is thought to go back to when Sponge fisherman made the pies at sea. Yep, we are talking about no baking at all.

OK, chemistry lesson over. See, that wasn't so bad.

Once the time has expired, pull the pie out of the oven and let cool. It will set further.

Step 7: Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor...

I typically let mine cool overnight before I put it into the refrigerator. That is if I am not already eating it. Be sure to cover it with plastic wrap to keep it from picking up any unwanted flavors from other foods in your refrigerator.

I trust that once you have gotten over the learning curve you can see how simple and quick this recipe is. I can usually get a pie made in 35 minutes, from start to finish. The hardest part is the juicing.

One final note on the color. I hope you can now see why I harped about the fact that key limes pies are not green. They are in fact yellow from the color of the egg yokes and sweetened condensed milk. Heck, even the lime juice is on the yellowish side. And a truly ripe lime is yellowing, not green.

BTW, the little pooch sitting in the kitchen watching me do all this work is named Sasha. She is my 2 year old Portuguese Water Dog. And no, she is not normally that calm.

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7 years ago

We made it! Little tiny changes on the recipe but it was definitely a hit. This is like the fourth time we made it.

lemon pie.jpg

7 years ago

Hooray, a true key lime pie! I always cringe when I see those green ones. For a true Key West variation save the egg whites and use them to make a meringue topping. With four eggs you'll probably have enough to not only cover the whole pie but to make some cookies too. Good luck on the contest!


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

LOL! I was going to expound on the use of the egg whites, but stopped thinking I ranted enough.


7 years ago on Introduction

Nothing better than a tasty key lime pie! Thanks for sharing!


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

You are so welcome. Post a picture if you make one.