Key Lime Pie




About: It is my personal goal to learn how to do and/or make everything before I die. Just in case there is an apocalypse and I have to do it all myself.

Here you will learn to make real key lime pie. Key lime pie is yellow, not green. If you order it at a restaurant and it is green, it's a fake. Or, it is really moldy. The key lime is a tiny, yellowish lime native to Florida.

Fortunately, key lime pie is really easy to make and only takes an hour or less. For this instructable, I will be using "Nellie and Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice", because fresh key limes are hard to come by in Michigan. A local chef gave me this tip. It is almost impossible to tell the difference.

I will make the graham cracker crust, but you can buy one pre-made from the grocery store and that will save you at least half an hour.

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Step 1: Gather Ingredients

16 graham crackers, crushed
1/4 lb. butter, or butter substitute
3 tbls sugar

or, buy a pre-made graham cracker pie crust

Key Lime Filling
1/2 cup "Nellie and Joe's" key lime juice, or the juice of 12 to 15 key limes
4 egg yolks
2 tsp lime zest
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)

Step 2: Gather Tools

Mixing bowls
A way to crush the graham crackers
Mixing spoons
Measuring spoons
Measuring cup
9 inch pie pan
Kitchen scale (optional)

Step 3: Crush the Graham Crackers

Use your hands (freshly washed, of course), a clean wooden hammer, a marble pestle, a food processor, or blender. Just get them good and smashed up to crumbs.

Step 4: Add Sugar and Butter

Add 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 pound (115 grams) butter, or butter substitute. I like Olivio. It tastes buttery, but is better for you. I melted the Olivio in the microwave for 30 seconds to make it easier to mix together.

Stir it up.

Step 5: Place Mixture Into Pie Pan

Place the graham cracker mixture into the pie pan and spread out a thin layer, maybe 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick.

Step 6: Bake the Crust

Bake the crust for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Take the crust out of the oven and let it cool down.

Step 7: Let's Make the Filling

Separate 4 egg yolks. Use a separator from the kitchen gadget store or use the old-fashioned technique.

Using the two halves of the egg shell, transfer the yolk back and forth over a cup. The white will drop off. Put the yolks in a separate bowl.

Stir the yolks up well. They should be a smooth, even, yellow consistency.

Step 8: Sweetened Condensed Milk

Add one 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk to the egg yolks.

Warning: This is important. Make sure you get "Sweetened Condensed Milk", not evaporated milk. Many people make this mistake and the filling will not gel. They both come in cans and are sold next to each other at the grocery.

Mix well.

Step 9: Prepare the Lime

1. Pour half the lime juice (1/4 cup) into the egg/milk mixture and stir well.

1a. (Optional Step)
Grate a couple of teaspoons of lime zest. Lime zest is the green outer skin. Do not grate the white skin from under the green. That is really bitter. Use a fine tooth grater. Add the gratings to the remaining juice. I have added the zest of a more common persian lime. I like the little green flecks in the pie. Ideally, you would add zest of the key lime. Or, you can skip the zest altogether.

2. Add the rest of the juice to the mixture and mix well.

Step 10: Fill the Cooled Pie Crust and Bake

The pie crust should be cool to room temp and stiff. Pour in the filling

Put the pie back in the oven for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

After the 12 minutes, put the pie on a cooling rack. It should be set up and gelled now. Wait until it cools, then put it into the refrigerator for later.

Server with a dallop of whipped cream, if you like, but it is traditionally served without.

Step 11: All Done. Enjoy!


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    21 Discussions

    Bette Midler

    6 years ago on Introduction

    We read in the Food Journal Magazine a few years back that the Beautiful Anita Pelaez uses real key limes for her Famous Key Lime Pies that her husband Kutchie grows himself on a couple of farms that the couple own somewhere in Florida. We can really taste the difference in Anita's Key Lime Pies from the other bakers who don't use the genuine thing. A big-big difference! You wouldn't think that something so small could make such a big difference but it surly does.

    thanks, Farrah

    1 reply

    i've only ever made key lime pie from the sherriff brand adding fresh key limes, i am defiantly going to try this recipe especially considering i have a pound of key limes in my fridge with nothing to make thx for the recipe :DD


     Your filling tastes pretty good but real key lime pie has a flaky crust, not graham
    crackers. We get The Real Thing, "The World's Greatest Key Lime Pie", From
    Kutchie's Key West Cafe. Kutchie Pelaez Makes Authentic Key Lime Pies from
    his Grandmother's 1920's Secret Recipe. Only Kutchie, knows the Secret Recipe. Many have tried and just as many have failed to even come close to
    Kutchie's Famous Key Lime Pies. It was said that Kutchie's Pie was the one that Kenny Chesney Recorded His Key Lime Pie Song About. We also Heard
    that Kutchie's Goody Goody Cheese Burgers are the Ones that Jimmy Buffet
    were inspired by to write his cheese borger song..........Of course, It could all
    be just rumores. The Fact Is, Kutchie's Key Lime Pie Is The Best Ever. I Think
    Every Body Knows That After All These Years!

    Vinne Gambini,.... New York

    1 reply

    Thanks for the comment, Vinne.  YOU wouldn't happen to know the secret recipe, would you?  Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.

    I will have to make my way to Kutchie's next time I am down there.  the truth is, I was never very successful at making a flaky crust. Mine just gets kind of dense.



    10 years ago on Introduction

    The May/June 2003 issue of the Everyday Food magazine has a nearly identical recipe, with the sole addition of toasted pecans in the crust. Great recipe!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, and also its lemon juice instead of lime. I actually like this version better, especially with the little bits of lime zest!! Delicious!!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Any lime juice would work. The Mexican limes are what are used here. I have to giggle every time I see Key Lime pie. About a year ago I drive through Kansas and visited a little country restaurant. They had Key Lime pie on the menu so I had to try it. It was made from green Jello pudding and had no lime flavor at all. When I was paying for the meal the lady asked me how I liked the pie. I honestly told her I had never had anything like it. She proudly said, "It's hard to get good Key Lime pie here." I silently agreed with her. Thanks for posting this. Maybe they'll see it in Kansas.

    3 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    True, dchall8. But if it doesn't have key limes, it's not key lime pie. It's just lime pie.... which is plenty good! :D


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    degroof recommends "Floribbean" Key Lime Juice in a later post, but I have never had it. I would guess any key lime juice that you can find would probably work well.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    True its yellow if you dont add food coloring,add 2 green and 1 blue you get it very green, though its true that some restaurants just use jello AND this recipe is great, ver similar to the on i already have, bu good :)

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    As a designer, I don't like the idea of adding an unnecessary ingredient like food coloring. I tend to gravitate towards the natural look of things. But if you prefer green lime pie, have fun. It is a personal thing. Thanks for your input.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I prefer Floribbean over Nellie and Joe's but either will do in a pinch. I made it using actual Key limes once. Lotta work but it tasted good.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I found a fruit market just the other day that carries key limes. I would like to get over there and pick some up. If anyone here is from Michigan, the have key limes at Randazzo's Fruit and Vegetable Market in Westland.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Being from the UK, the first time I saw this was on Friends lol This looks lovely Great pictures, nice steps. What would be equivalent to the Key Lime juice in the UK. Would normal lime juice work or is it to bitter?