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February 24 2009 by Kristin at The Kitchen Sink in Dessert,Recipe » 35 comments


When you’re at your wit’s end with winter—ready to send your scarf through the paper shredder at work; shuddering at the term “root vegetable”; shaking the very last penny out of your piggy bank in order to book a one-way ticket to Maui—do this: take a deep breath, slowly back away from the Orbitz “buy now” button, say no to the shredder and make yourself a Key lime pie.


With one bite—one silken, puckery, refreshing bite—you’ll be transported, if only mentally, to the kind of place where palm fronds swish in the breeze, where socks are a distant memory, and where you will recall that you actually love root vegetables and can’t wait to eat them again next winter. A slice of Key lime pie, you see, is a little bit like blinding sunshine—nestled right in a nubbly graham cracker crust. And, in these last gasps of winter, that is nothing to sneeze at.


So gather up a bag of key limes, a can of sweetened condensed milk and some graham crackers and you’ll be halfway to summer. For a pie that’s a kissing cousin of lemon meringue pie, key lime pie is a heck of a lot easier to make. Forget weepy meringues and needy pate brisee. All you need is a little elbow grease for juicing the limes (and patience; those suckers are small). Aside from that, it’s a snap.


Grind up some graham crackers in the food processor and swirl in a bit of melted butter, some sugar and a pinch of salt. Press that heavenly mixture into the bottom of a pie plate—flat against the bottom and up the sides of the plate.


While the crust is baking, whisk together the eggs and milk until the mixture is smooth and a little reminiscent of eggnog (Shame on me! We’re trying to escape winter, not harken back to December! Still, the resemblance is uncanny.). Whisk in the lime juice and zest, which will give you a pale green (SJP might call it “barely mint”) cream, speckled with threads of zest.


Pour the mixture into the pie shell—and enjoy this part, the way the filling falls in broad, lazy ribbons—and bake it up. All that’s left is the hard part: waiting.


It’s got to cool and chill for at least a few hours, but when it has, it will have been worth the wait, I promise. Just as I’m sure the wait for winter’s end will seem worthwhile, once we get that first perfect spring day.

Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Gourmet

For crust:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt

For filling:*
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
zest of two Key limes
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed, strained Key lime juice

Make crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, butter and salt in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.

Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie:

Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice, zest and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

* The one quibble with the recipe was the crust-to-filling ratio—the amount of filling left the pie only about half full. To fix this, you could probably almost double the filling. That said, I kind of liked the more restrained, thin layer of filling. It was more a visual thing, than a taste thing.

35 comments so far. »
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  1. Amy says on February 24 2009 at 8:12 pm:

    You captured my sentiments about the last few cold days, exactly!

    Love your beautiful photos and inspiring recipes. The key lime pie and lemon muffins are at the top of my list of things to make next.

  2. Whitney Merritt says on February 24 2009 at 8:29 pm:

    Beautiful Key LIme PIe! I made one for Dave for Valentine’s Day (it is his favorite) and while it turned out tasty, it wasn’t nearly as pretty as yours.

    At least its going to be above freezing tomorrow..right? Right??

  3. Kaitlin says on February 24 2009 at 9:22 pm:

    Oh my goodness-I LOVE your blog. Your photography is stunning, your taste excellent…I am so happy to have found you! Keep up the good work!

  4. Amanda Boyce says on February 24 2009 at 9:32 pm:

    I often forget about Key Lime Pie, sadly. And you are absolutely right, it is much easier to make than the potentially tempermental lemon meringue pie. I like how this pie is almost a key lime tart. Thin and gorgeous!

  5. Vicki says on February 24 2009 at 11:13 pm:

    My mom made something similar when I was a kid, but with bottled lime juice, and, I think, lime jello. I can’t wait to make the real thing!

  6. Jennifer says on February 25 2009 at 4:57 am:


  7. Anticiplate says on February 25 2009 at 6:49 am:

    This was my favorite dessert as a child. That and cheesecake. There is something so comforting about it. I love the picture of all the juiced limes and the zest.

  8. Brynn says on February 25 2009 at 7:07 am:

    Ahhh, key lime pie, the direct path to my heart!! I was just fawning over my new issue of Gourmet – with all KEY LIME recipes inside the back cover. Can’t wait to try this recipe.

  9. robin says on February 25 2009 at 7:43 am:

    February would certainly be unbearable without citrus. Thanks for reminding me of what fun I should be having! Can’t wait to try.

  10. amy says on February 25 2009 at 8:00 am:

    Why do I never think to make key lime pie? It looks so utterly refreshing and creamy and tart…just what I want to counteract the huge bin of root vegetables I *still* have to get through. The colors in the photos look nice against your new layout! :)

  11. Allison says on February 25 2009 at 8:47 am:

    I gasped when you threatened to send the scarfs to the shredder… DON’T DO IT! But please DO send me a piece of this! Looks awesome!

  12. nicole says on February 25 2009 at 11:10 am:

    Oh, MAN. I am craving this something fierce right now! (And did I mention? LOVE the redesign. It’s quite fabulous.)

  13. Gena says on February 26 2009 at 9:02 am:

    Today, as a result of a horrendous day at work, i have decided to leave early, head straight to the supermarket (or supermercado-as it is called by my house) and pick up a bunch of those happy little key limes in an effort to replicate that gorgeous picture.

    Thanks for the hint of spring.

  14. Joy says on February 26 2009 at 9:07 am:

    Fab photos, looks soooo tasty, I’ve decided to make this for my mothers birthday party this coming monday!

    How many limes do you think you used for the 1/2 cup plus two table spoons of juice? Also did you use a specific kind of lime?

    Your new digs are great!

  15. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on February 26 2009 at 10:47 am:

    Amy: Thank you! Sounds like a citrusy outlook for you!

    Whitney: Yours looks great! I think our “warm spell” is over, sadly.

    Kaitlin: Thanks so much!

    Amanda: Yes, recipes like this make me want to give up other fussy recipes (lemon meringue, I’m looking at you) for good. Alas, I know I’ll be back.

    Vicki: Oh I’m positive we have a couple family recipes involving both of those ingredients. : ) I humbly predict that you’ll like this better.

    Jennifer: It was a stunner, wasn’t it?

    Anticiplate: What a refined palate! I agree on the comfort of creamy desserts like this.

    Brynn: Those Key Lime Margaritas have our name all over them, no?

    robin: Perish the thought!

    Amy: Thanks! Yes, I think you’ve earned Key Lime Pie, given all those root vegetables you’re dealing with.

    Ali: I’m thinking it won’t ship well. We’ll make it for your next visit!

    Nicole: Thank you!

    Gena: Oh wow, that is an early departure indeed! I hope the Key Lime turns it all around.

    Joy: Great idea! I used about 20 limes. And they were Key Limes. Let us know how it goes!

  16. ingrid says on February 26 2009 at 11:20 am:

    My jaw started tingling at your photos which by the way are fabulous!

    I’d so like a slice of that.

    Hang in there spring is just around the corner!

  17. tina says on February 26 2009 at 11:45 am:

    looks great! would this turn out OK replacing coconut milk for the condensed milk?

  18. holler says on February 26 2009 at 5:21 pm:

    Wow, that looks amazing! I want a slice.
    Yuo won’t believe this, but I managed to break my microplane grater. It snapped clean away in my hand, I had to take it back, couldn’t be without it.

  19. Melissa says on February 26 2009 at 5:54 pm:

    I just thankfully discovered last year that I like key lime pie. Very much. You did an outstanding job and this really would be a nice sunny zing in the midst of winter.

    Your photos look even more beautiful than ever. Go camera go! ;)

  20. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on February 26 2009 at 8:16 pm:

    ingrid: Thank you! (And I hope so!)

    tina: Hmm. I’m not sure about that. They’re similar in terms of consistency and sweetness, but sweetened condensed milk is really a key lime staple. I’d be interested to know how it turned out. Do let us know if you try it!

    holler: Oh, no! Hope you got a replacement!

    Melissa: Aww, thank you! And, I hope you’re making up for lost Key Lime Pie time …

  21. Sophie says on February 27 2009 at 3:43 pm:

    I’ve definitely had my fill of cold winter days, but I don’t know if I could have too much of this gorgeous pie–the photos conjure up images of warm summer days!

  22. Betsy says on February 28 2009 at 9:48 pm:

    What a great looking pie – wonderful colors and photography! My mom makes a low fat version with bottled key lime juice that is really tasty, though not quite as colorful. Yum!

  23. Joy says on March 03 2009 at 9:10 am:

    Well, I made this key lime pie for my mothers birthday party last night. It turned out beautifully and it was a hit!

    I have to say though, I had never had key lime pie before and I’ve found that I didn’t like it so much. It is just way to tart and rich for my taste.

    I did double the filling and it filled the crust perfectly! I ended up squeezing (with my very own hands) 45 of those tiny little key limes!! (my reamer didn’t work very well on them)

    I do have one question. Did you strain the pulp from the juice before adding to the other ingredients? I left the pulp in, but wonder if it altered the taste/tartness some?

    I’m not so sure I’ll be making this again, but it was well worth the time and effort! I do love baking, new and different recipes are always fun to experience!


  24. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on March 03 2009 at 9:32 am:

    Sophie: I have had way more than my fill! (Of both the pie and winter days.)

    Betsy: Thank you!

    Joy: WOW! That’s a lot of limes to juice. I think those handheld crusher/juicer things would be best, but I was able to use my small handheld wooden reamer. And, yes, I strained the juice. I’ve updated the recipe to reflect that, though I’m not sure it makes a difference in anything other than texture. If it was too tart (which is what I love about key lime pie), you could omit the zest. I hesitate to say you should boost the sugar, because you mentioned it was too rich. Maybe key lime pie just isn’t for you?

    I am really glad to hear that the doubled fillling works. I think that will be helpful for others. Thanks for the report!

  25. Emily says on March 04 2009 at 2:07 pm:

    Kristen, I didn’t know it was possible to love a stranger so much. Your entry is completely timely–I’m heading to Florida for my last law school spring break in two weeks, and I’m just starting the recipe/shopping list. I had no idea it was such a simple recipe!!!

  26. Tania says on March 06 2009 at 10:16 am:

    I am new to your site. You have captivated me with your writing skills and your lovely photos.

    I cannot wait to try this key lime pie.

    Thank you for sharing.

  27. Kim says on March 11 2009 at 1:15 pm:

    I’ve been making Key lime pie since before we moved to Florida – back then, it was a great way to get us in that tropical frame of mind. My 18 year old son insists on Key lime pie for his birthday every year instead of cake.

    One way to counterbalance the tartness is to top the pie with sweetened whipped cream. It adds a lovely creaminess to the pie. (It’s also less fussy than meringue, which is the other way to dress a Key lime pie.)

  28. Antonia says on March 12 2009 at 6:07 am:

    I adore Key lime pie but have never been able to re-create it back here in the UK. We can’t get hold of Key limes (…or graham crackers for that matter). I’ve tried making it with regular limes but it just doesn’t seem to be quite the same. I think I may try this recipe though as it looks so wonderful. I’d love a slice right now!

  29. Amy says on March 13 2009 at 9:19 pm:

    Hi Kristin–

    I just discovered your blog (saw the link on Pioneer Woman cooks…) and it is beautiful! I made your red velvet cupcakes last weekend for my brother’s birthday and they were a hit, which was a relief because they are his favorite and the recipe I tried last year was a total bomb…

    Anyway, I want to try this recipe but I am wondering if I can use regular limes? Do you know? Would it ruin everything? I just happen to have a bunch of limes in the fridge and, even if I didn’t, I’m not sure where I would get my hands on Key limes. Let me know what you think! Thanks!

  30. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on March 14 2009 at 9:05 am:

    Amy: Welcome! Glad to hear that the red velvet cupcakes worked out! And I think you can use regular limes — you’ll just get a slightly different flavor. I think key limes are a bit more tart than regular limes, so to compensate, you could boost the amount of zest a bit if you use regular limes. Let us know how it goes!

  31. Kanella says on March 18 2009 at 1:17 pm:

    Oh my does this look good. I now know what I’ll be doing this wekeknd.

  32. Taylor says on March 18 2009 at 1:58 pm:

    I made this just now… it smells delicious!!! I love your blog so much!

  33. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says on April 04 2009 at 11:37 pm:

    Oh my, oh my, oh my. . .what I wouldn’t give for a slice of this right now. Gorgeous!

  34. Bingo says on April 21 2009 at 10:10 am:

    Last year I decided it was time to try making Key Lime Pie. This is the exact recipe that I used. Because the filling didn’t “fill” the pie plate, I made a topping of sour cream and confectioner’s sugar (got the idea from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe on foodnetwork.com). Then sprinkled a little more lime zest on top. Perfect! Glad to see that you’ve tried this recipe too.

  35. [...] Or more like Lemon-Lime Pie, because I only had lime juice and real lemons. I added some lemon zest to make it feel more like the recipe, and because I love lemon. When I was making it, I started the filling too early, so it started to get pretty thick, reminding me of some Lemon Bars Mom likes to make with sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. Anyway, I’d suggest waiting until the crust is cooked before you start making the filling to avoid any mishaps (it wasn’t too bad though). I also thought of making it a coconut key lime pie, making it with coconut milk or flaked coconut. I might work on that. I got the recipe here. [...]

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