The origins of Key Lime pie are a little murky. Some accounts say that a woman named ‘Aunt Sally’ invented this lovely combination of cinnamon graham crackers, tart Key Limes, and fluffy meringue. But many historians say that the Bahamian sponge and conch divers were the first to whip it all the local limes with egg and sweetened condensed milk – not whipping cream or milk – but that super thick, canned, sweet goodness. So for all of you out there who absolutely love Key Lime pie, you can whisper a little thank you to my ancestors. Or you can thank me directly. Either way works for me.
Oh, and I hate to break it to you, but the majority of Key Lime pies served in restaurants are either 1). artificially colored (Key Lime pie is supposed to be yellow, mainly due to the egg yolks, 2). aren’t made with real Key limes, but with your run-of-the-mill Persian limes since real Key limes are hard to come by, 3). all of the above. Luckily for me, my neighborhood Lowe’s Foods had just restocked Key lime, so I was able to make a pure Key Lime pie. Now, I’m not saying that I’m above using a substitute, but it’s always great to stay as close to the original recipe as I can.
This is another one of those quintessential summer recipes. You don’t have to keep your oven on for very long, which is always a plus in my books. It’s super light, so you can play cornhole without being weighed down by dessert. You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge already. Plus, it’s absolutely delicious. So go ahead, check your local grocery stores for Key lime and wow your friends and family with this perfect pie.
Key Lime Pie
Recipe Adapted from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook
For the Crust
- 10 full graham cracker sheets
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
- 2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice (about 20 key limes) or 1/2 cup regular lime juice plus 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
For the Meringue
- 3 large egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- In a food processor, finely ground the graham crackers.
- Add the butter, sugar, lime zest, and salt to the food processor and pulse until well combined
- Press the mixture into the bottom and along the sides of a 9-inch tart pan. One with a removable bottom works best, but a regular one will work, too.
- Bake for 10 minutes, or until crisp and set aside (leave the oven on)
- Meanwhile, in bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until fluffy.
- Gradually add the condensed milk and beat until thick, then beat in the lime juice.
- Pour the the filling into the baked crust and return to the oven to bake for an another 10 minutes, or until set.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Increase the oven temperature to 450F.
- In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until foamy.
- Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.
- Gradually, add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add the vanilla at the end.
- Scoop the meringue onto the lime filling, using a spatula to make swoops.
- Make for 5 minutes, or until the meringue sets and browns in spots.
- Cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature or chilled.