Key lime pie is often thought of as a summer pie, probably because it is so light and refreshing. Actually, citrus fruits come into season in the late autumn and winter, so this is the perfect time to make a Key lime pie.
For me, the best Key lime pie is sweet, but also very, very tart. The more tart it is, the better I like it. The meringue fell on this one, but I often scrape it off, anyway. This recipe is one I developed after trying several others.
Just For Fun
On a road trip a few years ago, just for fun, Bo and I taste-tested Key lime pie all the way from Miami Beach to Key West, and back. Some was very good, but not great. Some tasted as if the cook had put green food coloring into a bowl of Cool Whip! It was really bad.
One of the restaurants drizzled a bit of lime juice onto the plate, where it soaked into the crust. That was a nice touch which I have adopted. After that trip, I began experimenting, trying to develop the best key lime pie recipe I could. Below is the final result of my trial and error.
Fresh Key Lime Juice or Bottled? That is the Question
Until recently, I used fresh Key limes. That is a lot of work, and helps me to understand why Key lime pie is expensive in restaurants — it is very labor intensive. There is nothing wrong with using bottled Key lime juice. Just be sure to purchase the best you can get, and be sure it is not imitation juice, or made from concentrate. It’s just not worth it to compromise on flavor, and you can’t be sure what is in all those imitation products. The brand I have found to be reliable is Nellie & Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice. One bottle contains enough to make two pies. If you use only half of the contents, be sure to keep the rest refrigerated.
Key Lime Pie Recipe:
- 1 -1/4 cup Graham cracker crumbs (1 of the individually wrapped packages inside the box of Graham crackers equals 1-1/4 cup)
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted — or use a ready-made Graham cracker crust.
- Combine Graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. (If your crust doesn’t hold together as well as you want, add a little more melted butter.)
- Press mixture into pie plate.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 350 F. (It will be only partially baked.)
- Set aside to cool.
- 1 cup Key lime juice
- 2 14-ounce cans of Eagle Brand milk — or any sweetened condensed milk. I use one can of fat-free and one can of the original formula.
- In electric mixer, combine milk and lime juice.
- Pour mixture into partially baked pie crust.
Meringue Topping with a Twist:
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon Key lime juice
- In a glass or stainless steel bowl, beat egg whites at high speed until thick and foamy.
- Gradually add sugar, cream of tartar and lime juice while continuing to beat on high speed until mixture will form peaks.
- Spread meringue over pie filling, being sure it completely covers the filling.
- Bake at 325 for 25 – 30 minutes, depending on your oven. (This will finish baking the crust.)
- Chill for 8 hours before serving.
To Make the Crust or Not to Make the Crust?
The last few times I made this pie, I used a ready-made Graham cracker crust. Every time, when I opened the package, the crust was broken. I have gone back to making my own pie crust. Another plus to making my own is that it will be easier to get a slice of pie out of my glass pie pan than the aluminum foil pan that the ready-made crusts are in, because the little folded-over edge of the aluminum foil pan is always a problem.
Growing Citrus Trees Can Be Challenging
We have two of our own Meyer lemon trees, and one orange tree. We get wonderful lemons. The oranges, not so much. Maybe we should plant a Key lime tree instead.