This iconic tart dessert is unbelievably easy to make.

Craving key lime pie? Start with a graham cracker crust and you're already halfway there! At its simplest form, a real key lime pie is a basic curd made of egg yolks, condensed milk, and the juice of real key limes. Mixed all together, it's baked until set in a buttery graham cracker crust and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. That's it!

This is the inspiration recipe that I streamlined a bit to make the recipe faster. You can absolutely make the pie crust from scratch and whip the cream yourself, but this half-homemade version is just as good.

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup of key lime juice
  • zest of 1 "regular" Persian lime (optional)
  • 1 graham cracker crust (8" or 9")

limes

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the egg yolks, condensed milk, and key lime juice until thickened and no streaks of egg yolk are visible. If you're using the lime zest, add it to the mix and stir well before pouring into the graham cracker crust. This recipe will fill an 8" crust well, and leave more headroom on a 9" crust. Don't worry—you can fill that in with a whipped cream border.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and let it cool for about fifteen minutes. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours before topping with sweetened whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping.

You can create a simple decoration by melting some white chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds at a time, then stir until smooth) tinted with a few drops of green food coloring. Using a sandwich bag with a hole snipped from one corner, pipe little shapes on a piece of foil and refrigerate until firm.

pie

Notes

  • Key limes are smaller than "regular" Persian limes, and often yellow when they're ripe. Because their skin is so thin, you'll want to zest a Persian lime for the pie filling. If you see a bag of key limes, go ahead and juice them all and freeze the leftover juice in 1/4 cup portions to use later.
  • Some recipes will tell you that bottled key lime juice is an acceptable substitute, but I would steer clear. Fresh key lime juice is bright and tart, without any bitter overtones. If you can't find key limes, just use fresh Persian limes instead.
  • Yes, key lime juice is really pale yellow. Real key lime pie should be a sunny yellow color because of the egg yolks and not an artificial shade of green.
  • The next time I make this, I'll go the extra mile and make the pie crust myself. The storebought crust was extremely thin and crispy. I may also experiment with a bit of coconut meringue on top for a "lime in the coconut" pie...

*The photos in this article are by Sarina Petrocelly.

Do you have a favorite version of key lime pie or an incredible variation? Tell us about it in the comments!