This really is the BEST Key Lime Pie ever! The recipe comes straight from the Sunshine State and is everything you want a key lime pie to be: luscious, creamy, and a bit tart with a gorgeous nutty crust to balance it out. If you are going to the trouble of making a key lime pie, don’t you want to make the best? After years of making key lime pies, I stumbled upon a few small tricks that make all the difference.
Why This Recipe Makes the BEST Key Lime Pie
First of all, I never thought I’d write a recipe for key lime pie. It’s is a basic recipe that doesn’t warrant much change. What could I possibly add to make it better?
An idea and a mistake.
Last Thanksgiving I made a key lime pie to go with our stone crabs and champagne. (It was a fabulous Florida-themed holiday. Ironically, eating locally and seasonally made this menu more harvest-focused than a traditional Thanksgiving feast.) I prefer the elegant shape of a tart shell to a pie pan, and appreciate how much easier it is to cut a slice. I also suspected that a tart would yield a better crust-to-filling ratio for this pie. I was right! Usually you need a good amount of whipped cream to cut though the pucker of a key lime pie. Using a tart shell allows the sweet graham cracker crust to do its job balancing the key lime’s tartness. (I also added a few extra graham crackers to make it a touch thicker.)
My mistake was reading the baking temperature and time for a different recipe. I put the crust into a hotter oven and left it in longer than I should have. Its edges were darker than I’d ever seen after a first bake. I thought I’d ruined the pie, but it turned out to be a happy accident. The crust tasted better than ever, and its texture was a perfect crisp contrast to the luscious filling.
Living in Miami means I have unlimited access to key lime pie. We travel to the Florida Keys often, and I have sampled many key lime pies that claim to be the best. I even have a favorite, must-eat in Key West. It was an absolute shock that my small changes produced such a dramatic result. My husband and I kept on eating it and eating it, amazed at how delicious it was. It is perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, crisp and smooth, buttery and bright.
Now it is yours:
Graham Cracker Crust Tips & Tricks
This graham cracker crust is super easy to make. TIME SAVER: You don’t need to melt butter first if you are using a food processor, just blitz it all together.
One of this recipe’s secrets is the longer cooking time on the crust. It really makes a difference.
- 12 honey graham crackers
- 6 Tbs butter, cubed (If unsalted, add a pinch of sea salt.)
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 2 Tbs. key lime zest
- ½ cups key lime juice
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
- pinch of sea salt
- 8 oz. heavy cream
- 1 t vanilla
- 1 T sugar
- Preheat oven to 350º. Place the graham crackers, butter, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until it is the texture of wet sand. (No, you don't need to melt the butter first. This is easier!)
- Press the mixture evenly into a tart shell using your fists gently. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet to make your life easier. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Reduce heat to 325°. Mix the zest, juice, yolks, condensed milk and a tiny pinch of sea salt together in a bowl. Pour over the cool crust and bake (on a baking sheet again) for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool, and then chill in the refrigerator for about 6 hours.
- To make whipped cream it is best to chill your beaters and bowl for 5 minutes in the freezer. Mix cream, vanilla, and sugar together until it stiffens. If you over-mix, you will have butter. Dollop on pie or use a pastry bag with a star tip to make a fancy design.
- Eat your heart out!
You will need about 9-10 key limes for this recipe.
If you don't have a food processor, put your graham crackers in a bag and whack them with a rolling pin or frying pan. Melt the butter and mix it with the crumbs and sugar in a small bowl and press it into a tart shell.
The Difference Between Key Limes & Regular Limes
Key limes are smaller, more yellow, and have a bright, distinctive flavor that is different from an ordinary lime. If you don’t have key limes available, you can use Persian limes (That’s the variety of limes we use most often). It will be delicious, but slightly different. You will need about 9-10 key limes for this recipe.