Tart, sweet, creamy, crunchy -- this is everything you could want in a perfect key lime pie!
By Allie Albanese
Bake a Key Lime Pie ✔
I’m making my way through my list of “what to make with my first ever crop of key limes” and naturally a key lime pie was a must! However, when it comes to this southern treat, I have verrrrrry high standards. I’ve eaten lots of very good and lots of very bad versions of this pie in my life, and have specific criteria for what makes a tasty one:
A creamy, more tart than sweet filling
A killer, not too thick and not too thin graham cracker crust
A lightly sweet whipped topping (Traditional style key lime pie is topped with meringue, but I prefer the more modern whipped cream style.)
My mom is an even tougher critic than me, so when she requested a “key lime pie with a pecan graham cracker crust like they make at Houston’s” (her very favorite), I knew I had my work cut out for me!
After reading about a million crust and pie recipes, I put together bits and pieces of different ones to come up with a pie to meet both of our stringent standards. And I must say, the result is DANG good! Tart, sweet, creamy, crunchy – this recipe passes allllll the tests!
Fun Fact: Key lime pie was first made in Key West, Florida in the late 1800s. At the time, modern refrigeration wasn’t a thing, so fresh milk wasn’t common. That’s why condensed milk was used instead! And next to key limes, it’s honestly what makes key lime pie, key lime pie.
PS: For those of you who don’t have access to key limes/key lime juice, simply swap it out with regular lime juice! The result is every bit as delicious.
KEY LIME PIE WITH PECAN GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
CRUST: 1 ¾ cups ground graham cracker crumbs (about 13-14 full cracker sheets)
½ cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon 8 tablespoons of butter, melted
FILLING: 1 ½ tablespoons lime zest 4 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk 2/3 cup fresh key lime or lime juice (squeezed from about 1 dozen key limes or 4 regular limes)
TOPPING: 1 cup heavy whipping cream 2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar, to taste
Lime zest to garnish (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine graham cracker crumbs, chopped pecans, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Stir until mixed well and there are no sugar clumps.
Add melted butter and mix until crumbs/pecans are evenly coated.
Press mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish. I use a deep dish pie plate, but a standard one works just as well – you may just end up with a bit extra graham cracker mixture depending on your dish.
Bake crust on the middle rack about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Set on a cooling rack while you prepare the filling. Leave the oven on.
Zest limes into the bottom of a medium bowl until you have 1 ½ tablespoons.
Add egg yolks to the zest and beat with an electric mixer until thick and pale in color, about 6 minutes.
Add sweetened condensed milk and beat again until thickened, about 4 more minutes.
Whisk key lime or lime juice into the mixture until combined.
Pour into the graham cracker crust and bake pie until set, about 11 minutes. Keep an eye on it, though, because you don’t want it to get browned on top at all.
Let pie cool completely before adding topping.
Add heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar to a medium bowl and beat until soft peaks form.
Spread cream over the top of the chilled pie leaving about an inch margin between the topping and the crust so that the color of the pie filling shows.
Garnish with a bit of lime zest (optional).
Chill pie 2-3 hours to fully set before slicing.
Allie is the founder of Parched Around the World and the owner of Parched Global, LLC, a communications company based in Atlanta, GA. She's a Certified Sommelier and a foodie at heart, and is forever suffering from a severe case of wanderlust! When life allows, you can find Allie traveling around the world and photographing her adventures both domestically and abroad. Feel free to get in touch with her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or to connect on Instagram at @aaalbanese and @parchedaroundtheworld.