Key Lime Pie: demystifying a classic

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that we’ve taken some flak lately about nonconformist interpretations of traditional treats. Namely, challah, bialys, and Black and White (a.k.a. Half Moon) cookies.

I’m not complaining; I love to generate friendly controversies around baking. After all, it’s more fun to disagree over the correct method for frosting Black and White cookies; or the amount of onions in the center of a bialy than, say, the merits of Congress’ latest health-care plan.

Still, it’s with trepidation that I publish this recipe for Classic Key Lime Pie. I KNOW there’ll be residents of Key West who decry my use of anything other than fresh Key limes. And there are those who insist Key lime pie should be topped with meringue, not whipped cream. And that a graham cracker crust is an invention of the devil himself.

Well, let me tell you something: I began my quest for REAL Key lime pie assuming the classic version would NOT feature a filling based on sweetened condensed milk.

I was sure that someone, somewhere – Southern Living magazine? Paula Deen? – would offer me the original Key lime pie recipe, the Mother of all succeeding generations. Surely the true version must be custard-based, or at least lemon meringue-pie like.

Well, guess what? I was wrong. REAL Key lime pie, which first appeared prior to the Civil War, was a direct result of the Borden company’s invention of sweetened condensed milk. Southern cooks, wanting to take advantage of this great new product, added lime juice, poured it into a pastry crust, and baked up what was destined to become one of America’s favorite pies.

Pecan pie, another candidate for the Southern Baking Hall of Fame, had a similar provenance. It was invented in the 1930s by the wife of a Karo sales executive, to showcase that company’s signature syrup.

So I’m throwing down the gauntlet. You can claim that your great-grandma’s recipe for Key lime pie makes the one and only original, classic, true and REAL Key lime pie. But I’ll counter with this information from one of my favorite Web sites,

“Key lime pies were first made in the Keys in the 1850s. Jean A. Voltz, in The Flavor of the South (1977), explains that the recipe developed with the advent of sweetened condensed milk in 1856. Since there were few cows on the Keys, the new canned milk was welcomed by the residents and introduced into a pie made with lime juice. The original pies were made with a pastry crust, but a crust made from graham crackers later became popular and today is a matter of preference, as is the choice between whipped cream and meringue toppings.”

And that’s my last word on the subject. At least till your comments start coming in…

OK, enough with the history lesson. Let’s make Classic Key Lime Pie.


Ah, here it is, the progenitor of I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of Key lime pies since 1856… Borden’s sweetened condensed milk. Thanks, Elsie!


Next, lime juice. Use fresh Key lime juice, if you can find Key limes. (And no, I’m not going to get into an argument about whether all the “true” key lime trees in Florida were destroyed in the hurricane of 1927.)  Bottled Key lime juice is an option, too.


And then there are good ol’ supermarket limes: Persian limes, of which “Susie” here is a nice, fat, juicy example.


If you love-love-LOVE lime, lime oil should be a permanent resident of your fridge. It heightens the lime flavor of anything lime. Plus, it’s a key ingredient in the BEST lime cookies


Now, talk about nonconformist – coconut in Key lime pie? Not exactly IN the pie, but toasted coconut added to the graham cracker crust is tasty indeed.

OK, let’s jump in. First, select a pie pan whose inside top dimension is at least 9″, and whose height is at least 1 1/4″. Preheat the oven to 325°F.


Next, get out your graham crackers. You’ll need 9 crackers. There are usually 10 or 11 crackers in one sleeve, so have yourself a s’more with the extra(s).


Put the crackers into your food processor with 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.


Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup toasted coconut, if desired, for that tropical touch.


Process until the mixture is pretty finely ground.


Add 1/3 cup melted butter…


…and process until the crumbs are moist and beginning to clump together.


Pour into your pie pan. I’ve selected a stoneware pan here.


Use your fingers or, more effectively, the flat bottom of a measuring cup to press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan.


Use the side of the cup to press the crumbs against the side of the pan.


Your finished crust should look fairly smooth, like this.

Bake the pie crust for 15 minutes; it’ll start to darken in color a bit. Remove it from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool while you make the filling.


WHAT are these limes doing in the microwave? Rumor has it that heating them briefly softens their interior membranes, allowing them to release more juice.


I did the test; didn’t seem to make much difference. But the softened lime did feel easier to squeeze.


Before you squeeze the juice out of all the limes, shred the peel off one of them. I’m using a microplane zester here; it works very well indeed. Microplane definitely makes sharp, efficient graters.


One lime should yield about 3 tablespoons (not packed) of zest. Don’t stress about a bit more or less.


Put the zest and 3 large egg yolks into a mixing bowl.


Whisk the zest and egg yolks at high speed of an electric mixer for about 4 minutes. The mixture will lighten in color and thicken somewhat, looking kind of like Hollandaise sauce.


Stir in one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, mixing till smooth. Beat at high speed for 3 minutes; the filling will become slightly thicker, and gain a bit of volume.


Add the 2/3 cup lime juice, stirring just to combine. The mixture will thicken. Add lime oil to taste, about 1/8 teaspoon. Keep in mind that real or bottled Key lime juice is generally more potent/sour than Persian lime juice, so you probably won’t need as much (or any) lime oil if you’re using Key lime juice.


Pour the filling into the crust.


Smooth it out, if necessary.


Bake for about 25 minutes, till it appears set around the edges, though still a bit wobbly in the center. The center should read about 145°F on an instant-read thermometer. You’ll want to add strips of aluminum foil, or a pie crust shield, after about the first 15 minutes, to prevent the edges from over-browning.


Remove the pie from the oven. It will have puffed up a bit, and it’ll gradually settle as it cools.


Let the pie cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours before serving. Slice and serve each piece with a lightly sweetened dollop of whipped cream, if desired. (I eschew whipped cream. Not because it’s untraditional; but because I take my KLP straight.)

BTW, garnishing with whipped cream is not heresy. What you do in the privacy of your kitchen is nobody’s business but your own. Cool Whip, Reddi Wip, Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey – heck, it’s all good.


P.S. No-bake Key lime pies were popular as early as the 1940s. So if you worry about egg yolks, or simply prefer an easy no-bake filling, try this cream cheese/condensed milk Key Lime Pie.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Classic Key Lime Pie.

Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Max’s Deli Café, Boston: slice of Key Lime Pie, $2.75

From the supermarket freezer case: Edwards Pie Singles, 3 1/4-ounce slice Key Lime Pie, $1.40

Ingredients: Reduced Fat Sweetened Condensed Milk, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (Palm Kernel Oil, coconut Oil, Soybean Oil), Enriched Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Egg Yolks, Contains Less than 2% of Each of the Following: Lime Juice Concentrate, Food Starch-Modified, Baking Soda, Salt, Dextrose, Artificial Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Lime Juice Concentrate, Lime Pulp, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Caseinate (a Milk Derivative), Carbohydrate Gum, Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, Colored with Beta Carotene, Xanthan Gum, Disodium Phosphate, Lime Oil, Lemon Pulp Cells, Lemon Oil, Sorbitan Monostearate, Guar Gum.

Bake at home: 3 1/4-ounce slice Classic Key Lime Pie made with Key lime juice, 99¢; made with fresh lime juice, 66¢

Ingredients: graham crackers, confectioners’ sugar, salt, butter, lime juice & rind, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, lime oil.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...


  1. Mike T.

    Mmmm, love KLP and, but of course, I have lime oil… ;-)

    Thanks PJ, this looks great! Me, graham or pastry shell doesn’t matter to me. Heck you could pour the filling into a souffle cup and bake it and I’d be happy…

    That’s what a lot of our testers said, Mike – “Never mind the crust, just let me at that filling!” PJH

  2. elianna

    Wow! I don’t care WHERE it came from…this looks like one of those must-try recipes!
    I had to laugh reading the ingredient list for the “buy” pie – I mean, really, Lemon Pulp Cells? THAT is why I LOVE homemade! :)

    Yes, I can only imagine the process involved in creating Lemon Pulp Cells… gulp. NOT. PJH

  3. Sue

    I’ve had key lime pie on my mind ever since I made lemon meringue pie a while back. Limes are less expensive right now than lemons, at least where I shop. I love it that you like to mix things up and keep us chatting.
    When we visited Miami a few years ago we went to a Cuban restaurant in Little Havana and had the most amazing key lime pie. I’d love to go back there again. It was a fascinating culinary and cultural experience.

  4. Rocky-cat

    How did you know I’ve had KLP on the brain for the last few days? I would have made one last night, too, if the Great Suburban Hunter (aka my husband) hadn’t monopolized the oven making venison jerky.

    I’m a graham cracker crust/meringue topping person myself and my usual recipe is almost the same as yours ( 1/2 c. lime juice and a 15 min. bake) but I was going to make this pie with a pastry crust. I haven’t been able to decide whether I should partially pre-bake the crust or fully pre-bake it. I’ve seen both options out there.

    What’s your thoughts?

    I’d fully pre-bake the crust. 15 minutes in the oven, insulated with filling, isn’t going to finish baking a crust. Just be sure to cover the edges with foil or a shield. As for the hunter – my husband told me last night he was going to shoot a bear today, and make a bear rug out of it. I told him if so, he could put it in the garage, where it would be very happy with his enormous array of camping, fishing, boating, and hunting gear… He also threatened to put bear roasts in the freezer. In place of my rhubarb sauce and frozen raspberries? I DON’T THINK SO! PJH

  5. Marcia

    Being type 2 diabetic, I make a half recipe of the filling, no crust. I can have a few spoonfuls. The toasted coconut could be sprinkled on top. Eaten in the privacy of my kitchen, who would know?

    I keep lime zest in the freezer, ready to jazz up recipes of all kind.

    That extra graham cracker is mighty good with a little Eagle Brand spread on it.

  6. Lish

    I was just checking the blog before I went looking for a recipe for something to bring to a “margarita and mojito” barbecue. I need look no further! Perfect, and great to make ahead. I think I will also make those lime cookies you mentioned! Absolutely awesome flavor in those. I totally forgot about them till you mentioned them here. I wonder if adding a little mint to those cookies would make them mojito flavored? I may have to try that. I can’t wait to have this pie, I love key lime pie and it is not something that you find in many restaurants here. Plus I have everything to make them! Thanks for the great recipes for all us citrus lovers!

    Lish, I’m thinking maybe if you could brush the lime cookies with a touch of mint syrup before coating in the sugar? Or if you have fresh mint, yeah, chopping some and adding would probably be yummy. Let us know – wish I could join you! PJH

  7. sue-the-real-boss

    For those who suffer pangs of guilt for using bottled lime juice instead of fresh Key lime juice–let me assure you the bottled juice has more consistent acidity and produces a better pie. I meticulously and lovingly juiced a bag of Key limes for a pie for my husband, who has sampled every version of Key Lime Pie he could find in South Florida. The resulting pie wasn’t as good as the one made with bottled juice. Whichever you decide to use, a jigger of tequila (no more) added to the filling definitely helps!

  8. michelle m. v.

    I love posts like this….yummy with a little history lesson included and more than a touch of humor!

    Have a great day!

    Thanks, Michelle – I found it fascinating that Borden’s was around, making sweetened condensed milk, way back when… PJH

  9. Lee

    PJ – you done good! Love the history bits too!! :)
    And I am really pleased you put the ingredient list of those store-bought monstrosities there along side the homemade version. How anyone ever thought that a pie crust full of chemicals would be tastier than the real thing is beyond me!! The world would be a healthier place without artificial flavors and colors in our food. I always just shake my head in disbelief when I see a Key Lime Pie offered in a restaurant that is actually green – a sure tip that it’s not actually KLP!

    Yes, the only green pie I eat is Grasshopper Pie made with green creme de menthe… Thanks for connecting, Lee, as always – PJH

    1. DS

      I, too, recoil at the ingredients on store-bought baked goods, but to be fair, you’d have to include in the home-made version the ingredients on a box of graham crackers. Mine says:

      Unbleached enriched flour {wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate {vitamin B1}, riboflavin {vitamin b2}, folic acid), graham flour (whole grain wheat flour), sugar, soybean oil, honey, leavening (baking soda and/or calcium phosphate), salt, soy lecithin, artificial flavor.

      So this “homemade” version DOES have artificial flavor. And since it’s listed individually, I assume it’s more than 2%.

      I like homemade better than the store-bought ones, but I’m not fooling myself that it’s really natural.

  10. deede

    Wow, P.J.,
    I love this entry. I’ve been looking at that bottle of Key Lime juice since I got my last KA catalog!
    My question, though, is this: how long will the juice in the bottle be OK after it is opened?
    I really want to include it in my next order!

    Deede, in the fridge, it should be pretty stable in the fridge, I’d think. Or freeze for long-term storage. PJH

  11. Carolyn Terrell

    We have been residents of South Florida since 1956 when my husband was stationed at Homestead Air Force Base. We quickly became acquainted with KEY LIME PIE, and planted a Key Lime tree in our yard. Each time we up-graded to a larger house, we planted a new tree. After you have tasted the REAL taste of Key Limes, any substitution of bottled juice or Persian limes turns your stomach. I squeeze my “bounty” and freeze in Ziplock snack bags and this juice is also used for Key Lime Bread, Tabouleh, and Key Lime cookies. I now have the very best, though not the original, Key Lime pie recipe, but I am sworn to secrecy by my friend who gave it to me. Wish I could share it!

    Well, Carolyn, we wish you could share it too! But perhaps, without your own Key lime tree right in the yard, it wouldn’t be the same, anyway… Thanks for connecting here – PJH

  12. diane in Mexico

    for years, i wintered in Big Pine Key, just northeast of Key West. A Conch (original Keys person) chef gave me the same recipe that you use, except for one thing–withold one white and use it to make a bit of meringue, well dusted with zest. I once went to Crystal River, NW Florida to go swimming with the manatees, and there I was given KLP–same recipe– made with mildly sweet digestive biscuit & chocolate crust. Both Chris River KLP and manatees a wonderful experience. Plan to use trad filling with Chris River crust and my own home-grown limes. Thank you PJ for reminding me of a ¡Key! experience.

  13. Joyce

    As a young bride (more than 30 years ago) I decided to impress my husband and make Key Lime Pie as dessert for our dinner guests. Something major went wrong and we needed to eat the pie with a spoon! This is one baking adventure my husband will not let me forget!

    I don’t remember using sweeten condensed milk, but hey, it has been 30 years. It may just be time to give KLP another try. I’m sure my husband will enjoy it. That is, if I can keep him from laughing too hard to eat it!

  14. dick

    I love the real Key Lime Pie but I also love the Key Lime Bavarian Pie. Good way to use up the egg whites left over from making the filling. I remember making it for Thanksgiving a few years ago and my guests could not get enough of it. I ended up having to make another one to eat before they left to go home. Got the recipe from the Joy of Cooking.

  15. Lee

    a tip for leftover key lime juice (or any citrus) is to put it in ice cube trays and freeze then put the cubes in a zipper bag and store in the freezer for as long as you need. I buy a bag of the little yellow limes when they appear in our local Publix and juice them all up and store it this way all the time. It lasts and lasts!

  16. Brenda

    I’ve never baked a graham cracker crust. What are the reasons for baking it?

    The sugar melts, and as it cools it acts as “glue” to hold the crust together better. The cust also attains a nice, nutty/toasty flavor as it bakes. Good question, Brenda! PJH

  17. Janey

    My key lime pie recipe is taken from Southern Living c.1960. There is no sweetened condensed milk or cream, so the result is an extraordinarily tangy, rich pie. If you want a really serious lime flavor, this is the way to go! It’s also my favorite graham cracker crust, too.

    2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

    Combine all ingredients, press into 2 9-inch pieplates. Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes and cool.

    8 large eggs, lightly beaten
    2 cups sugar
    2/3 cup Key lime juice
    1/4 cup grated lime rind
    Dash of salt
    1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, softened
    2 cups whipping cream (optional)
    1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar (optional)
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)

    Combine first 5 ingredients in the top of a double boiler; bring water to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. Add butter; cook, whisking constantly, until butter melts and mixture thickens, being careful not to let eggs firm up. Pour into graham cracker crusts. Bake at 300 for 20 minutes or until set. Cool. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

    (Optional: Beat whipping cream at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Stir in vanilla, and spread over filling. Chill. Garnish pie just before serving, if desired.)

    Now this is exactly the type of recipe I expected to find, when I first started out. Thank you for this – I definitely have to try it. Maybe this weekend, for our annual family Labor Day get-together… Thanks, Janey! PJH

  18. cindy leigh

    I love KLP!
    When we took Scouts to the Keys to Scuba dive a few years ago, I brought home many bottles of the key lime juice they sell locally. Then felt stupid, because Stop & Shop carries it!
    I love the frozen KLP they sell on a stick like a triangular popsicle in Key West.
    I make the recipe on the key lime juice bottle, which uses condensed milk. But the addition of the lime oil and zest sounds great.
    Oh- here’s a tip- the chocolate crusts (ready made) are awesome for Key Lime. The dark chocolate flavor is so complimentary. Great if you’re in a hurry.
    Darn, now I’m thinking of the coconut shrimp with mango dipping sauce, mango dark chocolate coconut patties, and grilled mahi mahi we had on that trip.
    PS, PJ, I DO live close to NY- southeastern CT close to 95. I will have to look into that NYC baking class!

    Too bad not southwestern Conn. – are you in the New London area? I grew up just south of Hartford… So maybe I’ll see you there! PJH

  19. Sherri Alexander

    Mmm, I think I’ll try this sometime soon! A tangy taste of summer, to linger on the tongue as fall creeps nearer. :)

    This post reminded me of another question I wanted to ask the KAF team, though…we bought some of the lemon emulsion (which we love!), but we don’t know what the best ratio of substitution would be when a recipe calls for something else, like lemon extract, lemon juice, or lemon oil. I think I put too much in the last thing I made (your Strawberry Walnut quick bread, except with rhubarb and pecans instead), as it tasted far more like lemons than either rhubarb or pecans! :) I used a one-to-one ratio for that and it seemed too strong. Would you have any recommendations? Thanks as always for a great blog!


    Summer is so fleeting….glad we have a product to remind us of what we may have missed this year! The Lemon Emulsion is indeed a 1 to 1 substitution for lemon extract called for in recipes. If this is too much lemon for your taste, use half the amount. Irene at KAF

  20. cindy leigh

    yes! just west of New London, more in the country. (LOL I should carpool with April (Coastguard reference in Apple Pie post) up to the store in Vermont.) I was hopeful when daughter toured UVM last month, but alas, no football team, so it’s off her list. I could envision visiting her (too much for her comfort) and stopping at the store each time. But boy, is that a calorie-laden trip- passing by Cabot Cheese and Ben & Jerry’s in addition to KA.

  21. Lish

    I also live near New London! Small world! I grew up in a tiny cow town called Bozrah, love it there, and now we have our own wonderful weekly farmers market. We travel up to Cabot and Ben and Jerry’s often too, and can’t wait to make another trip to the KAF store! My parents and husband and kids and I all took a day to go 2 months ago and are all excited to go back. My husband and I are taking a pasta class in October, and we are both so excited.
    Also in response to the mojito cookies I suggested, I used fresh mint quite some time ago to make mint flavored granulated sugar, and I think I will try using that! I’ll let you know how they come out!

    OOOOH, love the idea of fresh mint and sugar. I’ll have to try that. Bozrah, Connecticut – southeastern? Hey, maybe we’ll meet when you come up for the pasta class – what fun! PJH

  22. Lindsay

    Hello, what alcoholic beverage would you recommend with Key Lime pie? Something sweet, like a reisling or sparkling wine?
    Thanks for the help,

    Hmmm… I have no idea, I’m not much of a wine apprecianado. The pie is sweet/sour – seems like a dry wine might be a better match. Is pinot gris dry? Readers, help me out here! PJH

  23. martha Kraus

    Did anyone else have trouble printing directions for the key lime pie beyond step #3?
    I realize that the complete instructions appear in the Bakers’ Banter , but the initial directions only print out “page #1 of 1″.

    Hi Martha- I’m having this same problem. Must be a linking issue – I’ll send a trouble ticket to our Web support folks to see what’s up. Thanks for letting us know- in the meantime, you can always cut and paste into a Word document. Sorry for the trouble – PJH

  24. Lish

    To Lindsay:
    I would recommend a chenin blanc to go with the key lime pie, as it is fairly low in alcohol content, and reminiscent of limes and often peaches. It is a great wine to go with desserts, though not really sweet itself. Hope this helps!
    PJ: Bozrah is right next to Norwich Ct, in New London County around 20 miles north north westish of New London itself. We are right near both casinos. Can’t wait to meet you and put a face to the name of my favorite blog writer!

    Same here, Lindsay. And now that you tell me Norwich, I DO know where that is. Used to go past it when I’d take the bus from Providence to Hartford, back in college days… Thanks for the wine recommendation – you sound like an oenophile! PJH

  25. Nicole

    Hi! Would it be possible for the KAF crew to feature RUM CAKE from scratch? I’ve been searching for those for quite sometime now but I keep getting the Rum Cake that is made from mixes and I don’t want that.

    I’m looking for a rum cake made with butter and another recipe of rum cake that uses oil instead. and how can i make that into chocolate version?

    Hi Nicole – You should send this request to Susan Reid (, as she often works on remaking “box mix” recipes via The Baking Sheet, our print newsletter, of which she’s editor. I love those rum cakes, too – If it were me, I’d simply make a good yellow cake, flavor with butter-rum flavor, bake in a tube pan, and brush with rum mixed with simple syrup, or simply rum/sugar heated very briefly to dissolve the sugar. Ditto with a good chocolate cake recipe. Hope this helps – PJH

  26. Mary

    I made this pie yesterday. I have made dozens and dozens of Key lime pies, to rave reviews, usually following the very simple recipe on the Nellie and Joe’s Key Lime juice bottle. It’s quite similar to this recipe – doesn’t have the grated lime zest – a very nice addition – and has a little less lime juice. I’m afraid I prefer Nellie and Joe’s recipe. It does not require the 7 minutes of mixing – just stir the yolks, milk and juice together and pour it in the pie shell. It always comes out silky, rich and luscious. I found this recipe to have a somewhat grainy texture. The Nellie and Joe’s recipe also cooks for only 15 minutes, and it sets up nicely. I do love the coconut addition to the crust and will add that from now on!

    Thanks for your feedback, Mary – good comparison. My thought is that extra beating really wrings every bit of flavor out of the lime zest. PJH

  27. Kimberly D

    Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup toasted coconut, if desired, for that tropical touch.

    I never thought of putting coconut in with the graham crackers. I make graham cracker crust when I make my very own idea of coconut cheese cake. I do top it with toasted coconuts. Thanks for this addition to standard graham cracker crust. I have never made KLP, lemon pie, and banana cream and chocolate pie but never KLP. Being in Michigan KL’s are hard to fine and not always within my budget.
    My question I have a juicer I use to make my own juice, and it saids if I use limes to put peel and all in it, unlike oranges it tells me to peel them. Do you think the juice of key limes from my juicer would work in this pie? And boy those cookies you talk about sound yummy.

    P.S. did you get my email about my pumpkin cookies? Just wondering if it made it to you.
    I enjoy the blogs how personal you all make it, thanks for the good job!

    Kimberly, first of all, yes, I got your pumpkin cookie recipes – looking forward to trying them – thanks! And yes, it sounds like your juicer would make the juice for Key lime pie very nicely. We have key limes here, but they’re expensive, so truth be told I always use the Persian (regular) limes; or the bottled Key lime juice. PJH

  28. Bridgid

    I love love love KLP!!! I think the addition of the coconut would be divine!
    I have made it with both Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Juice and by freshly squeezing 30 (yes 30) key limes that my MIL sent me from Florida. (I make mine with 3/4 c of juice because we like it on the tart side.)

    Now I don’t have a key lime tree in my back yard like Carolyn – how lucky she is!!! And my limes took a few days to arrive to NY, but there was a tiny difference in the taste of the freshly squeezed juice pie and the bottled juice pie. The fresh tasted slightly fresher. Not fresher enough to justify juicing 30 limes again. (But Carolyn – I’ll be in Florida in October, I’ll look you up and we can have KLP together)

    Thanks for the interesting post and the history. This blog is one that I check every day in the morning – it starts my day!

    Thanks for starting your day with us, Bridgid – PJH

  29. Paul from Ohio

    PJH – I heartily second all those folks that have sent along accolades for the history lesson along with the awesome recipe. Key Lime pie is a definite, don’t mess with it kind of recipe to me as I, like so many of us, first encountered the original in Key West, FL.

    As a young lad growing up with a mother that baked good things very often, I also seem to recall that Condensed Milk was used as a substitute for sugar whenever possible since sugar was rationed during the war years in the 40’s.

    Your inclusion of coconut in the crust is an inspired and wonderful tropical addition to a dessert that always reminds me of the tropics…….and it does so without messing with the basics of the good stuf. The addition of the lime rind also is too too wonderful.

    Observation/question – I double checked the recipe and the blog after making the pie yesterday and having each piece really stick to the pie plate as I was trying to server it up (I used the same one you used – which I’d gotten it from you folks awhile back). I did not see nor have I read in any of the blog posts, that anyone suggests spraying the pie pan with Pam or greasing it before adding the mixed up crust ingredients. As hindsight, I probably should have just given the pie pan a quick blast of Pam. OR – perhaps if I’d used a tad bit more butter in the crust that would have acted to help make it stick less?

    Hmmm… I’d think the butter in the crust would keep it from sticking. Not sure why it is, but sure, a blast of non-stick vegetable oil spray would surely help. Thanks for the tip for anyone else having this issue, Paul – and “thanks for the memories”! PJH

  30. Xena

    You thought Paula Deen would make something NOT based on something sugary, disgusting and convenience food-y? Have you seen the woman’s show?Well…

    I haven’t seen her show, but did see a clip of her eating the famous Krispy Kreme doughnut – hamburger – bacon – cheese? – burger? You’re right, Xena… PJH

  31. Paul from Ohio

    PJH – in response to yours, on my post above. regarding the baked pie crust sticking to the pie pan when serving – I should have written that I don’t fault the recipe for one second and should have noted this very important fact which more than likely was the “culprit”.

    After mixing up the crust ingredients in the food processor, our Golden Retriever was insistent that he had to go “outside”, like right now! Responding to him I didn’t return to get the crumb crust fixin’s into the pie pan for 15 minutes or so………….and thus, perhaps the crust dried out a tad in process. So perhaps the advice in all this is to mix up the ingredients and get it into the pie pan immediately and NOT walk the dog in between!!!!!!!!!! Then it will NOT stick when being served and will NOT need more butter?!?!?! Ya think?

  32. Rosesann

    I made this for dessert last night. I’ve made KLP before but it was a no bake version. This was better. I used Persian limes but the think including the lime rind really helps up the lime flavor. But the most inspirational part was adding toasted coconut in the crust. That was a big hit for my family. Thanks for suggesting it.

  33. Lydia Rose

    Love Key Lime Pie and fix it often pretty much as you did.

    Saw Paula Dean make one on her show not to long ago and she started out with a cup of heavy cream beat that til it started to thicken, added the rest of the “usual” stuff and then at the end added a pint of half and half. I remember that by the time she finished it was pretty thick, poured it into her graham cracker crust and froze it. Pretty interesting.

    I thought that when lemon or lime juice was put into dairy it soured it, is this not so?

    Follow all your postings and enjoy every one of them I must say my baking has improved greatly.

    Keep up the good work and thanks so much for all you guys do. God bless.


    Thanks for your kind words, Lydia. Citrus juice + dairy = thickening more than souring; the “souring” is kind of old-fashioned terminology for the process whereby milk thickens into sour cream. The lime juice definitely thickens the condensed milk, and adds its own sour flavor, too; but it doesn’t make the milk sour, just thick. Hope this helps – PJH

  34. Jenn

    I haven’t tried this recipe, but do love the KAF recipe for Tropical Treat Pie which also uses coconut in the crust (flour press in – not grahams) and Key Lime Juice. I’ve won our Charity Bake Off the last two years at work and am hoping this recipe will take me to three in a row!

    Was lucky enough to work from home today, so the Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Cookie dough is in the fridge right now waiting to be baked for our Potluck Charity lunch tomorrow!

    Love the Blog and all the recipes (and my family thanks you for the No knead sticky buns – their new favorite!) Keep up the great work!

    Congratulations on your baking achievements! Irene @ KAF

  35. Ann

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. Sounds delicious. I can’t tell from the direction for the use of the lime oil….are you saying not as much lime oil is needed if “bottled” Key lime juice is used or not as much lime oil is needed if “fresh” Key lime juice is used?

    The history was very interesting. Thanks –Ann, Dallas TX

    Hi Ann – Sorry to be unclear. Yes, not as much lime oil is needed for bottled or fresh Key lime juice, as it is for less-potent Persian lime juice. PJ


  36. Oonagh

    To Nicole who wanted a recipe for Rum Cake. We went to Bermuda a few years ago and I had looked up Island food to see what to check out. You’re right, all the recipes on line, plus ingredients listed on back of actual Bermuda Rum Cakes made and sold on Bermuda, all start with a packet mix. As a chef and instructor I have always cooked from scratch. So I took my pound cake made with cream cheese and butter, added rum (actually Bermuda Gosling’s rum) plus pecans, baked in a bundt pan then topped with a butter, light brown sugar and rum glaze when it came out of the oven . Fabulous but don’t light a match near it. I can e-mail recipe to Susan at KAF if people want me to.

    by all means, Oonagh. Thanks. Susan

  37. Lish

    Finally made the pie, huge hit! I also made the lime cookies today, and I made them mojito. I followed the recipe for the dough, and for the topping, I used mint flavored granulated sugar with some rum flavoring that I whirred in the blender till fine powder. A wonderful mojito cookie. And I finally used up the mint flavored sugar I made last year!

  38. Joanne Libby

    I made your recipe for key lime pie yesterday and found it to be horrible. I know I shouldn’t make anything with sweetened condensed milk, but this recipe came from the King Arthur people so I thought it might be good. Both my husband and I thought it tasted pasty. Even the crust was not good. This was the first time I made graham cracker crust with confectioner’s sugar and it turned out heavy and too sweet. The only good part was the whipped cream we topped it with. Sorry.

    Yes, Joanne, I’m sorry, too – that it didn’t work out well for you. Sometimes things just aren’t to our particular taste, are they? Glad the whipped cream helped salvage a bad experience… PJH

  39. sherry baines

    i will try the yummy key lime pie. when in texas years ago they served their key lime pie with drizzled raspberry sauce and chocolate drizzled on the plate and fresh raspberrys and fresh whipped cream. I will try to duplicate this with your recipe. i have a raspberry garden to die for, now working on blackberrys. thanks for your website. do you have a yummy lemon pie recipe as that is also an art to make. sherry b.

    Hi Sherry – Try our classic lemon chess pie, with or without its strawberry topping; or our lemon meringue pie. Not sure which kind of lemon pie you were looking for; both are tasty. Enjoy – PJH

  40. Dianne Darby

    We don’t make it but we sure like to eat it. It is our favorite sweet treat of them all. We try it every where that we travel. The best that we have ever
    eaten was at an island themed place down south in Asheville, NC. We were
    told at the chamber of commerce that this place serves The Would’ Greatest
    Key Lime Pie and that’s all we needed to hear to go over and give them a try.
    The name of the restaurant is Kutchie’s Key West Kutcharitaville Cafe…………
    Their Reputation is well deserved. Kutchie’s Key Lime Pie is really the best that we have ever eaten out of the thousands that we have tried in fifty years
    of travel. Theirs is very different from all the others. It is in a very good crust,
    not cracker crumbs. The pie is very thick, not shallow like many others. The pie isn’t green like many others, it is a mellow yellow in color. It is topped with fresh whipped cream. Just the Best key lime pie in the whole world. I wish everyone could try it someday………………………………………………………..
    …………………………………….Dianne Darby, Vermont

  41. Carly Simon

    Hey, I Know Kutchie Pelaez and his World’s Greatest Key Lime Pies, Kutch also
    is Famous for his Awesome Cheese Burgers. James and I Used to hang-out with Kutch and a bunch of others back in the 60’s and 70’s.
    Kutch opened his restaurant back in the 70’s and has been making those awesome Key Lime Pies ever since. If you have ever tried the KLP that Kutch makes then you already know why they have become World Famous. Their just Awesome to say the Least.
    Kutch even grows his own Key Limes on some property that he has down in
    Florida. He told me that whenever he picks them his self that he always gets
    cut-up from all the thorns on his trees. As many pies as he probably sells by-now, I’m sure that he is not growing all that he needs anymore.
    We haven’t been in touch with Kutch in several years now but I’m sure that
    he is still at it. If you should go by kutchie’s be sure to try his key lime pie and tell him Carly said hello, give him a big huge for me.

    …………………..thanks, ……Carly S

    Thanks for sharing the history of the famed pie and pie maker! Irene @ KAF

  42. joane

    just got the catalog with the KLM slice on the front…my co-workers knowing of my KLM addiction, had a local chef make one with the pretzel crust that is featured in the catalog OMG OMG!!!!!! to die for!!!!!

  43. Monthannah

    oodI was wondering if lime oil is better than lime juice , isn’t natural better? I have never tried lime oil. Is the taste the same? Let me know. Thanks
    Lime oil is used in addition to accentuate the lime juice in this recipe. It is a very potent oil, which is why only 1/8 tsp is used. You could not substitute oil for the juice, as it would not provide the acidity which is necessary for the tangy flavor of this pie. And the oil is just as good as the juice. It comes form the pores of the outer lime peel and contains the same flavor properties that would be provided by lime zest. ~Amy

  44. Jan Marrie

    Thanks, we tried your pie and liked it very much, you sure have the nack for key lime pie. However our favorite key lime pies have to be the ones that Anita Pelaez and her husband Kutchie have been baking for thirty something years. We visited their key lime pie factory about seven years ago after checking-out the Biltmore House down the road. What a fantastic couple they truly are. Husband and wife working team for so long, it is truly amazing. Their factory and grill is a must see destination. We highly recommend that anyone that loves great food and has a desire for some authentic key lime pies, just try-out the Masters of Key Lime Pies, Anita Pelaez and her husband Kutchie. Together they work hand and hand to bake the finest. You’ll see!…..Jan Marrie

  45. Rebecca

    Is that 1/3 cup butter the volume before or after melting? It seems like 1/3 cup chilled would yield less after melting but I may be wrong. Thanks!

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Rebecca, butter actually measures the same both solid and melted; so it’s 1/3 cup either way. Thanks for asking – good question. PJH

  46. Ang Lee

    From a former Floridian now living in VA and NC. The taste of the key lime is unique and can never be captured in a bottle! Nowadays key limes are available everywhere. Do try them or it really isn’t Key lime pie is it? It is really worth looking for these little gems. I get them in VA and NC.


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