Fresh Key Lime Pie

Fresh key lime pie title

Welcome to heaven! This brightly flavored key lime pie has it all — sweet, tart, fresh, tangy, a smooth filling, and a crunchy crust.  Key lime pie has been a favorite in our family for years. So, just what is a key lime? Key limes are smaller than the usual Persian limes we find in supermarkets across the U.S. The key lime is small, slightly yellow and has more seeds than it’s Persian cousin. It’s also  a bit tarter and has a slight floral taste.

Key Lime Pie History

Key Lime Pie originated in the Florida Keys. Or did it? Oft considered a Southern dessert, there’s some controversy about Florida’s state pie. Florida claims a certain “Aunt Sally,” first made key lime pie in 1890’s with plentiful key limes from Key West at the Curry Mansion. On the other hand, The Borden Company of New York, claims it debuted the pie in 1931 with the name “Magic Lemon Cream Pie.” According to their story, Florida residents substituted their key limes for the lemons in this dessert and Key Lime Pie was born. Whichever the story, and wherever it started, all we know is we love to eat Key Lime Pie! 
slice of key lime pie

KEY ingredients!

The principal ingredients of Key Lime Pie are key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. When mixed, a chemical reaction causes these ingredients to thicken. Originally the pie was not baked. Now days, because consuming raw eggs can be dangerous, we bake the pie, which further thickens it.

Taste testers ready?

I decided to experiment to try and make the perfect key lime pie. After some some research, I varied ingredients several ways before deciding the types and amounts for this recipe. Next, I held a taste test with three pies and 10 participants. 

key lime pie with braided cream and Biscoff crustPie 1

Graham cracker crust; bottled key lime juice + 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice; 2 teaspoons lime zest; three egg yolks; and 2 cans sweetened condensed milk. Two testers liked the recipe best. They said it was smooth and creamy and had good flavor. To me, it tastes like a standard key lime pie. It was good, and just what I expected, but there was a bit of after-taste from the bottled juice which has a slightly altered lime flavor compared to fresh juice. This is the easiest pie to make, and it’s good enough. I’d use it if I was in a hurry — it’s fast!

key lime pie with egg whitesPie 2

Biscoff Lotus cookie crust. (Biscoff is a delicate shortbread cookie with a caramel flavor, plus cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves. It’s commonly served on Delta, and now a few other airlines.) Bottled key lime juice, 2 teaspoons lime zest, 3 egg yolks, 3 egg whites whipped stiff and gently folded in, and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk. None of the tasters preferred this pie. They called it fluffy, but said the texture wasn’t smooth and the lime flavor wasn’t as strong. Some also said the crust tasted slightly burned. I thought this crust was going to be a winner but I wouldn’t use Biscoff cookies for a crust again. They were also quite oily. I expected to love the fluffy egg white addition the best. It did lighten the pie, but the flavor and texture suffered. 
key lime pie w/o title

Pie 3

Graham Cracker crust. Fresh squeezed key lime juice (22 key limes), 2 teaspoons lime zest, 3 egg yolks, 2 cans sweetened condensed milk. 8/10 testers said this was their favorite pie. It was smooth and creamy and had great real lime flavor. I’d agree with the tasters that I preferred this pie I’ve heard complaints about difficulty in finding key limes and the effort to squeeze the juice from these small citrus fruits. Honestly, it was not a bit deal. I found the key limes at my local Smith’s grocery store ($2.00 for 25 key limes). And it took about 10 minutes to slice and squeeze them all. This is our favorite pie and it’s the recipe we’re giving you below.
The enhanced flavor of the fresh key limes was worth the extra time in my opinion. However, in a pinch, I would use bottled juice. I didn’t love the taste of the juice straight from the bottle, but in the pie it was pretty good. I liked Nellie & Joes: Key West Lime Juice in a bottle the best. Please just don’t choose the bottled regular lime juice from the supermarket. 

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slice of key lime pie alone

Sub for Key lime juice

As a substitute for 1/2 cup key lime juice in a pie, you might also want to try 1/4 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup lemon juice. You could also make the pie out of straight lime juice. It will no longer be a key lime pie, but I think it would taste good. Given a choice between eating spoonfuls of key lime juice or Persian lime juice, I’d take the less bitter Persian Lime, but for key lime pie, it’s the key limes that hold the magic. Top your pie with meringue or sweetened whipped cream. You could cover the top in cream, or do what I love, which is to pipe some whipped cream around the edge of the pie. 

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Yield: 8

Fresh Key Lime Pie

Fresh Key Lime Pie

A creamy fresh key lime pie bursting with flavor in a graham cracker crust.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 26 minutes
Total Time 46 minutes


For Crust

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 1 1/2 sleeves)
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar

For Filling

  • 3/4 cup key lime juice (about 22 key limes) + zest of 4 key limes (or 2 limes)
  • 2 cans (14 ounce) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

For Topping

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


For Crust

    1. In a medium bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter until well blended. (If using packaged graham crackers, crush them in a zip loc bag with a rolling pin or chop in food processor to get fine crumbs 

    2. Press crumbs on bottom and up sides of 9-inch pie pan.

    3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.

    4. Cool.

For Filling

1. Squeeze juice from about 22 key limes to reach 3/4 cup key lime juice (alternate, use 3/4 cup bottled key lime --NOT LIME-- juice into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

2. Add lime zest, 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and lemon juice, and mix with electric or wire whisk mixer for 2-3 minutes or until well blended and creamy.

3. Pour filling into baked graham cracker crust and bake in oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. (Note: check pie after 15 minutes, my oven takes 18 minutes).

4. Pie should jiggle when you remove it. Don't let it get brown.

5. Let pie cool, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours. 

6. Serve Pie cold topped with whipping cream.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 374 Total Fat: 24g Saturated Fat: 14g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 129mg Sodium: 189mg Carbohydrates: 38g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 22g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 4g

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