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The Best Key Lime Pie | A Traditional Key Lime Pie Recipe

Describe your BEST Key Lime Pie…is it citrusy, sweet-tart, creamy — with the perfect sweet to-pucker ratio; light and easy with a crisp not-to-sweet graham cracker crust? Look no further…you found it! This traditional key lime pie recipe is easy and so simple to make and the most popular year round dessert on the blog!

I am a sucker for a good sweet-tart key lime pie! Creamy, plenty of pucker power and the best part is you make it ahead of time! A year round dessert delight!

If you dig make ahead desserts, try these other reader favorites; Easy Lemon Cream Pie, Traditional Italian Tiramisu or Old Fashioned Chocolate Ice Cream!

Square image for Easy Key Lime Pie.

Last weekend after a long, hot day at a swim meet, we invited dear friends, for dinner to celebrate a birthday! I was a bit late asking what his favorite dessert was, but was able to whip this up just in time for dinner that night.

Plan Ahead for Easy Key Lime Pie – It needs to CHILL!

It does take a bit of pre-planning as it needs to cool and then chilled a couple of hours before being eaten, but WOW! If you are a key lime anything lover you will L O V E this crazy good Key Lime Pie!

Slice of creamy key lime pie, on white place with two swirls of whipped cream, slice of lime and lime zest sprinkled on top.

The original recipe is a prize winning, no an Award winning Key lime Pie recipe! So if you are looking for the best, perfect Traditional Key Lime Pie recipe you have found it!

Ingredients & Substitutions

The ingredient list is small, simple and over the top delicious! Get the measurements in the recipe card below.

  • Sweetened Condensed Milk | provides a silky, creamy, sweet texture, I use organic
  • Sour Cream | I use full fat, but you may replace with full fat thick plain Greek yogurt too!
  • Zest from Key Limes | or Persian limes if that is easier
  • Key Lime Juice | If you can find real key limes, they make a difference, if you cannot, Persian limes will work and taste delicious!
  • Egg Yolks | these help to thicken the cream pie filling, you may omit them for an egg free key lime pie, it will be a bit looser but the pie will still set up.

Graham Cracker Crust Ingredients

  • Graham Crackers | finely crushed, I use organic graham crackers, may also replace with gluten free grahams.
  • All Natural Cane Sugar | Just a little, to lightly sweeten the graham cracker crust.
  • Butter | use the real thing, salted or unsalted, it’s so worth it!

How to Make an Easy Graham Cracker Crust

  • Start by making the crust as it will need to bake and cool prior to placing your filling in it.
  • Preheat oven to 350° and gather your ingredients.
  • Melt the butter and set aside, I love my butter melter, I still do it on the stovetop, so my microwave doesn’t get splattered.
Wedge of key lime pie, topped with creamy whipped cream, lime zest and some extra graham cracker crumbs sitting on a white plate.
  • In a food processor or blender (I used my Ninja – love it!) whir your crackers into fine crumbs. Or place crackers in a gallon sized freezer baggie, crush your graham crackers; if using a baggie, I like to hand break them, then using a rolling pin, roll back and forth until the crumbs are about the same size.
  • 1 1/2 – 2 sleeves of graham cracker equals about 2 cups. You can use store bought Graham Cracker Crumbs, but honestly it’s so easy and fresh to make your own.
Pinterest Pin for how to make an easy three ingredient graham cracker crust with images with ingredients, pressing crust into pie plate and finished crust.
  • Pour in sugar, pulse a few times, then pour in butter and pulse, or just mix with a fork as I’ve done here.
  • Reserve about 1/8 cup of graham cracker crumbs for topping, if desired.
Pouring butter into graham cracker crumbs for Key Lime Pie.
  • Press the graham mixture into your pie plate. I chose a 9″ rimmed deep dish pie plate, so I could easily press the crumbs all of the way up the edges.
  • Using my knuckles, I gently pressed into the sides and smoothed the edges/tops creating a pretty fluted edge.
Graham Cracker Crust pressing with knuckles for crust for Easy Key Lime Pie.
  • Carefully place the crust in the preheated oven and bake for 6-8 minutes. You want it golden, not brown.
Graham Cracker Crust for easy key lime pie after baking and cooling.

TIPS for Cooling Graham Cracker Crust Quickly

  • Allow to cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then place in freezer for 20 minutes until pie plate is cool to the touch.
  • Careful you don’t put it somewhere it will get scraped or bumped, the crust is still rather fragile. While the crust cools, make your key lime filling. 
Image of bright turquoise pie plate filled with a graham cracker crust, ready for baking, with crumbs on board behind

Easy Instructions

This traditional key lime pie recipe takes a bit of planning, but it’s so easy and so worth it, every sweet-tart pucker powered bite.

zesting limes with microplane on cutting board, cut limes and zested limes laying around | www.thefreshcooky.com
  • Wash and dry the limes and get out your zester, zesting just the green part of the lime, not into the bitter white “pith.”

PRO TIP | This microplane is my favorite zester, I use it for everything from zesting citrus, to grating chocolate, nutmeg and nuts, and I love it’s small profile.

  • Juice the limes, this hand juicer works like a charm and is probably the MOST used tool in my kitchen, besides my favorite knife and mini measuring cup, is that weird?
  • It took 24 Key Limes to get a little over 2/3 of a cup of juice, plus 1 Persian lime to get it up to 3/4 cup lime juice. I reserved one key lime to use as garnish.

I do much prefer fresh lime juice over bottled juice, but if you must, I like this brand of Key Lime Juice.

pile of juiced limes limes and juicer | www.thefreshcooky.com

How to Thicken Key Lime Filling

  • Now that you’ve done the hardest part, pour the sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, key lime juice, egg* yolks and lime zest into the bowl of a mixer (I love this type of recipe, where you just dump and mix).
  • Beat on low until combined, then increase speed and beat medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Scraping down the sides every now and then. It should be thick and creamy, nice and thick, whip longer if it’s still a bit runny.

TFC PRO TIP | Some have complained that their key lime filling is too loose and doesn’t set up, the only trick here is to make sure you spend the full 2-3 minutes beating on medium-high speed of your mixer, or get an arm workout and use a whisk, it will thicken as you beat it. And make sure you bake at the correct temp until it is set. It will firm up as it cools and chills.

Image of empty graham cracker crust with spatula, near a mixing bowl filled with best key lime filling.
  • Pour mixture into cooled graham cracker crust.
  • Bake for 350°,  15-20 minutes, just until filling wiggles a bit in the center when gently shaken back and forth, careful you don’t allow it brown.
  • Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes, then place in fridge for at least 3 hours before serving (you can still serve earlier, it just won’t be quite as set as it will a bit later. I personally recommend you bake it the day before you need it.

A beauty isn’t it! While the pie is cooling, make your whipped cream, it’s optional, but does add a beautiful touch.

Best Key Lime Pie with slice decorated with a swirl of whipped cream and wedges of lime.

How to use Leftover Sweetened Condensed Milk

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make Key Lime Pie Gluten Free?

YES! Easily convert this recipe to gluten free, by substituting gluten free grahams.
EGG FREE
Simply omit the eggs, it won’t be quite as creamy, but it will still set up!

Key Lime Pie without eggs?

You may omit the egg yolks if needed, they provide some of the lift and lightness, enhance the color and creaminess of the pie, but it should still set up just fine.

Can I make using a different crust?

Again yes, we at TFC are all about “Making it Yours” so do what you want to do. I have many readers who make their key lime pie using a store bought graham cracker crust, I have some who have made it with a delicious cookie crust (yum!) and others who have used a regular pie crust.

Can I replace Key limes with Persian Limes?

If you can’t find fresh Key Limes in the store, I can tell you that I’ve used regular (larger) Persian limes for other Key Lime recipes; it’s not quite as tart, so I’ll add another lime or two worth of zest, but otherwise it’s delicious.

Recipe adapted from Souffle Bombay.

HOW TO MAKE STABLE, PIPEABLE REAL WHIPPED CREAM 

  1. In a cool mixing bowl (sometimes I’ll put mine in the freezer for a few minutes if it’s a hot day) pour your cold whipping cream (heavy cream) into the mixing bowl and using a hand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  2. Add in powdered sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until firm, more firm than you are used to, you want it nice and thick, almost to butter!
  3. Scoop whipped cream into a piping bag with a tip (this is a good starter set), and keep in the coldest part of your fridge until the pie is completely cooled and ready to serve.

How to pipe whipped cream without a pastry bag

Simply scoop whipped cream into a sandwich baggie and once ready to pipe, snip off a corner to desired size — about 1/2 inch), pipe as desired.

Square image of whole easy key lime pie with dollops of whipped cream and decorated with wedges of key limes.

Garnish, if desired with a whipped cream, slices of lime, reserved graham cracker crumbs, and grated lime zest.

Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

VARIATIONS

  • While a homemade graham cracker crust is not only easy, but delicious, you may OF COURSE substitute for your favorite store bought graham cracker crust.
  • Swap Persian Limes for Key Limes, not quite as limey, but still delicious.
  • Use plain Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream.

How to make Mini Key Lime Pies

I love when my readers get creative, make it their own! A reader reached out to me to see if she split it into mini pie pans how long she should bake them and here’s her response.

Eight minutes worked perfectly for the mini pies! This recipe made 12 mini pies and they were delicious!

~ Jennifer
Easy Key Lime Pie image of top down shot of decorated key lime pie with swirls of whipped cream and decorated with wedges of lime.

Let me know if you enjoyed making this award winning key lime pie recipe! Pop down below the recipe to the comments!

Recipes that compliment Key Lime Pie!

More Fantastic Cool Desserts:

Don’t forget that while we think of Key Lime Pie as a summertime dessert, it’s a delicious, tasty and beautiful non-chocolate, non-pumpkin holiday dessert as well! The most popular recipe on the blog, year round!

Like this recipe?
Don’t forget to give it a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️star rating in the recipe below!

Square image for Easy Key Lime Pie.
Yield: 8-10 slices

The BEST Key Lime Pie

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Chill Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 48 minutes

This is the BEST Key Lime Pie, so easy too! A traditional Key Lime pie recipe that is, citrusy, sweet-tart -- the perfect sweet to-pucker ratio; light and bright with a crisp not-to-sweet graham cracker crust!

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust

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

Key Lime Pie Filling

  • 2 - 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I use full fat)
  • 2-3 Key Limes, zested (Persian limes may be used)
  • 3/4 cup Key Lime juice* (see notes)
  • 2 egg yolks, large

Whipping Cream

  • 8 oz Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar

Instructions

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter and set aside. Finely crush graham crackers in food processor, blender or freezer baggie with rolling pin until all the same size. Add in sugar and pulse a few times until blended, pour in butter and stir with fork or pulse a couple times until mixed. Reserve 1/4 cup crumb mixture for topping, if desired.
  2. Pour crust mixture into 9" deep dish pie dish and using hands, press into bottom and up sides, evenly. Bake for 6-8 minutes, just golden, not browned. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack.
  3. *If needed, cool for 10 minutes on rack, then transfer to freezer for 20-30 minutes to cool completely.

KEY LIME FILLING

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Wash, dry and zest limes, set zest aside until ready to use. Squeeze 3/4 cup of lime juice (about 24 key limes, or 6 Persian limes). Pour lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, egg yolks (if using) and zest into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low until combined, then increase to medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Scraping down sides once or twice. DO NOT SKIP THE LONGER WHIPPING.
  3. Whip until batter is thickened.
  4. Pour Key Lime filling into COOLED graham cracker crust. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until center is set, but still jiggles slightly when shaken. DO NOT ALLOW TO BROWN. Remove from oven to cooling rack and cool for 30 minutes. Place in fridge for at least 3 hours -- if you remove sooner it will still taste good, it will just not be quite as set if you had let it sit longer in the fridge. See notes for details if making key lime mini pies.

WHIPPED CREAM AND GARNISH

  1. While your pie is cooling, make whipped cream.Pour cold whipping cream into cool bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and powdered sugar, mixing on low until combined, then increase to speed to medium-high and whip until thick, almost to a light butter stage.
  2. Scoop out and into piping bag with star tip. Whipped cream in bag may be kept in fridge until ready to garnish pie. Garnish with whipping cream stars, a little lime zest, graham cracker crumbs and a slice of lime. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve and chill all leftovers.

Notes

MAKE MINI PIES | A reader split the batter between 12 mini pies, baked on a cookie sheet for 8 minutes and they were perfect!

GLUTEN FREE | Swap GF Graham crumbs for regular.

EGG FREE | Omit eggs all together, will still set up nicely.

KEY LIMES | May substitute regular Persian Limes or purchase Key Lime Juice (usually on the baking isle, Nellie's Key Lime juice is preferred). If using Persian limes and you want it more tart, add additional zest from 1-2 additional limes.

*Several readers have replaced the sour cream with full fat & 2% thick greek yogurt (plain) and it tasted great! I do not recommend using fat free items in this dish.

This recipe was adapted from Souffle Bombay's Prize Winning Key Lime Pie.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10 slices

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 461Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 212mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 1gSugar: 43gProtein: 7g

The nutritional information is estimated and may not be entirely accurate, at times it pulls information for suggestions and options which may increase calories, etc. Nutritional information will change based on used ingredients, quantities used, etc.

Did you make this recipe?

Go ahead, MAKE MY DAY! PIN on Pinterest and Comment on the blog!

Best ever key lime pie with wedige of Key Lime Pie on white plate with fluffy dollops of whipped cream and slices of fresh lime.

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Marilyn Akahoshi

Wednesday 24th of November 2021

This recipe is very easy to make this wonderful key lime pie. Thank you for sharing it.

Kathleen Pope

Monday 29th of November 2021

You are very welcome Marilyn! So glad you enjoyed it!

Natalie Rucker

Thursday 21st of October 2021

Absolutely delicious!!! Thank you for making it so easy.

Kathleen Pope

Friday 22nd of October 2021

Thank you so much Natalie, I so appreciate you taking the time to write a nice comment.

Radha

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

This is a gorgeous pie! Loved your step by step instructions and it tasted amazing!

Kathleen Pope

Monday 18th of October 2021

Thanks so much Radha! So glad you loved it!

Inger@Art of Natural Living

Sunday 3rd of October 2021

Love key lime pie and yours is beautiful--your rosettes especially! So with you on avoiding the bottled juice!

Kathleen

Monday 4th of October 2021

Awe, thank you!!

Jeanette

Saturday 11th of September 2021

Can you bake then freeze the cooled pie, putting whipped cream topping on just before you serve it?

Kathleen

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

You sure can Jeanette, the texture will of course be different, but still so delicious!

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