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

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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.

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!

Simple 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

How to Make Award Winning Key Lime Pie

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.

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.

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 Key Lime Pie | 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 u0022Making it Yoursu0022 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 

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.

Add in powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue to whip until firm, more firm than you are used to, you want it nice and thick, almost to butter!

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!

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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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137 Comments

  1. I made this key lime pie and followed recipe exactly. The directions instructed mot to ship the extra whipping but for me when I whipped it a little longer the consistency became thinner. The pie came out pretty good but a little too dense for me.

  2. 5 stars
    So first time making this and it browned a little on one side. How will it affect the taste? I’m serving for a crowd and won’t be able to try it beforehand. Otherwise it looks delish and can’t wait to make another one!

  3. I have never made a key lime pie but have looked at mane recipes. Some look more like a cheesecake and some more like a custard. Some use eggs, some Sour cream and yours uses both. I am curious how these ingredients effect the color and texture of the filling to get just the right texture balance?

    1. The eggs are not totally necessary, but they do add creaminess and a little lift to the pie, mine is somewhere in between a cheesecake and custard, a little more firm than a custard, smooth and super creamy. I hope you try it!

  4. 5 stars
    This came out perfectly tart and sweet. The balance was amazing, and we all loved how light it was as well! Thank you so much for sharing the best key lime pie recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    Since this was my nephews favorite and it said prize winning I gave it a shot and boy was he thrilled said it was the best he ever had and he lives in Key West so congratulations and thanks for posting this is a marvelous recipe Ps he is one of the fussiest critics I know nice job!

    1. Thank you so much Claudia, wow, love, love, love hearing this! You made my month — that says a LOT that he thought that way since he can get the best and most authentic right there in Key West! I appreciate you taking the time to write a kind comment! Happy baking! Kathleen

  6. 4 stars
    Hi Kathleen. FYI, I made 60-80 Key Lime pies a week for a world-famous South Beach stone crab restaurant (which shall remain nameless) for several years. Making that many pies using key limes would have been impossible. We used a 50/50 blend of Persian lime juice and lemon juice (both fresh, of course). In blind taste tests—which we conducted every month or so—comparing our blend with key limes, not one tester could consistently tell the difference. Fruit tastes do vary with the seasons—sugar content, you know—so I recommend this as a perfectly acceptable alternative.
    Otherwise your recipe is spot on, although our ratios were slightly different (1 cup juice and 4 egg yolks). Our pies were frozen, and slices were served 15 minutes out of the freezer, the way they serve them in the Keys.
    Also, we made them in 9-inch springform pans, with the crust patted in and 1/2-inch up the sides. Much easier to serve than pie plates.

    1. Thank you so very much for that tip — I have definitely used Persian limes before but love the idea of using both! And love the tip to freeze the pies, serving them partially thawed. Thanks again so much and yes, some folks have made this in 9” springform pans, I need to remake it that way myself!

  7. 5 stars
    I live in the Northeast US and we don’t often see Key limes in the grocery store. I saw they had them recently and I bought a big bag. I followed this recipe to a T and it was perfect. A big hit with the family-just the right amount of tart vs sweet. Will make again next time I see Key limes in the store!

  8. 5 stars
    Good lord! I’ve been making key lime pie bars for forever and just to shake up the family I tried this recipe. Shame on you for putting this mom grandmother to shame lol this was better than ANYTHING I’ve made key lime wise.
    Thank you thank you thank you ! Everyone else RUN DO NOT WALK TO MAKE THIS PIE!

    1. Oh Robyn thank you so much for making my year!! Your kind words are so so sweet and this food blogger so appreciates your kind comment! It’s why I do what I do! Thank you again so much!

  9. 5 stars
    This pie is amazing. It came out beautifully the first time, and a I’m pretty sure I will be making this at least once a week for the foreseeable future, lol.
    I do wish your site didn’t have so many pop ups, making it easier to peruse, but I understand we all gotta make a living somehow.
    Thank you for this lovely recipe.

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! Always so hard to have the right number of ads (popups) and too many, as yes this is the only way I am paid in order to keep offering free delicious recipes! Thanks for your understanding!

  10. 5 stars
    I made this for my nephew, it’s his favorite and he said it was the BEST key lime pie he’s ever had. I agree, this recipe is fabulous and I’ll be making this for all our family gatherings. I couldn’t find key limes so I bought 2 Persian lines for zesting and a small bottle of lime juice and the pie had just the right amount of tartness without being sour! I’d be surprised if there was a better recipe than this one.

  11. 5 stars
    Made this for my mother’s birthday. We agreed that it was the best key lime pie we’d ever had! The recipe was simple and the pie was glorious. Thank you, Kathleen! 🙂

  12. I tried to make this for my friends birthday. Fail. It’s just so running. Like liquid pie. So embarrassing. I followed every step, even made sure to mix on med/high for 2-3 mins.

    1. Hi Farrah, I am so very sorry to hear that. Did you use any different ingredients? You used sweetened condensed milk not evaporated milk? The few times it hasn’t turned out for people is when they have switched ingredients up? Would love to try and problem solve this with you.

      I have literally had thousands of people make this and work perfectly, but I hate it when someone makes it and it doesn’t work. Did you bake it long enough? It does need to sit in the fridge for 4-6 hours to set, that is after it cools completely on the counter. Again, so sorry for your experience.

  13. Found your recipe on Pinterest, began juicing my key limes (by hand!), only to spill about 1/4 cup of the juice 🤦🏼‍♀️ So, I used lemonade to remedy! It turned out PERFECTLY! This was my first time making a key lime pie, your recipe was so easy to follow, and the pie turned out amazing. My new go to dessert!!

  14. 5 stars
    OMG, I want to thank you for this awesome recipe! I made it for dinner last night and it came out perfect! Only sub was I used light sour creme & sprinkled a few tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs over the top after I made the whip cream rosettes. I was soo good. Every bite I took, I kept making the coment uuummm, it’s so good. I savored every bite. My husband said the same thing. WOW, this is going to be made a lot and given as a gift. Thank you, Thank you. I’m new to your site & can’t wait to try your other recipes!

  15. This key lime pie was the best we’ve ever had- thank you so much for sharing! We moved into a new home and have a key lime tree so we are in heaven!!!

  16. Ok, we love Keylime pie and I have tried dozens of recipes. My family loves this recipe!I have even made it lactose free/gluten free for my daughter. Gluten free graham crackers, lactose free condensed milk, plant butter and left out the sour cream. She loved it! This is my new go to Keylime pie recipe! 🙂

    1. I love hearing this Sharon, thank you so much for sharing your kind words!! You made my day, so glad that you made those modifications and it was still fabulous so that your daughter could enjoy it! Happy baking! Kathleen

  17. Other than using a store bought Graham cracker crust, I followed this recipe to the letter. It was outstanding! I used the same key lime juice that is recommended, and this turned out so delicious! Best recipe for key lime pie that I’ve found!

  18. Kathleen this is a great recipe for an aspiring baker. My 13 yr old daughter made this yesterday with minimal guidance and has come out great! Your comments and suggestions were quite helpful for her. Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much Robb, love that your 13 year old daughter made and loved it!! I love inspiring our youth to cook and bake, so this just makes my day! Thank you for taking time to comment! Have a wonderful week!

  19. This is the best key lime pie recipe!! It has become a staple in our house! I want to try baking these as individual mini pies; are the pre-prepared mini pie shells the best option? Or could it work if I use a muffin pan with cupcake liners? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Amanda, thank you so much, you made my month! Yes, I do think these could be made in muffin tins with liners. I would reduce the time slightly from the mini-pies and once they are set, pull them out, they shouldn’t need too long! Happy baking!

    1. YAY! So glad that you loved it and it turned out great, hope your mini’s turn out great too! Thanks for taking the time to post a comment! Happy baking Paula! Kathleen

  20. Key limes are yellow when ripe, not green! Had a trees in the backyard. Of course the green looks better for topping! Is there a new variety “

    1. You are correct Mary, but at least in our stores, they come green, which must mean they are a bit underipe. I did read however; that if they become all yellow while they are ripe, they are a bit more bitter, who knew! And yes, the green does look better for the topping, I have never had an offensive flavor from a green key lime. Hope you give the recipe a try!

  21. Hi, this sound delicious and I plan to make it for Easter dinner. 15-20 minute cook time seems very short – how jiggly should the middle be? And do you have any other tips for detecting the doneness? Thank you!

    1. Hi Erin,
      It is so delicious! You don’t have to bake it long to achieve the desired set to the custard filling, make sure you whip it really well before pouring into the pie shell, it should be the consistency of cooked pudding. The center should just jiggle slightly, you don’t want it getting brown on top, the pie will continue setting up as it cools and then as you chill it. Hope that helps and hope you love it! Happy Easter!
      Kathleen

  22. 5 stars
    This key lime pie was so easy to make & by far the best tasting key lime pie I have ever tasted! The best part is mixing in the lime zest; getting those little green flavor flecks throughout the pie!

  23. 5 stars
    Okay, I am from Florida and had many Key Lime Pies, this is amazing key lime pie!!! I made two and had left over so I made mini, thank you!!!!! This is an awesome recipe!!!!!!

    1. Hi Gaby, sorry I am just getting to this, hope it all went okay. There actually isn’t Cool Whip in this recipe, real whipped cream or whipping cream is what is used. You can certainly top it with Cool Whip, but I wouldn’t advise whipping it, let me know if you have more questions about how to whip whipping cream, the longer you whip it the firmer it gets, and you can actually make butter if you whip it too much! Hope it all turned out okay! Happy baking, Kathleen

  24. I have made this recipe several times and it is SO GOOD!! I love how tart it is! I am going to make it for a friend this week and want to make it in several mini pies. How long do you suggest baking the mini pies?

    1. Love hearing this Jennifer, thank you!! Okay, did a little research, if you are using those premade mini graham cracker pie crusts, I would start at about 5-8 minutes (placing the mini pies on a large baking sheet for easier testing and removal). Pull them out when there is just a teensy jiggle in the middle. Let me know how they work out!

    1. Hi Crystal, I typically do not cover it initially, really allowing it to set undisturbed. But if you were worried about it, you could cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Same after you have put the whipped cream on, let it firm up in fridge for a bit and then place plastic wrap on it. Happy 4th! Kathleen

  25. I’m making a mango key lime pie based off this recipie! I am using mango nectar in addition! Any tips so that the pie doesn’t come out runny? Extra egg yolk or two?

    1. YUMMY! This sounds amazing, I would suggest replacing a portion of the lime juice with the nectar and then adding an extra yolk, be sure to whip it really well, and after baking give it as much time as you can to cool! Let me know how it turns out!
      Kathleen

  26. I am planning on making this pie for Father’s Day for two citrus lovers in the family. Have you ever tried subbing Greek yogurt for the sour cream? I only thought of it b/c I have a tub of Fage 2% plain in my fridge. If not, I’ll get sour cream, no biggie. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jaimie, YES! You may replace with greek yogurt, especially Fage, since it’s so thick and rich! I’ve had several people do that lately and it turns out fabulous! I even made adjustments to the recipe on the blog, hopefully those came through. Let me know how it turns out!

      Happy Baking and Happy Father’s day for your two citrus lovers, they are gonna love this!
      Kathleen

    1. Hi Amanda, 2-3 minutes, longer if it still feels runny. If you used fat free sweetened condensed milk it might not be as thick. It should still set up after baking, just cool on the counter and refrigerate really well, overnight would be best.

      1. I’ve been whipping it for almost 20 minutes and still won’t thicken. I’ve checked 10 times to make sure I had all the ingredients in and everything that it listed is in the mixing bowl.

        1. Hi Cin — Oh no! My best suggestion at this point is maybe add an additional egg yolk, whip it for a minute or two, then bake it, I’ve had people say this happens sometimes when using fat free items, which I don’t recommend. But hopefully once it’s baked and set, overnight in the fridge it will set up for you. But I guarantee even if it’s “soupier” than you want it, it will still taste great. Hope it works out.

  27. 5 stars
    I made this pie to serve at my restaurant, and I sold every slice! It set up perfectly and had the perfect amount of lime flavor. I cheated and used key lime juice; I’m from West Texas, and key limes are hard to find! I used Nellie and Joe’s key lime juice, and you couldn’t even tell! I found it at World Market for $2.99. Thanks for a great recipe, this is going to become a regular at the restaurant!

  28. They absolutely loved it! Very happy Bride that did not like cake 🙂 it ended up making 3 pies! So I kept one and could not believe how good it was! I did a regular pie crust on these ones per client request but next time will do graham crust. Thanks again!

  29. I made this tonight! First time ever making a keylime pie. That was a lot of limes to juice! I doubled the recipe and ended up being able to make 3 pies. They all came out amazing and I will have some very happy clients tomorrow! Thanks so much for such a great recipe!

  30. Mine is currently in the oven with double bake time and still not done. I re-read the blog and see that my mixture was incredibly thin even though I followed the directions. The pie will probably end up in the trash now and I’m not sure what went wrong.

    1. Oh Karyn, I’m so very sorry. A couple questions. Did you use egg yolks? Sweetened condensed milk (not plain condensed) and did you whip it really well and long that’s where it will thicken up. I’d love to trouble shoot with you, mainly so I can make my directions more clear. Please feel free to email me.