Key limes are tarter than Persian limes (regular limes) but often difficult to find. To make a reasonable facsimile for this Key lime pie recipe, use 1/2 cup regular lime juice plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice in place of the Key lime juice here.–Josh Kilmer-Purcell | Brent Ridge

LC The Thing About Key Limes Note

The thing about Key limes is that they’re tart. Quite tart. Even though the authors include a handy little cheat sheet on how to substitute everyday limes (and a lemon) for these puckery little suckers (see the headnote above or the ingredients list below), the resulting pie will be just a touch sweeter than that classic. Not saying it’s a bad thing, just saying….

A classic key lime pie with a meringue top and several sliced limes nearby

Key Lime Pie

5 / 3 votes
This Key lime pie, from the fabulous Beekman Boys, is made with key limes, meringue, and a graham cracker crust spiked with a zing of lime zest. A classic American dessert.
David Leite
Servings8 servings
Calories372 kcal
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time1 hour


  • 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom or 9-inch springform pan
  • A kitchen torch is helpful, but not needed


For the graham cracker crust

  • 10 (5 1/4 ozs) graham cracker rectangles
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest (from Key or Persian limes), preferably organic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Key lime filling

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • One (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice, (from about 20 Key limes), or 1/2 cup fresh Persian lime juice (from about 4 regular limes) plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)

For the meringue

  • 3 large egg whites
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Make the graham cracker crust

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  • In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until finely ground. Add the butter, sugar, lime zest, and salt and process until well combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or a 9-inch springform pan. (This can easily be done by using a flat-bottomed cup or glass to evenly press the crumbs into the pan.) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the crust is sorta firm and set.

Make the Key lime filling

  • While the graham cracker crust bakes, add the egg yolks to a bowl and beat on medium-high with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add the sweetened condensed milk and beat until thickened. Beat in the lime juice (or lime and lemon juice).
  • Pour the filling into the baked crust and return it to the oven to bake for 8 to 10 minutes more, or until the filling is just set. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Increase the oven temperature to 450°F (232°C).

Make the meringue

  • In a bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the egg whites and salt until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, adding the vanilla toward the very end.
  • Immediately scoop the meringue onto the filling, making swoops and swirls in the meringue with the back of the spatula. Bake for 2 to 5 minutes, until the meringue is set and browned in spots. [Editor’s Note: Don’t be tempted to walk away from the oven. The browning—or, heaven forbid, blackening—happens pretty quickly, especially if your Key lime pie’s meringue has lofty peaks.] Let the pie cool. If time permits, refrigerate the pie until chilled through prior to serving.
The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook

Adapted From

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook

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Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 372 kcalCarbohydrates: 57 gProtein: 8 gFat: 14 gSaturated Fat: 7 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 0.2 gCholesterol: 101 mgSodium: 276 mgPotassium: 284 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 46 gVitamin A: 410 IUVitamin C: 7 mgCalcium: 169 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Josh Kilmer-Purcell | Brent Ridge. Photo © 2013 Paulette Tavormina. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This Key lime pie is definitely worth all the squeezing! I was actually able to find key limes and what a difference they make in the flavor and tartness of this pie! The recipe indicates that it takes about 20 key limes, and maybe it did take that many, but it felt like it took way more to get to 2/3 cup juice!

That aside, this recipe is a breeze to throw together. I’m not sure why I’ve never made a key lime pie, I always tend to order them when they are available on a menu, but this was my first time making one. I had no idea how few ingredients it took to make such this lovely dessert. I really liked the addition of zest in the crust, and in fact this is something I can see myself incorporating into other graham cracker-based crusts.

The directions were very good, and I appreciated that the recipe included some helpful hints on how to shape the crust using a flat-bottomed measuring cup. The times provided in the recipe were accurate as well. I actually was certain that the filling would not be “just set” after about 10 minutes, but to my surprise, when I tested it with a little jiggle, it was just set.

The meringue also came together easily, and I liked that the recipe ended up using the whole eggs— 3 yolks in the filling and 3 whites in the meringue, as I’m usually stuck trying to figure out what to do with one or the other after making most meringue pie recipes. My mom, who is originally from Florida and loves key lime pies, declared that the pie was VERY good, so for me that was a great seal of approval! The two of us at ate the entire pie over the course of about a week, so it was indeed very good!

This Key lime pie would make a great emergency dessert to have in your repertoire. The graham cracker crust was straightforward, and this filling doesn’t get much easier.

I was unable to find Key limes, so I used standard-issue Persian limes. I did as the recipe said and cut the lime juice with a few tablespoons of lemon juice. I found the finished custard to be rather tart, and I think leaving out a few tablespoons of juice next time would help tremendously.

The meringue was soft and fluffy and baked nicely, although we would have preferred to top ours with whipped cream. Overall, the tart is exactly what one would expect out of a Key lime pie. It was incredibly simple to prepare, I had all the ingredients on hand already, and the nice fresh burst of citrus helped chase away some winter blues.

This was an absolutely fabulous Key lime pie recipe. At first, I was a bit daunted by the prospect of juicing an entire bag of those tiny little limes, so I enlisted the help of my non-kitchen-skilled sweetie under the guise that it would be “together” time. He will not be so easily fooled next time.

However, he did come up with an ingenious way to juice the limes–he used a garlic press. It worked great and saved enough time that he was able to slink out of the kitchen before more tasks were put in front of him.

The crust was perfect and had a nice, firm crunch as opposed to the usual crumbly texture of Key lime pie crusts. The wider tart pan gave a broader area for the lime curd than most Key lime pies, making it not as thick, which I liked.

The meringue was easy and the finished tart was gorgeous. I served it with whipped cream, and this was absolutely the highlight of my dinner, with every happy guest cleaning their plate. I would call this a “tart” instead of a “pie.”

I made the mock version of this Key lime pie using lime and lemon juice, and it tasted wonderful. What a great trick to know when Key limes are unavailable or a bit too costly! The recipe is straightforward and easy to follow. Although there was a little weeping between the meringue and the pie filling, the meringue didn’t shrink so the pie looked beautiful, even the following day.

Over the years, my wife has ordered Key lime pie for dessert several times when we’ve been out to dinner, and I’ve always found it to be just ok. To me, it tasted like lime-flavored Jell-O—what’s up with that? Then this recipe came along, and I just had to prove to myself that it could be better than the restaurant variety.

This recipe is very easy to prepare and has got it on all levels. I have made this recipe twice in the last three days, ’cause the first one vanished overnight, and I had promised some to a friend. The second one is long gone, but at least I got to clean the plate. I had no choice but to use the lime juice and lemon juice substitution ’cause I just can’t get the real deal where I live. It works well.

I didn’t have a tart pan, so I just used a glass pie dish and found that it works just fine if you cool the pie first and then slice and loosen the crust from the dish. (If you refrigerate the pie and then try to cut a slice, it’s a disaster, as it seems the butter melts during baking and, when refrigerated, kinda glues itself to the plate.) I just refrigerated the pie for about an hour until the meringue was good and set, and then I sliced and slid a flexible spatula underneath the rust to release it. I like it best refrigerated and it should be stored in the fridge, but it can be served at room temperature.

This will definitely be a once-a-week thing at my house. If you’re still reading, then you’re wasting your time. No excuses. Go for it. You’ll love it.

A point of clarification before we get going here, this is a recipe for a Key Lime Tart, not Key Lime Pie as the title indicates. Not that it matters all that much, but I’ve known many folks over the years that shy away from pies for fear of having to craft and roll a pastry dough but love easy tarts with press-in crusts like this one, so those of you who suffer pie crust anxiety can take a deep breath and smile.

This is a very tasty and tremendously easy Key lime tart. The press-in crust flecked with lime zest is a dream, and the tart, rich filling comes together in about 30 seconds (especially if, like me, you must resort to bottled Key lime juice for lack of the real McCoy in your local market). Even the meringue topping is a cinch and makes for a beautiful presentation when lightly brûléed in the oven.

There’s one caveat that I’d like to mention regarding the meringue, however, and that is this. I finished my tart in the morning for a mid-afternoon meal and the meringue held up beautifully over that amount of time. Given that there were multiple desserts being served, not all of the tart was finished, and by the next morning (even with being refrigerated), the meringue was starting to weep and become unstable, making for a rather unfortunate-looking last few slices. With that in mind, I highly recommend you finish your tart as close to serving as possible, and by no means do you want to make it the day before serving, as your delicious tart will look all melty by the time it hits the table. That said, one could easily finish the tart up to the point of the meringue topping a day in advance, then apply and cook the meringue a few hours before serving.

Yum! My tasters loved this Key lime pie as much as I did. Sweet, tart, tangy, smooth, and pretty, too! I’ve never made Key lime pie before, but I found this recipe calling my name.

I don’t like juicing citrus by hand, but thought I’d give it a go. I substituted the lemon and lime juice combo the author suggests in the header preceding the recipe. The crust came together easily, and I baked it for about 12 minutes in my borrowed tart pan. I made the filling, poured it into the crust, and baked for an additional 12 minutes or so.

The egg whites formed nicely into soft, gleaming white peaks. With a couple more minutes of beating, they stood up and softly curled over when I used the back of the spatula to lift them up, just as I learned as a kid. (When I was a child, my mom was the master of meringue. Her lemon meringue pies were tart and sweet and topped with billowy, lightly browned meringue that had perfect peaks. Her pies were always the first to go at bake sales. I watched her technique many times, but I really haven’t made meringue much over the years. It certainly wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to pull off a perfect meringue.)

The recipe states to bake the pie at 450°F until the meringue has set. It was probably 3 minutes later, and the meringue had become lightly browned but the tips of the peaks were dark, dark brown, almost black. I shouldn’t have walked away with the oven that high. Chalk it up to being rusty on the meringue front. I think a springform pan would work instead of a tart pan with a removable bottom. I suppose the tart pan produces a prettier fluted crust, but either would work. It was a successful recipe that I’ll make again!

This Key lime pie recipe was a hit with the creamy filling and crisp meringue topping. The filling had just the right tang. My filling was ready in about 8 minutes, and the baked meringue was beautifully browned and glossy in 5 minutes. (I liked being able to control the browning at 450°F instead of broiling.) The pie looked very elegant but was easy to assemble. It was a sophisticated-looking dessert for family dinners and company! I served the pie at room temperature and listened to all the raves.

Key Lime Pie is one of my favorite desserts, and this recipe didn’t disappoint. I had to make a small substitution and use gluten-free graham cracker crumbs, but there was no discernible difference in flavor or texture in the finished crust.

I used a regular lime for the zest in the crust, as this was easier than trying to zest all those little Key limes. The filling was a snap to make, but without the zest that often gets put in, it had less of a lime-y taste than I would have preferred, but I’m nitpicking. All told, this is a delicious and satisfying key lime pie.

The toasty graham cracker crust with a bit of lime zest zing is a perfect complement to the sweet yet tangy filling. Next time, I might add a drop of lime extract to bump up the lime flavor instead of adding more lime zest. Top this off with fluffy meringue, and you have a slice of tropical heaven. Although the meringue is a lovely topping—again, this is a personal preference—I would instead gild the lily and top the pie with whipped cream.

This Key lime pie is really easy to whip up and is a true showstopper. Talk about impressing your friends and family—but they better have a sweet tooth! I used regular limes and lemon juice since I couldn’t find Key limes, and the flavor of the lime was very light and overall a bit too sweet for my liking. I kept craving a saltier, heavier, creamier component like cream cheese mixed into the egg yolk mixture, but then I guess it would be a lime cream cheese pie and not a Key lime pie.

I would use less sugar in the meringue and in the crust next time. That said, I’ve never attempted a meringue before, and it was quite fun to make. Every stage of the recipe came out exactly as the recipe states, and each stage was quite simple to execute. I skipped the cooling step before browning the meringue and my meringue still had volume and stiff peaks.

I cooled the pie to room temperature and was able to slice it although the slices were slightly “soft” in the middle. The refrigerated version of this pie tastes much richer, creamier, and all around better. I think refrigerating helps somehow balance the sweetness.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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