Yes, I like to bake, but that doesn’t mean I’m good at it. I think that’s how a lot of people feel. But that doesn’t mean that I give up! This is the easiest Key Lime Pie recipe on earth and it’s perfect for non-bakers. I’m keeping it simple, delicious and authentic. You don’t have to be an intuitive baker or even have any fancy techniques, just the ability to follow basic instructions. And this recipe has two ways to do each step, so you can pick what works best for your baking style.

I hope you enjoy making this, because it really is the easiest key lime pie recipe and you’ll feel really good about yourself when you’re done. I’d love to see pictures of pie successes, so please tag us on Instagram or Facebook as you bake this piece of Florida culinary history!

This is the easiest key lime pie recipe around, with easy, delicious options to make it even better than a basic one. After trying many key lime pies and making several, this recipe is the best for a new baker or somebody who's easily distracted.

Why Key Lime Pie?

Simple. We moved to Florida in the Spring of 2020 and immediately started trying different key lime pies. Even outside of the Florida Keys, key lime pie is truly a Florida staple. And it’s funny, but as you talk to Floridians about key lime pie they really do all seem to love it… but nobody ever makes their own. Publix (the grocery store) sells a really delicious one and nobody feels like they can or need to top it.

For me, after going on a week-long adventure through the Florida Keys and actually trying and testing more than 20 pies, I found the best Key Lime Pie in Key West and the Florida Keys and then had to find a way to recreate it for my own family. Nothing is as satisfying after a day of kayaking in the Florida Keys than delicious key lime pie. Guess what? It was way easier to make than I expected. And my version is just as delicious, although probably not as fancy.

Key-Lime-Pie-at-Lighthouse-Grille-Faro-Blanco-Marathon-Key-Florida-Keys-2020-1

The Origin of Key Lime Pie

I love talking about the history and origins of Key Lime Pie. It makes me laugh every time. If you start googling, you’ll see lots of varied tales of lime pie and key lime refrigerator pie and sailors making pies… While nobody can decided once and for all where the very first key lime pie recipe came from and who specifically should get the credit, everyone knows that it’s a staple in the Florida Keys and all around the state.

Exterior of The Original Key Lime Pie Bakery in Key West Florida Keys 2020 1

Key Lime Pie Recipe Variations

I didn’t actually realize that there were so many variations to key lime pie recipes until we set out on our Florida Keys trip with the intent of trying it everywhere we could. I knew that there might be variations in crusts and how it’s presented, but I didn’t know that there would be such disparity in flavor, consistency or toppings.

The greatest variation we saw was in the tartness or pungent lime flavor, and this is something I’m very passionate about. As I’ve perfected my easy key lime pie recipe, I’ve been careful to make sure that the flavor is subtle but strong. I don’t want to bake a pie that might be confused for key lime cheesecake or something. I like having a slice of key lime pie that is sweet enough that I’m blissful about the dessert-ness of it, but tart enough that eating too much isn’t going to happen.

Consistency of the many different key lime pies we’ve had has also been something I wanted to conquer. My easy key lime pie recipe has the best consistency of any I’ve had. Perhaps it’s because many restaurants and bakeries freeze their key lime pies after they bake them, or perhaps it’s because they use too much milk in their filling, but runny pie is a problem that I don’t want served to me on a dessert plate. I also don’t want a piece of frozen pie or key lime pie that has the texture of ice cream. This key lime pie recipe has none of those issues, even when served very cold as it comes to room temperature.

The last variation of key lime pie that surprised me in my research was the different toppings. I found pies with Italian meringue, hand whipped cream, spray which cream, coconut whipped cream, Cool Whip, and even chocolate drizzle. Seriously, it’s a key lime pie; it shouldn’t be topped with anything besides simple whipped cream or meringue (both options are below).

Easiest Key Lime Pie Recipe

So here we are. This is the easiest key lime pie recipe, and why I love it is for its consistency. It’s not a complex recipe, whichever version you choose, and as long as you follow the simple instructions, you should be able to bake the most delicious key lime pie.

Simple Key Lime Pie Instructions

This is the order of operations for baking an easy key lime pie. Follow these steps to ensure your timing is right and your pie both cooks all the way through and sets up properly.

Easy Key Lime Pie Baking Steps

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F

    350 is the temperature both for pre-baking your pie crust AND for baking the actual key lime pie.

  2. Bake pie crust – 6 minutes for graham cracker crust, 10-12 minutes for shortbread crust

    If you’re making your pie crust from scratch, pre-bake it so it has time to cool before adding the pie filling.

  3. Mix key lime pie filling

    Be sure the pie filling is well mixed so it’s absolutely consistent.

  4. Bake for 15 minutes

    If you prefer a softer set pie, bake for 12 minutes. Once it’s out of the oven, it will continue to cook a little and will fully set up as it cools. See the “wicked meringue” section below for baking instructions if you’re going the meringue topping route.

  5. Cool the pie before serving

    You can serve apple pie hot; you cannot serve hot key lime pie. Gross. Keep is simple by cooling the key lime pie for an hour before serving. Nobody asked for hot lime custard. Again, face-palm opportunity.

  6. Garnish with whipped cream

    Because of the nature of key lime pie and the fact that you’ve already used a milk product to make the filling, use real whipped cream to garnish your key lime pie. Real whipped cream is both delicious and it’ll help cut the acidity of the pie if anyone isn’t a huge lime fan.

Pie Crust Options for Key Lime Pie

Graham cracker crusts haven’t always been a thing, did you know that? Basic pie crusts and even shortbread crusts have been more commonly used for pies, including citrus pies like lemon meringue and key lime pie, until graham cracker crust was invented. Graham cracker crust was actually first made (documented) for use with lemon chiffon pie in 1926. Key lime pie became popular (but not new) about ten years later, and soon after the two elements joined forces to become what most people consider the standard for key lime pie recipes today.

As choose your crust, you’ve got a few options. You can either buy premade crust (why not?!) or you can make it yourself.

If you choose to make your own pie crust for your key lime pie, here are two good, easy recipes. Basic Graham Cracker CrustEasy Shortbread Crust

Keep in mind that with whichever pie crust you choose to go with, you should pre-bake it vs pouring your key lime pie filling into the unbaked crust. I mean, you could pour it in and hope for the best if you’re doing the graham cracker crust (that’s what I do for pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust), but it’s best to have a firm crust before adding the filling.

Note: if you don’t want to pre-bake your graham cracker crust, you can always chill it in the refrigerator before you add the pie filling. This will keep it from collapsing as it sits on the counter while you make the filling.

How to make graham cracker crust wicked magical

If you want to be a little less basic and turn up the flare, SLIGHTLY alter the graham cracker crust recipe. Remove 1 teaspoon of the butter from the graham cracker crust recipe and ADD 1 teaspoon of molasses. It’s amazing and the crust texture is phenomenal.

Another option that works well to make the graham cracker crust more interesting is to replace 1/4 cup of the finely ground graham cracker crumbs with finely ground toasted coconut flake. Be sure that you run them through a mill or food processor before adding them, otherwise the dried coconut flakes will mess with your texture.

Key Lime Pie Filling Recipe

Don’t change these ingredients. When I read food blogs I always laugh about the comments because people complain about a recipe not working and then state all the things they changed. Major face palm. Follow these ingredients/measurements and you’ll be set.

  • 4 medium egg yolks (3 if you choose X-Large eggs)
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (14 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup of key lime juice (use Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Juice if you don’t want to squeeze limes)

To make the filling creamy and consistent (notice that consistency is the goal?) use a stand mixer on medium:

  1. Mix the egg yolks with the condensed milk
  2. Slowly pour in the lime juice
  3. Mix well and keep it mixing until you’re ready to pour into the pie crust.

If you’ve pre-baked your pie crust, whether it be a standard, graham cracker or shortbread crust, be sure that it’s cooled before you pour the freshly mixed key lime pie filling into it.

How to Make Key Lime Pie Filling Wicked Good

These are the only things I would recommend doing to your key lime pie filling beyond the basic recipe. If you go overboard customizing it, you may throw off the texture or flavor and then you’ll be one of those bakers who logs onto a recipe blog post and complains that the recipe didn’t turn out right and then you list off all the ways you didn’t follow the instructions… and then the world all does a big face-palm in unison.

  1. First choice is to add a small amount of lime zest. Only do up to 1 teaspoon of lime zest in your key lime pie filling. Any more than that and you’ll change both the flavor and texture too much. It may even taste a little bitter.
  2. Second option is to add up to 2 teaspoons of finely ground toasted coconut. Error on the side of less is more. Adding a small amount of toasted coconut will give it the smallest hint of coconut flavor, but adding too much will make the pie filling a little caramelly or even metalic.

Remember, this easy key lime pie recipe is spot on delicious without changing the base ingredients. If you do want to add the extra touches, do so in moderation.

Easy Key Lime Pie Toppings

As I said before, I’ve seen key lime pies with all sorts of toppings on them, and some are just not right. The best and easiest key lime pie topping is traditional whipped cream. You can mix it by hand or with a stand mixer. Be sure the cream and bowl are very cold and whip it until pleasantly firm. DO NOT OVER-WHIP!

If you aren’t in the mood or don’t have time, you can also use a product like Reddi-whip or spray can whipped cream to top your pie. There’s no shame in making one thing from scratch and then finishing off with a product that is tried and true… and store bought.

To garnish your fresh key lime pie and make it extra pretty, there are plenty of choices. Here are my top picks:

  • grumbled graham crackers
  • small lime slice (key limes are yellow when ripe)
  • raspberry sauce on the plate
  • toasted coconut flakes

Whichever garnishes you choose, remember to go easy on it. This delicious and easy key lime pie recipe stands well on its own. You don’t need to impress anyone by getting artsy. Let the pie do the impressing

Alternative: Wicked Good Meringue Topping

My absolute favorite key lime pie in the Florida Keys is topped with Italian meringue. It’s from Skipper’s Dockside on Key Largo. After I had that slice of pie I knew I had to learn how to make a good meringue, which I have now done. And now I get to share it with you! (you’re welcome)

This meringue is a basic one, I don’t think it’s Italian or French or anything… It’s a Floridian meringue. The key to doing this well is to not get distracted. It’s easy to make meringue topping for a key lime pie, but you need to follow the instructions well.

  • 4 medium egg whites at room temperature (leftover from the yolks used for the filling)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • a hardy pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons of sugar (confectioner’s sugar if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

If you google how to make a meringue you’ll find lots of fancy recipes that require hot sugar and lots of steps. This process is NOT that, but is just as delicious.

  1. Mix the egg whites and salt together with a mixer on low speed until they’re frothy/bubbly
  2. speed it up to medium and add the cream of tartar
  3. When the bubbles are small in the middle and big along the edges, start adding the sugar a little at a time until it’s all mixed in
  4. Keep mixing on medium and add the vanilla extract
  5. Stiff peaks will form, so stop the mixer once they have formed and are glossy
  6. Ladle the fresh meringue onto the top of the key lime pie

A couple things to know about making a meringue topping that I learned the hard way. First, if you over mix the meringue it’ll break and look like gross shortening which won’t bake properly. Throw that out. The second thing is that you don’t want to pour the meringue onto your pie because 1.) you may drop the bowl into the pie itself and 2.) if you spoon the topping onto the pie, it’ll hold its structure better for baking.

When the key lime pie has its meringue topping, put it in the oven! Without the topping, you’d bake your pie for about 15 minutes. With the meringue topping you’ll need to bake it for about 17 minutes.

WATCH YOUR PIE!! If the meringue is turning golden brown, that’s good. You’ll know the pie and meringue are done when the peaks and ridges of the meringue are darker than the rest of the meringue. The whole topping should be at minimum golden brown, and at maximum the ridges should be dark brown (not black!).

As noted above, let the pie completely cool down before serving. If you’ve baked it with the wicked good meringue topping, be sure you cut the cooled pie with an EXTREMELY SHARP knife so the meringue slices nicely.

Are you excited to make this delicious, irresistible, wicked good key lime pie?! Of course you are!! Below you’ll find a quick shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need to make this super easy key lime pie.

Shopping list per pie (double for two pies):

  • Key Lime juice – 1/2 cup
  • Sweetened Condensed milk – 1 can
  • Egg yolks – 4 medium or 3 X-Large, separated eggs will be fully used if making meringue
  • crust – graham cracker, shortbread or standard – store bought is fine

Shopping list for Meringue per pie:

  • Egg whites – 4 medium or 3 X-Large
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Salt
  • Vanilla extract

Extras to alter the perfect key lime pie recipe:

  • graham cracker crumbles
  • toasted coconut flakes
  • molasses
  • fresh lime for garnish
  • key lime for zest

I hope you enjoy making the easiest, most wicked good key lime pie around. I’ve enjoyed studying key lime pie and perfecting my recipe. I’d love to hear from you if you make this… but only if you ACTUALLY FOLLOW the recipe versus changing everything and then complaining. 😉 Send us a note or leave a comment with feedback or questions. Thanks!

Key-Lime-Pie-with-Meringue-2020-7

Wicked Good Florida Key Lime Pie

Rob Taylor
This is the easiest key lime pie recipe around, with easy, delicious options to make it even better than a basic one. After trying many key lime pies and making several, this recipe is the best for a new baker or somebody who's easily distracted.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Resting/Cooling time 1 hr
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8

Equipment

  • Mixer
  • Oven
  • Food processor, optional

Ingredients
  

Key Lime Pie Filling

  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk 14.5 oz
  • 4 Medium Egg Yolks save the egg whites; use only 3 if X-large eggs
  • 1/2 cup Key Lime Juice fresh squeezed or bottled
  • 1 Crust Graham or Shortbread Crust is best standard pie crust is also fine to use

Easy Meringue Topping

  • 4 Egg Whites leftover from pie filling eggs; use only 3 if X-large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar can be lemon juice if you're experienced in meringue
  • 1 pinch Kosher or Table Salt use whatever salt makes you happy, but DON'T use black lava salt. No.
  • 6 tbsp Sugar if you have confectioners sugar use it; you can also throw regular sugar in a food processor for a minute to make it more fine
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Optional Add-ins

  • Coconut Flakes ground up may be added to filling; chopped may be used as garnish
  • Molasses a small amount may be added to graham cracker crust if you're making your own
  • Fresh Key Lime or Standard Lime for garnish or zest if you choose to add per complete recipe

Instructions
 

Making the Easiest Key Lime Pie

  • 350 is the temperature both for pre-baking your pie crust AND for baking the actual key lime pie.
  • Do this ONLY if you're making your pie crust from scratch. Pre-bake it so it has time to cool before adding the pie filling. If you're doing store-bought crust, skip this step.
  • Be sure the pie filling is well mixed so it's absolutely consistent.
  • If you prefer a softer set pie, bake for 12 minutes. Once it's out of the oven, it will continue to cook a little and will fully set up as it cools. See the "wicked meringue" section below for baking instructions if you're going the meringue topping route.
  • You can serve apple pie hot; you cannot serve hot key lime pie. Gross. Keep is simple by cooling the key lime pie for an hour before serving. Nobody asked for hot lime custard. Again, face-palm opportunity.
  • Because of the nature of key lime pie and the fact that you've already used a milk product to make the filling, use real whipped cream to garnish your key lime pie. Real whipped cream is both delicious and it'll help cut the acidity of the pie if anyone isn't a huge lime fan.

Making the Wicked Good Meringue

  • Mix the egg whites and salt together with a mixer on low speed until they're frothy/bubbly.
  • Speed it up to medium and add the cream of tartar
  • When the bubbles are small in the middle and big along the edges, start adding the sugar a little at a time until it's all mixed in.
  • Keep mixing on medium and add the vanilla extract.
  • Stiff peaks will form, so stop the mixer once they have formed and are glossy
  • Ladle the fresh meringue onto the top of the key lime pie. Be gentle as you spread it so it holds its structure.
  • When baking a key lime pie with meringue, be sure to add 2-3 minutes to its cooking time. WATCH THE PIE to be sure it doesn't burn.
  • Let the pie fully cool before serving it up. Use a very sharp knife to make slices so you cut through the meringue with a clean line.

Notes

In addition to the basic, nearly perfect easy key lime pie recipe…
These are the only things I would recommend doing to your key lime pie filling beyond the basic recipe. If you go overboard customizing it, you may throw off the texture or flavor and then you’ll be one of those bakers who logs onto a recipe blog post and complains that the recipe didn’t turn out right and then you list off all the ways you didn’t follow the instructions… and then the world all does a big face-palm in unison.
  1. First choice is to add a small amount of lime zest. Only do up to 1 teaspoon of lime zest in your key lime pie filling. Any more than that and you’ll change both the flavor and texture too much. It may even taste a little bitter.
  2. Second option is to add up to 2 teaspoons of finely ground toasted coconut. Error on the side of less is more. Adding a small amount of toasted coconut will give it the smallest hint of coconut flavor, but adding too much will make the pie filling a little caramelly or even metalic.
Remember, this easy key lime pie recipe is spot on delicious without changing the base ingredients. If you do want to add the extra touches, do so in moderation.
Keyword chiffon, Florida, key lime, meringue, pie

Rob Taylor is the founder of 2TravelDads, the original LGBT Family Travel blog. Focusing on ecotourism and education, 2TravelDads inspires LGBT families (and traditional families also) to go beyond their usual getaways and use travel to learn about and be part of a bigger world. "Traveling the globe and giving the kids a broad worldview."

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