Key Lime Pie Original Recipe: A Sweet Trip to Florida

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The original recipe for key lime pie comes form the Florida Keys. Limes were an important part of life for English sailors who ate citrus fruit to fight off scurvy.

Key Lime Pie with meringue topping

According to the Wikipedia article and this interesting article on epicurious.com, the key lime pie may have originally been made for fisherman who didn’t have many fresh ingredients. The original recipe supposedly comes from a woman named “Aunt Sally”.  Although no one agrees on the crust (was there any?) or the topping (meringue, whipped cream or ice cream?), everyone agrees that the pie was made with canned, not fresh, milk because canned milk couldn’t spoil.

Key limes are smaller and more acidic than standard limes. They are also tangier and have more of a pucker in cooking and cocktails.

Although key limes aren’t available here in France, the ones from Mexico make a decent substitute. And if you really can’t find fresh limes, you can try prepared juice like Pulco. Although it’s not as good as fresh squeezed juice, reducing the sugar to a minimum helps bring out the tanginess of the limes.

“Key” lime pie is simple, delicious, and almost foolproof.  The hardest part about this pie is the meringue. If you keep the pie in the oven just a minute too long, the meringue will start to brown. It’ll still taste good, but just won’t be as pretty. For a foolproof version, skip the meringue and top with fresh whipped cream.

Key Lime Pie ingredients

Pie crust:

  • 250 grams Graham Crackers (or 125 grams each Petit Beurre and Speculoos).
  • 3 tablespoons (45 g) melted butter

Lime cream:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 1 can (about 14 oz / 400 ml) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup  (150 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes)

Meringue topping:

  • 4 egg whites
  • ¼ cup (25 g) superfine sugar (or less)
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar or white vinegar

Directions to make a Key Lime Pie:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180 °C).
  2. Make the pie crust. Crush the cookies and added the melted butter. Pat the crust into a pie plate (I use my hands, but you can also use the back of a spatula). Bake the pie crust for about 8 minutes.
  3. While the crust is baking, make the filling. Beat the egg yolks, condensed milk, lime juice and zest. Beat until it is a little frothy. Remove the crust from the oven and pour in the batter. Bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the filling begins to set. In the meantime, make the meringue.
  4. Put the egg whites, vanilla, sugar and vinegar (or cream of tartar) in a glass bowl. Beat on low-medium speed  with an electric mixer until the mixture is white and shiny and forms peaks.
  5. Cover the pie with meringue. Take a medium sicilcone spatula (or spoon) and put dollops around the outside edge of the pie, making a circle of meringue. starting from the outside in, put dollops of meringue until the pie is covered. Bake for another few minutes until the meringue starts to set but before it starts to turn brown. Put in the refrigerator to cool for a couple of hours before eating.
American Key Lime Pie recipe Key Lime Pie recipe from Florida Real Key Lime Pie recipe from the keys Delicious Key Lime Pie recipe

2 comments

  1. Emmanuelle Bocage

    Can’t wait to try your recipe, love the photos and just wanna eat the pie right away !
    Thanks !

    Reply
  2. Carol Thrope

    Becca, You are terrific! I will make your key lime pie this summer, and I will prepare it for Sam and Tehila and family in August when they come here. Nice job on the photo instructions too! Love Carol

    Reply

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