Key lime pie is one of those quintessential Southern desserts. You won’t believe how easy it is to make! Additionally, this version puts a delicious new twist on an old favorite.
What is Key Lime Pie?
Key lime pie is a dessert with American origins. Today, it’s closely connected with the Florida Keys. However, it actually gets its name from the key lime, a more aromatic variety than the common Persian limes.
The skin of key limes turns yellow when ripe instead of green, and their juice is yellow, too. That explains why Key lime pie is not actually “lime green”!
The dessert’s history is a great example of regional adaptability: we cooks adapt recipes to fit the ingredients we have on hand.
The recipe most likely evolved from a 1931 Borden recipe for “Magic Lemon Cream Pie” using Borden condensed milk. It was a meringue pie with the juice and rind of lemons.
Southern cooks quickly adapted it to use key limes. By the 1940s, “Key Lime Pie” had become a specialty of the Florida Keys.
By the 1950s, this pie had earned a well-deserved reputation as Florida’s “most famous treat.”
However, the dessert clearly was no flash in the pan: it became a favorite throughout the South, eventually earning a place as one of the greatest southern American desserts.
How do you make Key Lime Pie?
How easy is this pie to make? The simplest version is easy enough for a kid to make! In fact, I learned to make Key lime pie when I was about 7 years old in my grandmother’s kitchen.
This is one of those simple, timeless recipes that gets passed down through the generations. However, each generation of cooks may add their own twist.
You probably are most familiar with the version of this pie that uses a graham cracker crust. Actually, you can make Key lime pie with a variety of crusts — or even no crust at all! You certainly can make a luscious Key lime pie with a pre-made crust from the grocery store.
For my version of this classic recipe, I decided to put my own spin on things by making a crust from finely chopped nuts. I use what I consider to be some of the tastiest nuts imaginable: hazelnuts and pecans. Add butter, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and the result is divine.
The tart taste of the pie with the flour-less nutty crust is sublime (no pun intended). Honestly, you will never go back to the graham cracker crust once you have tasted this combination.
Tips for Easiest Pie Making
Here are a couple of tips to make this Key lime recipe even easier.
To skin hazelnuts, toast nuts for 5 to 10 minutes (watching closely so that nuts do not burn). During this time the nut will swell. The brittle skin will not stretch and will crack. Remove from oven and set aside for at least 20 minutes. Rub nuts together in hands to remove skin.
To aid in juicing the key limes, heat in microwave for 1 minute.
This recipe is featured in my Tracking the Outdoors In cookbook. Check it out for tons of other great recipes, stories, and sustainable living tips!
Love limes? You also may want to try this fabulous Key Lime Cake with Cream Cheese Lime Icing.
Find more recipes at the Weekend Potluck!
Key Lime Pie Extraordinaire
- 3 cups sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3/4 cup key lime juice
- 1 tbsp grated lime zest
Flourless Crust Ingredients
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- pinch nutmeg
- pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine chopped nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl.
- Whisk melted butter and honey in another small bowl.
- Add nut mixture to the butter. Mix well. Press mixture into pie plate and bake for 10 minutes in preheated oven.
- Meanwhile, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime zest to a medium bowl. Mix well and pour over prepared crust and place in preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until small bubbles surface on pie. It may not look done, but remove from oven and allow to cool. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Serve with Basic Whipped Cream and top with a slice of lime.