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This Easy Key Lime Pie has a creamy, 3 ingredient filling with a graham cracker crust! This easy recipe has no eggs or egg yolks and one secret ingredient that makes it the silkiest, most flavorful key lime pie you’ll ever taste. There are instructions for an optional meringue topping for an impressive dessert!

key lime pie sliced on teal plate.

Fresh key lime juice, zest and crème fraiche are what set this key lime pie way apart. Real key limes are almost floral and have a more gentle tartness than Persian limes. The lime juice is balanced by sweetened condensed milk and a savory baked graham cracker crust.  

Early on in my career as a restaurant pastry chef, I went to put something in the oven and, when I returned to my station (i.e. “desk”) there were 10 bags of the smallest limes I had ever seen. Chef Marc had made a random fruit drop! Before this point I had only had the pre-packaged juice and was unimpressed, but my first taste of fresh key lime juice was magical!

Why You Will Love this Easy Key Lime Pie

  • An easy, egg-free filling. This simple key lime pie filling only has 3 ingredients and contains no eggs. Yes, it will still set up! Trust me.
  • Creamy and thick with a secret ingredient. Even without the eggs this filling is guaranteed to set up in the oven. The flawless combination of crème fraiche, sweetened condensed milk and fresh key lime juice makes a creamy pie that is still tart and refreshing!
  • Bright, tart and balanced flavor. This is the very recipe that I developed and sell in my pastry shop. It has dozens of 5 star reviews from customers and a more loyal customer base than any other dessert!

Professional Tips for Making Key Lime Pie

  • Don’t skimp on the crème fraîche! Crème fraiche is more mild than sour cream and has a richer taste and texture. It balances the tartness of the limes without competing. It add creaminess without overpowering the delicate key lime flavor.
  • Use fresh key lime juice if you can. Key limes have a lightly floral, and milder tartness than Persian limes. They are worth using if you can find them. If you can’t find key limes, opt for freshly squeezed regular limes instead. Bottled key lime juice has added salt and preservatives that completely change the flavor.
  • Bake just enough. Since there are no eggs, you are just cooking enough to create a curdling reaction between the dairy and lime juice. The center of the pie will no longer look liquid and the filling will move as one cohesive unit.
  • Pre-bake the crust. It is optional to pre-bake the graham cracker crust, but I find it is the best way to keep the crust from getting mushy.  
perfect key lime pie
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Ingredients for the Pie

  • Graham Crackers: Once I learned that you could buy graham cracker crumbs, I’ve never looked back.
  • Butter: I use unsalted butter for baking, because you want to control the amount of salt you are adding. Every brand is different and it makes adjusting the recipe a challenge.
  • Light Brown Sugar: The light brown sugar in the crust gives it just a little extra sweetness and plays well with the graham flavor. You can skip it, but it is so delightful.
  • Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is less salty than table salt and a teaspoon weighs less than other finer ground varieties. It heightens the flavor in the graham cracker crust, balances the sweetness, and enhances the flavor of the filling.
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk: Sweetened condensed milk adds sweetness without adding too much liquid. Each brand has a slightly different flavor. I prefer Eagle Brand.
  • Crème Fraîche: Crème fraiche is milder than sour cream and has both a richer taste and texture. It add creaminess without overpowering the delicate key lime flavor. It is also responsible for curding (thickening) the pie filling when baked with lime juice.
  • Key Limes: You will need about a pound of key limes for this recipe. If you are using Persian limes instead you will need about 6 limes with each lime yielding about 2 tablespoons of juice. It’s better to zest before you juice! Pick up some extra to use in these superbly seasoned Chicken Tacos!

Ingredients for the Optional Meringue

  • Egg Whites: I find separated egg whites make more stable meringues than those from a box.
  • Granulated Sugar: The granulated sugar in the meringue is here for stability as well as sweetness. The more sugar in the meringue, the more stability and the less volume.
  • Cream of Tartar: Cream of tartar will stabilize the meringue. It is optional but why not stack the deck in your favor.
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Water

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to Make Key Lime Pie

Use these instructions to make the perfect pie every time! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Make the crust:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Step 2: Combine melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, kosher salt and light brown sugar in a bowl. Squeeze together to distribute the butter. Continue until it will hold together in a clump when pressed in your hand.

Step 3: Press into pie dish. I like to start with the bottom and then work my way up the sides, finishing with the edges. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the bottom no longer looks wet.

For more tips, visit my baked graham cracker crust post.

Make the filling:

Step 4: Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (not convection – no fan).

Step 5: In a large bowl whisk together sweetened condensed milk, crème fraîche, key lime juice, zest and kosher salt. Pour into baked crust.

The crust can still be warm or you can prepare the crust ahead of time. Simply cool, wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Step 6: Bake at 325°F (not convection) 45-60 minutes until it starts to have bubbles in the center and the edges have puffed and slightly cracked.

Allow to cool completely at room temperature and then wrap well and chill 2 hours to overnight before slicing.

Optional Meringue:

Step 1: In a small pot combine 2/3 cup sugar with water. Stir to incorporate. Wipe down any sugar crystals that stuck to the sides. Over medium-high heat, begin to cook the sugar.

Step 2: Once the sugar begins to bubble, begin whisking the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Once they begin to foam, slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and turn the mixer on high.

Step 3: The goal is that the sugar syrup hits 238°F (right before soft ball) as the whites get to stiff peaks.

You can lower the heat on the stove to give the whites more time or lower the speed on the mixer to give the syrup more time. You are in control!

Step 4: Once the whites are at stiff peaks and the syrup hits 238°F, turn up the speed on the mixer to high and slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the mixer bowl into the whites. Beat until cooled slightly.

Step 5: Mound on top of the cooled key lime pie!

This meringue isn’t very stable because there isn’t high ratio of whites to sugar, so it is best to add it the day you serve it (or the day before). For a more stable meringue topping try this marshmallow fluff recipe.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

The thickening agent of this pie filling is heating the dairy with the lime juice. The acidity of the lime juice causes the casein proteins to link together and thicken the custard-like filling without any eggs. This is the very same reaction that thickens the old English dessert, the posset.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store key lime pie?

Store unbaked filling in the refrigerator for up to a week before baking and baked, cooled crusts wrapped at room temperature for 3 days. Baked key lime pies can be stored at room temperature for 3 days, refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for 3 months.

How to serve key lime pie?

Serve key lime pie alone or topped with meringue, marshmallow fluff, or homemade whipped cream. You could also make a lime version of my lemon whipped cream for a different option.

Can I use regular limes instead of key limes for pie?

If you can’t find key limes or do not want to squeeze a pound of itty-bitty limes for pie, then it is best to substitute fresh regular lime juice over bottled. Bottled key lime juice has water, salt and other preservatives, plus its flavor is dull and mildly bitter.

Do key limes taste different than regular limes?

Freshly squeezed key limes have an almost floral flavor and a softer, more mellow tartness. Their zest is incredibly floral and you will probably recognize the scent from popular perfumes.

What makes key lime pie thicken?

A reaction occurs between the dairy proteins and acidity in the lime juice when heated, which thickens key lime pie filling. The acidity of the lime juice causes the casein proteins to link together and thicken the custard-like filling without any eggs. This is the very same reaction that thickens the old English dessert, the posset.

If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!

Perfect Key Lime Pie one of 20 best thanksgiving pie recipes.
5 from 2 ratings

Easy Key Lime Pie

This Easy Key Lime Pie has a creamy, 3 ingredient filling with a graham cracker crust! This easy recipe has no eggs or egg yolks and one secret ingredient that makes it the silkiest, most flavorful key lime pie you’ll ever taste. There are instructions for an optional meringue topping for an impressive dessert!
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 12 people

Ingredients  

For the Filling:

For the Crust:

For the Meringue:

Makes: 9inch round

Instructions 

Make the crust:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Combine melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, kosher salt and light brown sugar in a bowl. Squeeze together to distribute the butter. Continue until it will hold together in a clump when pressed in your hand.
  • Press into pie dish. I like to start with the bottom and then work my way up the sides, finishing with the edges. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the bottom no longer looks wet.

Make the filling:

  • Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (not convection – no fan).
  • In a large bowl whisk together sweetened condensed milk, crème fraîche, key lime juice, zest and kosher salt. Pour into baked crust.
  • The crust can still be warm or you can prepare the crust ahead of time. Simply cool, wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
  • Bake at 325°F (not convection) 45-60 minutes until they start to have bubbles in the center and the edges have puffed and slightly cracked.
  • Allow to cool completely at room temperature and then wrap well and chill 2 hours to overnight.

Optional Meringue:

  • In a small pot combine 2/3 cup sugar with water. Stir to incorporate. Wipe down any sugar crystals that stuck to the sides. Over medium-high heat, begin to cook the sugar.
  • Once the sugar begins to bubble, begin whisking the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Once they begin to foam, slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and turn the mixer on high.
  • The goal is that the sugar syrup hits 238°F (right before soft ball) as the whites get to stiff peaks.
  • You can lower the heat on the stove to give the whites more time or lower the speed on the mixer to give the syrup more time. You are in control!
  • Once the whites are at stiff peaks and the syrup hits 238°F, turn up the speed on the mixer to high and slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the mixer bowl into the whites. Beat until cooled slightly.
  • Mound on top of the cooled key lime pie! This meringue isn’t very stable because there isn’t high ratio of whites to sugar, so it is best to add it the day you serve it (or the day before).

Video

Notes

Presentation – The meringue is completely optional. You could opt for a simple whipped cream or marshmallow fluff frosting instead.
Flavor Tips – Key limes have a very unique and exquisite flavor. If you cannot find, or do not want to juice fresh Florida key limes, opt for fresh Persian (grocery store) limes instead.
Storage – Store unbaked filling in the refrigerator for up to a week before baking and baked, cooled crusts wrapped at room temperature for 3 days. Baked key lime pies can be stored at room temperature for 3 days, refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for 3 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 457kcal | Carbohydrates: 68g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 506mg | Potassium: 360mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 60g | Vitamin A: 506IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 218mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 457
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Before You Go

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef tested recipe. Check out our other delicious, chef-developed pie recipes! Find more amazing pie recipes in this 20 Best Thanksgiving Pie Recipes.

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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