This is indeed the Ultimate Key Lime Pie. A velvety smooth texture that’s perfectly tart from key lime juice yet sweetened from condensed milk poured into a graham cracker crust providing the perfect foundation for the perfect filling. Two choices of toppings puts this pie over the top.
Whenever my family sees Key Lime Pie listed on the dessert menu, it’s ordered. I’ve always noticed there never seems to be enough filling. To me, the filling for this pie seems to be half of what it should be. It should be higher up the edges. Why so little?
I don’t see the need to add sugar to the crust as it is sweet enough. Easiest pie crust ever. Place the graham crackers in zip top bag, remove most of air and close. Then use a rolling pin to gently pound and/or roll them until fine. If you have some vented anger like I do, don’t go all crazy and make the bag pop from all the force creating an explosion of graham crackers. Yeah, that’s never happened. Go about it gently. You don’t need to take out the food processor for this. Save yourself some clean up.
Here’s a wonderful tip for preventing the crust from sticking to the bottom. When I first started making this crust, I would place the butter in the pie dish, microwave the butter until melted, poured the crumbs in, mixed it in the pie dish, then pressed down with bottom of measuring cup. Sounds good, huh? Well, sometimes the easiest isn’t always the best. When slicing the pie, I had to pry off the crust of the first piece because it stuck. You would think it wouldn’t because there’s butter in the crumbs, but I’m here to tell you it sticks.
To prevent this disaster from happening, you need to do the following. Butter the bottom and half way up the sides of the pie plate with a little butter. Place the graham cracker crumbs, salt, and melted butter in a bowl and mix until combined. Now transfer the crumbs onto greased pie plate and press down to form crust. Problem solved. I also use the same bowl to make the filling. Just a quick rinse and dry and move on to next step. After I make the filling, I rinse and dry off again and make the topping. It’s quick and I don’t have many bowls cluttering the counter.
Key limes – fresh or bottled?
If you don’t live in Florida, how often do you see them at the market? Most of the time, regular persian limes are used or bottled lime juice. Honestly, I have only made this pie once using freshly squeezed key limes that I was lucky enough to find at the market. I had to use so many it was ridiculous. Never again. Using bottled key lime juice worked perfectly fine and it makes it so much easier. I don’t use the zest of the limes in this pie as I don’t particularly like the texture of zest in a filling that is supposed to be smooth and creamy. Not only is using fresh key limes lots of work, the tartness and amount squeezed may vary depending on the freshness of the key limes. Too much juice can make the filling so tart, it makes you pucker or make funny faces, which at a dinner party isn’t ideal. Why do they all look at me when making those funny faces? I feel like I’m being propositioned with all that puckering.
Sweetened Condensed milk – 1 or 2?
Do you use one or two cans of sweetened condensed milk? Well, coming from a Peruvian family, sweetened condensed milk is part of living. This stuff is the liquid of gods. It’s pure heaven and in this case I want a filling worth eating along with having a pie that when sliced, doesn’t look flimsy and half full. I use 2 cans and please, use the full fat stuff. Go big or go home. Just don’t eat this everyday. Savor it and enjoy it. Don’t eat it in two bites.
Salt in Key Lime Pie?
Yes, I add ⅛ teaspoon of salt to both the crust and filling. I feel that just a touch of salt brings out the sweetness of the milk and enhances the flavor of both the crust and filling. If you want to omit, fine. If not, I use Diamond Crystal fine salt when I bake. If you don’t have that salt, you may want to skip as different salts may change the flavor of the pie.
To egg or not 2 eggs?
I use 2 whole eggs. Why not use all yolks? Although all yolks would result in a creamy velvety texture, I feel the egg white contributes structure to the filling giving it some heft without taking away from the smoothness. This way, I’m not worrying about separating eggs or freezing egg whites.
Whipped cream or sour cream?
As for topping, you can try both. One is sour cream with a touch of key lime juice and powdered (confectioners’) sugar. Whisk and spread on top of cooled pie. It’s different, creamy, tart, and yummy.
You can always go with the old standby of whipped cream with powdered (confectioners’) sugar.
I wouldn’t add the lime juice into the cream before whipping. It may break it requiring you to use a mixer to beat it into shape. It will come together but it can be fussy and requires more cleanup. In this case, I would just leave it out. You can slice a lime and place it on top but I’m not into the whole garnish thing. People will pick it off and set it aside. It may look pretty for pictures but it won’t get eaten and it would require your guests to pick at their food. This is a food blog not a photography blog. Imagine a slice there if you wish. Ok, in the first picture I broke down and added garnish, but only for the picture. If you come to my house and I serve you there won’t be any garnish.
You can make this a day before allowing the flavors to intensify. I have never had this pie last longer than 2 days and that was only because of testing the recipe.
How can anyone resist this pie? It’s so good I should have put my name on it and called Natalie’s Key Lime Pie, but really, it’s the Ultimate Key Lime Pie.
Want to know what I use in my own kitchen to make this recipe and others? Check out Kitchen Essentials and find the best tools and recommendations for the job.
- 9 honey graham crackers - full size (5 ounces)
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ⅛ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter (approx.) for greasing pie plate
- 2 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk (full fat)
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¾ cup key lime juice, fresh or bottled (recommended: Nellie and Joe’s key lime juice)
- 2 large eggs
- ⅛ teaspoon fine salt
- Sour Cream Topping:
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon key lime juice
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- Whipped Cream Topping:
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Preheat oven 350 degrees.
- Grease bottom and half way up sides of pie plate using about 1 teaspoon (or less) of butter to prevent crust from sticking.
- Place the graham crackers in zip top bag, remove most of air and close. Use a rolling pin to gently pound and/or roll the crackers until fine. Transfer to a bowl along with the salt and mix to combine. Pour in melted butter and mix until crumbs are coated.
- Transfer crumbs to pie plate and stir in melted butter. Press down with the bottom of a ½ cup measuring cup. Push against the sides to build up an edge.
- Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven and set aside. Leave oven on.
- Add the eggs in a large bowl. I remove the chalazae - the stringy white thing that is attached to the egg yolk because I'm looking for smooth without going through the bother of straining. That is totally optional.
- Whisk the condensed milk, lime juice, eggs, sour cream, and salt together.
- Pour into warm crust.
- Bake 10 minutes and no more. It will be jiggly in the center, but resist the urge to continue baking as it will continue to cook while cooling. Also, refrigerating will firm the filling to proper consistency.
- After pie plate is cool to touch, make topping of choice.
- To make Sour Cream topping:
- Simple whisk together sour cream topping ingredients and spread on top of cooled pie.
- To make Whipped Cream topping:
- Whisk the whipped cream topping ingredients until soft peaks form. No need for stand mixer. Use your arms and work off some of the calories you are about to take in. Serve on top of each slice of pie or decorate to your liking.
- Place pie in fridge and chill for at least 3 hours (okay maybe 2) before serving.
- You can make this a day before allowing the flavors to intensify.
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