This is the best Easy Key Lime Pie recipe and all you need is 4 ingredients. One slice of this creamy citrus tart pie and you will be transported to Key West.
This authentic tasting key lime pie has a classic baked filling. This Southern Florida dessert is loved for its refreshingly sweet, tangy, and sour flavor.
Like my recipe for North Carolina Lemon Pie, the citrus flavor is the star. There is nothing like having this tropical tasting cold dessert on a warm evening in spring or summer. Who am I kidding; it's amazing any time of year.
What are Key Limes?
Key limes are a variety of citrus fruit that are very tangy, sour, and highly acidic. They are different than regular limes in that they have more intense lime flavor.
Key limes are described as tasting more floral, sweet, & sharp than regular limes. That bold, almost bitter, flavor is what makes key lime pie irresistible.
Ingredients for Easy Key Lime Pie
This recipe calls for just simple 4 ingredients. A store-bought crust is the short cut that makes this also a quick & easy recipe to assemble.
This is NOT a key lime cheesecake version, no cream cheese. Just traditional ingredients in this baked key lime pie recipe.
Here are the ingredients needed to make Key Lime Pie.
- Graham Cracker Crust - 9" premade store-bought crust saves time & still tastes great.
- Egg Yolks - to thicken the filling (save the egg whites for another recipe)
- Key Limes - you will use both the juice & the zest.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk - the thick sweet dairy product balances the acid & sourness of the lime juice.
- OPTIONAL - homemade or canned whipped cream.
- see note below for a substitute to key limes
See the recipe card for quantities & full instructions.
How to Make a Key Lime Pie
This quick recipe whips up in just 5 minutes. Then in bakes for just 15 minutes. Is there anything faster than that? Pie in just 20 minutes!
Oh wait, sorry. It does need to chill and set for a few hours in the refrigerator before slicing. Trust me, the wait is worth it!
Here are the easy steps for making a classic Key Lime Pie.
- Make the Key Lime Filling
- Bake the Pie
- Chill & Serve
Key Lime Pie Video
1 - Make the Key Lime Filling
Before starting the filling, start preheating the oven to 375°. While it is warming up, gather your ingredients.
Next, separate the egg yolks from the whites. Save the whites to use in another recipe and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Or make meringue to top the pie, see variations section below.
In a large bowl combine the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, & key lime juice.
Remove the plastic cover from the pie crust. Save it so you can flip it over and use it as a dome cover for the pie.
Pour the filling into the prepared graham cracker crust. Sprinkle on the lime zest.
Look at those tiny specks of bright green lime zest. The pop of color and flavor in the yellowish green tart filling is so pretty. Don't skip adding it.
Save some zest for later if you want to sprinkle any on top when serving - I like to add some on the whipped cream.
2 - Bake the Pie
Once the oven is preheated, place the pie in the center rack of the oven. Let it bake for 15 minutes. That is all it needs!
The filling should be set without any jiggle in the center. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool on the counter for 30 minutes.
Once cool, place the pie in the refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours. It is best served cold for optimal taste & ease in slicing.
3 - Chill & Serve
Key lime pie is a refrigerator pie. It is meant to be served chilled. That cool dreamy texture is what makes it a summer favorite.
When you are ready to serve it, add optional whipped cream & an additional sprinkling of lemon zest.
Using a pie server, carefully lift and remove one slice at a time & plate. Enjoy immediately!
Hint: This is the perfect make-ahead pie recipe. Bake it the night before. Then simply top with whipped cream if desired and serve the next day.
Substitutions & Variations
Try a recipe option with these variations and ingredient swaps. Modify, add, exclude, or replace to create a delicious recipe catering to a variety of cultural, dietary, health, or personal nutritional needs & tastes.
- Key Lime Juice - replace the juice with ¼ cup each of lemon & lime juice combined to replace the ½ cup of key lime juice. Or buy bottled Key Lime Juice as a substitute.
- Gluten-Free - use gluten free graham cracker crust such as Mi-Del Graham Style Crust (I love this brand!)
- Graham Cracker Crust - make homemade graham cracker crust versus the premade one in the grocery store. Just make sure it makes a 9" crust so there is enough room for the filling.
- Whipped Cream - top with fresh whipped cream or dollops from the can.
- Meringue - use the egg whites to make meringue to top the pie with.
The right ingredients, supplies, & equipment help recipes taste amazing & turn out well. Here are recommendations for products that are needed for making this recipe. Shop this recipe & buy these top-rated items today.
- NELLIE & JOE'S KEY WEST LIME JUICE
- 9" GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
- SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK
- SERRATED PIE SERVER (great for slicing & lifting)
- MICROPLANE ZESTER/GRATER
- HAND JUICER
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Storing & Freezing Key Lime Pie
Key lime pie can last for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Place the plastic dome lid from the store-bought crust upside down over the pie & crimp the edges closed. Enjoy cold straight from the fridge with tons of whipped cream.
Can You Freeze Key Lime Pie? Absolutely & here is the best way to do that. This method for freezing pies is tried & true by America's Test Kitchen & is how I always freeze whole pies. Follow these steps & be sure to freeze the key lime pie before adding any whipped cream:
- Freeze the pie unwrapped until firm for several hours.
- Once solid, cover in plastic wrap (doing so after firm ensures the wrap doesn't stick to the pie).
- Finally, top with a layer of foil.
The double laying helps keep away any moisture which causes freezer burn. Defrost in the refrigerator 2 days before serving.
All of these great tips are shared in the post. But these are so good and important they are worth mentioning again so you don't miss them.
- Use true key limes or key west lime juice.
- Chill for a minimum 2 hours in the refrigerator before slicing.
- Top with whipped cream & a sprinkle of lime zest when serving.
- Bake up to 3 days ahead of time for a great make-ahead option. Then just chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
If you are in a time crunch and want to serve your key lime pie shortly after it bakes, the freezer can help. Instead of chilling for 2 hours in the fridge, try chilling for 30 minutes in the freezer after the initial 30 minutes on the counter.
The best way to describe how this pie tastes is that it is a combination of citrus, sweet, & sour. It is similar to a lemon meringue filling only more tart, acidic, & tangy.
If you used true key limes but the pie is too sweet & doesn't have a strong lime flavor it may be about timing. The limes may not be at their peak season. They may also be too old or weren't ripe enough.
One way to tell if they limes were not at their peak is if it took 6 or more regular sized limes to yield enough juice; less juice means less than optimal fruit.
If you used regular limes instead of key limes, the flavor will not be as intense. This is why in my substitution section I recommend using a 1:1 ratio of both lemon & lime juices.
Easy 4-Ingredient Key Lime Pie
- 1 9" Graham Cracker Crust store-bought pre-made
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk 14 ounces
- 4 key limes to yield ½ cup of juice & 1 tablespoon of zest
- whipped cream optional
|Amount per serving
|% Daily Value*
|Total Fat 14.3g
|Saturated Fat 5.8g
|Total Carbohydrate 53.2g
|Dietary Fiber 1.3g
|Total Sugars 41g
|Vitamin D 11mcg
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
|Recipe analyzed by