This tart & creamy North Carolina Lemon Pie recipe is the ultimate Southern summer dessert. Fluffy whipped cream on a tangy lemon curd filling & a unique saltine cracker crust is the sweet & salty dessert you need in your life.
This is my take on the famous Atlantic Beach pie. It's an easy copycat recipe of Crook's Corner unique dessert invented by Bill Smith in North Carolina. It was originally made to enjoy after a big seafood meal & there's nothing better than enjoying a slice after a poor man's lobster roll or some pan-seared garlic butter shrimp.
Slices of cold pie, like my Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, are refreshing when the weather heats us. This is served chilled which makes it a lovely make-ahead dessert to enjoy all summer long. Serve this citrus fruit dessert at BBQs or cookouts, crab feeds, birthdays, poolside, beach trips, & parties.
Ingredients for North Carolina Lemon Pie
This lemon pie made with condensed milk has easy-to-find ingredients. Plus they are all inexpensive so it is a great dessert that is cheap to make but tastes fancy & gourmet.
Some recipes have a combination of lemon and lime in the filling. Like 4-Ingredient Key Lime Pie, this recipe lets the citrus fruit shine with both freshly-squeezed juice & zest.
- Saltine Crackers - that flaky & salty crunch that is the star of the crust
- Salted Butter - softened at room temperature
- Granulated Sugar - to slightly sweeten the crust
- Sweetened Condensed Milk -
- Lemons - for both the juice & the zest
- Egg Yolks - to thicken the filling
- Heavy Cream - whip it for the topping
- Vanilla Extract - gives the whipped cream that extra yumminess
- Powdered Sugar - to sweeten the cream topping
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Atlantic Beach Pie Copycat
This pie is seriously a simple no-fail recipe. There is no making and rolling out a pastry pie crust so any beginner will feel confident.
Here are the simple steps to follow to make this recipe:
- Prepare & bake the crust
- Mix the lemon filling & pour in the crust
- Bake the pie
- Chill the pie before serving
- Whip the cream to top the pie
Step 1 - Prepare & Bake the Crust
Begin by preheating the oven to 350°. Next, coat an 8" pie pan with nonstick cooking spray. This will help the pie release when cut for pretty slices that hold together.
I like making this in an 8" pie pan, the slices are thicker and the filling reaches the top of the crust. You can also use a 9" pan, the slices will just be not as tall. I love this pie plate set with 4 different sizes for under $25.
Once the salted butter is soft, it is time to make the crust. The cracker crust comes together in just 5 minutes. Then pop it in the oven to par bake so it is ready & set before adding the lemon filling.
Add the saltines to a Ziploc bag & seal. Using a rolling pin or mallet, crush them. You want them in small pieces but not so fine they are like dust bits.
Add the crumbs to a mixing bowl along with sugar & softened butter. Using your hands, combine and press the ingredients together.
Using your hands and/or a spoon press the cracker mixture into the pie pan.
Place into oven at 350° and bake on the center rack for 15-18 minutes.
When the crust is golden brown on the edges, it is ready. Remove from the oven carefully and let cool while making the filling.
Step 2 - Mix the Lemon Filling & Pour into the Crust
Add the egg yolks & using a hand mixer, combine until smooth & creamy. Next, add the lemon juice & zest. Mix on medium until mixed well. Make sure it is evenly mixed. Pour into the prepared saltine shell.
How Long to Bake & Chill the Pie
This pie is what I call a quick bake. The lemon curd filling does not take long to cook & set. Many fruit pies take an hour to bake, this one is done in just 15-18 minutes.
Step 3 - Bake the Pie
Once the filling is in the crust, place it back in the oven on a rack positioned in the center. Let it bake for 15-18 minutes. It will be done when the crust turns slightly brown & the lemon pie filling is set.
Hint: The pie should not have a giggle in the center. It will be done when any slight movement does not result in any ripples or movement. I find that it doesn't set up firm if it is not cooked all the way through.
Step 4 - Chill the Pie
Once the pie is done baking, set it on a cooling rack on your counter. Let it cool for 1-2 hours.
Next, transfer the pie to your refrigerator to chill. The pie needs to be cold for it to slice & serve. I recommend at least 4 hours in the refrigerator - overnight is even better.
The pie needs to be completely cold before slicing. Serve with fresh whipped cream made as directed below.
Make Topping for North Carolina Lemon Pie
Many lemon pies are topped with sweet fluffy sticky meringue. This pie is different. It is covered will light pillowy mounds of freshly made whipped cream. Make it just before serving & dollop a little or pile on a ton - whatever your heart desires.
Step 5 - Whip the Cream to Top the Pie
For the topping, use a stand mixer fitted with a whisk and whipped the cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low for 1 minute. The cream should just start to foam or fluff up.
Increase the mixer speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overwhip or you may make yourself sweet butter instead.
Spread or dollop the whipped cream over the top of the pie. Using a pie cutter, cut the pie into 8 slices. Serve immediately while cold.
NOTE: You can also whip the cream with your hand mixer, it just may take an extra minute or two.
How to Serve Atlantic Beach Pie Copycat Recipe
Once the pie is chilled & has a whipped cream topping, serve immediately. Slice into 8 equally sized pieces using a pie cutter. Using a pie server, gently remove slices & place them on serving plates. They should release easily thanks to that nonstick spray we used at the beginning.
Look at that lovely thick lemony cured layer. On top is the thin fluffy layer of sweetened whipped cream with a bit of vanilla. The saltine crust may crumble a bit & that is ok - just don't let any crumb go to waste, eat it all!
Here are a few minor ingredient changes you can make to the pie and still have success. Try these alternate items & enjoy.
- Lemon Juice - instead of just lemon juice & zest use a combination of both lemon and lime
- Saltine Crackers - use Ritz as a substitute for a buttery cracker twist to the classic Atlantic Beach Pie recipe. (but as a purist, saltines are best!)
- Whipped Cream - instead of whipping fresh cream, use an aerosol can of ready-made whipped cream like Redi-Whip.
You can replace the regular saltine cracker with your favorite gluten-free brand or use Simple Mills which is grain-free.
Here is what you need to have success with this recipe.
The Short Order Cook participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission on the sale at no additional cost to you. This helps with the costs of running the blog. Thank you!
Storing & Freezing
Whether you freeze or refrigerate it to enjoy later - always wait to add the whipped cream just before serving. This pie is meant to be served cold so it is one of the best desserts to store in the refrigerator. It will last for up to 5 days - if you don't gobble it up before that!
This pie can also be frozen. After it has cooled, place it in the freezer for 4 hours. Once frozen solid, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap & then slip it into a Ziploc bag. Freeze for up to 30 days.
To defrost, remove the pie from the Ziploc & unwrap the pie. Place in the refrigerator for 48 hours to thaw out.
** wrapping it after it is frozen keeps the plastic wrap from sticking to the filling plus makes it look prettier when it is unwrapped.
All of these great tips are shared in the post. But these are so important that they are worth mentioning again so you don't miss them.
- Be sure the butter is at room temperature & yields gently when a finger is pressed on it.
- Use an 8" pie pan so the filling reaches up to the top of the crust.
- Spray the pie pan with nonstick spray so the pie releases easily when serving.
- The pie will be ready when it is set and there i sno giggle in the curd.
- Do not add the whipped cream until just before serving.
- This pie stores well in the refrigerator or freezer.
Though freshly -squeezed is best you can use store-bought lemon juice from the bottle of the cute little squeeze plastic lemons you find in the produce section. The amounts will be the same. However, without the fresh lemons, you won't have the zest that adds that extra kick of citrus that makes this lemon pie exceptional.
My crust tends to more crumbly if the saltines are not crushed enough. About ½ of the crumbs should be finely crushed & ½ should be in tiny pieces. This helps them both hold together when the butter is added plus have some flaky texture. See the image above for how mine looked.
Boardwalk Pie is another name for Atlantic Beach Pie - or this recipe for North Carolina Beach Pie. It is amazing no matter what you call it!
We didn't find this pie when we visited the Carolina Beach Boardwalk but still had a great time. We visited Chapel Hill in 2018 but weren't able to dine at Crook's Corner. This is why I had to recreate it at home. Bill Smith retired in 2019 but this luscious pie continues to bring in customers.
More Pie Recipes
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
North Carolina Lemon Pie
- 8" or 9" pie plate
- hand mixer
- 1 ½ sleeves saltine crackers about 55 crackers
- ½ cup salted butter softened at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk 14 ounces
- 4 egg yolks
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
Whipped Cream Topping
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoon powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350°.
Make the Crust
- Crush the crackers into fine pieces (do not overdo it and turn them into dust or sand). You can use a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag & crush with a meat mallet.
- Add the crackers crumbs to a medium-sized bowl. Add the sugar & room temperature butter. Stir until the crumbs hold together like a chunky dough. Using your hands or the back of a spoon, press into an 8-inch pie pan.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven carefully and let cool while making the filling.
Make the Filling
- In a medium-sized bowl, add the sweetened condensed milk. Add the egg yolks & using a hand mixer, combine until smooth & creamy.
- Add in the lemon juice & zest. Mix on medium until mixed well.
- Pour into the prepared saltine shell.
Bake & Chill the Pie
- Place the pie on a rack in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. The edges should be set and no jiggle still in the middle. (some ovens may require up to 3 more minutes for this)
- Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool on a baking rack or trivet. Let it cool for 1 hour and then place it in the refrigerator to get cold & set.
- Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. The pie needs to be completely cold before slicing. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.
Make the Whipped Cream
- Just before slicing & serving, make the fresh whipped cream.
- For the topping, use a stand mixer fitted with a whisk and whipped the cream, powedered sugar, and vanilla on medium-low for 1 minute. The cream should just start to foam or fluff up. Increase the mixer speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overwhip or you may make yourself sweet butter instead.
- Spread or dollop the whipped cream over the top of the pie and serve cold.
|Amount per serving
|% Daily Value*
|Total Fat 24.4g
|Saturated Fat 12.5g
|Total Carbohydrate 37.4g
|Dietary Fiber 1.4g
|Total Sugars 7.5g
|Vitamin D 25mcg
|*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