Hands Down, This Is the Best Key Lime Pie Recipe on the Internet

When it comes to the best key lime pie recipes, I have fond memories of one in particular—and, of course, it dates back to middle school. The Olive Garden was home to my younger self’s peak-pie indulgences. Sure dinner was fine, but what I couldn’t wait for was dessert: a slice of black tie mousse cake and one of key lime pie. Piled high with whipped cream, the latter was a true pièce de résistance. While I couldn’t tell you what actually went into the dreamy-delicious pies of my youth, there’s one thing I know for sure: my discerning dessert palette has only evolved over the years.

What makes a good key lime pie?

In the summertime, my dessert cravings lean bright, zingy, and full of zest. Sweets that are refreshing at the end of a meal but still satisfy the need for a little treat. The best key lime pie recipe checks all the boxes of a stellar summer dessert. It’s one that celebrates the season and will keep everyone lingering around the table a little while longer. To confirm once and for all what constitutes the best key lime pie, I was more than a little excited to put a few recipes to the bake-off test.

Taste-Testing Parameters

My team of seven taste testers all aligned on the following guidelines when ranking each of the pies.

  1. Filling Flavor. Bright and zesty without being too acidic or sweet. Lime should be forward but not overwhelming.
  2. Filling Texture. Creamy and smooth, not too dense but firm enough to hold its shape.
  3. Crust Texture. Should add a nice crunch without detracting from the pie.

What You Need to Make Key Lime Pie

Most key lime pie recipes only call for a handful of ingredients.

Key limes (juice and zest). Given that it’s in the recipe’s name, this is your most crucial ingredient. And no—when you’re making the classic summertime pie, you can’t shortcut it with key lime juice. For the best flavor, select limes that are plump and give a little when squeezed. (This makes them easier to juice.) Don’t forget: always zest your limes before squeezing.

Sweetened condensed milk. This is canned milk from which water has been removed and sugar has been added (not to be confused with evaporated milk). It’s what gives your pie a sweet, creamy flavor and texture without the extra moisture you’d get from regular milk or cream.

Egg yolks. Some recipes have them, others don’t. In the ones that do, not only do they help the pie set, but the yolks lend a nice richness to each bite.

Graham cracker crumbs. For many people, this is their favorite part of the pie. A traditional graham cracker crust yields a buttery layer underneath the cool, creamy filling.

Heavy cream. This will be for your whipped cream topping. And while optional, I love the fluffy white cloud that lightly sits atop each slice. Whipped up with some powdered sugar and vanilla extract, the flavor is simple but sublime.

Ingredient Substitutions

A mix of fresh lemon and lime juice. If you don’t have key limes readily available, you can mimic their tart, floral flavor by opting for a 1:1 blend of lemon and lime juice. Freshly squeezed, of course.

Coconut milk. In a saucepan, whisk together a can of full-fat coconut milk with 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to just below a boil and simmer for 30 minutes until thickened. The resulting flavor will lean a little tropical—perfect for the vibe of your key lime pie. It’s a great dairy-free alternative to sweetened condensed milk.

Crisp cookies. If you’re not a graham cracker enthusiast or simply ran out, you can swap in nearly any other crisp cookie for a similar texture in your crust. Think: speculoos or ginger snaps, animal crackers, or even vanilla wafers. All will change up the flavor slightly, but add their own unique variation.

When I first tried this recipe, I had to go back and double-check that I hadn’t missed something, which usually isn’t a great start.


  • Easy to prepare. The pie is almost entirely no-bake with the exception of the graham cracker crust, which is baked then filled and frozen.


  • Raw eggs yolks. Because this pie is frozen, the raw egg yolks remain raw. Some traditionalists note that key lime pies can be made with an uncooked filling, but we found that the flavor leaned eggy as a result.
  • Texture. The recipe says to set the pie out ahead of slicing so you can slice through. However, the pie was practically melted within 30 minutes.

The takeaway: Overall, I like the novelty of a frozen pie, but we had a few structural qualms with this one. If you try it, eat it straight out of the freezer to ensure a solid pie.

Our notes on this pie were pretty positive and everyone enjoyed their slices. There were, however, a few technicalities that felt unnecessary rather than truly additive to the pie’s overall quality.


  • Good flavor. The flavors were very well-balanced without being too sweet, and the acidity of the lime cut through the indulgent creaminess beautifully.
  • Efficient use of ingredients. Because the filling only calls for yolks, you use the leftover egg whites in the meringue topping.


  • Meringue topping. There was some debate about whether the meringue topping was necessary. While the salted vanilla meringue was tasty, most taste testers preferred a whipped cream topping to the meringue.
  • Too many unnecessary steps. As the person who assembled every single recipe, I thought it was a lot of extra effort and dishes to make meringue when whipped cream would have been perfectly fine.

The takeaway: In the end, this pie recipe was good, but some of the other recipes edged it out on technicalities.

To be clear: this is a really good key lime pie recipe. However, the lack of lime zest yields a flavor that’s less of the traditional tangy punch. And while still delicious, we’re after something that distinctly screams key lime pie.


  • Vanilla extract. While many other recipes also include vanilla extract, here, it added a lovely floral bite to the filling.


  • No lime zest. We were skeptical at first when we realized this recipe only called for lime juice. It could use a little more of the classic key lime flavor the zest delivers.
  • Slightly too sweet. Again, slightly. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love it. But if you like your desserts to have a savory edge, you’ll want to skip this one.

The takeaway: If you want to punch up the limey-ness, mix zest into the filling. The texture was incredibly smooth and overall, this made for a pretty good pie.

This key lime pie had all the makings of a classic and earned very high marks. The recipe combines Miette’s homemade graham crackers with Martha Stewart’s Key Lime Pie Filling mixed together in one pie pan.

Yes it’s extra effort, so you have my permission to use store-bought crackers. When it came to the final judging, we loved the filling’s zingy, lime-filled flavor. And with this pie’s creamy texture, we were all fast fans.


  • Homemade graham crackers. I’ll admit, this was my first thought: Do we really need to make homemade graham crackers when it’s so easy (and convenient!) to buy a box? However, the homemade crackers give the crust a noticeable textural difference. It’s crisp while retaining an unbelievable butteriness that pairs so well with the creamy filling.
  • Flavor. This pie’s filling is zingy and filled with lime-forward flavor.
  • Texture. Creamy doesn’t begin to describe the perfect, luscious bite.


  • Time-intensive. Because this recipe calls for a few additional steps (hello, homemade graham crackers), this is not a project to be taken on when you’re in a time crunch.

The takeaway: This pie is delicious and exciting, making the most of a unique approach that, while requiring extra time, is totally worth the effort.

Drumroll please… this might be one of the best key lime pies I’ve ever had. But I’ll admit: I was skeptical at first because of the coconut milk added to the filling. I knew the flavor would work well, but I didn’t know if it would be too overpowering when paired with the limes.


  • Coconut milk in place of the sweetened condensed milk. Again, I was skeptical. However, the coconut milk acted as a nice sweet base that helped temper the lime and kept it from being too acidic.
  • Well-balanced flavor. The lime flavor was upfront without being overwhelming, and the one thing I noticed after baking every single pie was that Adriana’s recipe is the only one that calls for salt in the filling. That makes a difference in terms of bringing out the flavors.
  • Texture. Absolute perfection, with a thick creaminess that’s hard (re: impossible) to pass up.

The takeaway: With zero cons to cite, this is the undisputed best key lime pie recipe. In fact, it’s the only one that all of my taste testers ate in its entirety. Run, don’t walk to make this pie.


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