Authentic key lime pie is a recipe straight from the Florida Keys! The key lime base is topped with delicious meringue and uses easy to find ingredients!
Authentic key lime pie with meringue
Since I have more eggs than I know what to do with, I often sell them to locals. Fresh farm eggs are a hot commodity around here! A friend asked if she could pick up some eggs, but she came bearing a delicious gift- an authentic key lime pie!
She is a die-hard key lime pie fan and believes in spreading the joy of a freshly baked pie to friends. Now, I have had many key lime pies in my day, but this one was different, and not something I have experienced before!
The history of Florida key lime pie
The key lime base is made with simple ingredients like eggs, lime juice, and sweetened condensed milk. Back in the days before luxurious refrigeration, Key West Conchs used ingredients that were readily available.
Since refrigeration was not widely used or affordable, using milk was not an option. Instead, canned milk was used since it could be stored anywhere.
They would make their key lime pie with raw, unrefrigerated eggs. The filling was not typically baked, but in modern times, it is. The pie filling does set better when baked, but for a long time, this key lime pie was enjoyed as a no-bake pie!
The crust is a regular pie crust, not the graham cracker crust you commonly see. My friend explained that real Key West Conchs make their pies with pie crust, which is the authentic way. They are passionate about which pie crust is used!
This version of key lime pie was passed down to my friend from her mother, who learned from her Cuban father. Key West Conchs are fiercely passionate about preserving the authenticity of their key lime pie, and full-heartedly disown the graham cracker crust. Try it out with a regular pie crust and you will know why!
Authentic Florida key lime pie recipe ingredients
- Deep dish pie crust- You can make your own pie crust or you can use a store-bought (found in the freezer section). Either way, this key lime pie tastes fabulous with a regular pie crust!
- Key lime juice- You can sit there and juice every single key lime needed for this recipe, but Nellie and Joe’s Key Lime Juice can be found in most grocery stores and makes this recipe even easier!
- Eggs- You will need 4 eggs total for this recipe, but separate the yolks from the whites into two separate bowls.
- sweetened condensed milk- Eagle’s Brand sweetened condensed milk is the bran I pick up to make this key lime pie. The flavor is unmatched!
- Green food coloring– This is an optional ingredient, the authentic version does not include food coloring, but to achieve a pretty green color, you will need it.
For the key lime pie meringue
- Eggs- Remember when I said save the egg whites? You’ll be using them for the meringue!
- White sugar- For a healthier, more conscious sugar, opt for Florida Crystals sugar. This sugar is not bleached and is sourced locally.
- Cream of tartar (or any acid)- You can use lemon juice, white vinegar, or cream of tartar for the recipe. The acid helps the eggs introduce air pockets to make it fluffy.
- Pinch of salt- This is an optional ingredient but a pinch of salt does bring out flavors and can enhance any dish!
Use four eggs and separate them
Crack the eggs and divide the yolks and the egg whites into two separate bowls. You will use the yolks for the key lime base and the whites will be used for the meringue. Since the meringue will be made in the final steps, allow the bowl containing the egg whites to sit on the counter so it comes to room temperature (which produces a fluffier product).
Cook the pie crust the right way
My first time making this pie, I messed up, bad! I have a few tricks to help you avoid a flop of a pie. First, make sure you press the edges of the pie into the grooves around the edge of the pie dish. This step makes sure that the pie crust will not collapse while it is cooking. Next, poke holes in the bottom of the pie crust to allow it to cook evenly. In the first 7 minutes of cooking the pie crust, place dried beans or rice at the bottom. This ensures the pie crust will not bubble up.
Seal the pie with the meringue
Ok, so my first pie was a flop on a few levels. The pie crust fell, then the meringue looked great coming out of the oven… it cooled for a bit and when I checked on it, the meringue had shrunk! I had no clue meringue could even do that! Here’s how to avoid it! When you are smearing the meringue over the key lime pie, make sure you wipe your spoon along the edge of the pie crust with the meringue. This ensures that the meringue “grabs” onto the pie crust and will not shrink away from it when it settles.
How to make a traditional American key lime pie recipe
- Bake the crust first. Baking the pie crust first is called “blind baking.” Place the store-bought pie crust on the counter and allow it to come to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Place the pie crust in the pie dish and pinch the edges of the crust into the grooves along the pie dish. Pierce the bottom of the pie crust with a fork, then place 1 cup of dried rice or beans into the bottom. Bake the crust for about 7 minutes with the pie weights in it (the rice or beans). Remove the pie weights, then bake for another 7-10 minutes. Most store-bought pie crust baking instructions say to bake it for 15 minutes, so just make sure that the pie weights are in there for the first half of the baking time.
- Fill the pie crust with the key lime mixture. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the lime juice, the egg yolks, food coloring (optional), and the sweetened condensed milk. Add 1/3 cup of the lime juice, then a couple more splashes (about 2 tablespoons). The pie should be tart, but not too tart. Pour the mixture into the pie crust, then bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees. Once the pie is done baking, allow it to cool for 5 minutes before topping it with the meringue.
- Make the meringue. While the pie is baking, whip up the meringue. Add the room temperature egg whites to a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip the eggs until stiff peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and the cream of tartar to the eggs, then continue to whisk for another 2-3 minutes.
- Bake the pie. Top the pie with the meringue, making sure to seal the edges as stated above in the “chef’s tips.” Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pie in the oven in the middle rack. Every 2 minutes, increase the temperature by 25 degrees until you reach the temperature of 500 degrees. Do not walk away from the oven! The meringue will brown quickly, so turn the oven light on to watch it. Once the meringue is nice and brown, remove from the oven and allow it to cool for an hour.
- Refrigerate the pie. Once the pie has cooled for an hour on the counter, place it in the fridge for 3-4 hours to chill.
- Serve the key lime pie. When you are ready to serve the pie, warm a knife under hot water before slicing it. As my friend says, “Eating the whole pie in one sitting with a spoon is also encouraged !”
What to serve with key lime pie
- Enjoy these frozen strawberry watermelon margaritas that combines fresh, sweet watermelon, strawberries, lime juice, and tequila! This easy blender made drink will impress the crowd!
- Frozen hibiscus lemonade is made with fresh-squeezed lemons, hibiscus tea, and lots of ice! This icy and delicious drink takes lemonade up a notch and tastes just like summer!
- Take a trip to Mexico with this delicious pineapple peach agua fresca. This lightly sweetened and fruity drink is so refreshing and non-alcoholic!
- Refined Sugar-Free Basil Watermelon Lemonade is sweetened with agave syrup and has a perfect balance of sweet and sour. This lemonade is meant to be enjoyed ice cold with great friends on your front porch!
Authentic Key Lime Pie with Meringue
- 1 pie dish
- pie weights
- Stand mixer with whisk attachment
- pie dish
- 1 store bought pie crust room temperature
- 4 large eggs yolk and egg whites separated
- 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 tsp green food coloring optional
- 1/3-1/2 cup key lime juice
- 1/3 cup white cane sugar
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar or lemon juice, or vinegar
- Bake the crust. Place the pie crust in the pie dish and pinch the edges of the pie to the grooves in the pie dish. Pierce the pie dough with a fork a dozen times, then place the pie weights in the bottom of the dish. If you do not have pie weights, use dried rice or dried beans. Bake the pie according to package instructions. Halfway through the cooking time, remove the pie weights.
- Make the key lime filling. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Crack the eggs and separate the yolk from the whites. Separate them into two different bowls. Combine the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Add the key lime juice (and food coloring if desired), start with 1/3 cup, but increase to 1/2 cup if you like it on the more tart side. Pour the pie filling into the pie crust, then bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes.
- Make the meringue. While the pie is cooling, whip up the meringue. Add the egg whites to a stand mixer with a whisk attachment on high speed. Whisk until the egg whites creat peaks, about 5-10 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and the cream of tartar to the egg whites, then whisk for another 2-3 minutes.
- Assemble the pie. Use a rubber spatula to spoon the meringue over the key lime pie. Seal the edges of the pie crust with the meringue by sliding your spatula along the edges with more meringue.
- Bake then cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the meringue topped pie into the oven on the middle rack. Increase the oven by 25 degrees every two minutes. Turn the oven light on and watch the meringue so you don't burn it. Do not walk away from the pie, it browns quickly! Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool on the counter for 1 hour, then place in the fridge for 3-4 hours. Warm a knife under hot water before slicing the pie. Mangia!
Nutrition values are estimates, for exact values consult a nutritionist.