What is Key Lime Pie?

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE FLORIDA KEYS’ MOST FAMOUS FOOD

Carousel Cakes Key Lime Pie
Carousel Cake’s Key Lime Pie

Key lime pie is a lime green, fresh, tart, and sweet open-faced fruit and cream pie. Key lime pie is synonymous with the Florida Keys. This citrus pie is the official state pie of Florida. Plus, there is an annual summertime Key Lime Festival in Key West, Florida. One bite of this pie is a true taste of the Florida Keys, a 120-mile island chain off Florida’s southernmost tip.

What’s Key Lime Pie Made of?

Key lime pie is made of a handful of simple ingredients. This famous Florida pie is easy to make. It requires no baking if you use a ready made crust and don’t use eggs. The pie is named after the Key limes used to make the smooth and creamy pie.

Key Lime pie recipes vary but all are made of the following:

  • Fresh-squeezed (or bottled) Key lime juice 
  • Sweetened condensed milk 
  • Graham cracker crust (made from butter, brown sugar, and graham crackers)

Some recipes include a custard-like filling made with egg yolks. Some use sour cream, cream cheese, or Greek yogurt instead of eggs or no eggs at all. Some bakers use a pastry crust instead of a graham cracker crust. 

A Key lime pie may be served plain or with toppings like: 

  • Berries like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
  • Candied lime slices
  • Chocolate sauce or syrup
  • Meringue
  • Nuts
  • Whipped cream
Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe
Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe’s Key Lime Pie
Joe's Stone Crab Key Lime Pie
Joe’s Stone Crab’s Key Lime Pie

What Does Key Lime Pie Taste Like?

Key lime pie tastes simultaneously bitter and sweet. The pie itself is not overly sweet. The sugar from the condensed milk counterbalances the acidic taste of the Key limes. 

Read More: The Best Pie Flavors & Where to Try Them

What makes Key lime pie so distinct is the type of lime used called the West Indian lime or Mexican lime. They are sour and would make your mouth pucker if it weren’t for the creamy condensed milk and whipped cream!

Why is it Called Key Lime Pie?

Key lime pies are named after the Key limes that are the signature ingredient in this classic, tropical pie. West Indian limes were introduced to the Florida Keys in 1838. They became naturalized and folks started referring to these citrus fruits as Key limes. 

A hurricane in 1926 wiped out commercial lime production in the Florida Keys, but the name for these limes still endures.

Key limes are a type of lime that are perfectly round, lighter green, and smaller than regular limes. They have a floral aroma and are more acidic than the more common oblong Persian limes. These limes are slightly bitter, slightly sweet, and have a more intense taste. 

Key lime pie originated in the remote Florida Keys in the early 19th century. It’s thought that condensed milk was used instead of milk because refrigeration wasn’t common in the island chain until the 1930s.

Dangerously Delicious Pies Key Bridge Lime Pie
Dangerously Delicious Pies’s Key Bridge Lime Pie
Panbury's Key Lime Pies
Panbury’s Double Crust Hand Pies Key Lime Pie

In addition to traditional Key lime pies and mini Key lime pies, Key limes can also be enjoyed in the following ways:

Can You Freeze Key Lime Pie?

Yes, you can freeze Key lime pie. One of the most popular variations is a frozen, chocolate-dipped Key lime pie slice served on a wooden stick. Other variations include refrigerated and frozen strawberry Key lime pies.

Key lime pie can be served cold, straight from the refrigerator, or eaten frozen, like a popsicle.

Most Famous Key Lime Pies

It’s not hard to find a piece of Key lime pie, particularly in Florida and most easily in the Florida Keys. America’s best bakeries, pie shops, and restaurants are making the most famous and legendary Key lime pies.

Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Pie

Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe

Kermit Carpenter opened his Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe nearly 30 years ago in Key West. He has become the king of Key lime pie. Each pie is made with a graham cracker crust and double-strength Key lime juice and topped with fluffy whipped cream. 

Kermit also makes many Key lime products, including his famous Key Lime Pie on a Stick. His creation is a piece of pie hand dipped in Belgium chocolate and served on a popsicle stick.

Key West Key Lime Pie Co

Key West Key Lime Pie Co

Jim Brush and Alison Sloat first sold their pies on the side of the road before Key West Key Lime Pie Co‘s Key lime pie was named the nation’s best pie by the American Pie Council. They hand make their pies with a 100-year-old recipe and all natural ingredients sourced in Key West. Each pie is topped with generous tufts of whipped cream.

Little Pie Company Florida Key Lime Pie

Little Pie Company

Broadway actor Arnold Wilkerson’s Little Pie Company debuted in New York City in 1985. Little Pie Company brings a taste of the tropics to New York and beyond with its Key Lime Pie

Each regular and gluten-free Key lime pie is made with Key lime juice, homemade graham crackers, and unique pie ingredients like honey and buttermilk.

Key lime is so sublime. The best Key lime pies are shipping nationwide on Goldbelly!

Lauren-Mack
Lauren Mack

Lauren Mack is a journalist who writes about all things food for Goldbelly. She is passionate about exploring the world one meal at a time. Her favorite things to Goldbelly include cakes, biscuit sandwiches, and ice cream.

Lauren has been a journalist for more than two decades and has specialized in writing about travel and food for much of that time. Her work has appeared in 150+ websites, magazines, apps, and guidebooks, including Cheapflights, CultureTrip, INSIDER, Lonely Planet, Newsweek International, Savory Traveler, Seeker, The Daily Meal, ThoughtCo (formerly About.com), Thrillist, Time Out, TripSavvy, and Zagat.

A lover of Taiwan's night markets, Singapore's hawker centers, and New York City's food trucks, Lauren has never skipped a meal or dessert. She has an insatiable appetite for exploring the world's best food and will try — almost — anything. Her favorite foods are pizza, ice cream, dim sum, sushi, and Taiwanese braised pork rice, and she can't resist a chef's tasting menu.

From backpacking across Europe and Asia to circumnavigating the globe by ship to living like a local in multiple cities, her travels have taken her on food explorations to 60+ countries on five continents. She has called Miami, Beijing, Taipei, and New York home.