Key Lime Pie — This sweet and tart pie is a family FAVORITE! This key lime pie recipe with meringue has been handed down from my grandma who made this pie for 40 years! An EASY graham cracker crust is filled with a creamy lime filling and topped with a fluffy meringue! Not too tart, not too sweet, just PERFECT!
Traditional Key Lime Pie Recipe
Everyone in my family adores Key lime pie because it’s perfectly tart, but not overly so, and just sweet enough to balance the tartness.
Coupled with a graham cracker crust — which I prefer to regular pie crust any day! — and a light and fluffy meringue, Key lime pie is the ultimate dessert.
I love Key lime pie and especially so in the warmer months of the year. It’s usually served chilled, making it as refreshing as a dessert can get!
Ingredients in Key Lime Meringue Pie
In order to make Key lime pie, you’ll need the following ingredients. I have divided the ingredients list based on the three layers that pie contains:
For the key lime pie crust, you’ll need:
- Graham crackers — you can crush your own graham crackers, buy graham cracker crumbs, or buy a premade graham cracker crust in the store bought silver pie tins
- Butter — I prefer real butter, but you can theoretically use margarine instead
For the Key lime pie filling, you’ll need:
- Sweetened condensed milk — I like the regular, but I have used the fat free kind and it works well
- Egg yolks — gives body to the filling
- Lime juice — if you can get key limes, they are the best, but feel free to use regular lime juice
For the meringue for the key lime pie, you’ll need:
- Egg whites — you will be using the yolks and the whites separately and it’s very important not to get any yolk in the whites or they won’t form peaks
- Cream of tartar — this helps the egg yolks form peaks
- Vanilla extract — this is for flavoring the meringue
- Sugar — white granulated sugar or castor sugar is best for this
How to Make Key Lime Pie with Meringue
The meringue on key lime pie is technically optional, and I’ve seen many recipes without it. But in my family, the meringue is a must!
Here’s an overview of how this meringue key lime pie recipe is made:
- Make the crust: Begin by mixing together graham cracker crumbs with melted butter, pressing the mixture into your pie plate, and bake for 10 minutes.
- Make the Key lime pie filling: While the crust bakes, prepare the Key lime pie filling by whisking together sweetened condensed milk with the egg yolks, add the lime juice and whisk to combine, pour it into the pre-baked crust, and set it aside.
- Make the key lime pie meringue: Make the meringue by beating together egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Then, add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Spread it over the key lime filling, making sure to seal the edges.
- Bake the pie: Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a larger class pan or in smaller foil pans bake for 10 minutes.
- Cool the pie at room temp until it comes to room temp and then place it in the fridge to chill for at least two hours before serving.
Can Key Limes Be Substituted in Key Lime Pie?
Key limes — also known as Mexican limes or West Indies limes — are small, round limes that grow in tropical and subtropical regions. In the US in states like California and Florida, they tend to only grown in summer months.
They become lighter yellow (not greener) when ripe and contain more seeds than regular limes. Their skin is also very thin.
Key limes are most known for their tartness, they’re super aromatic, and have floral notes which is their hallmark compared to regular limes.
Key limes are preferred, of course, to make this key lime pie recipe with meringue.
However, if you cannot get them, regular limes (also known as Persian limes) are an okay substitute.
The difference between Key limes and Persian limes are that Persian limes are larger, darker green, have an acidic, tangy flavor, and lack the floral bouquet Key limes have which translates into a pie that tastes less “tropical” and has less depth of flavor overall.
Can Bottled Lime Juice Be Used in Key Lime Pie?
This is a tricky one because if you can’t get Key limes, I recommend freshly squeezed lime juice from regular, aka Persian, limes.
If you absolutely can’t deal with squeezing about 6 regular limes, then substitute bottled lime juice as a last resort.
Look for an organic version in glass bottles, usually kept in the juice aisle of your supermarket, rather than the plastic green squeeze bottles that are often found in the produce department. That tends to be nothing but chemicals that are supposed to taste like like juice but really are no where close.
Can the Key Lime Pie Meringue Be Made Without Cream of Tartar?
The rare occasions that I post recipes that call for cream of tartar, I always receive questions asking if it’s absolutely necessary.
The answer is yes, you need to use it. You cannot skip it.
Cream of tartar helps stabilize egg whites and allows them to more easily form, as well as hold, stiff peaks. If you don’t use it, the egg whites will deflate, and therefore so will your meringue, which would be a shame.
Take my word for it and just buy a little jar of it, found in the baking aisle of any well-stocked supermarket.
How Long Does Key Lime Pie Last?
Key lime meringue pie can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Make sure to cover it with saran wrap. Although you can store it for up to 5 days, it’s a guarantee this pie will be long gone before that!
Can Key Lime Pie Be Frozen?
Yes, the baked pie can be frozen for up to three months without the meringue on top. So, you’d need to prepare the pie minus the meringue, freeze it, then top it with Cool Whip or simply go without the meringue once you’ve thawed the pie.
It’s not ideal as I love the meringue on Key lime pie, but to each their own!
Tips for the Best Key Lime Meringue Pie
Pie plate size: My recipe for Key lime pie with meringue will make one large glass pie pan measuring 9 or 10-inches in diameter or 2 small tin foil pie pans. If you’re using a store bought graham cracker crust already in a tin pan, you’ll need two of them.
Key lime juice: I can’t stress this enough — freshly squeezed is best! If you use bottled lime juice, opt for one you find in the refrigerator section of your grocery store rather than a bottle that’s shelf-stable at room temperature.
Chilling the pie: Make sure you chill the pie for at least two hours before you serve it. Not only will it taste much better, it will also make it easier to slice and serve without it falling apart!
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- 150 grams (1 ½ regular size packages) graham crackers, crushed*
- ⅔ cup salted butter, melted
- 2 cans sweetened condensed milk (regular recommended although lite will work)
- 6 egg yolks
- ⅔ cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice**
- 6 egg whites
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup granulated or castor sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F and spray a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Note - Alternatively you can use two tin foil disposable pie pans but you will need TWO because although they are 9 inches, they are much shallower than a standard 9-inch glass pie plate.
- To a medium bowl, add the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and mix well with a fork to combine.
- Transfer to the pie plate or pans and press into the bottom and up the sides to form the crust.
- Bake for 10 minutes. While baking, prepare the filling.
- To a large bowl, add the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and whisk well to combine.
- Add the lime juice and whisk to combine.
- Pour filling into pre-baked pie crust; set aside.
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or large bowl and electric hand mixer, add the egg whites (be careful not to get ANY yolk in the bowl or the whites won't fluff), cream of tartar, vanilla, and beat on high speed until soft peaks form.
- Gradually add in the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Evenly spread the meringue mixture over the top of the lime filling, taking care to seal the sides.
- Bake for 15 minutes in a singular glass pie plate or about 10 to 15 minutes if using disposable pans.
- Remove from the oven and cool at room temp on a wire rack before transferring to the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. Chilling is highly recommended not only for the classic taste and mouthfeel of Key lime pie, but it will also allow for easier slicing.
*Alternatively you can use 1 cup store bought graham cracker crumbs. And for a thicker crust, you can use 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs and 7 tablespoons melted butter.
**As discussed in the blog post, freshly squeezed Key lime juice is the preferred, then freshly squeezed lime juice from regular limes, then bottled organic lime juice, and finally bottle lime juice in a green squeeze bottle is the absolute last choice and I don't recommend it.
Storage: Pie will keep airtight (cover well with saran wrap) in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 566Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 146mgSodium: 582mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 1gSugar: 30gProtein: 9g
Favorite Lime Dessert Recipes:
Key Lime Bars — There’s plenty of bold lime flavor in these easy bars that are a twist on the classic pie everyone loves! This is the perfect make-ahead dessert for potlucks and parties!
Key Lime Cake — An EASY and refreshing poke cake with plenty of zippy lime flavor that’s perfect for summer parties, picnics, and potlucks!! Everyone loves this tangy-and-sweet, light, and airy cake!!
Lime, Mint & Rum Cookies (aka Mojito Cookies!) — Super SOFT and chewy cookies that taste like you’re drinking a mojito!! Who can say no to rum, mint, lime, and sugar? A unique cookie that’s so GOOD and they’re PERFECT for spring and summer parties of any kind!!
Coconut Lime Bars — The shredded coconut adds texture and a smooth tropical flavor, without being overdone, and white chocolate is tailor-made for the lime-coconut flavor pairing.