Authentic key lime pie is yellow, not green

Bring the flavor of Florida to any summer gathering with a key lime pie, one of the most counterfeited of all desserts. Make it today, chill it in the refrigerator overnight and surprise your guests tomorrow. Then wait for the applause.

This key lime pie is a slightly tweaked version of the Key West classic. We lightened it up a bit by folding whipped egg whites into the batter, instead of letting the meringue bake on top.

Rule No. 1: If you’re in a restaurant or market and spot a key lime pie with green filling, keep moving. Somebody added food coloring. Real key lime pie filling is yellow. That’s because the round golf ball-size “key limes” are West Indian limes, which are yellow when ripe – not green. Key lime juice has an unmistakable floral scent that other lime juices lack. To make a real key lime pie, you must use the real lime juice.

Oh, and those tiny green limes from Mexico you see in supermarkets, advertised as “key limes”? They’re not.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this pie, from a 170-year-old recipe passed down from a Key West native. Just like Ernest Hemingway’s famous burger recipe, which was featured in the June 25 Food & Wine section, this one is a keeper.


Key lime pie

Serves 8 to 10


1 pie crust

2 cans of Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk

2 eggs at room temperature

1 bottle of Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice (available in many supermarkets, and at Corti Bros. Market)

1/4 stick of butter

The beaten whites of two eggs, folded into the pie filling to make it lighter. Add 1/8 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the whites. See the technique below.


Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a stainless-steel or plastic bowl (not aluminum).

Add the yolks of two eggs, saving the whites.

Pour in 1 cup of lime juice. If you don’t like your pie puckery, pour in 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of juice and add more to the batter later, to suit your taste.

Whisk by hand until the batter is smooth and consistent. Do not use a blender or electric mixer. Taste it. Does it need more lime juice?

Beat the egg whites just before you add the batter to the pie crust, as they shouldn’t sit around.

When beating: Just as the whites start to become frothy, add 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar. Continue beating until the egg white “peaks” stand up on their own. The beaten whites must be used immediately, so fold them into the batter just before you pour the batter into the pie shell.

As for the pie shell, you can make one or use the Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust in the red box; it’s ready to go. Place crust in glass pie pan. Prick holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork.

Following the directions on the Pillsbury box, or your own pie crust recipe, bake the crust a little beyond halfway done (on the lowest oven rack), then remove it from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. While it’s hot, melt the butter all over it.

Reduce the oven heat to 200 degrees.

Gently fold the just-beaten egg whites into the batter.

Pour the batter into the buttered, half-done pie crust. Let the pie bake another 15 minutes or so, until the crust is golden and flaky and the filling is firm.

Remove from the oven, place it on the cooling rack and let it cool at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Keep it cold. Option: Just before serving, top with whipped cream.

Here’s another option: Distribute a handful of blueberries or crushed pecans into the bottom of the pie crust before baking. Gently push them into the pliant crust.