When it comes to the best key lime pie recipes, I have fond memories of one in particular — and it dates back to high school, of course. The Olive Garden was home to my younger self’s indulgences. Of course dinner was fine, but what I couldn’t wait for was dessert: a slice of black tie mousse and a slice of key lime pie. Piled high with whipped cream, the latter was a true piece de résistance! While I couldn’t tell you what actually went into the dreamy-delicious pies of my childhood, there’s one thing I know for sure: my discerning dessert palette has only evolved over the years.
With summer in full swing, my dessert cravings are leaning bright, tangy, and full of zest. Sweets that are refreshing at the end of a meal, yet satisfy the need for a little treat. The best key lime pie recipe checks all the boxes for a fantastic summer dessert. It’s one that celebrates the season and keeps everyone hanging around the table for a little while longer. To confirm once and for all what the best (of the best) key lime pie is, I was more than a little excited to put a few recipes to the bake-off test.
Normally I tell you here that all recipes are followed exactly as written without any adjustments to personal taste or taste preferences. This is still true, but for this particular bake-off I made a half portion of each recipe instead of a whole pie (my cake-loving heart is doing has its limits!). I used a scale to weigh the halves to ensure accuracy in the baking. I’m just trying to minimize food waste here, all of you! All cakes were baked the night before and tasted the next day.
My team of seven taste testers were all aligned with the following guidelines when ranking each of the pies.
- Filling taste. Clear and spicy without being too sour or sweet. Lime should be forward, but not overwhelming.
- Filling Texture. Creamy and smooth, not too dense but firm enough to hold its shape.
- Crust texture. Should add a nice crunch without compromising the cake.
Most key lime pie recipes only require a handful of ingredients. Limes, condensed milk and egg yolks. Because of this, slight variations in amounts or additional ingredients added to the subtle differences that made each recipe stand out.
Now for the best part! Keep scrolling to find out which recipe reigned supreme in our Key Lime Pie Bake-Off.
#5 Frozen Key Lime Pie from the Barefoot Contessa
When I first tried this recipe, I had to go back to make sure I didn’t miss anything, which is usually not a good start. The cool thing about this contender for the best key lime pie recipe is that it’s almost unbaked at all. The graham cracker crust is baked, then filled and frozen. The rest, however, we had a few problems with.
First I had a few taste testers who weren’t too keen on the raw egg yolk situation. While there are some traditionalists who insist on making key lime pies with the uncooked filling, my team was unanimously against raw eggs. This also affected the taste as some commented that it was a bit eggy.
The main problem, however, was the texture. The recipe says the pie is prepared before slicing so you can cut through it, but the pie actually melted within 30 minutes (not ideal!). I generally like the novelty of a frozen pie, but we had a few structural issues with this one. If you try, eat it straight from the freezer to ensure a firm pie.
Get the recipe for Frozen Key Lime Pie.
#4 Key Lime Meringue Pie by Petra Paredez
Our comments about this pie were actually quite positive and everyone enjoyed their slices. The pie filling flavors were very well balanced without being too sweet, and the lime flavor was nice too. There was some debate as to whether the meringue topping was really necessary. While the salted vanilla meringue was tasty, most taste testers preferred a whipped cream topping over the meringue.
As the person who put together each recipe, I thought it was a lot of extra effort and dishes to make meringue while whipped cream would have been just fine. (Although it was a great way to use up the leftover egg whites by just using yolks in the filling!) In the end, this pie recipe was good, but some of the other recipes took it out of the technicalities.
Get the recipe for Key Lime Meringue Pie.
#3 Key Lime Pie from Grandbaby Cakes
This is a very good lemon pie recipe. However, I have to admit I was skeptical when I found out that it doesn’t use lime zest and has vanilla in the filling. But on closer inspection (and tasting more intentionally), I found that the vanilla adds a delicious, almost floral flavor to the filling.
Taste testers noted that this one leaned on the slightly sweeter side, but it satisfied the group’s sweet tooth. My testers who are not fans of key lime pie also enjoyed this one the most. However, I think the lack of lime zest makes a difference in the taste. If you really want to enhance the lime flavor, mix it into the filling. The texture was incredibly smooth and overall this made for a pretty good pie.
Get the recipe for Lime pie†
#2 Key Lime Pie from Hummingbird High
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 in one pie dish. I 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 texture difference. Yes, it takes extra effort, so you have my permission to use store-bought crackers. When it came to the final rating, we loved the tangy, lime-filled flavor of the filling. And with the creamy texture of this cake, we were all fast fans.
Get the recipe for Lime pie.
#1 Key Lime Pie With Coconut From A Cozy Kitchen
Drum roll please… this may be one of the best key lime pies I’ve ever had. I was skeptical at first because of the coconut milk added to the filling. I knew the flavor would work well, but I wasn’t sure if it would be too overpowering with the limes. However, the coconut milk acted as a nice sweet base that helped temper the lime and keep it from getting too sour.
Some tasters couldn’t even tell there was coconut milk in the filling! The lime flavor was upfront without being overpowering, and the one thing that struck me after baking each pie was that Adriana’s recipe is the only thing that calls for salt in the filling. That makes a difference in terms of bringing out the flavors. The texture was absolute perfection in its thick creaminess, and it was the only pie that all my taste testers ate whole. Run, don’t walk to make this cake.
Get the recipe for Key Lime Pie With Coconut.