Key lime pie

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Key lime pie
Cut-away view of a key lime pie
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateKey West, Florida
Main ingredientsShortcrust pie shell, Key lime juice, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk
VariationsGraham cracker pie shell

Key lime pie is an American dessert pie made of Key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk.[1][2] It may be served with no topping, topped with a meringue topping made from the egg whites,[3] or with whipped cream; it may be cooked in a pie crust, graham cracker crust, or no crust.[1] The dish is named after the small Key limes, which are more aromatic than the common Persian limes, and which have yellow, not green, juice. The filling in a Key lime pie is also yellow, largely because of the egg yolks.[3]

The filling is made by simply mixing the ingredients without cooking: the proteins of the egg yolks and condensed milk and the acidic lime juice curdle, thickening the mixture without baking. Today, key lime pies are usually baked to pasteurize the eggs and thicken the filling further.


I see Key lime pie as a stunning reminder of how deeply America's traditions are shaped by advertising. It's a perfect slice of history, a corporate recipe that found new life with local ingredients in an obscure corner of the country.[4]

The Key lime pie is probably a direct descendant of the Magic Lemon Cream Pie, invented in 1931 in the test kitchens of Borden, the leading producer of condensed milk, and attributed to their fictional spokesperson, Jane Ellison.[4] A "Tropical Lime Chiffon Pie", using condensed milk and egg yolks, is documented in a 1933 Miami newspaper article.[5] An "icebox lime pie", was mentioned as a specialty of the Florida Keys in 1935.[6][full citation needed] and a recipe under the name "Key Lime Pie" was published in 1940.[7][full citation needed]

No earlier solid sources are known, despite appeals to the public.[8][9] A 1927 Key West Women's Club cookbook does not mention the recipe.[10] A 1926 restaurant menu includes "lime pie", but it is unclear what it was. Various accounts claim that it was known earlier, but none were recorded before 1933.[11][9] A widely-reported story claims that William Curry's cook Aunt Sally invented it in the late 19th century. But there is no evidence for this, and the oldest version of this story dates to only 1995, in promotional materials for a Bed and Breakfast in Curry's former house.[4]

It was in the 1950s that Key lime pie was promoted as Florida's "most famous treat" and in 1987 as "the greatest of all regional American desserts."[4]

Key limes[edit]

Key lime (Citrus aurantifolia 'Swingle') is naturalized throughout the Florida Keys. While their thorns make them less tractable, and their thin, yellow rinds more perishable, Key limes are more tart and more aromatic than the common Persian limes seen year-round at grocery stores in the United States. Key limes have not been grown commercially in the U.S. since the 1926 Miami hurricane; they are generally imported from Central or South America.[4][12] Key lime juice, unlike regular lime juice, is a pale yellow. Bottled Key lime juice, invariably from concentrate, is widely available at retail in the United States.[12]


In 1965, Florida State Representative Bernie Papy, Jr. introduced geographical indication legislation calling for a $100 fine to be levied against anyone advertising Key lime pie not made with Key limes. The bill failed.[citation needed]

On July 1, 2006, the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate both passed legislation {HB 453} and {SB 676} selecting "Key lime pie" as the official pie of the state of Florida.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sloan, David L. (2013). The Key West Lime Pie Cookbook. Self-published. p. 14. ISBN 1499621868.
  2. ^ "Key Lime Pie Recipe". Retrieved March 26, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Artman, L.P., Jr. (August 1975). Conch Cooking. Florida Keys Printing & Publishing. p. 74.
  4. ^ a b c d e Parks, Stella (2017). BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. pp. 171–173. ISBN 0393634272.
  5. ^ "Tropical Lime Chiffon Pie". Miami Herald. April 15, 1933. p. 14. Quoted in Sloan, David (June 6, 2019). "Lustful Urges and the Original Key Lime Pie Crust". Keys Weekly.
  6. ^ Highway Traveler[full citation needed]
  7. ^ June Brown, Buffalo, New York[full citation needed]
  8. ^ Sherman, Elizabeth (July 31, 2018). "In Florida, Debate Over Origins of Key Lime Pie Strikes a Nerve". Food & Wine.
  9. ^ a b Filosa, Gwen (July 31, 2018) [updated August 6, 2018]. "We all know Key lime pie was invented in the Keys, right? Seems not everyone agrees". Miami Herald.
  10. ^ Carlson, Coralie (June 11, 2008). "Tart and creamy, key lime pies delight the Florida Keys". Glasgow Daily Times. Archived from the original on April 27, 2012.
  11. ^ Sloan, David (October 4, 2019). "Once and for All: Key Lime Pie's New York City Origin Story Disproved". Keys Weekly.
  12. ^ a b "Our Story". Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice. Key Limes for commercial use have not been grown in the Keys for many years
  13. ^ "SB 676 - Official State Pie/Key Lime". Retrieved August 14, 2006.