Key Lime Pie

Indulge in a slice of sunshine with the iconic key lime pie, a dessert that awakens the taste buds with its zesty flavor and smooth, velvety texture. This beloved dessert has captured hearts and palates worldwide for decades and is a favorite of my husband, which is why I’m blogging about it. It’s also the perfect pie to welcome at the official start of summer, which happens to be just around the corner.

Key Lime Pie Origin

Like so many other culinary favorites, the exact origin of key lime pie is a matter of some debate, and there isn’t a definitive answer as to who may have created it. It has, however, been widely believed to have originated in the Florida Keys, specifically in Key West, where key limes, needed to achieve its signature tart taste, began growing in abundance, during the late 19th or early 20th century.

key lime pie

That said, more recent theories suggest that perhaps Floridians aren’t at all responsible for the inception of this irresistible pie. The contemporary theory is that key lime pie may have originated from a much more surprising place: a milk company. Some believe the Borden milk company is responsible for inventing key lime pie simply as a means to sell more sweetened condensed milk, a crucial ingredient in the very best key lime pie recipes. Think what you may, either way, I’m a fan.

key lime pie

Condensed Milk

Condensed milk is a thick, sweetened milk product that is made by evaporating most of the water content from cow’s milk and then adding sugar. This process creates a thick and creamy consistency with a rich, sweet flavor. Many modern key lime pie recipes will omit condensed milk, but it’s an ingredient I consider essential. The trick when using it is balance. You must balance the sweetness just as you must the tartness. Greek yogurt is the true secret ingredient in this recipe. Adding yogurt to the key lime pie filling is what helps balance all the competing factors (sugar, condensed milk, lime juice, and zest), yielding a smooth, velvety mouth feel and completely decadent key lime pie that’s not cloyingly sweet.

key lime pie

Key Limes vs. Traditional Limes

Key limes, also known as Mexican limes or West Indian limes, and traditional limes, often called Persian or Tahiti limes, differ in several ways:

  • Size and Appearance: Key limes are smaller, rounder, and typically have a thinner, smoother skin compared to traditional limes. Traditional limes are larger, oval-shaped, and have a thicker, bumpy skin.
  • Color: Key limes are yellow when fully ripe, but they are usually harvested when they are still green, similar to traditional limes. Traditional limes are typically harvested when they are fully green, although they may turn slightly yellow as they ripen.
  • Flavor: Key limes have a more intense, aromatic, and complex flavor profile compared to traditional limes. They are often described as slightly sweeter and more tart with a distinct floral and citrusy aroma. Traditional limes have a milder, more straightforward citrus flavor with less complexity and acidity compared to key limes.

key lime pie

  • Juiciness: Key limes are known for their high juice content, but they have small seeds and are more challenging to juice compared to traditional limes. Traditional limes are easier to juice and typically yield more juice than key limes due to their larger size and higher water content.
  • Usage: Key limes are commonly used in culinary applications, especially in dishes like pies, dessert bars, ceviche, and marinades, where their unique flavor shines. Traditional limes are more widely available and are used in various culinary applications, including beverages, dressings, sauces, and desserts.

key lime pie

Whether enjoyed on a balmy summer evening or as a refreshing dessert year-round, key lime pie remains a timeless favorite, capturing the essence of tropical bliss in every bite even if you’re enjoying it in your backyard. Prep ahead and pull the beauty from the frig just as the sun sets while you bask in the glory of friends, family, great food, and simple pleasures.

key lime pie

About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

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