In 2006, Florida legislators claimed the key lime pie as a state symbol, making it one of seven states in the U.S. to have an official state pie.
Key limes are greenish-yellow in appearance and are about the size of a golf ball. These tiny fruit, which are native to Southeast Asia, traveled through the Middle East, North Africa and several European cities before Spanish explorers introduced them to the Caribbean region, including the Florida Keys. They were eventually naturalized in the Keys.
The tart flavor that the fruit produces, mixed with sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks, creates the familiar flavor of Florida’s most widely recognized dessert: the key lime pie. It is thought that sponge fishermen in Key West first created the namesake pie in the late 1800s. The ingredients were readily available to the fishermen while at sea, and since early recipes didn’t call for baking – the lime juice and sweetened condensed milk mixture cooks itself without any heat – the sweet treat could easily be made on an oven-less ship.
Another theory is that Aunt Sally, the cook of Florida’s first millionaire William Curry, made the first key lime pie in Key West. It is also widely thought that she could have just adapted the sponge fisherman’s recipe but spread the word around the tiny island town. Either way, her name is connected to the dessert.
Modern-day key lime pies are baked and often are topped with whipped cream. Authentic recipes call for a meringue topping and should be made only with fresh key limes or key lime juice – not Persian limes. The filling should have a pale yellow look to it; using food coloring to make the filling green isn’t something that fans of this pie do.
Key Lime Pie Recipes
For an authentic key lime pie recipe, try this one from Brown Eyed Baker. It uses all of the simple ingredients found in a key lime pie baked into a crumbly graham cracker crust.
Looking for something a little different? Here are two recipes that you can prepare in individual servings instead.
Key Lime Pie Milkshakes
This recipe is quick and easy to mix up using a prepared bakery pie or a leftover slice of your homemade version.
-3 slices Bakery Key Lime Pie, frozen
-4 cups vanilla ice cream
-1 cup whole milk
-1/4 cup key lime juice
-8 tablespoons whipped topping, for serving
-Graham crackers, finely crushed, for serving (optional)
-Lime for zest, for serving (optional)
Freeze pie 30 minutes (or until firm). Place ice cream in blender and let stand 30 minutes. Add milk and lime juice to blender, then blend until smooth. Add pie slices to milkshake. Pulse 3–4 times until combined. Divide shakes among serving glasses. Garnish with whipped topping, graham cracker crumbs, and lime zest (if desired). Serve.
Key Lime Pudding
Similarly, Sprouts shares a recipe for individual portions of key lime pudding. This one is perfect for vegan key lime pie fans.
-2 Ripe avocados with no bruising or discoloration
-1/2 cup Fresh lemon juice
-1/2 cup Fresh lime juice
-1 teaspoon Lemon zest
-1 teaspoon Lime zest
-1/3 cup Pure maple syrup, plus more to taste
-1 pinch Sea salt
-2 cups Bananas chopped; about 2 bananas
Throw all of the ingredients into your blender, and blast on high for 30–60 seconds, until well combined. Tweak sweetener to taste. Divide the pudding among four serving glasses, and chill in the fridge for about 3 hours to thicken. Serve the same day, chilled, to avoid oxidation. Note: This pudding works best with ripe avocados that don’t have any brown discolorations. Over-ripe or bruised avocados detract from the flavor.