With its outstanding macadamia nut crust, creamy yet thick key lime filling, and sweet whipped cream on top, this is truly the best key lime pie I’ve ever had. And after 1 bite, I think you will agree. You need 4 ingredients for the crust, and only 3 ingredients for the filling.
Key lime pie will forever be one of my favorite desserts, and I know I’m not alone! This Florida specialty has been winning over millions for years. Between the buttery crunchy crust, fresh and tangy custard filling, and the essential creamy topping—no dessert can rival this one!
But can we make a good thing even better? Yes.
One reader, Valerie, commented: “I have made this recipe multiple times and it is always a huge hit! The macadamia nuts in the crust really give it that extra ‘something’ that people love but can’t quite pinpoint. One of my favorite recipes from your site… ★★★★★“
What Makes This the Best Key Lime Pie?
- Extra thick and nutty crust
- 3-ingredient filling
- Easy to make
- Totally refreshing
- Major key lime flavor
- Topped with homemade whipped cream
- Sweet, salty, citrus-y, buttery, creamy, and tangy all in one
One reader, Ellen, commented: “My son and I made this pie together for Thanksgiving. It is the first time we have ever made a key lime pie before. We followed the recipe exactly! Sally, it was the BEST PIE EVER! Absolutely delicious. Everybody loved it and we will without a doubt make this again. Today I am thankful for leftovers! ★★★★★“
Here’s How You Make This Key Lime Pie
This pie requires a few simple steps. Most of the “work” is hands-off as the key lime pie sets up in the refrigerator, so it’s perfect in the summertime. (A lot of readers make this easy pie for Memorial Day weekend, Father’s Day, 4th of July, summer birthday parties, and Labor Day gatherings.)
- Make the Crust: Use a food processor to combine the macadamia nuts and graham cracker crumbs. Combine with melted butter and sugar, then press tightly into a pie dish.
- Pre-Bake the Crust: Pre-bake the crust for about 8 minutes before pouring in the key lime filling. Pre-baking solidifies the crust and allows for easy slicing once the pie is ready to serve.
- Make the Filling: Whisk together the 3 filling ingredients—it will be thick! Pour into the warm crust.
- Bake the Pie: It usually only takes about 18–20 minutes in the oven. Let it cool completely, then cover and refrigerate the pie for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
- Garnish and Serve: This is extra delicious with fresh whipped cream on top. By the way, if you’re looking for an alternative way to serve it, try my individual upside down key lime pies. Basically the same filling as this pie.
Graham Cracker Macadamia Nut Crust
Key lime pie is traditionally made with graham cracker crust. It’s the most wonderful crunchy, sweet, and buttery bed for the fresh key lime filling. But you won’t believe the difference macadamia nuts make. I use about 1/2 cup of macadamia nuts in place of some of the graham cracker crumbs and the result is pure pie bliss. Macadamia nuts are often overlooked in the baking world, in favor of other nuts. Why, though? They’re so good!
You need 4 ingredients for this crust:
- Macadamia Nuts (I recommend salted)
- Graham Crackers
- Melted Butter
Pulse the macadamia nuts with graham crackers, then mix with melted butter and sugar. Because key limes are a little sweeter than regular limes, you will love the sweet/tangy key lime filling with the salty graham cracker macadamia nut crust.
Yes, you need just 3 ingredients. (!!!) If you’ve tried my key lime pie bars or mini key lime pies, you’ll notice that today’s filling is a little different. I typically add a little cream cheese to those recipes for stability and structure. However, for a classic and custard-y pie, we’ll skip it. You just need egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and key limes.
My success tip: Do yourself a favor and buy a bottle of key lime juice from the store. There’s a brand of bottled key lime juice that I love called Nellie & Joe’s in most major grocery stores next to the bottled lemon juice. Otherwise you will spend 100 years juicing 500 tiny key limes yourself. LOL. You need 1 cup (240ml) of key lime juice. (Fresh lime zest is optional for this pie.)
How to Tell Key Lime Pie Is Done
One of the most common and easily remedied key lime pie problems is over-baked pie. It’s tricky to know when the pie is done, but here’s my secret: bake the pie until the filling is only slightly jiggly in the center (about 18–20 minutes). It should be firm to the touch, but not totally solid. The pie will continue to set as it cools.
Cool the pie completely on a wire rack, then cover and chill for at least 1 hour before garnishing, slicing, and serving.
How to Decorate Key Lime Pie
Let the refreshing citrus flavor stand out, and keep the garnishes simple.
- Homemade whipped cream
- Since you’ll have leftover egg whites, make a meringue topping like the one on this bourbon sweet potato pie—you’ll have time to kill while the pie chills anyway 🙂
- Quartered lime slices
- Lime zest
- Whole macadamia nuts
- Graham cracker crumbs
I’ve sampled many key lime pies and I can confidently say this is the best one I’ve ever had.
Refreshing Dessert Ideas
When the temperatures rise, the last thing you want to do is spend time in a hot kitchen. You’ll appreciate these simple, delicious, and totally refreshing desserts:
- Creamy Lemon Pie
- No-Bake Cheesecake
- Lemon Berry Trifle
- Peanut Butter Pie
- Dirt Pudding Dessert (so fun for kids!)
- Strawberry Shortcake
This tangy-sweet key lime pie is deliciously simple with an extra thick and nutty crust. You need just 3 ingredients for the filling, and be sure to refrigerate the pie for at least an hour before slicing and serving.
Graham Cracker Macadamia Crust
- 11 (about 160g) full-sheet graham crackers
- 1/2 cup (62g) salted macadamia nuts (I use roasted)
- 2 Tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar
- 5 Tablespoons (71g) unsalted butter, melted
Filling + Topping
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Make the crust: Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and macadamia nuts together into coarse crumbs. A few larger pieces of nuts is OK. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the melted butter and stir until combined. The mixture will be thick, coarse, and sandy. Try to smash/break up any large chunks. Pour the mixture into an ungreased 9-inch pie dish. Use your hand to pat down the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides to make a crust. Use medium pressure—simply pat down until the mixture is no longer crumbly. Tips: You can use a small flat-bottomed measuring cup to help press down the bottom crust and smooth out the surface, but do not pack down too hard. And run a spoon around the bottom “corner” where the edge and bottom meet to help make a rounded crust—this helps prevent the crust from falling apart when you slice into the pie. For more shaping technique tips, see the graham cracker crust recipe page.
- Pre-bake crust for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave the oven on.
- Make the filling: Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks together (or use an electric mixer). Whisk in the lime zest. Pour into warm crust.
- Bake the pie for 18–20 minutes or until only *slightly* jiggly in the center. You want it mostly set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, cover and chill for at least 1 hour (and up to 3 days) before serving.
- Garnish as desired.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can prepare and pre-bake the crust up to 2–3 days in advance. Cover and store at room temperature. Likewise, you can mix up the filling up to 2–3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate, then assemble and bake. Baked and cooled pie freezes well up to 3 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Food Processor or Chopper | Glass Mixing Bowl | 9-inch Pie Dish | Zester | Citrus Juicer | Whisk
- Graham Cracker Crust: If you purchase graham cracker crumbs, you need 1 and 1/3 cups (160g) for this recipe. Even though they are already crumbs, you can still pulse with the nuts. If you want to skip the nuts, use this graham cracker crust recipe instead and pre-bake for 8 minutes.
- Can I Use Regular Limes Instead? Yes, you can make this pie with regular lime juice and lime zest.
- Store-bought Key Lime Juice: If you don’t want to juice dozens of small key limes to yield 1 cup (240ml) juice, store-bought key lime juice works too. I really like a brand called Nellie & Joe’s, and you can find it at the grocery store near the bottled lemon juice.
- Leftover Egg Whites: Here are all my recipes using just egg whites, or you can make a meringue topping for the pie.
- Key Lime Bars: Here is my recipe for key lime pie bars. I add some cream cheese to that filling so the bars hold their shape well.
- Non-US Readers: Don’t have graham crackers where you live? Use 180g ground digestive biscuits instead (about 12 biscuits), with the same amount of nuts and butter, and add an extra Tablespoon (12g) of sugar. Pre-bake for 10 minutes.
Keywords: Key Lime Pie