key lime pie with vanilla whipped cream

One of the beautiful things about the town we live in is its proximity to some of the best places in Florida. We’re nestled in between some of Florida’s better known cities – about two driving hours away, give or take, from Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa – and many of the state’s lesser known gems, including numerous natural fresh-water springs and state parks. When we crave the sea and sand, a short hour and a half drive east or west brings us to a coastline. To the west, Cedar Key, a quaint fishing village, sits on the Gulf of Mexico and has been a favorite lunch spot and day trip for us since I was a kid. In the other direction, on the east side of the state, is the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up going to the wide sandy beaches on the Atlantic, just south of Jacksonville. We used to stop at fruit stands along the way for fresh peaches, oranges, and nectarines to pack with us in our beach bags for snacks later in the day. And, if I went with my parents, we tended to stop for a bucket of fried chicken to eat at lunchtime, with hands still covered in sand and salt from the ocean.

We headed eastward this past weekend, over to a resort on Palm Coast, a beach community that sits between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine Beach. We were only gone a couple of nights, but those 48 hours were filled with pure fun balanced with the right amount of rest. We soaked up the sun, wiggled our toes in the sand, splashed in the pool, and ate cold ice cream in the afternoons. It was pretty much perfect.

One of the pies I associate with Florida and the beach is key lime pie. It was created initially in the Florida Keys, after all. And, apparently it’s the Official State Pie of Florida – which I did not learn until about 3 hours ago.

My husband is partial to key lime pies. Our kids are learning many of their eating patterns – both good (the love of broccoli) and bad (the complete hate and avoidance of anything resembling a tomato) – from him, including a real passion for this sweet tart pie. Madeline requested a key lime pie for our July 4th cookout, so I obliged.

This key lime pie recipe is not dissimilar to many you’ll find on the internet. I’ve added cream cheese to my version, something that is not traditional but adds a creamy note to the filling. I’ve tried it with reduced-fat cream cheese, which is really sort of a silly thing to do if you think about it. Don’t do it. The texture is not as good and the lumps in the batter tend to stick around. So, take my advice and go full-fat on this one. I like the traditional graham cracker crust, but I add shredded coconut to mine for some extra depth of flavor. Topped with a dollop of sweetened vanilla whipped cream, this pie has become a real favorite in my house.

Key Lime Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Resist the temptation to reduce the fat in this by using reduced fat or light cream cheese. Stick with full-fat cream cheese for the best texture. For the key lime juice, I use Nelly & Joe's Key Lime Juice instead of squeezing fresh limes, but you could certainly do that if you prefer.


1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (from 9 graham crackers)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Pinch kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup key lime juice
Zest of 2 limes

1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack in middle position.

Make crust: In the bowl of a food processor, process the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, shredded coconut, and salt until blended. Pour into a bowl and add melted butter. Stir well to combine; pour into 9-inch pie plate. Press graham cracker mixture evenly onto the bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling: In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and cream cheese until well blended and no lumps remain. Add sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, and lime zest and beat until incorporated and smooth. Pour into pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely on rack, then cover and refrigerate overnight or 8 hours.

Make topping: With an electric mixer (or a stand mixer using the whisk attachment), beat cream, vanilla, and sugar together on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Serve with key lime pie.

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26 Responses to “key lime pie with vanilla whipped cream”

  1. 1
    Alan Cooke — July 4, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

    Key Lime Pie is one of our family faves! Included it in a recent post myself πŸ˜‰ Will have to try the cream cheese addition, sounds yum!!

  2. 2
    Maggie at Eat Boutique — July 4, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    My father in law sends me key lime juice from Florida all the time. I go through recipe after recipe for great key lime pie. Yours is next! I love the addition of coconut to the crust. πŸ™‚

  3. 3
    Annapet — July 4, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

    Will definitely go full fat on the cream cheese! I’ve NEVER been interested in Key Lime Pie until yours came along. I have to thank our mutual friend Alan Cooke for the initial RT.

    Thank you for sharing! πŸ˜‰

  4. 4

    The sweet/tart combo is exactly what I love so much about key lime pies. It’s so rare that I have one, though, seeing that it can be pretty tough to get key limes up here.

    This looks absolutely divine and I love the story that goes along with it.

  5. 5
    Macaroni Mama — July 4, 2011 @ 11:03 pm

    A big thumbs up, MJ. It was delicious!

  6. 6
    The Duo Dishes — July 4, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

    Squeezing the juice is the fun part! We’ve definitely made this pie a couple of times over the last summers. It’s always a hit.

  7. 7
    Jen — July 4, 2011 @ 11:17 pm

    My dad loves Key Lime Pie. We vacationed often to Sarasota and always ate at a restaurant that had excellent key lime. I wish I could think of the name of it but I think it had “Tomato” in it.

  8. 8
    sweetsugarbelle — July 5, 2011 @ 12:23 am

    Simply beautiful. The beach looks like heaven. I miss it so.

  9. 9
    Kulsum at JourneyKitchen — July 5, 2011 @ 2:00 am

    Sweet and tart is just perfect dessert for me (except when chocolate is involved it has to be sweet and nutty)This looks wonderful.

  10. 10
    sam henderson — July 5, 2011 @ 7:13 am

    Well, that just looks wonderful. I do so love a key lime pie.

  11. 11
    Winnie — July 5, 2011 @ 8:12 am

    I love key lime pie. Yours looks fantastic, and your writing here is just lovely, MJ. Happy summer…and happy pie day!

    • 11.1
      Merry-Jennifer — July 5, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

      Thank you so much, Winnie. I appreciate the writing comment more than you know.

  12. 12
    Lucy@acookandherbooks — July 5, 2011 @ 9:55 am

    Love Key lime pie – this one’s a beaut!

  13. 13
    Sally — July 5, 2011 @ 11:05 am

    I want a piece of that pie. Now. For breakfast!

  14. 14

    One of my most favorite pies ever; yours sounds wonderful! And I love the Atlantic Ocean beach photos. I spent ten years in NC and left part of my heart there forever; reminds me of many family vacations in North and South Carolina.

    • 14.1
      Merry-Jennifer — July 5, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

      Anytime you want to come visit, we have a room for you, Barb!

  15. 15

    It’s not traditional, but it sure sounds good! And yes, I squeezed all 14 of those little buggers to get a half-cup of juice for mine. :-)) Sounds like you had a perfectly idyllic weekend!

  16. 16

    Key lime pie is my favorite… Love this!

  17. 17
    Rachel — July 5, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

    This looks wonderful! I definitely associate key lime pie with my Florida vacations. We went to Palm Coast last year and I’m pretty sure I had some there! I’ve never actually made a key lime pie though, but your recipe makes me want to try it out. Thanks for sharing!

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  19. 18
    Paula — July 7, 2011 @ 10:58 am

    Glad you were able to *get away* for a few nights and enjoy the water and the weather. Your pie looks beautiful!

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  21. 19

    Wow, what a pie! It looks like it came straight from a bakery. Great job. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog till Monday and I’d love it if you’d come by and link your pie up.

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  23. 20
    Courtney — July 17, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

    I’m recently obsessed with Key Lime flavored desserts. Glad I found this! πŸ™‚

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