Kitchen Lab: The Key (Lime) to Success

I like pie! And I like it even more when making it is as easy as reading the back of a bottle.

I am not even kidding here! When you want to make some sort of relatively well-known dessert, there’s no need to get fancy or spend a ton of time Googling the recipes for those adorable snacks you found on Pinterest but the board’s owner doesn’t believe in links. If you buy a bag of chocolate chips, use the cookie recipe on the back. If there’s a brownie recipe on the box of cocoa powder, use it. These companies know what they’re talking about, they WANT you to keep buying their stuff, so those recipes are as dialed in as you can get.

So I had a bottle of key lime juice I’d bought (FOR REASONS, DON’T JUDGE), and about half of it was left. Looking at it, wondering what to do with about six ounces of this juice… well, hello, key lime pie recipe!



That’s right, this recipe for key lime pie filling has THREE ingredients. And you literally dump them all in a bowl and mix them together before pouring the whole mess into a pie shell. And bake for fifteen minutes.


Like, it takes longer than that to get a pizza delivered, and I can MAKE MY OWN PIE in that time? Sign me up.

Here’s how it goes:

If you’re not a weirdo like me who has cans (yes, multiple) of sweetened condensed milk in their cupboard, you’ll probably have to go to the store. Which is fine, because you probably don’t have key limes just hanging around your kitchen, either. (I mean, if you do, go ahead and juice ’em.) You can either buy a graham cracker crust at the store while you’re there (usually down the aisle with the flour and baking stuff), or make your own because that’s super-easy as well. (I did, and I’ll tell you about it in a minute.) If you don’t have any eggs, pick some of those up too.

The filling is literally just:

  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup key lime juice

THAT IS ALL. Put it all in a bowl. Blend until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake 15 minutes at 350ºF.  YOU HAVE PIE.

Much flavor. Very nom. Wow.

Of course, since I can’t make things TOO easy on myself (and I already had sweetened condensed milk so I didn’t want to go to the store), I made my own graham cracker crust. Which is ALSO three ingredients… this is just working out SO nicely.

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 7 tbsp melted butter

…and maybe some cinnamon (like, 1/2 tsp) if you like that sort of thing. Perhaps if you’re making a different kind of pie with a graham cracker crust since maybe it doesn’t go so well with lime, IDK.

So basically you smash the hell out of the graham crackers until they’re crumbs. Three whole graham cracker sheets gives you about 1/2 cup of crumbs, so I used nine sheets. Which was, conveniently, the number of sheets in one packet. Easy!

If you want to be all reasonable and do it without making a mess, you can stick ’em in a food processor or shove ’em in a ziploc bag to crush. If you choose the bag option, you can either roll ’em with a rolling pin or smash ’em by hand.

The latter option can be very cathartic.

Basically, you want your crumbs to look like… crumbs. I thought they looked a bit like sand, which I felt was appropriate for a key lime pie. (Because I am efficient in my hatred for dirtying more dishes than necessary, I put everything into the pie plate to mix.)


To measure brown sugar, you want to pack it into the measuring cup. Kinda like you’re building a sand castle, which is also appropriate.

I swear I'm WAY better at sand castles than this.

I mixed the crumbs and sugar together before adding the butter, which only furthered the “playing in the sand” feeling:

it's got a moat!

And after mixing it all together with a fork, it was basically WET sand.

it's the bit closer to the water.

And there you have it! Three ingredients, pie crust, boom. Just spread it out evenly over the surface of your pie plate and pack it down. You can use the bottom of a glass to get it nice and flat-packed.

smush smush smush smush

Now, you can either use the pie crust as-is, or pre-bake it. If you’re making a no-bake pie of some kind, it can go either way. You can either let it chill in the fridge for about an hour before adding the filling, or bake it at 325ºF for ten minutes for a more-crunchy, less-crumbly crust.

Since this pie does actually get baked, I more or less took a middle route: I chilled the crust, then poured in the filling.

Eat it now? How about now? Now?

While the oven was preheating, I let the chilled pie plate sit on top of the stove to warm a bit so I didn’t stick a piece of cold glass in a literal oven to explode or something. Then I baked the whole thing for 15 minutes at 350ºF, and it turned out perfect.

So perfect, in fact, that I totally forgot to take ANY fancy, artful photos of a slice of the finished pie. So you get only this slightly-different photo:


It’s tastily tart! So, if you like that sort of thing, a nice dollop of whipped cream is not just decorative, but its sweetness also provides a nice contrast. It’s up to you what kind of whipped cream you use (Cool Whip, some random spray can, whatever) and I’m not gonna tell you how to live your life, but I will mention that making your own whipped cream is incredibly easy and ALSO only takes three ingredients.

So if you go all-in on your commitment to homemade components, you have a whole, fantastic, made-from-scratch pie made from only nine ingredients that you basically smash together three at a time and then stack on top of each other.

Easy as pie.

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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