Food You Can Eat: Sort-of-Not-Really-No-Bake Key Lime Pie

It is a forceful act of will not to eat the whole pie in one sitting.

First Things First:  One of my many stops during my time as a professional baker was for the Publix grocery chain.  It was the spring of 2008, before all hell had broken loose, and my career in audio was coming to a painful end.  There was literally no work to be had, anywhere, and I was getting tired of living and dying by the 1099.  So, I decided to go back into food-related work, while figuring out my next move, and was able to parlay my previous experience as a baker in restaurants into a job at Publix.  It turned out to be one of those dumb-luck things, considering what happened in September of that year.  In fact, my wife’s job evaporated soon after. So I encouraged her to work for Publix as well because people in this modern world can’t avoid the grocery store.

Anyway, Publix sells an extraordinary key lime pie.  It has excellent texture (except for the sliced almonds that are along the whipped cream border, which fucks up the whole smoothness of the pie), and that super-rare perfection of sweet and sour.  It’s also quick and easy to make, so when I found myself with a can of sweetened, condensed milk, I knew how I was going to use it.

A caveat before we get started:  I haven’t worked for Publix since 2010, when my wife and I moved several states away.  This means I haven’t made that pie in over ten years, so this is a close approximation and not the original recipe which is lost to my memory.  Also, I’m pretty sure Publix’s version doesn’t use egg yolks, because this is a sort-of-not-really-no-bake recipe and they’d be afraid of getting sued.  But I use local eggs and generally don’t live in terror of food that isn’t cooked into oblivion.  Besides, the yolks seem to do a better job of holding the pie together.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs

½ Cup Butter, melted

1 Cup Flour

14 oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk

4 Egg Yolks

5 Limes (if you can access Key Limes, use those, but if you don’t live along the Gulf Coast it’s unlikely that they’re available)

½ Pint Heavy Cream

1 tsp. Vanilla

1 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar

Mix graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and flour together.  Press into a pie dish.  Or, you can be lazy and just purchase a ready-to-use graham cracker crust, at which point you might as well just buy the damned pie while you’re there and skip this whole thing.

Bake the pie in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until just golden.  Set on a cooling rack.

If you have leftover crumbs, that’s OK. Don’t make the crust too thick.

Mix together the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and the juice of the five limes.  Beat on medium speed for a minute or two.

Pour filling into pie shell.  Use a rubber spatula to make sure the filling is evenly distributed.  This will only fill the shell about halfway, so if you really like you some key lime filling, then double the filling recipe.

I almost stuck my face in there and licked it up out of the shell.

Whip the heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.  Scoop the whipped cream into a pastry bag with an open star piping tip.  Squeeze the whipped cream onto the filling in a looping pattern, starting on the outside and finishing in the center.  Or, you can be lazy and just slap it on there with a rubber spatula, at which point you might as well just buy that Cool Whip shit.  Why are you even here?

I haven’t used a pastry bag in eight years. Give me a break.

Lightly place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the pie and chill for several hours—at least 5-7—before serving so the filling can set in place.

Serve chilled.  If you let the pie sit out for too long, the filling will lose its structure and just ooze all over the place, at which point you have to start asking yourself why you went through all this trouble when you could have just jumped on a plane and flown to Florida.

About butcherbakertoiletrymaker 581 Articles
When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


  1. I’m glad to see you using a graham cracker crust. Key Lime, Lemon Meringue, and Coconut Cream are much better with a crumb crust than pastry. I am nervous about uncooked egg yolks though. I stopped buying the local eggs from the farmers market because sometimes they’re gross. I think I can get pasteurized eggs at the grocery store. Those are safe, aren’t they?

    • Pasteurized eggs are available at some grocery stores but not all (and yes they’re safe). I haven’t seen them at ones near me. I’ve been curious about using them for baking before so I could let Lil taste batter and such. Supposedly you can also pasteurize eggs yourself, though it may be tricky to guarantee you’ve done it correctly. 

      • I’ve heard that citrus and sugar will kill the bacteria but I’ve spent the last year trying not to get sick. I’ve got my vaccine appointment next month. I’m taking no risks! 

        • I had terrible food poisoning once, and it was probably the worst night of my life (labor was more painful, but at least it had a payoff). Since then, I’ve been a lot more cautious about food safety. Never again, if I can help it.
          I will say though, from what I understand, eggs actually carry a fairly low risk of salmonella these days – and a lot of the risk is bacteria on the outside of the eggs, so washing the outside of the eggs with soap before cracking them mitigates most of the risk. Still, I don’t tend to mess with raw eggs. 

          • I’ve had food poisoning twice.  Wanted someone to just put a bullet in me and get it over with both times.  But, having grown up in the biz, I was fully immersed in the ways of food safety so I feel comfortable with certain foods that most folks might balk at.  Sourcing is the key.  Garbage in, diarrhea out.

            • It’s a truly horrible experience. I both thought I was going to die and wanted to. 
              To be fair, I got food poisoning from a Chinese food buffet, so absolutely no one should be surprised. A slightly funny aside is that because I’m a weirdo, I took it upon myself to research different foodborne illnesses and I decided based on the circumstances and symptoms that it was most likely Bacillus cereus from the white rice. White rice kept at room temperature for too long is bad news. 

              • My first case of food poisoning was from a duck dish from a Chinese restaurant.  The ironic thing about it is that I wasn’t even supposed to eat it.  My (then) wife had ordered it when she was at her mother’s place while I was attending a night class.  When I got out of class to pick her up, she offered me the duck.  She was pregnant at the time, so was prone to rapid shifts in her appetite so by the time the duck arrived, she couldn’t bring herself to eat it.  So the joke was on me.

          • A guy I know from the local dog park got food poisoning last year and ended up in the hospital for 3 days! He was so sick he thought he was dying. He was dehydrated from throwing up and was hallucinating. A very, very bad experience. 

      • If you skip the egg, would you recommend adding a little more cornstarch or something like arrowroot starch/xantham gum/other shit I don’t know the name of but work as a binder without adding flavor?

        • Hmm…that might work, but a little goes a very long way. The pie should be silky smooth. Too much of a binder has the potential to make it kind of thick and gummy so you’d have to be careful. Maybe start with a 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum and see how the pie works after it has fully chilled. If it’s still a little loose then try 1/2 tsp for the next pie. 

  2. Oh! We are getting takeout from a local diner this week, and they have a suberb key lime pie, but yours looks better. (And I bet our local CSA connection can get me some key limes.) If you come on to comment, can you educate a bit on pastry bags and tips? I had a set my mother-in-law got me from  pampered chef, and it was pretty much junk. I have ended up taping a tip to a plastic baggie, which is all fun and games until the tip falls off and bag ingredients splurt everywhere. Should I just go to your link and self-educate? Any tips on tips, @?

  3. I like Nilla Wafer crust even better than graham cracker crust, although it is slightly worse for you. But then sugar, heavy cream, butter, eggs, it’s going to kill you either way.

  4. I love those little key limes. They are to garden-variety limes what Mexican Coca Cola is to American caffeine-free Diet Coke. There’s one supermarket around me that seems to get a lot of their fruit from Mexico, the bananas for example, and they often have key limes. 

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