Key limes aren't just for pies-try our refreshing martini.

By Nick Phillips
March 13, 2006
Jean Allsopp

Key lime pie is the official dessert of the Florida Keys and one of America's best-loved regional dishes. You can find hundreds of variations in restaurants and thousands more in kitchens around the country. Although there are numerous versions to choose from, the perfect Key lime pie recipe is elusive. Key lime pie experts argue incessantly about the ideal way to achieve that wonderful balance of sweet and sour flavors.

If you can't find Key limes in your local grocery store, Key lime juice is readily available on the Internet. Visit or for more details.

That Famous Floridian Pie (from the Coastal Living Cookbook )
Key lime pie is perhaps the perfect ending to a great seafood dinner. Celebrated for its high pucker factor, it's recognized by a pastry or graham cracker crust filled with sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks (sometimes), and freshly squeezed Key lime juice. The golf ball-size yellow fruits that were once shipped from the Florida Keys (thus the name) now come primarily from Mexico. The familiar green Persian limes can substitute, but they are less acidic and have a milder flavor. Key limes have two to three times the acidity of other limes; it's this high acid level that "cooks" the pie's filling and thickens it.

Why sweetened condensed milk? Anyone who loves to dip a finger into the can may ask, "Why not?" But there is a reason. In the mid-1800s, before refrigeration, tropical weather in the Keys ruined any hopes of storing fresh milk. Canned milk's long shelf life beat the heat and, paired with abundant Key limes, spawned this classic, meringue-topped dessert.

Our version features a crisp graham cracker crust with a rich filling that is doubly deep compared to most Key lime pies. (Our version omits egg yolks so the threat of uncooked egg is not an issue.) And it's all captured under just the right amount of toasty meringue.

Here are some other tasty dessert recipes designed to satisfy a sweet-and-sour tooth.

Looking for Key lime taste with a bit of a twist? Try our refreshing Key Lime Pie Martini.

Key Lime Pie Martini
Graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons vanilla flavored vodka
2 tablespoons Key lime juice
2 tablespoons simple syrup
1/3 cup heavy cream
½ cup ice
Cinnamon stick
Lime wedge

Line the rim of a martini glass with honey and dip into graham cracker crumbs, coating the rim with crumbs. Combine vodka and next 4 ingredients in a martini shaker. Shake until very cold. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with cinnamon stick and lime wedge. Makes 1 serving.