Secret to Florida's Very Own Key Lime Pie (Hint: It Should Never Be Green!)

Chef Anne digs up some hisotyr on Florida's official state pie.

The very first thing I must say about Key lime pie is that it should never, ever be green!

Unfortunately, the exact history of its beginnings can’t be documented, but it’s believed that William Curry (1821-1896), a ship salvager and Key West’s first recorded millionaire, had a cook named Aunt Sally, who created the pie.

However, others say she just made a few changes to the pie, local fishermen had been eating for years.

As is the case with so many older recipes, it wasn’t put in writing until the 1930s. The recipe uses condensed milk, since fresh milk and refrigeration weren't available when this pie was created. 

The Key lime tree, which is native to Malaysia, most likely made its way to the Keys with the Spanish in the 1500s. Key limes are about the size of a golf ball and have a yellowish skin.

The 1926 hurricane destroyed the Key lime plantations and growers replanted with Persian limes. Today, the only key limes found in the Florida Keys are in private back yards. Commercial Key limes are grown on the mainland, in the Miami area.

In 1994, the Florida Legislature recognized Key lime pie as an important symbol of Florida. It wasn’t made official until July 1, 2006, when the legislature named the Key Lime Pie the Official Florida State Pie.

Here's what it takes to make Florida's Key lime pie: 

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • half a cup of key lime juice  (for best flavor, use only fresh key lime juice)
  • 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • graham cracker crust (pre-made)


  1. Beat the egg yolks in a bowl until light and thick. Blend in the lime juice, then beat the sweetened condensed milk. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.
  2. In a glass or metal (not plastic) container or bowl, beat the egg whites with the sugar until glossy peaks form. Spread the meringue over the pie from crust to crust.
  3. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Sit back and enjoy a slice of Florida!

Chef’s Tips:  Never beat egg whites in a plastic bowl or with any plastic utensils. Plastic is porous and may retain drops of oil or grease, which will deflate the egg whites and not allow them to become light and fluffy. Only use glass or metal when whipping egg whites.

Linda Hersey April 07, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Hi Anne: I grew up in unincorporated Miami, and we had Key Lime Trees in our backyard. Just about the only thing tastier than Key Lime Pie was Key Lime Aid!
AW April 08, 2011 at 03:21 PM
I make mine the same way, but you've got to add zest!
Linda Hersey April 08, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Great idea, Alexis. I long for homemade Key Lime Pie every time I look at the photo with Anne's recipe and article!


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