Florida Keys Campgrounds Logo

The Infamous Key Lime Pie In The Florida Keys: A Story Behind The Dessert

key lime pie in the florida keys

Have you tried the infamous Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys? Key Lime Pie is a common dessert served in restaurants all around Florida, where it is a state favorite. 

The Key Lime Pie was reportedly created in Key West, Florida, where key limes, which give the dessert its distinctive sour flavor, are widely available. This blog explores the history of Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys and where you can get the most indulgent servings of the dessert across the island chain.

A Matter Of Debate: The History of Key Lime Pie

Since the pie’s recipe wasn’t written until the 1930s, the origins of Key Lime Pie remain a matter of debate. Until that point, information on creating the pie was spread verbally.

A theory regarding Key Lime Pie holds that a sponge fisherman made the first pie in the Florida Keys. Since sponge fishing was a booming new industry in South Florida, these fishermen spent a lot of time at sea. The fisherman made the first Key Lime Pie using supplies they had on board, including sugar, eggs, canned milk, soda crackers, nuts, and citrus fruit.

Evidence, however, suggests that the creation of the well-known dessert wasn’t originally the work of Floridians. In actuality, a milk company would be a lot more unexpected source of it. Meanwhile, residents of Key West are banding together to refute the theory.

According to a report by the Miami Herald, author of “BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts” and 2018 James Beard Foundation Award winner Stella Parks speculates that the Borden milk company actually created the recipe to sell more sweetened condensed milk, a key component of Key Lime Pie. As a parody of the company’s Magic Lemon Cream Pie, Parks claims that the first recipe for Key Lime Pie was drafted in a Borden test kitchen in New York City in 1931.

In order to refute Parks’ idea about Borden, David Sloan, the creator of “The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook,” asked locals to find historical Key Lime Pie recipes that go back further than the 1930s in a comment on his Facebook page. He has quite a different explanation for how the pie came to be. According to Sloan, the pie was created for her boss by a cook named Aunt Sally, who worked for Florida tycoon William Curry in the middle of the 1800s.

However, Sloan has only been able to offer a 1939-dated local recipe for Key Lime Pie. Parks, who talked with local historians, was still looking for one before 1949. Actually, Parks has heard the Aunt Sally tale as well and dismissed it as nothing more than a local fable.

According to historical records, which Sloan disclosed to the Key West Citizen, Aunt Sally is unquestionably real and had access to condensed milk well before the 1930s. Additionally, he thinks Borden might have obtained the Magic Lemon Cream Pie recipe from a 1931 recipe contest in which they substituted Key limes for the more difficult-to-find lemons.

Spanish and Portuguese explorers were responsible for bringing key limes to Florida. The Florida Keys and Miami-Dade County were the only places where the fruit was commercially produced today, with very little to no commercial production occurring in Florida. However, Key Lime Pie continued to be associated with Florida and was named the state pie in 1994.

Most Popular Locations To Try Key Lime Pie (Florida Keys)

key lime pie in the florida keys restaurant

Numerous family favorites and recipes have been passed down through the centuries. You’re entitled to an opinion on the Florida state pie, whether you are a native, frequent visitor, or just passing through.

Make sure to pick up a slice of Key Lime Pie if you’re going to the Florida Keys. Even if you often prefer chocolate-flavored desserts to those with fruit flavors, give it a shot. See our list of the top 11 places to get Key Lime Pie across the Florida Keys islands.

Blue Heaven

Location: 729 Thomas St, Naval Air Station Key West, FL 33040

At Blue Heaven in Key West, you can begin your exploration of various Key Lime Pie flavors. This hip restaurant, located in the storied Bahama Village district, has been serving delicious pies for more than 20 years. Your tour must include a stop at Blue Heaven Restaurant, home of the Keys’ most picturesque Key Lime Pie. 

Sample the beloved Key Lime Pie while taking in the live music and relaxed atmosphere. It has a graham cracker crust and is made daily with freshly squeezed limes. It is served with a generous amount of meringue on top.

But Key Lime Pie is just one of the many things Blue Heaven has to offer. The main attraction of Blue Heaven, a favorite among locals, is the opportunity to “breakfast with the roosters.” And sure, you can finish off breakfast with a piece of Key Lime Pie. Blue Heaven’s charming outdoor courtyard is equipped with drooping trees, adorable signage, and amicable roosters roaming the premises.

Key Lime Pie Bakery

Location: 412 Greene Street Key West, FL 33040

The Key Lime Pie Bakery in Key West, which is independently owned and operated, produces a fantastic selection of Key Lime Pies. Your taste buds will be satisfied by its acidic lime flavor and thick crust, while those who love sweets will enjoy the chocolate-covered key lime pie slice, cookies, and fudge. You can go around the store to explore various trinkets to bring home while you wait for your dessert to come out.

One block off Duval Street, on the route most cruise ship tourists use, is the incredibly attractive Key Lime Pie Bakery. On their lovely green seats outside, make sure to hang out, take pictures, and enjoy your Key Lime Pie while people-watching. Additionally, you can get ideal Key Lime concentrate here to make Key Lime Pie once you return from the Florida Keys, whether as a present or for yourself.

Green Turtle Inn

Location: 81219 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

The Green Turtle Inn in Islamorada, also referred to as “The Turtle” locally, is a well-known landmark of Key West’s past and is renowned for its Old Florida charm and Southern-style cuisine. The enormous lighting green turtle that looms above this wayside location off the Overseas Highway will help you recognize the Green Turtle Inn when you see it.

The restaurant’s Southern-style charm and specialties, like its famous turtle soup, which the inn has been cooking for decades, make it so popular today. Additionally, there is the Key Lime Pie. This variation has a Rice Krispies and macadamia nut crust that complements the sweet-tart filling well.

Its Key Lime Pie, featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, is unbeatable with the traditional sweet-tart filling and a dab of whipped cream, berry syrup, and a side of strawberries.

Old Town Bakery

Location: 930 Eaton St, Key West, FL 33040

The Old Town Bakery in Key West prepares handcrafted Key Lime Pies the traditional way, exuding an Old Florida charm. A seasoned pastry chef’s creation features a gingersnap crust with fresh lime juice for a wonderful taste. You’ll find it difficult to resist taking a piece home as a memento when it’s topped with homemade fresh whipped cream right before serving.

Old Town Bakery was founded in 2010, however, it appears to have been there much longer. Owner Niall Bowen and his wife, Elzbieta Krysztofiak, furnished the store to emanate Old Florida charm, which is responsible for the aesthetic. 

Longtime pastry chef Bowen creates a thick, lovely, yellowish-green custard with a gingersnap crust; this flavor goes incredibly well with the sourness of the limes. Freshly crafted in-house whipped cream is placed on top of each slice right before serving.

The charming, family-run Old Town Bakery is located in a typical, vintage Key West house. You can also find a variety of delectable pastries, artisan bread, sandwiches, and artisanal cheeses, in addition to exquisite Key Lime Pie.

The Fish House

Location: 102401 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037

Anyone that travels to the Keys frequently forms their unique traditions around where to eat breakfast, lunch, or grab a couple of cool drinks. That often involves going to Key Largo’s Fish House for Miami residents. Although many people who frequent the area know how consistently fantastic their slices are, you would anticipate discovering only some of the best slices of Key Lime Pie at The Fish House in Key Largo

You must first sample its distinctive meringue topping before you can tuck it into the pie’s light and tangy interior. The topping at this restaurant is whipped into curls and burnt into a stunning display of caramel brown, unlike the fluff that many restaurants add. You can purchase a whole pie to-go, giving you plenty of Islamorada key lime goodness to share (or not) with loved ones.

Mattheessen’s

Location: 419 Duval St., Key West, FL 33040

Most people associate Mattheessen’s with amazing, enormous cookies and delectable ice cream.

The selection of sweets at Mattheessen’s in Key West might overwhelm you. In addition to serving handcrafted classic slices of Key Lime Pie, they also offer chocolate-dipped pieces on a stick, enormous cookies, and mouthwatering marble slab fudge. If escaping the heat is what you’re after, try the store’s luscious Key lime ice cream, a Duval Street staple.

A large group of people shopping for various sweet treats should stop at Mattheessen’s because they provide so much more than just Key Lime Pie. Additionally, they are open every day of the year from 8 am to midnight, so it’s always Key Lime Pie time.

Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe

Location: 335 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040

Some of the best Key Lime Pies in the state may be found at Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. It has been feeding hungry customers for over 20 years and has earned recognition from outlets like Food Network and National Geographic. Grab a slice of the traditional pie or venture out and try one of the pies on a stick covered in black or white chocolate offered at this establishment.

The establishment, which Kermit Carpenter and his sister Anita and her husband started in Key West, has grown to include a second location on famous Duval Street. Real Key limes and a graham cracker crust give Kermit’s pie its tangy and rich flavor. 

A frozen slice on a stick that has been covered in dark Belgian chocolate is Carpenter’s amazing idea. In addition to strawberry, coconut, and gluten-free options, Kermit’s can send a fresh Key Lime Pie to your door overnight.

This YouTube video from FloridaKeysTV in 2014 shows Kermit Carpenter demonstrating how to make Key Lime Pie.

Key West Key Lime Pie Company

Location: 511 Greene St, Key West, FL 33040

The Key West Key Lime Pie Company, a local favorite, is known for its award-winning, homemade pies. Real Key lime juice and other organic ingredients are used, and the homemade graham cracker crust is irresistible. They have the formula for the ideal balance of creamy and crunchy by giving it a light, smooth texture and the right amount of sweetness.

For a slice of Key Lime Pie here, you might have to wait in line during the busiest times of the year, but it’s well worth it. These well-known pies are freshly baked every day.

Pepe's Café

Location: 806 Caroline St, Naval Air Station Key West, FL 33040

The oldest restaurant in the area is Pepe’s Cafe in Key West, which opened its doors in 1909. Given that all the desserts served here are handcrafted, it also offers some of the greatest traditional Key Lime Pie. The key lime pie is the most well-known homemade dessert created today, more than a century later. 

The pie is served in a bowl because of its creamy, light nature. The pie’s crisp graham cracker crust and tangy filling go well with the dab of whipped cream that is placed on top. The setting’s vintage appeal gives it the ideal amount of sweetness.

Porky's Bayside

Location: 1410 Overseas Hwy MM47.5, 1400 Overseas Hwy, Marathon, FL 33050

Just one hour north of Key West is Porky’s Bayside in Marathon, where you can have fried Key Lime Pie (yes, fried pie). The product is delivered totally covered in a warm, crisp crust that has the ideal amount of crispy-crunchy texture and is drizzled with a smooth, vanilla-and-raspberry sauce. Everything gives way to the pie’s mildly sweet, creamy filling, which delivers an exceptional Key lime flavor.

Additionally, Porky’s has a great outside dining area right on a harbor with views of the water in addition to Key Lime Pie.

Salute! On the Beach

Location: 1000 Atlantic Blvd, Key West, FL 33040

Salute! On the Beach is a sister restaurant to Blue Heaven in Key West. This beachside eatery serves up some delectable Key Lime Pies on its own and boasts a distinctive aesthetic. While the main menu has a variety of Caribbean-inspired dishes, the Key Lime Pie served here is prepared classically with a rich graham cracker crust, a creamy key lime custard, and plenty of fluffy meringue on top.

Make Your Own Key Lime Pie At Home

The best approach to creating a key lime pie is constantly debated among enthusiasts. In Florida, almost every family has a recipe for key lime pie, and they insist that theirs is the only true one. Sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and key lime juice make up the traditional Key Lime Pie filling.

Want to try creating one? Here’s a simple recipe to recreate at home.

Ingredients 

For the crust:

  • 1½ cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs from about 12 whole graham crackers
  • ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

 

For the filling:

  • Two 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (2% or whole milk)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • ¾ cup fresh lime juice

 

For the topping:

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 8 to 10 thin lime slices

 

Instructions

For the crust:

  1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 °F.
  2. The brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, and melted butter should all be put in a medium bowl; whisk the ingredients with a fork first, then your hands, until thoroughly incorporated. 
  3. Press the crumbs you created firmly into the bottom and the sides of a 9 x 1.5-inch (deep-dish) pie pan using your fingers and the bottom of a glass or dry measuring cup. Ideally, the crust would be 14 inches thick.
  4. Ten minutes of baking, or until barely browned. On a wire rack, let the crust cool.

 

For the filling:

  1. 350°F should now be the oven’s setting.
  2. Mix the yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and lime zest in a big bowl. 
  3. Combine the warm graham cracker crust with the thick mixture. 
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until the filling is nearly set but still jiggling. 
  5. After 30 minutes of cooling at ambient temperature, transfer to the refrigerator and chill for about three hours.

 

For the topping:

  1. Beat the heavy cream in a bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form, then confectioners’ sugar should be added. 
  2. Put some whipped cream on top of the pie. Slices and zest of lime can be used to decorate. 
  3. Until you are ready to serve, keep the pie in the refrigerator. Serve the pie cool.

Watch this video of Babish Culinary Universe to easily follow the recipe and instructions for making Key Lime Pie from scratch.

Key Lime Pie: The Culinary Icon In The Florida Keys

What sets the Key Lime Pie apart is the use of Key limes, smaller and more tart than regular limes, giving the pie its distinctive flavor profile. The smooth and creamy filling, often nestled in a graham cracker crust, creates a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity that tingles the taste buds.

Its fame has transcended local borders, making it a sought-after delicacy nationwide. Many restaurants and bakeries in the Florida Keys take pride in crafting their own versions of this iconic dessert, each claiming to have the best Key lime pie in town. Renowned for its tangy sweetness and velvety texture, this delectable treat is a must-try for anyone visiting the Keys.

Related Articles

Florida Keys seafood festivals are annual celebrations of the benefits of commercial fishing and seafood, which are held in numerous villages across the state. There are two major seafood festivals in the Florida Keys – one in Key West and one in Marathon.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first road trip, join us as we explore how to make the most out of your Miami to Key West drive. From must-visit attractions to hidden gems, dining delights, and practical tips, this guide will help you craft an unforgettable journey along the Overseas Highway.

In this article, we will embark on a journey to unveil the secrets of the Florida Keys islands, diving into their captivating past, immersing ourselves in the vibrant culture, and exploring the diverse attractions that beckon visitors from around the globe. So, fasten your seatbelts and prepare for an extraordinary adventure!

Key Lime Pie In The Florida Keys FAQs

Evidence suggests that the creation of the well-known dessert wasn’t originally the work of Floridians. In actuality, a milk company would be a lot more unexpected source of it. Meanwhile, residents of Key West are banding together to refute the theory.

Another theory claims that the pie was created for her boss by a cook named Aunt Sally, who worked for Florida tycoon William Curry in the middle of the 1800s.

Key Lime Pie is a common dessert served in restaurants all around Florida, where it is a state favorite. The Key Lime Pie was reportedly created in Key West, Florida, where key limes, which give the dessert its distinctive sour flavor, are widely available. 

Since the pie’s recipe wasn’t written until the 1930s, the origins of Key Lime Pie remain a matter of debate. Until that point, information on creating the pie was spread verbally.

The Key lime differs from the Persian lime (Citrus latifolia) in size, seediness, acidity, and scent, as well as rind thickness. It is prized for its distinctive flavor. The term “Key lime pie” refers to the dessert that bears the same name and is most popular in the Florida Keys.

They have many of the same potential health benefits and essentially identical nutritional characteristics. Both fruits are tart and acidic, however, limes tend to taste more bitter, and lemons tend to taste sweeter.

Janelle
Author: Janelle

Search The Blog