Portuguese Key Lime Pie

The perfect setting for Key LIme Pie
I first tasted Key Lime pie at The Plantation House Restaurant, Spring, Bequia.It has stuck in my memory ever since. Seven years on and settled in The Algarve I have made my first Key Lime pie. Much to my surprise Key Limes grow in Portugal. This week,never looking a gift horse in the mouth, I dutifully accepted half a dozen windfall limes. Having been a doubting Thomas  as to their authenticity, I have to admit that at every stage of making my pie I was proved wrong.

Portuguese Key Limes
Key Lime juice, unlike regular lime juice, is a pale yellow, correct.Key Limes are smaller, more yellow and contain more seeds than their green skinned Persian relatives,correct.Everything was proving right about my specimens so far. Finally Key Limes stay yellow when ripe, not green,correct on all counts.My limes were Key Limes.
Strict Key Lime Adherents will tell you if you want a recipe for a lime green coloured pie stop reading now. A green pie would have to be a dyed pie.The filling in Key Lime pie is also yellow, largely due to the egg yolks and the condensed milk.
During mixing, a reaction between the condensed milk and the acidic lime juice occurs which causes the filling to thicken on its own without requiring baking. Many early recipes for Key Lime pie did not require the cook to bake the pie, relying on this chemical reaction (called souring) to produce the proper consistency of the filling. Today, in the interest of safety due to discouraging consumption of raw eggs, pies of this nature are usually baked for a short time. The baking also thickens the texture more than the reaction alone.
Key Lime pie  filling is made up of only three simple ingredients, but when properly combined produces a wonderful pungent flavour. Poured into a buttery digestive biscuit crust Eh voila, you have a dessert that even the wicked stepmother couldn't resist.So, gift laden with a handful of free limes and a sexy pointer from Nigella( nudge nudge wink wink) I set to the task in hand.
Strict Key Lime pie Adherents: Please look away now.The traditional Conch version uses the egg whites to make a meringue topping.The Household deity however whips up her whites to soft sexy peaks and folds them gingerly into the mix.

Portuguese (Key) Lime Pie
23cm loose bottomed or spring form tin serves 6-8

200g Digestive biscuits
50g unsalted butter at room temperature

5 large egg yolks
390g can good quality condensed milk
zest of 3 key limes
150ml Key lime juice, (approx.4-5 limes)
3 large egg whites

Pre-heat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3.
Put the biscuits and butter into the processor and blitz until reduced to moist crumbs.
Press these into the tin,lining the bottom and going a little way up the sides,and chill in the fridge.While the base is chilling, beat the egg yolks until thick,add the can of condensed milk,grated zest and lime juice, incorporating thoroughly.Whisk the egg whites separately until soft peaks form,then fold gently into the yolk mixture.Pour into the lined tin and cook for 25 minutes,when filling should be firm.It puffs up then on cooling fall.
Transfer to a wire rack cool before unmoulding,and then chill well before serving.

The musts of using Key Limes
While their thorns make them less tractable, and their thin, yellow rinds more perishable, key limes are more tart and aromatic than the common Persian limes seen year round in most supermarkets.
The bad news is they're impossible to find fresh at one´s local supermarket but the good news is ( Strict Key Lime Pie Adherents: Please look away again) apparently Persian limes work just as well in this recipe( or so it´s claimed).It is also claimed that you can make a very good pie using key lime juice available at some supermarkets. Although it will definitely not be  as tasty as using real lime juice, it is therefore not a perfectly adequate substitution.Lets face it you can not call it Key Lime pie if its not made with Key Limes


  1. I think I prefer your key lime mousse version much more than the classic meringue. Although I guess first I am going to have to catch my key limes! (Or just use persian ones - but do I need to add extra sugar or lemon juice).

    BTW, I have linked back to your site from my mincemeat recipe, I didn't think you'd mind. Is there an etiquette for these things? (Should I email first and ask nicely? I just don't know!)

    And of course, I looked for a mincemeat recipe on your site, but couldn't find one. If there is one and you send me the link, I will change my posting! :)

    1. Believe me you do not need the extra sugar and lemon juice.Saw the mincemeat link and I thank you for that.No mincemeat recipe as yet but after Stir up sunday will be posting a Quincemeat recipe with a link back to your stir up post.No etiquette required here my dear.

  2. Well I am a fan of quinces all the way!

  3. Learnt something new about Limes, and have sent a link to my sister. We were puzzling about her lime tree which was not like a normal lime but ticks all your Key Lime boxes

    1. Now you can make your own wonderful Key Lime pie.

    2. Really love KL Pie

      Please have some for our next visit !

      Kind regards

  4. Hi! Can you tell me where do you find key limes with seeds here in Portugal? Because I'm trying to find these key limes here.

    Thank you.

    Kind regards,

    Joana Pires

    1. Bom Dia Joana.I am sorry I cant help you with very much information.
      I was given key limes by a friend of mine in Tavira who has a tree.I dont know
      anywhere you can buy them but there is a specialist garden centre in Sao Bras
      that sells some unusual and exotic plants and they might be able to help you.Also you could try Geojardim Centro de jardinagem Quinta Palmeiras Estrada Nacional 125 near Luz Tavira.Failing that I dont know,sorry.


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