Super Simple Summer Dessert: No-Bake Key Lime Pie

Tonight’s dessert is brought to you by a healthy dose of nostalgic impulse.

It was one of those mornings where it felt like nothing was going according to plan…from a toddler waking up more than an hour before she was expected to, to unbridled resistance to the order of getting dressed, the act of meal planning during a holiday week with a weather forecast that made me want to put my husband on grilling duty. Every. Single. Night.

With the humidity adding to the weight of the day’s to-dos, an unexpected traffic snarl only added to the mental frazzles, where you have to remind yourself that you’re a grown-up. You’ve handled worse. You can get through this. And besides, you need to restock the wine.

That’s how, as I stood in the produce section of the grocery store and saw that limes were on sale, my mind went on a trip. Back to my early teens, when my parents would drop me off at the bus station in in the city with a ticket taking me north to the station nearest my grandparents’ cabin, and my grandpa would pick me up for the hour’s drive to the point where their cabin stood. Back to one of those heavy-hot summer mornings, where the occasional breeze that danced across the lake’s surface before drifting through the wide-open cabin windows felt heaven-sent. The mental picture of my grandma, rummaging through her pantry for a can of sweetened condensed milk to join the two limes and pre-made graham cracker crust on the counter.

“We had this for dessert at a friend’s place the other night, and it was delicious,” she explained, shouting a little because her head was still deep in the pantry. “I asked her for the recipe, and she rattled off four ingredients.” That last part was kind of spat out, like she couldn’t believe something so good took such little effort.

“So,” she sighed as she clanked the can down on the counter, “let’s teach you how to make key lime pie.”

Little flecks of lime zest bring the promise of sweet-tart coolness.

There we stood, side-by-side in the cabin kitchen, as she walked me through the very simple process of making a no-bake key lime pie. She was right: it was so easy, and so good. For a day when you didn’t want to heat the rest of the place with an oven, it was just right.

Topping the pie with whipped cream helps cut the richness of the dessert. (I kid, I kid.)

There’s no secret to the recipe, and I’m sure it’s been shared tons of times. But limes were on sale, and thinking through tonight’s dinner plans — grilled burgers, corn on the cob — the thought of a little key lime pie, tangy-sweet coolness giving the palate a pick-me-up and soother all at the same time, felt like a must. Less than a heartbeat later I was adding two limes to the little bag I had started, and mentally adding a can of sweetened condensed milk and mini graham cracker crusts to the shopping list.

No-Bake Key Lime Pie


  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 limes (the zest of 1 lime collected for the pie)
  • 1 large graham cracker pie crust, or 6 mini graham cracker pie crusts
  • Whipped cream or topping – according to your preference


  1. Zest one of the limes, reserving the zest for later.
  2. In a 4-cup liquid measuring cup, juice the 2 limes (they should yield 1/2 cup of lime juice).
  3. Add the sweetened condensed milk and lime zest, stirring briskly to combine.
  4. Pour into the pie crust(s) and place in the refrigerator to set, for approximately 2 hours.
  5. Serve with a healthy dollop of whipped cream.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s