The History of Key Lime Pie

Last Updated : February 23, 2024


Key lime pie is an American dessert that is extremely popular in Florida.  It is comprised of a graham wafer or cake hull, a yellow custard (essentially egg yolks, improved condensed milk, and key lime juice), and garnished with either whipped cream or meringue. The sweet and tart pie purportedly began in Key West, Florida, in the late nineteenth century. The utilization of improved condensed milk, a fundamental fixing, is likely because new milk and refrigeration were phenomenal in the disconnected Florida Keys until the 1930s. There are various pastry varieties, and a nontraditional bend is the chocolate-plunged key lime pie sold on a stick in Key West.

Each café or restaurant in the Florida Keys, particularly in Key West, serves its own version of the pie with various forms made all through the district. This pie is viewed as the official pie of the Florida Keys. The conventional key lime pie filling contains key lime juice, condensed milk, and egg yolks. 

Pretty much every family in Florida has a formula for Key lime pie, and they all say that it is a bona fide adaptation. Enthusiasts of key lime pies contend unendingly about the correct method to make one. Graham-saltine or baked good covering? Meringue or whipped cream on top, or neither? Cooked or uncooked filling? The one thing that they do all agree to is that by no means should you include green food shading. The filling of the bona fide key lime pie is light yellow.

But the thing that is the most interesting is the history of the exceptional pie. When and how did it happen? In this article, you are going to learn all about this flavored pie.

When did it all start?

It all began in the year 1800. William Curry, a boat salvager and Florida’s first independent mogul (generally alluded to as rich Bill), had a cook that was just known as Aunt Sally. It was Aunt Sally who made the pie in the last part of the 1800s. A few students of history feel that Aunt Sally didn’t make the Key Lime Pie. However, most likely culminated a delicacy that was the making of territory anglers. William Curry manufactured an extravagant chateau for his family in 1855, despite everything being utilized today as the Curry Mansion Inn.

Keep in mind that these are not fully documented facts. Some people say that Aunt Sally has already known how to make that pie with the full ingredients, which consisted of lemons, milk, and egg yolks. However, she used limes instead of lemons because it was readily available.

What are Key Limes exactly?

Key limes are one of the signature foods of Florida, and they are a noted part of neighborhood shading. The key lime tree, which is local to Malaysia, was most likely introduced in the Florida Keys during the 1500s by the Spaniards. Key limes look like confounded lemons, as they are smaller than a golf ball with yellow-green skin that is, in some cases, splotched with earthy colors. They are sometimes called Mexican or West Indian limes. When a typhoon in 1926 cleared out the key lime manors in South Florida, producers replanted Persian limes, which are simpler to pick and ship. Today key lime is nearly a ghost, and any residual trees are just found in patios, and their natural product never leaves the Florida Keys. Key limes are likewise developed for business use in the Miami zone.

First written Key Lime Recipe in 1939

The Blackwell family (Key West) used this recipe for more than half a century.
MRS. L.E. BLACKWELL 287 N.W. Fifty-eighth street.

3 eggs (separated)
¼ cup lime juice
1 can condensed milk
1 baked pie shell
6 tablespoons of sugar

Beat the yolks of the eggs until lemon color, add the condensed milk and the lime juice last. Mix until dense. Spread the above mixture evenly into the baked pie shell. Top with meringue that is created by beating the egg whites until stiff and adding sugar gradually. Brown for 10 to 12 minutes in an oven.

It was not until the 1930s that the recipe plans were written. Up to that point, everybody just realized how to make the pie. No new milk, refrigeration, and no ice were accessible in the Keys until the tank trucks’ appearance with the Overseas Highway kicked off in 1930. On account of the absence of milk, nearby cooks needed to depend on canned condensed dairy created in 1856 by Gail Borden, which was the only alternative to milk. Key lime might be the main ingredient for a key lime pie, but it is the condensed milk that makes it so smooth and delightful.

The most convincing documented proof supporting key lime pie’s Key West birthplaces shows up on page 2-C of Aug. 25, 1939, Miami Herald. The “Lime Pie” formula incorporates eggs, lime juice, condensed milk, a heated pie shell, and meringue. After the preparation guidelines, it says, “This formula has been utilized in the Blackwell family (Key West) for over 50 years.” Mrs. L.E. Blackwell of 287 N.W presented the formula. Fifty-eighth Street in Miami.

Since Key lime pie has no exact legacy, no set standards on the proportions of fixings, hardly any recipes are equivalent, and there are innumerable varieties, David Sloan, the writer of The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook, says they’re just assistance. At the point when he was investigating his book on the pie, Sloan crunched the numbers and figured there are around 150,000 recipes. Notes included the addition of less condensed milk if you’d like it to be less sweet, more lime juice to make it tangier, and other variations. A portion of Sloan’s preferred increments incorporates bacon, which turns it practically exquisite, and jalapeno, which combines well with the lime. The formula on these pages, from Pepe’s Café Key West, is one of Sloan’s top picks.


Here’s a Key Lime recipe that appeared in the Miami Herald in 1949.


The Debate of the Key

It’s commonly acknowledged that the key lime pie was developed in Key West, Florida, where the key limes are thought to have achieved their particular tart taste. Nonetheless, proof has risen to propose that Floridians did not initiate the creation of the pie. It may have begun from a substantially more amazing spot: a milk organization. Presently, Key West inhabitants are energizing to invalidate the hypothesis.

As the Miami Herald reports, Stella Parks, creator of BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, guesses that the Borden milk organization really concocted the formula to sell more improved condensed milk, a pivotal ingredient in key lime pie. Parks proposes that the principal recipe for key lime pie was written in a Borden test kitchen in New York City in 1931, as a riff on the organization’s Magic Lemon Cream Pie. Typically, occupants of Key West aren’t excessively content with Parks’ case. 

David Sloan, a writer of The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook, presented a message on his Facebook page, requesting occupants to uncover old Key lime pie recipes going back farther than the thirties, to oppose Parks’ hypothesis about Borden. He has an entirely different anecdote about how the pie was discovered. According to Sloan, a cook known as Aunt Sally, who worked for Florida tycoon William Curry during the 1800s, created the pie for her chief. 

Road to Becoming The Signature of Florida

The Florida State Legislature formally perceived Key Lime Pie as a significant Florida image in . 

The street to turning into the official state pie was not a simple one. Since the 1980s, North Florida officials have discussed that a pie made of walnuts, developed in Florida, would better mirror the state’s history. House Bill 453 and Senate Bill 676 of the Florida Legislature’s Regular 2006 Session made the Key Lime Pie the official Florida state pie starting on July 1, 2006.

While key lime pie is effortlessly found in cafés all through the Florida Keys, the equivalent can’t be said of the tart key limes. The little yellowish spheres have not been monetarily developed in the Keys in decades, generally due to harsh storms and citrus blister, a plant infection. Even though the limes are still ever so often developed secretly, even in patios, numerous pies are made with imported limes or packaged juice.

The treat’s unique formula has additionally adopted a more innovative approach. Eateries set up their recipes changing in taste. Some include spread, or frozen yogurt, while others include a pie outside rather than graham wafers. Guests will find the well-known pastry on menus everywhere over the Sunshine State.