It’s tart and tangy. It’s creamy. It’s a mouthful of heaven in every bite. It’s Key lime pie. Some recipes for this dreamy dessert take a lot of time and effort, but this 5-ingredient Key lime pie recipe from developer Kristen Carli of Mostly Green takes a mere ten minutes to prepare followed by two hours in the freezer to chill. It yields eight servings, so you can fix this for a special gathering or as a unique gift or all for yourself if you’re feeling ambitious and extra hungry. In fact, Carli said this recipe is a family favorite that her own mom used to prepare in the 1990s.
"It’s very easy, so it’s one she used to make for holidays or gatherings to seem impressive," Carli said.
We’d have to agree — this beautiful dessert tastes fantastic, too. It’s so easy it will quickly become your go-to dessert when you’re short or time or you’re craving a citrusy flavor in the form of a pie. You won’t believe how good it is!
Gather up the ingredients for your 5-ingredient Key lime pie
Sure, this 5-ingredient Key lime pie tastes fantastic, but it’s also quite affordable to fix. Next time you’re at the store, pick up one nine-inch graham cracker pie crust, 14 ounces of sweetened condensed milk, lime juice that yields half a cup, a large tub of lite Cool Whip, and a fresh lime. That’s all you need for this easy, economical, and delicious dessert!
"It’s incredibly easy to make — fail-proof! Just mix the ingredients and freeze. You don’t even need to turn on the oven," Carli said. This registered dietician gives her stamp of approval to this delectable dessert that tastes amazing.
Whip all your 5-ingredient Key lime pie ingredients together
Fold together in a bowl the 14 ounces of sweetened condensed milk, three and a half cups of lite Cool Whip, and half of a cup of lime juice for your 5-ingredient Key lime pie.
"The sweetened condensed milk serves as a sweetener in this recipe," Carli said. "Lime juice can be freshly squeezed, bottled, or even subbed for eight ounces of limeade found in the freezer aisle. I chose bottled, which can be found in the juice aisle." Carli uses the lite version of Cool Whip purposefully.
"The lite cool whip is important to the light fluffy texture of the pie. It is also a nod to the ’90s origin, when everyone avoided fat," she said.
Chill the 5-ingredient Key lime pie the freezer
Pour the creamy mixture into the already-prepared graham cracker crust and freeze for at least two hours. Be sure to serve the slices of pie frozen, too. "The graham cracker pie crust is my favorite part. I love that salty-sweet crunch," Carli said of this 5-ingredient Key lime pie recipe.
Whipping together a homemade graham cracker pie crust isn’t the easiest task for everyone, but Carli said that option would work, too. "I use store-bought to keep things easy," she said. When purchasing a graham cracker pie crust, be cautious about which one you grab. These delicate crusts break easily, and you might select one that’s already broken. Transport it home carefully, too.
Add zest and serve this 5-ingredient Key lime pie
After your 5-ingredient Key lime pie rests in the freezer for two hours, take lime zest grated from a fresh lime from the produce section of the store to add a decorative and flavorful finishing touch to the citrus pie.
"Lime zest is completely optional. I like it for a decorative feel," she said.
Using lime zest, which is the colored outside portion of the citrus fruit peel, actually adds a bit more tangy citrus flavor to the recipe. Sometimes, it can taste stronger than the lime juice incorporated into the recipe, packing an extra punch to the pie.
Helpful hints while making your 5-ingredient Key lime pie
Carli explained that using a handheld mixer or whisk to blend the 5-ingredient Key lime pie ingredients would be "too powerful" and actually would deflate the Cool Whip and cause the mixture to lose its light, airy feel.
"You want to fold gently using a spoon until the ingredients are just combined," she said.
Zesting a lime takes a bit of talent, too, but it can be easily mastered. Just grab your grater, lightly scrub the lime under cold water, then sweep the lime across the blades of the grater, rotating the lime as you go until you have the right amount of zest for your recipe. Don’t push too hard when grating the lime, or you’ll end up scraping the white part of the peel that you don’t want.
Does this 5-ingredient Key lime pie really hail from Florida?
While Floridians claim this pie as their own as a nod to the Florida Keys, culinary historians say this link just isn’t true. Whether it’s Carli’s 5-ingredient Key lime pie or a more elaborate and time-consuming recipe, this pie is believed to originally hail from New York.
Southern Living investigated the origin of the Key lime pie and discovered that cookbook author Stella Parks learned from Key West historian Tom Hambright that the oldest known Key lime pie recipe from his stomping grounds dated back to 1949. But an almost identical recipe dating back to 1931 was released by the Borden condensed milk company in New York City. While it used lemons instead of limes for its Magic Lemon Cream Pie, it was virtually the same recipe.
No matter its roots, the Key lime pie is an incredible dessert, and Carli’s 5-ingredient Key lime pie recipe makes it all too easy to enjoy.