These little desserts started out with the best of intentions. I spied a bag of key limes at the grocery store recently and picked some up, immediately thinking of making a key lime pie of some sort. Then I discovered that if you juice a key lime, you get about 1/2 a teaspoon of juice. After juicing a few and realizing how many I was going to go through to get 1/2 a cup, I switched to plan B. I grabbed a bunch of limes from the fridge and this dessert became more of a frozen regular lime pie.
Cool and refreshing this frozen key lime pie recipe, that can be completely made ahead! No need for key limes. Regular limes will do just fine. Made into individual servings!
Cook’s Notes for Individual Frozen Key Lime Pie
If you have ready access to tons of key limes, then by all means, juice away. For the rest of us, a half dozen regular limes will do just fine here. The result will still be key lime in spirit :)
I should warn that this dessert is probably one where personal taste will come in to play. I think everyone has their own preference for tart vs. sweet, so you may want to tweak the amount of lime juice and zest to your taste. I tasted the filling before freezing and added a bit more zest, about 1 1/2 Tbsp. in total. Just note that key lime zest is quite bitter, so even if using key limes, you may wish to use regular lime zest. I find it easier to zest limes before they’ve been squeezed for juice, so you may wish to grab some zest first.
And finally, a word about the graham cracker crust. As this is a frozen dessert, meant to be eaten semi-frozen, the crust has a tendency to be a little too hard to dig in to easily. I’ve given some thought to it and with the benefit of hindsight, I’m thinking a couple of adjustments might help that. First, don’t tamp down the crust before baking it (just sprinkle it in) and secondly, bake it for less time. I’ve reflected these adjustment in the recipe below.
Individual Frozen Key Lime Pie
For the crust:
- 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs about 5 crackers if you're crushing your own
- 2 Tbsp. white sugar
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter melted
For the filling:
- 6 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 Tbsp. grated regular lime zest plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice 5-6 regular limes the size of lemons, more if smaller
For the topping:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream cold
- 1/4 cup icing/confectioners sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Thin lime wedges or zest for garnishing
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Arrange baking cups or ramekins on a baking sheet (will make 8 small ramekins).
For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl until combined in to a sandy mixture. Sprinkle in to baking cups or ramekins. Do not tamp down. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
For the filling, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and lime juice until combined. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and is frothy (about 5 minutes or until it reaches 155° F. on an instant read thermometer).
Remove bowl from heat, and whisk in the condensed milk and 1 Tbsp. of lime zest until well combined. Taste filling and add a bit more zest if it tastes too sweet for you. Pour filling in to cooled baking dishes or ramekins, leaving enough room for whipped topping (don't fill all the way - about 1 inch of filling is enough). Place baking dishes on a baking sheet and pop in to the freezer for at least 4 hours.
*Note, you can add whipped topping ahead and freeze or you can do it fresh when you serve.
For the topping, beat the heavy cream on high speed in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the desserts and decorate with lime zest or slices. Return to the freezer if not eating right away.
To serve: Freezer temperatures vary, so your desserts may take more or less time to thaw slightly for eating. I suggest removing from the freezer and testing with a spoon. If your pie is rock hard, you'll need 20-30 minutes for it to soften slightly. If it gives way to a spoon right out of the freezer, about 10 minutes thawing time should be about right. These desserts get quite soft when fully thawed, so be sure to enjoy them semi-frozen - like the consistency of soft serve ice cream.