A paleo take on Key lime pie--with or without actual Key limes. Gluten free, dairy free. With a creamy texture and refreshing sweet-tart flavor, these paleo pies are a tropical dream!
For the printable recipe click here.
My mom passed away recently, and my kids were asking if we should still celebrate her birthday. I told them I thought it would be appropriate to spend some time thinking about our favorite memories with her and thanking God for all the time we had together. They countered with the suggestion that we make (and consume) her favorite dessert: Key lime pie.
How could I say no?
I've been trying for some time to perfect my paleo Key lime pie recipe.
The classic Key lime pie recipe I used for ages comes from America's Test Kitchen (circa 1997), so that was my starting point. Before going paleo, I upped the ante on this version in all sorts of ways with Homemade Honey Butter Graham Crackers and variations including the addition of everything from Malibu rum to macadamia nuts to amaretto liqueur, so I knew it was a great place to start.
Once I went paleo and developed my Paleo "Grahams" recipe, I was easily able make the pie crust gluten free. But a dairy-free filling was a difficult beast to slay.
Like ATK's version, most Key lime pie recipes call for sweetened condensed milk. The obvious swap would be sweetened condensed coconut milk, but several trials with this substitution left me with a delicious, yet soupy, situation.
To solidify things a bit, I added some tapioca starch to the mix. This tightens up the texture of the filling and helps it gel just enough without becoming too firm or rubbery. Making mini pies instead of a full-size pie is extra insurance against a sloshy center--plus they are conveniently single-serving sized, which means no extra cleanup of plates and serving knives!
Since we're using the sweetened condensed coconut milk, I like to add a little coconut extract to enhance the coconut essence and make its presence seem more intentional.
Coconut and lime are a dream combination--in you've never tried it, you are in for a treat!
Speaking of lime, let's address a popular question:
Does it matter what kind of limes you use?
Key limes are a tiny, adorable variety found in the Florida Keys. According to Southern Living, Key limes are actually native to Southeast Asia (where they go by other names) and are currently primarily imported from Central America or Mexico. However, they continue to grow well in the Keys and remain the signature flavor of the area.
The official dessert of Florida, Key lime pie was originally made with Key limes, so Key limes would be the most legit choice for a pie of that name.
What's the difference?
Standard grocery-store limes are generally Persian limes. These "regular limes" are actually a hybrid of a Key lime and a lemon and are usually seedless and tart with thick skin.
Key limes are smaller, less tart, and more aromatic and floral, with more seeds and a thinner skin.
With their small size and extra seeds, Key limes require more work for the same amount of juice or zest, and with their distinct but less assertive flavor, more zest may be required for fullness of flavor. Bottled Key lime juice may be available in grocery stores (or in gift shops in the Keys), but that gives you no option for zesting.
For all of these reasons and the fact that I enjoy a more tart pie, I prefer to take a slight hit in legitimacy and use Persian limes. If you prefer a slightly more delicate and floral lime flavor and don't mind a bit more work, go with the limes of the Keys!
Sweet and easy
Whichever limes you choose, the Key lime filling is sweetened simply with organic sweetened condensed coconut milk, which already contains organic sugar. If you've read many of my dessert posts, you probably already know I allow for organic cane sugar in some of my paleo desserts because I feel relatively comfortable with the way organic sugar is processed, and this is one of those cases.
There really is no "healthy" sugar, so they're all best in moderation.
Creamy, dreamy topping
Traditionally, either whipped cream or meringue would be an acceptable topping for Key lime pie, but I prefer creamy, dreamy whipped cream. To keep things dairy free, I whip coconut cream with just a little organic powdered sugar till it is just stiff enough to be piped. The trifecta of the mild, cloud-like, whipped coconut cream with the silky, tart filling, and rich, crumbly crust is simply out-of-this-world delicious.
With "healthy fats" like coconut oil in the crust and more fiber and nutrients from paleo-grahams ingredients like almond flour, cassava flour, coconut, flax meal, and sesame seeds, this pie definitely has a leg up health-wise compared to the original recipe.
(Tip: I like to keep a stash of paleo grahams in the freezer pretty much all the time so I can do s'mores or easily blitz up crumbs for a pie crust whenever the mood strikes.)
Making your own coconut whipped topping is also a plus in the health department, as store-bought whipped creams often contain potentially-inflammatory undesirables such as carrageenan and artificial flavors.
All in all, I think we honored my mom's memory pretty well. I don't know if there's Key lime pie in Heaven, but if there were, I bet it'd taste a lot like this. We miss you, Myrtie!
Here's what you'll need:
For the filling:
4 egg yolks
4 tsp lime zest (from about 4 limes)
½ cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 limes)
2 (7.4 oz) organic sweetened condensed coconut milk
1 T tapioca starch
½ tsp coconut extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
For the crust:
9.5 oz paleo “graham” crackers*
3 T organic coconut sugar
¼ cup coconut oil
1 can coconut cream
Organic powdered sugar
¼ tsp coconut extract
Here's what you'll do:
Place all filling ingredients in a blender and blend on high till very thoroughly combined. Set aside to thicken.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line 15 muffin cups with muffin liners.
Place the crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse many times till the mixture is uniformly sandy-looking. Do not process into cookie butter.
Use a medium cookie scoop to distribute the crust mixture into the prepared muffin cups, and use your fingers to press the mixture up the sides and down into the bottoms of the cups. Bake the crusts for 12 minutes. Cool 20 minutes, but leave the oven on for the next step.
Fill each of the muffin cups with the filling mixture and bake 15 minutes. Cool completely at room temperature, then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours to set.
To serve, whip the coconut cream and powdered sugar till light and fluffy. Pipe or dollop the whipped cream onto each of the mini pies. Enjoy! Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
For the printable recipe click here.
Try another sweet treat from this list of delicious desserts!