Okay, y’all, I’m usually a fancy dessert person. Think crème brûlée, tiramisu, and île flottante, but this pie—this pie!—I might love it a tiny bit more than any dessert I’ve ever had. It’s super light, and the cilantro counterbalances the extreme tartness of the limes, giving it a unique but addictive flavor.
Cilantro-lime is a pretty popular flavor combo these days, especially in the Southwest, but I’d never really thought of making it into a dessert until I went to an Austin ice cream parlor called LICK. They have the most imaginative flavor combos, things like strawberry basil, lemon lavender, and goat cheese thyme & honey. One of their seasonal flavors is cilantro lime. When I took my first taste, I about fell on the floor. It was that scrumptious! The cilantro sneaks into the palette so subtly, but it’s just enough to tantalize you and drive you crazy with how delicious it is.
After I tasted it, I thought, hmm… this seems like it’d be a really good pie flavor! So then I started experimenting. The cilantro couldn’t be extreme (and trust me, it’s all too easy to take cilantro too far). But it also couldn’t be too weak because then what’s the point? Finally, I didn’t want the actual consistency of the pie to be so dense. With regular key lime pie, it’s difficult for me to eat a whole piece, but with a flavor like this, I’m gonna want to go back for seconds FOR SURE!
My trick to accomplish this is to whip the meringue into the filling. It gives the thick, custard-like quality of key lime pie some room to breathe. Plus, if you like, you can top your slice with whipped cream (which I greatly prefer over meringue). So here it is, just in time to impress fellow Thanksgiving feasters, my Cilantro Key Lime Pie!
PS: I know it says “key lime” in the title, but I’m not into hand-squeezing over a dozen super tiny key limes. Regular limes taste just as great to me, and there’s less work involved. So no judgment here if you decide to go that route. (I wouldn’t even judge if you wanted to buy straight up lime juice and use that, shhh!)
- 1 box graham crackers
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 tbsp. melted butter
- 4-6 limes (10-15 if you’re using key limes)
- 3-6 stems of cilantro (use only the leaves)
- 3 eggs
- 1 14-oz can sweetened, condensed milk
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
For the Graham Cracker Crust
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Make 1 ½ cups of crushed graham crackers. You can either use a food processor or crush by hand. To crush by hand, break graham cracker into chunks and put in a plastic bag. Then roll with a pin or hit gently with a tenderizer.
- Mix crushed crackers with ⅓ cup of sugar and cinnamon.
- Pour in melted butter and stir.
- Once everything has been mixed evenly, spread and press the mixture it into your slightly greased pie pan. The corner should be a little thicker than the bottom and edges.
- Bake it for seven minutes.
- Let cool for an hour and then place it in the freezer for another hour.
For the Filling
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Wash cilantro and let dry.
- Wash and zest two limes.
- Squeeze the limes until you get one cup of juice.
- Blend together the lime juice, zest, cilantro leaves (see Special Note), sweetened condensed milk, and three egg yolks. You can use a blender or a food processor for this.
- Using handheld beaters, whip two egg whites and one tbsp. of sugar to make a meringue.
- Combine the meringue and the lime filling, stirring until the consistency is even.
- Pour the mixture into the frozen graham cracker crust.
- Cook for about 25 minutes. When you give it a jiggle, it should be set before removing from the oven.
- If you want to make whipped cream for the topping, wait until just before serving. Then whip heavy whipping cream and two tbsp. of sugar until the cream makes stiff peaks.
- Refrigerate the pie until you’re ready to serve, top it with a (generous) dollop of whipped cream, and enjoy!
Let me know if you decide to make this yummy treat. I’d love to see pics!