The Key Lime Pie Debate

History, recipes, and varieties of Key lime pie, from Key Largo to Key West

Which variety of Key lime pie is best?

Sweetened condensed milk, Key lime juice, eggs — this basic but magical base creates one of the most widely made and controversial desserts in Florida: the Key lime pie. Purists will vehemently insist that there is only one way to make a Key lime pie and will scoff at variations on the treasured dessert. There are other individuals, however, who see the blank slate of the basic recipe as an opportunity to showcase some of the island’s other delicious tropical fruits. So the debate goes: Eggs or no eggs? Bake or no bake? Graham cracker crust or regular? Meringue or whipped cream?

Click here to see The Key Lime Pie Debate (Slideshow)

In order to understand the heated debate over Key lime pie, it might help to understand its history. It's a generally accepted fact that the invention of Key lime pie coincided with the invention of Borden’s Sweetened Condensed Milk around 1856. This sweet canned milk was sold in William Curry’s hardware stores in the Florida Keys and allowed cooks on the isolated islands to prepare sweet cream sauces and desserts with shelf-stable milk, since there was no ice or refrigeration yet. But although there’s debate over the exact origin of what we know as Key lime pie, there's general agreement on how the popular dessert should taste.

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So who has the best key lime pie in the Keys? Pretty much every bakery, restaurant, and coffee shop offers it in some form or another, so the competition is fierce. We’ve managed to weasel some recipes out of the best of the best so that you can decide for yourself! Whether you’re a strict purist or an adventurous pie connoisseur, we’ve got a Key lime pie for you.