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Jul 5, 2002 12:09 PM

Key Limes?

  • m

Does anyone know what to substitute for key lime juice in a key lime pie? I've heard everything from a 50/50 lime/lemon mixture to 100% limes.

If it matters, and I don't think it does, the recipe is the Key lime "pie" recipe from Charlie Trotter's dessert book.

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. as far as personal preference and as far as what you're going to call the pie, i think it matters. nellie and joes is the key lime juice that a lot of people prefer, and you may be able to get it bottled up north. though some folks here in key west make commercial pies with the big green limes. nasty. key limes are little tiny things.

    14 Replies
    1. re: renee

      Thanks renee though I literally don't have time to get the juice, the only place I know of here having it being someone I'm boycotting over a dried out truffle.

      I've checked all my professional pastry books but to no avail. I think I'll just call it lemon-lime custard and do the 50/50 substitute.

      1. re: mike

        i respect that decision. if you ever make it to key west please note that not all places selling "key lime Pie" are using key limes. I work for a grocery store that delivered (i'm not sure if we still do) cases of jamaican limes to one particular place that makes them by like the hundreds. they didn't order key limes or juice thereof. just lots of big green limes.

        the merengue on top kills me too, totally unnecessary and non-traditional from everything i've heard. but hey, to each his own there certainly seems to be a market for the stuff.

        1. re: renee

          I find that the bottled key lime juice has a nasty aftertaste. I simply use fresh limes of whatever is available, though I do bring key limes up from Florida (I grew up in Miami where people had key lime trees in their yards in my neighborhood...)

          1. re: xavier

            A lot of the time, when you see "key limes" bagged and sold in grocery stores they are actually mexican limes of the same variety as those found in the keys.

            1. re: Nick

              May I stir the pot a little? In their introductory notes to a recipe for "Liar's Lime Pie," Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison ("Smoke and Spice") tell us,
              "When someone serves you a 'Key Lime Pie' these days, what you're actually getting is closer to this liar's version [ric's note: I am not posting this recipe here. ]. It can be a great pie, but it's rarely made with the wonderfully distinctive Key Limes anymore because Florida's commercial crop was wiped out in a 1926 hurricane. Though you can still find the small, sour gems in the Caribbean and Mexico, most stores in the States carry only Persian limes which are similar to lemons."
              The Jamisons don't say the Key Limes don't exist, but they do seem to echo Hick's post about a lot of them being from Mexico. I would think, though, that since 1926, Key Lime commercial growers have had ample time to get back on their feet and re-plant, even with seedlings from elsewhere in the Caribbean!

              1. re: Ric

                It was fun to read your post because we have had this book - Smoke and Spice - for some time now. I have never tried the Key Lime Pie from it - but will probably give it a try. Probably off topic here, but have you ever tried "Becky's Pineapple Cake" from the same dessert chapter? It is really good as is the peach cobbler - when we can find decent peaches in MI. But try the cake and see what you think. This is a very good cookbook with interesting BBQ comments and information. (P.S. We were raised on K.C. BBQ.)

                1. re: Donna - MI

                  For those of us that don't have the smoke & spice cookbook, here's a link to the pineapple cake recipe.

                  Does anyone have a link to their key lime pie?


                  1. re: Sarnie

                    a small note from my recent research to buy a key lime plant to grow in N California - Key lime, Mexican Lime and Bartender's lime are all different names for the same thing.

                  2. re: Donna - MI

                    Thanks for the recommendation! We also enjoy the Smoke and Spice book- have tried several things in it. We will have to try the Pineapple Cake. I put a paperclip in the book- an old fashioned, non-computerized actual bookmark! Thanks again,

                    1. re: ric

                      Thank you - it just amazes me that someone would pay attention to my posts. Enjoy!!

                  3. re: Ric

                    the thing is we don't have much room these days for any agriculture hurricane recovery or no. too many people and hotels and cars. There are places up around miami that i believe are still suitable (and used) for key lime growing. not sure where nellie and joe's key limes come from.

                    1. re: renee

                      I just ran across one more comment on Key Limes (from Mexico) that I thought I'd pass on, and clue people into a source of baking supplies at the same time, if they were not already aware of "The Baker's Catalogue" from King Arthur Flour in Vermont.
                      An item for sale in "The Baker's Catalogue" is Floribbean Key Lime Juice, 12 oz. bottle for 7.50 plus the shipping. "Floribbean of Miami produces their organic Key Lime Juice from Key Limes* grown in the mountains of Mexico and processed there with Floibbean's own equipment...*While 'real' Key limes are no longer grown commercially- a 1920's freeze wiped out the groves in the Florida Keys- the Key Limes grown in Mexico have the same 'biological fingerprint' as those original Florida Limes." (Well, there you have it!)

                      Shop Online:
                      Besides having interesting tidbits about Key Limes, the Baker's Catalogue is 56 pages of sometimes-hard-to-find items related to baking and cooking, from flour to porridge mix to spices to bowls and utensils, even a few recipes- no recipe for anything "Key Limey" in the issue I'm looking at, though.
                      The Baker's Catalogue and King Arthur Flour are located in Norwich, Vermont. I gave their website, above, and their phone number is 1-800-827-6836.

          2. re: renee
            Molly Symmonds

            I made a Key Lime pie yesterday with the real
            McCoy, but you might be interested to know that
            Cook's Illustrated (from which I took the recipe) conducted tastings and found no difference between pies made with regular supermarket limes (Persian limes) and true Key limes. I wouldn't bother trying to find Key Lime juice or combining lemon and lime.

            Good luck.


            1. re: Molly Symmonds

              Maybe CI can't tell, but I definitely can. At least using Nellie and Joe's bottled stuff there's a difference. Maybe CI's supplier was selling puny regular limes as key limes?

          3. Pleae see my message under Canada - Toronto lime juice - re Nellie & Joe's juice. It is so good. Good luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Donna - MI

              Every bottled lemon or lime juice I've tasted is a way noticeably different thing from the fresh version. They are not interchangeable, IMO.

            2. j
              JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

              100 percent fresh lime juice. As you well know by now, real key limes are wickedly hard to find. The good news is, they're so small and yield so little juice in each lime that it's barely worth the trouble of finding the little buggers. Get the best limes you can get your hands on (thin-skinned, firm ones that feel heavy) and you'll be fine. I wouldn't recommend doing half-and-half lemon/lime- in my experience, limes tend to be a good bit more acidic than lemons, and you need very high acidity to help "cook" the filling (like how a lime juice marinade works in ceviche) or you'll end up with a loose, slurpy mess that could be served only if you don't mind calling it Key Lime Soup.

              1. I have made key lime pie with the small, fresh key limes (NOT fun to juice and you need a bunch to get the appropriate quantity) and using Nellie & Joe's bottled juice---no discernible difference. Just don't use bottled "Real Lime" juice--that' s yucky, The key lime juice I use is found in a wide variety of supermarkets in Michigan...