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Should I add food coloring to my key lime pie?

I use a Cook's illustrated recipe for key lime pie (actually calls for regular limes instead) and it tastes good but barely has a tinge of green. Is this typical? Basically, whisk lime zest w/ egg yolks before adding condensed milk and lime juice. I've never used food coloring before, but would food coloring make it look better or worse?

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  1. Key lime pies usually have food coloring added to them to make them green. If the color is important to you, food coloring will get you there. I would check the color ratio (blue to yellow) for making green and add it 1-2 drops at a time. Food coloring can go a long way.

    I'm not such a fan of food coloring, so I'd probably just serve the key lime pie as it is.

    1. I expect good key lime pie to be a pale yellow color...the only green ingredient is the zest, which shouldn't be enough to turn the whole thing green.

      4 Replies
      1. re: bex109

        I swear that I didn't eat a decent key lime pie for most of my life. The first good one was served to me in Florida, and was pale yellow. Just look at key limes in the supermarket versus regular limes -- they will help you connect the dots. There is a big difference in the flavor, and a regular lime just doesn't cut it. So, IMO, if you are making a substitution that is so basic to a key lime pie recipe, i.e, regular limes for key limes, the color isn't going to make any difference. The whole pie going to be an imitation at best. It may taste great, but it will be a lime pie, not a key lime pie.

        1. re: RGC1982

          Yeah, I always wondered why CI didn't just call it a Lime pie. IIRC, they did a taste test & they preferred reg limes, but partially because they're easier to zest and juice. Next time though, am gonna try real key limes as I found them for cheap at a local store.

          1. re: pharmnerd

            Isn't CI in Vermont or somewhere far, far, far away from Key Lime Land?

            1. re: MakingSense

              Key limes are often available in Chicago, also bottled key lime juice. If where you live has a Hispanic population, check Latino produce market.

      2. If you want "authentic" do NOT add the food coloring, in my opinion. Moved to SW Florida in 1988; any worthy Key Lime Pie does NOT have coloring added and is pale yellow as others have said, just my 2 cents.

        1. I agree with the posts to leave it alone. Really green Key Lime Pie is off-putting, IMHO. I prefer a lighter shade of naturalness. Good for you for making it! I love Key Lime Pie but I'm too lazy to make it from scratch.

          5 Replies
          1. re: diablo

            Really? Key lime pie is about the easiest dessert to make--my kids do it all the time. Well, if you don't squeeze your own key limes in which case that takes more time/ I agree--no food coloring.

            1. re: chowser

              "Key lime pie is about the easiest dessert to make"

              Yet another testament to my laziness, chowser ;)

              1. re: diablo

                You can do it! Was the first pie I ever made, mainly cuz the recipe was so simple and cheap. If wanna save a few steps, can even buy a store-bought graham cracker crust which isn't half-bad. But, homemade crust (just graham crackers, sugar, butter) is awesome, as you can increase/decrease the amount as you please.

                1. re: pharmnerd

                  I agree that KLP is one of the easiest pies ever to make...also Pecan Pie, to me, is a snap; pumpkin too. My biggest pie challenge is Lemon Meringue; comes out like lemonade pie, curd is always too runny.

                  1. re: Val

                    I had a hard time w/ Pumpkin for some reason, mainly w/ the crust. Willing to try again though.

          2. Good grief, no. It'll make it look worse, too.

            1. worse
              I'd never had Key Lime pie until we moved here. The first taste was of a crappy commercial one, green and a total sweet slap in the face. Tried one that someone actually baked and it was much nicer. Still not my pie of choice. I use key limes in cheesecake from time to time. Very nice.

              1. Will definitely leave out the food coloring, as it seems the pale yellow color is normal. Thanks for the replies.

                1. Never eat green key lime pie. Or make it with anything but Key Lime juice, not regular lime juice. It's just not The Real Thing!

                  Ken in Venice (Florida that is)

                  1 Reply
                  1. Worse. Do not do it. No reason to add color. Enjoy it in all it's splendor naturally. Now the big question is meringue or whipped cream on top?

                    1. Use it if you like. Anybody that turns down a slice of green key lime pie becaue it is not "authentic" doesn't deserve pie.

                      1. I use regular limes and add 1 tsp of the zest which adds a bit of color. I like to top my (nonkey) Lime Pie with whipped cream and sometimes add some paper thin lime slices for decoration. It's always a hit and we love it.

                        1. I remember reading something way back - the yellow color comes not from the juice, but rather the egg yolks, which makes sense.

                          We make lemon meringue pie all the time, and did the same recipe with limes and it was fine.
                          We tried green food coloring as well - it looked kinda funky. Also tried blue and orange coloring too. The eye appeal seemed all wrong, but we had fun anyway.

                          1. no. plain and simple. no.

                            1. this has little to do with the original query, but i thought you key lime-lovin' hounds might like to see this recipe for "Citizen Cake Rum Butter Cake with Key Lime Cream and Tropical Fruits":

                                1. I guess... if you want green pie. I don't use it and my pie is a yellowish but that doesn't bother me because it is key lime pie. If I used the persian limes, I would probably put food coloring in.

                                  1. You don't need to add food coloring. There is an alternative. Just in the same way that red wine gets it's deep color, you can boil the lime juice with the zest and leave to simmer (make sure you don't evaporate too much liquid though!)

                                    This will not only impart a green color from the zest but also intensify the flavor ten-fold. It may not look like you've cooked the pie in a nuclear powered oven, but it will improve things.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Amir Akhrif

                                      Nice idea, to simmer the zest!

                                      If you look here, http://www.google.com/images?q=key+li...

                                      I think you'll see that the most attractive pies are pale yellow but *garnished* with a (green) lime slice.
                                      The all-green ones sort of look like mint, "grasshopper" creme de menthe type pies.

                                      1. re: Amir Akhrif

                                        its flavor is not supposed to be intense; i think boiling the juice with the zest may give you a "lime pie," but it won't be an old fashioned, real "old florida style" key lime pie.

                                      2. Only if you make it for St. Patrick's Day.

                                        1. A good key lime pie should never have food coloring. I'm going to be making a key lime parfait for my blog www.rosemaryandthegoat.com and here's what I'm doing. I'm making the crust as normal with graham cracker crumbs. When I do the key lime filling I'm adding lots of zest and some chopped pistachios hoping to get a little green color. I want a colorful presentation and I'm copying something I saw on extreme chef. I'm taking edible flowers and shredding the flowers to sprinkle around the plate with a few on the top. I may set the glass or dsh on top of thinly sliced limes. I think it will be a very pretty plate and I won't miss the green color at all

                                            1. Every time someone adds green food coloring to Key lime pie, a dolphin cries.
                                              Don't make the dolphins cry.

                                              (seriously -- no food coloring -- it's sacrilege, and restaurants in Florida are derided if they serve green lime pie)