Just like tiramisu and banana pudding, key lime pie is one of my all-time favorite desserts. It has a unique taste that sets it apart from every other dessert—tangy yet sweet with a creamy satisfaction—but is key lime pie gluten-free? Let’s explore.
What is key lime pie?
Key lime pie, an American dessert pie, is named after the aromatic small key limes. It is made with lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks. Some people prefer to enjoy the dessert without toppings, while others may top it with whipped cream or meringue. It may also be cooked with a graham cracker crust, pie crust, or no crust.
Midway Key lime pie is a burst of yellow filling, all thanks to the egg yolks, acidic lime juice, and condensed milk that curdles without baking. However, in raw egg-based foods such as kewpie mayo and key lime pie, there is a high risk of salmonella bacteria, which is why most key lime pies are baked, thickening the filling further and pasteurizing the eggs.
What does key lime pie taste like?
Key lime pie has a sweet-bitter taste, but it is more bitter. The condensed milk tries to provide a sweet contrast to the acidic bitter taste of the key lime, while the graham cracker and butter crust provides a molasses-like mouthfeel layer to the pie.
What is key lime pie made of?
- Lime juice: The distinctive flavor and acidity of the pie are provided by the lime juice. It also reacts with the condensed milk to thicken the filling. Key limes are preferred for their more intense and aromatic juice, but regular limes can also be used.
- Egg yolks: The egg yolks add richness and color to the filling and also help it set when baked. Some recipes use only egg yolks, while others add some egg whites for a lighter texture.
- Sweetened condensed milk adds sweetness and body to the filling and also balances the tartness of the lime juice. It is the main ingredient that makes key lime pie different from other citrus pies.
- Crust: Crushed graham crackers, melted butter, and sugar are used to form the crust, adding a crunchy contrast to the smooth filling and also complementing the lime flavor. Some variations include toasted coconut or nuts for extra flavor and texture.
- Whipped cream: Whipped cream is an optional but common topping for the key lime pie. It adds lightness and sweetness, and it also helps cut through the richness of the filling. I prefer meringue instead of whipped cream because of my love for the pavlova dessert, but everyone is allowed to use what they enjoy.
Is key lime pie gluten free?
Key lime pie is a dessert made with a Graham cracker crust and a creamy filling flavored with key lime juice. The filling of a key lime pie is usually gluten-free, but the crust may contain gluten depending on the ingredients used.
To make a gluten-free key lime pie, you can either use a store-bought gluten-free graham cracker crust or make your crust with gluten-free graham crackers and butter.
Store-Bought Key Lime Pies
Store- or restaurant-bought key lime pies are usually not gluten-free. Take, for example, trader Joe’s Key lime pie, which contains wheat; its graham crumbs contain wheat flour, sugar, graham flour, molasses, honey, baking soda, and salt. The same goes for restaurants, as crumbs containing wheat are usually more crunchy.
The best way to avoid eating a gluten-containing key lime pie when you dine out is to discuss with the server extensively so you can know if it is possible to make your order gluten-free; if it is not, you could use another restaurant.
Gluten-free crust options
There are several gluten-free crust options for key lime pie, depending on your preference and the availability of ingredients. Here are some examples:
- Gluten-free graham cracker crust: This is the most traditional option, and you can either use store-bought gluten-free graham crackers or make your own. To make this crust, you need to crush the gluten-free graham crackers and mix them with melted butter and sugar, then press the mixture into a pie dish and bake for 8 minutes.
- Gluten-free oat crust: This is a simple and affordable option that uses certified gluten-free oats, powdered sugar, butter, and cinnamon. You need to pulse the oats in a food processor until they resemble coarse crumbs, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Press the mixture into a pie dish and bake for 8 minutes.
- Gluten-free almond flour crust: This is a low-carb and grain-free option that uses almond flour, butter, and a sweetener of your choice. You need to combine the almond flour and sweetener in a bowl, then add the melted butter and mix well. Press the mixture into a pie dish and bake for 10 minutes.
Is key lime pie healthy?
On average, 4-6 spoons of butter are used in making a homemade key lime pie crust, which means the amount of saturated fat in the pie is high. Saturated fats can lead to stroke and heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
In commercially prepared key lime pie, hydrogenated oils are usually used alongside butter, and this poses an even greater risk as they contain trans fat. With each tablespoon of butter added, 7 grams of saturated fat are also added.
Condensed milk is also a source of saturated fats (9 grams). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that saturated fats should be limited to 10% or less of our daily calorie intake (if you’re on a 2000-calorie diet, that’s 22g of saturated fats daily), and key lime pie supplies more than half of our daily saturated fat needs (15.75g).
The recipe can determine how healthy the pie could be. I usually make use of low-fat Graham crackers, fat-free condensed milk, and reduced-fat margarine or butter. However, with each substitution, you should be prepared to sacrifice flavor and texture.
With a good portion control routine, the key lime pie can be enjoyed from time to time.
Key lime pie is one of those wholesome pies that awakens your taste buds, satisfying all their wants with subsequent bites, but it is usually not gluten-free. To achieve a crunchy finish, graham crackers made with wheat flour are usually used, making the pie not gluten-free, but if these wheat-containing cracker crumbs are replaced with gluten-free versions, you could enjoy your key lime pie with no worries at all.