Vegan Key Lime Pie Recipe

Why It Works

  • A combination of silken tofu and sweetened condensed coconut milk provides a creamy base without dairy. 
  • A stovetop custard, thickened with cornstarch, has no need for eggs. 
  • Vanilla extract adds a rounded note like a Creamsicle without using dairy.

I used to love Key lime pie so much that I’d order it any time I saw in on a menu. Unfortunately, my body turned against me once I hit 30, picking a fight whenever I ate dairy. But instead of giving up my favorite dessert, I was pretty sure I could make a lime pie with filling that was tangy, creamy, and sweet, encased in a crisp crust, one you’d be proud to serve at any party to vegans and non-vegans alike.

There’s a lot of great pie information in the Serious Eats library, and I leaned on several recipes to come up with my own. From Stella Parks’s lime pie recipe, I borrowed the idea of adding rosewater to give the lime flavor a bit of the freshness it loses during cooking. I also loved that Stella’s investigation into the differences between Key limes and Persian limes, which sparked a controversy in Florida, essentially gave me permission to use the more commonly available Persian limes. (However, I still think of this as a Key lime pie, as that was the flavor profile I was trying to achieve.)

For the crust, I used Lauren Weisenthal’s terrific recipe for Key lime pie as a starting point. My main worry was that vegan butter wouldn’t be able to hold the graham cracker crust together as well as butter, but through successive trials, I finally got a crust with good structure by gradually increasing the amount.

For the meringue on top, I didn’t have to do anything other than use Nik Sharma’s perfect vegan meringue recipe.

With all that squared away, I just had to focus on getting the dairy- and egg-free filling just right. Sweetened condensed milk is a common ingredient in Key lime pie recipes, and swapping it out for dairy-free sweetened condensed coconut milk seemed straightforward enough; the coconut flavor isn’t too strong, so it doesn’t distract from the lime. I wanted to avoid using multiple nut products due to nut allergies, so I turned to silken tofu to partner with the coconut milk, which creates a creamy texture with some heft, and I turned to cornstarch to help thicken it up and get it to set. While I tried to engineer the recipe so you could fill the pie crust and bake it all together in order to reduce the number of dishes, the filling never quite set correctly, so I chose instead to heat the filling on the stovetop until it was sufficiently thickend and then pour it into the prepared crust. After chilling the pie, the custard sets beautifully and the lime flavor shines through, with a hint of a kind of Creamsicle taste because of the addition of vanilla extract.

October 2021

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By Mahir

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