Published: November 24, 2021
Modified: April 4, 2023
Let New York have its cheesecake. Here in Florida, we have something better: Key lime pie. This addictive vegan version of the South Florida classic treat has an authentic creamy and tart filling surrounded by a flavorful graham cracker crust. Like the original Key lime pie, it's easy to make, and absolutely no one will guess there's no dairy or eggs!
Key lime pie hails from the Florida Keys, and it's as simple to make as it is delicious. When I developed this recipe, I decided to keep it as authentic as possible so vegans all over can experience the famous flavor of the Keys.
The filling is made with Key lime juice, vegan Greek yogurt, and sweetened condensed coconut milk, and thickened with cornstarch. You can also add some turmeric for color. The crust is simple, too, made with only graham cracker crumbs, vegan butter, and brown sugar.
While the light, creamy, tangy flavor is perfect for spring and summer, in Florida we also enjoy Key lime pie at Christmas time.
Vegans (and non-vegans) from all over love this vegan Key lime pie recipe because:
it doesn't taste like coconut
it has a flavorful graham cracker crust
it's super easy to make
it's based on an authentic Key lime pie recipe
it's light and refreshing on warm days
the ingredients are simple and easy to find in stores
Graham crackers: Make sure the graham crackers you buy are vegan (many brands contain honey, and a few contain milk). If you can't find vegan graham crackers at your local grocery store, you can use my super easy graham cracker recipe. I'd leave the cinnamon-sugar topping off for this recipe, but if you've already made the graham crackers with the sugar, it won't cause a problem either.
Vegan butter: This is the glue that holds the crust together, so I recommend using sticks instead of a spread. Vegan butter spreads are softer and won't have as much holding power as sticks. If vegan butter is unavailable in your area, or unreasonably priced, try my homemade vegan butter recipe. I have tested both Earth Balance and homemade vegan butter in this recipe with good results.
Brown sugar: Some brands of sugar in the US process their sugar with animal bone char, meaning it's not vegan. If you're not sure whether a particular brand is vegan or not, purchase organic: organic sugar can't be processed with bone char.
Key lime juice: The most convenient option is to purchase bottled Key lime juice, which can usually be found in the room-temperature juice or fresh produce section of grocery stores. Many grocery stores also carry bags of Key limes which you can juice yourself. If you choose to juice your own Key limes, buy them in advance so they can ripen before you need to juice them. See "How to Juice Key Limes" below for more information.
Sweetened condensed coconut milk: This recipe was developed using Let's Do... Organic brand, and I would recommend that brand if you're able to get it. Unfortunately, the other brands that I've found (Iberia, Nature's Charm, and Nature's Greatest Foods), all have about twice as much sugar as Let's Do Organic. So, if one of those brands is the only brand you have access to, I'd recommend using a mixture of 50% sweetened condensed coconut milk and 50% unsweetened coconut cream (about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of each). If you can't get store-bought sweetened condensed coconut milk, you can also make your own. Combine 2 400-mL cans of unsweetened coconut cream with 195 grams (about 1 cup) of sugar in a saucepan and whisk together well. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat to low until it's reduced to about 600 mL (about 1 hour). Allow to cool, then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.
Vegan Greek yogurt: Adds creaminess and tang to the filling. Use a plain, unsweetened variety such as Kite Hill Almond Milk Greek Style. If you use regular vegan yogurt, your pie will be less tart and a little sweeter.
Cornstarch: Thickens the filling and allows the pie to be sliced cleanly. I do recommend using the metric measurements and weighing your cornstarch, since measuring cornstarch with cups can be very inaccurate. Cornstarch is heat activated, which is why we boil the filling on the stove.
Turmeric: This is optional, for added color. Traditional Key lime pie is made with eggs which will lend a yellowish color, and turmeric powder imitates that. You can adjust the amount depending on how much color you want in your filling, but keep in mind that the color will become darker as the filling heats.
Since Key limes are so small, they're quite a bit of work to juice and many people opt for buying bottled juice. But if you're up for the challenge, here are some tips to make it easier:
Allow your Key limes to ripen before you attempt to juice them. If your limes are dark green, they're not ripe. They should be light green or have some yellow spots before you juice them. Unripe Key limes are firm and very difficult to juice.
Cut the Key limes into halves, then juice each half using a garlic press. Since the limes are so small, regular citrus juicers aren't of much use. But a garlic press is the perfect size and also easy to use. Since the garlic press may not catch all the fiber from the limes, I recommend passing your juice through a strainer before using it.
Can I use regular lime juice instead of key lime juice? Persian limes and Key limes have different flavors. Key limes have a stronger flavor, but limes are more acidic. Since I developed this recipe using Key lime juice, I can't recommend using ordinary lime juice.
Where can I get Key lime juice? Nellie and Joe's makes 100% Key lime juice with no preservatives. This Key West-based company also has a version with preservatives; either one will work. They're sold at supermarkets and local grocery stores across the United States, and you can check Nellie and Joe's retailer list on their website. You can also get it through Amazon.
What kind of pan do I need for this recipe? You'll need a 9-inch (23-cm) pan. You can use a regular pie pan, but I recommend using a springform pan or a tart pan with a removable bottom. That will make it easier to get the pie out of the pan.
What garnishes or toppings are on your Key lime pie? I used Nature's Charm coconut whipping cream (which comes in a can and needs to be whipped with a mixer). I've also had good results with 365 (Whole Foods) brand non-dairy whipped topping. I piped the vegan whipped cream onto the pie using a pastry bag and a large round tip. I also added some fresh Key lime zest to the top of the pie.
What knife should I use to cut the pie cleanly? I got the best results with a warm chef or paring knife (run it under some warm water first to heat it up).
Does this Key lime pie taste like coconut? There's no noticeable coconut flavor for me or anyone I know who's tried it. It tastes pretty much like traditional Key lime pie. (If you use Nature's Charm coconut whipping cream, however, it does have a noticeable coconut flavor).
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time4 hours
Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
Use a blender or food processor to blend your graham crackers into fine crumbs. Transfer to a large bowl, add brown sugar, then mix until well-combined.
Melt your vegan butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, then add it into your crumb-sugar mixture. Mix together until all your graham cracker crumbs are moistened.
Pour your graham cracker mix into a 9-inch (23-cm) pie pan, tart pan with a removable bottom, or springform pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan using a glass with a flat bottom, or your fingers. When you do this, crumbs will be pushed up the sides of the pan; use your fingers to press them into the sides, creating an even crust.
Place your pan on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Then set it aside to cool on a wire rack.
In a medium or large saucepan (with no heat), mix your sweetened condensed coconut milk, non-dairy Greek yogurt, and Key lime juice until smooth. Add turmeric (if using) and cornstarch to the mixture. Whisk everything well to ensure there are no clumps of cornstarch before you turn on the heat. Keep in mind that if you’re using turmeric, the color will get brighter as it cooks, so don’t add too much.
Turn the heat to medium, and let it come to a slow boil, stirring constantly. It will take about 8-10 minutes for the mixture to boil, so be patient. Once it boils, keep stirring for about 1 minute, until it’s just beginning to thicken, then remove from heat. If there are any small clumps from the cornstarch, you can strain the filling with a metal sieve to remove them.
Carefully pour your filling into the prepared graham cracker crust. Use an icing spatula or butter knife to smooth the top of the pie filling. Set aside to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate until set (about 3 hours).
Top with vegan whipped cream, and enjoy!
Different brands of sweetened condensed coconut milk vary widely in their ratio of sugar to coconut milk. Please see the post above for notes on using different brands.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator; freeze for longer storage. The crust is best in the first 1-2 days after baking.
Note: This data should be used only as an estimate. Please see the nutrition section of my terms and conditions for more information on how this data is calculated.
Join the community and get my newest and best yummy vegan recipes sent right to your email!