Confession time: during my recent visit to the Florida Keys I ate Key Lime Pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day. I’d like to tell you that this was strictly for ‘research purposes’ as I embarked on a quest to find the best Key Lime Pie in the Keys, but let’s be honest, I just like to eat pie and when it’s listed on every single menu, it only makes it that much easier for me to indulge in a little sweet somethin’ somethin’.
I may not have been able to narrow the search down to ‘the best pie’ (that might require a follow up visit and some more ‘sampling for research’), however, I did end up discovering a whole lot of unique variations of the dessert.
Not all Key Lime Pies are created equal
Upon arriving in Key West, I learned that the population is divided into two camps: there are those who believe the original recipe calls for meringue, while the other half insists it should be whipped cream.
I’m a big fan of dessert so I thought I would sample a few slices and see if I could weigh in on this foodie dilemma. My eating adventures lead me to plain slices of pie and others covered with chocolate drizzle, slices of pie served chilled and slices of pie served frozen, not to mention slices topped with with merengue, whipped cream and cool-whip…but then things got weird. As my quest for Key Lime Pie continued, I heard of restaurants serving deep-fried pie and pie smoothies, as well as shops selling chocolate-covered pies on a stick?
My curiosity piqued and my appetite followed…
Key Lime Pie with Meringue
I got my first taste of Key Lime Pie while having breakfast at Blue Heaven. This restaurant is an institution in Key West; over the course of its history the property has hosted cock fights, gambling, and even Friday night boxing matches refereed by the one and only, Ernest Hemingway. How could I say no to that?
Even though I went to Blue Heaven for breakfast (and enjoyed a delicious plate of Benedict Eggs with Lobster!), I still saved a little bit of room for pie because that’s what you do when you’re in the Key Lime Pie capital.
When my slice of pie arrived at the table, I couldn’t believe the height of the meringue – it was practically the size of my face! The meringue was a nice golden brown on the outside, and white and fluffy once you cut into it. The pie had the perfect balance of tartness and sweetness, and because Lemon Meringue Pie is my favourite, the similarities between the two immediately won me over.
Key Lime Pie with Whipped Cream
Next up, I had to sample a slice of pie with whipped cream, which proved to be quite easy seeing as most restaurants serve their pies with whipped cream rather than meringue. I got my first taste of this at The Stoned Crab at Ibis Bay Resort, where they wowed me with both their seafood and their pie.
I really liked having the whipped cream on the pie because it was a nice way to balance the tartness of the lime. This pie also came with a chocolate and lime glaze, which I really liked. I noticed a lot of places liked to serve their pies plain so that the flavour could come through, but I thought the chocolate and lime were a nice compliment.
Chocolate-dipped Key Lime Pie on a Stick
While wandering around Key West I ended up in front of Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe on Duval Street. Kermit’s is a well-established name in town and they sell all sorts of Key Lime products, but what immediately caught my attention was their display of chocolate-covered Key Lime Pie on a stick! I can’t say I’ve ever tried pie served like a popsicle, so this required a little taste test.
The Key Lime Pie on a Stick was exactly what it sounds like; Kermit’s Shoppe takes a slice of pie, puts a stick through it, and then dips it in dark chocolate. The result was a delicious sweet treat that you could easily enjoy as you walked around Key West.
Deep-fried Key Lime Pie
Then it was time to move on to deep-fried pie. While I am familiar with deep-fried pizza and deep-fried Mars bars (both are quite popular in Edinburgh!), I have to admit that deep-fried pie was completely new to me. I ordered this for dessert at the Oltremare Ristorante in the Amara Key Resort, and I was pleasantly surprised.
While a tempura-battered and deep-fried slice of Key Lime Pie may not look particularly appetizing at first glance, it totally is once you put your fork through it and take a bite.
The pie was slightly frozen in the middle, but soft and gooey around the exterior. It hadn’t melted as much as I thought it would, and I really liked that it was still chilled and refreshing to the palate. The slice of pie came with a sweet strawberry glaze that had real chunks of fruit and a nice Cajun kick to it. I would eat it again gladly.
Key Lime Pie Freeze
Another day I ended up at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, which is known for yet another unique twist: Key Lime Pie Freeze. I don’t know exactly how it’s made (I have a feeling that recipe is a well kept secret), but to me it tasted a lot like a slice of pie blended with ice. It was smooth, refreshing, and it was unusual.
As I sipped on that drink, it got me thinking – they should invent a Key Lime Pie Milkshake! I don’t know if it has been done before, but I can really see it being a hit if they used Key Lime ice cream for a rich, creamy texture.
150,000 Key Lime Pie Combinations?!
And then I discovered this book: The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook, which supposedly has a whopping 150,000 different Key Lime Pie combinations. Yes, that’s more Key Lime Pie than anyone could ever consume in a lifetime! So if deep-fried pie, pie on a stick, and pie in a glass don’t sound to your taste, there’s likely to be at least one recipe to your liking in here.
Also, I should mention that while Key Lime is really popular around the Florida Keys, you can sample a lot more than just pie. Other popular items include Key Lime cocktails, Key Lime cookies, Key Lime cupcakes, Key Lime barbecue sauce, Key Lime candy and the list goes on and on.
As for me, I’ll be taking a break from Key Lime Pie for a while. I may have a sweet tooth, but after eating pie thrice a day for, I’m kind of in the mood for something savoury in Florida.
Have you ever tried Key Lime Pie before?
What’s your favourite variation of this dessert?
Many thanks to The Florida Keys and Key West for hosting me during my visit. For more travel inspiration have a look at their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.