Key Lime Pie or Dip – No Refrigeration or Baking


Life on a sailboat can be ostentatious or more like a camping trip, depending on the amenities on board. This recipe was created by sailors who had no amenities and sailed from the U.S. to Venezuela and back without refrigeration, using their skills as chemists to dine elegantly without refrigeration.

Key lime pie without refrigeration or baking

Most varieties of this rich and satisfying desert require both a crust and custard from refrigerated ingredients and an oven for cooking. This recipe is for those who like to have the ingredients for a quick treat or desert on hand that does not require refrigeration or cooking.

Key lime pie ingredients

  • Six fresh key limes to squeeze 1/2 cup of key lime juice (bottled juice is fine)
  • One five to six oz. can of sweetened, condensed milk (non-fat variety also works well)
  • One box of English tea biscuits (or similar); graham crackers or vanilla wafers
  • One square or round 8″ metal or glass pan
  • About a dozen ice cubes if available

Prepare key lime custard

  1. Pour the 1/2 cup key lime juice in the bottom of a small, rounded bowl.
  2. Slowly stir in the condensed milk, using a spoon. Continuously stir until mixture starts to thicken.
  3. Note that the chemical reaction with the key lime juice thickens the milk and it turns a lovely shade of light green typical of key lime pies.
  4. If you have access to ice cubes, set the mixture in a bed of ice. Otherwise, just set aside.

Key lime pie crust

Place the cookies or graham crackers in bite-size pieces on the bottom of the pan and around the sides.

Finished key lime pie

Scoop mixture onto the cookies or graham crackers. Serve by the cookie or cracker piece.


  • Leave the key lime mixture in the bowl and serve like a fondue, dipping the cookies or crackers.
  • Spread on individual cookies or crackers and arrange artfully on a plate.
  • Add a little key lime zest (scrapings from the skin of the key lime) to decorate.
  • Decorate with thin slices of key lime.
  • Top with candied cherries or other bits of fruit.
  • Put the key lime mixture on the bottom of the pan, crumble and sprinkle cookies or crackers on top.
  • Keep a can of sweetened condensed milk and key lime juice in the fridge or cupboard and a tin of English tea biscuits in the cupboard for an instant, last-minute company treat. It is a little more tart than traditional key lime pie and the custard is a little less solid.

For a healthier treat, non-fat condensed milk may be sweetened with maple syrup, honey or non-sugar sweetener.

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