I was in the Florida Keys a few weeks ago, hopscotching from key to key looking for the best Key lime pie.

I couldn't hit every place, as most all have their own versions, some very traditional with graham cracker crusts and that tart/sweet filling made from limes and sweetened condensed milk. Toppings ranged from a dollop of whipped cream to fully covered slices, as well as pies run through the oven for a couple of minutes to lightly toast the meringues on top. One of Marriott's properties, the luxurious Marriott Beachside Hotel, serves rounds, rather than slices of key lime pie, and tops each with a drizzle of raspberry coulis.

I found it remarkable how such a simple pie can be transformed in so many different ways.

But after traveling to the Keys in search of the best Key lime pie, all I really had to do was travel to Hamilton Place for a piece of the Key lime pie at Bonefish Grill. It's amazing with its crunchy graham cracker/pecan crust, extra-thick filling and a big fluffy crown of whipped cream.

I've tried to replicate this pie several times without a lot of success. The crust is either too thin in some places, too thick in others or the flavor isn't right. Then I started using brown sugar in place of the white sugar most graham cracker crusts call for and a splash of vanilla extract, and my life, as far as Key lime pie is concerned, was forever changed.

Unsalted everything should be used, from the pecans to the butter. Whirl the graham crackers and pecans in your food processor, or put them in a bag and beat them with a meat mallet, then stir in melted butter, vanilla and brown sugar. And that's it.

Use your favorite Key lime pie filling or this one that's simple and delicious.

Key Lime Pie With Pecan Crust


6 whole rectangle graham cracker sheets (12 small square graham crackers) (1 cup crumbs)

3/4 cup pecans

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


6 egg yolks

2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

1 cup key lime juice, fresh or bottled (preferably Nellie and Joe's)

Sweetened whipped cream

Make crust: Add graham crackers and pecans to a food processor, and pulse until coarsely ground. Add sugar, butter and vanilla; continue to process until finely ground and completely combined.

Press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pan, pressing firmly.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

In medium bowl, gently whisk eggs. Slowly whisk in sweetened condensed milk, then whisk in Key lime juice. Do not overmix, as this will create bubbles. Just stir gently until all ingredients are mixed together well.

Bake for 40-45 minutes.

The edge of pie will just start to slightly puff up and the edge of pie will also be a light golden brown.

Let cool. Pie will set up perfectly as it cools.

Refrigerate 4-6 hours or overnight. Serve with whipped cream topping.

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Anne Braly