Luscious and light, this creamy lemon pie recipe is sunshine in a dessert! Bake with lemons or Meyer lemons, this is one easy pie recipe you’ll want to enjoy year round!
One of my favorite seasons of the year is… citrus season! I look forward to the post-holiday winter months every year just for this.
As soon as the citrus starts hitting the store shelves in full-force, I know spring and sunshine are around the corner! In the meantime, the waiting is a little easier with all the bright citrus flavors in our kitchen.
My family absolutely adores citrus desserts, so it felt natural that this month’s recipe for the Year of Pie contains citrus. You’ll find the explanation behind the Year of Pie and the January recipe in this post.
We happened to have a plethora of lemons on hand, so a lemon pie seemed natural. Use what you have, right?
But I already have an apple-lemon pie on the blog, and I didn’t feel like a lemon curd-based pie. My daughter suggested a key lime pie, but that clearly doesn’t have lemons… she just really likes key lime pie.
Thankfully, it was enough to spark inspiration though, and we have a creamy lemon pie! It’s like the key lime pie’s mellow cousin.
How to make a creamy lemon pie
This is a great recipe because it’s so easy to make. You start with a lemon-zest seasoned graham cracker crust, then top with a creamy lemon and condensed milk filling.
I highly recommend adding the lemon zest to the graham cracker crust. If you’re a lemon-lover like me, you want to make sure the lemon flavor is carried through each bite of the pie. Adding just a bit of lemon zest to the crust makes sure that happens.
Now, in the recipe, I suggest baking the pie crust for a few minutes before filling. You don’t have to do this, but I find it helps form a crisp crust. No one likes soggy-crusted pies! Par-baking the graham cracker crust gives it a chance to set and melt the sugar a little.
When this happens, your crust stays in place when you pour in the filling, and holds together better after baking.
Once you get the filling into the pie crust, the baking time is very short – about 12 minutes max. That’s really not enough time for the crust to really come together.
If you’ve made no-bake pies or tarts before, like my No-Bake White Chocolate Strawberry Tart, you know that the crust holds together well enough, but it’s not the same as if baked. You don’t get the same bite to contrast the creamy filling. Of course, it still tastes fabulous, but it’s different.
Is this pie a good make-ahead dessert?
Yes! If you’ve been around a bit, you know one of my family’s Thanksgiving traditions is a key lime pie. We’re Floridian, what can I say? And that pie, like any creamy citrus pie, is best served chilled! That makes this lemon pie recipe a perfect make-ahead treat!
It takes under an hour to prep, bake, and clean up this pie.
So when I make it, I like to bake a day before I plan to serve. Or, I’ll bake in the morning, and let it sit in the fridge until dinner.
In theory, it works as a good last-minute dessert too, because you could freeze it for 30 minutes or so to get it nice and cold. Slicing a cold pie will give you cleaner cuts as the filling is pretty creamy.
What do I serve with lemon pie?
Because this pie filling is creamy, I don’t recommend trying a meringue topping. A simple dollop of whipped cream is a perfect accompaniment.
If you’d like to add a bit of color, add some fresh blueberries or sliced strawberries. A sprig of fresh mint leaves would also be stunning! The pale yellow makes a beautiful background for any of these colorful, edible decorations.
I hope you love this recipe, darlings! Happy baking!
- 4 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
- zest from 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
- 3 egg yolks
- zest from 2 lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Whipped cream (see notes)
- Preheat your oven to 350 F.
- While the oven is preheating, prepare your crust. In a mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and lemon zest. The mixture should resemble wet sand.
- Pour the graham cracker crust mixture into a 9-inch pie dish and press evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the dish.
- Once the oven has reached the correct temperature, place the crust in the oven and bake for 7-8 minutes. While the crust is baking, gather your filling ingredients and wipe out your mixing bowl. Remove the crust from the oven and allow it to cool just a bit while you mix up your filling.
- In your wiped mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and lemon zest on high speed for 3-4 minutes until fluffy. You may use the whisk attachment on your stand mixer, or a hand mixer to make this easy!
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in both cans of condensed milk.
- Finally, stir in the lemon juice.
- As soon as the juice is stirred into the rest of the ingredients, stop stirring. Pour your filling into your still-warm pie crust, and return the pie to the oven.
- Bake the pie for an additional 10-12 minutes, until the filling looks set, but still jiggles slightly.
- Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before refrigerating until well chilled (see notes).
- Serve the pie cold topped with whipped cream, if desired. Enjoy!
- Leftover pie may be stored in the refrigerator, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for up to 4 days.
- You can use either salted or unsalted butter for the crust. Whatever you have on hand works just fine in the recipe. I have tried with both. With unsalted butter, I don't feel the need to add any additional salt.
- If you don't have graham cracker crumbs on hand and just have graham crackers, a food processor will help you break them down into fine crumbs quickly. You'll need about 10 sheets of graham crackers to get enough crumbs.
- I most often use standard lemons in this recipe, but if you have Meyer lemons on hand, use them for a lemon pie with a more mellow flavor.
- You don't have to bake the crust. I recommend it for texture, but if you forget, don't worry! The pie will still turn out delicious.
- If you are in a rush... life happens. After you let the pie cool for a few minutes at room temperature, you may place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to chill it very quickly so you can go from "no pie" to "ready to serve" in under 2 hours.
- If you accidentally forget your pie in the freezer, let the pie sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before you try to slice it. Pretend that was the plan all along.
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