Atlantic Beach Pie


Some have called this the easiest pie ever. Try your hand at it and see for yourself.

Active Time:
15 mins
Bake Time:
20 mins
Cool Time:
1 hrs 10 mins
Chill Time:
2 hrs
Total Time:
3 hrs 45 mins

With a Saltine cracker crust and whipped cream topping, Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie first broke onto the culinary scene in 2011 to wide acclaim. Indeed, since then, this North Carolina native boasting a lemon-lime filling has become a veritable staple of the Southern culinary repertoire, particularly well-suited to sweltering summer days. Simply put: If you're a fan of lemon pie or Key lime pie, you'll love this.

atlantic beach pie in a blue pie plate


What Is Atlantic Beach Pie?

Inspired by the lemon pie served at the seafood restaurants of Chef Bill Smith's North Carolina childhood, Atlantic Beach Pie is a super-simple citrus concoction marrying the brightness of lemon with the zing of lime. Smith, the long-time chef of Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, juxtaposes the creamy filling, with its explosion of citrus flavor, with a crust made from crushed Saltine crackers with a hint of salt and a smooth, silky whipped cream that crowns it all.

"Not only is it really good, but absolutely anyone can make it," says Smith of his famed Atlantic Beach Pie, and indeed, this pie couldn't be easier—or more rewarding—to make.

Atlantic Beach Pie Ingredients

Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie recipe begins with a sweet-and-savory combo of crushed Saltine crackers, butter, and sugar. Bound with egg white, the crust is the perfect vessel for the rich, creamy filling, made with lemon and lime juices enriched with sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. If you don't have both lemons and limes on-hand, don't worry: You could easily opt for just one or the other for a less complex but equally delicious pie.

With the filling and crust made, the only other ingredients you'll need are heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar for a fluffy whipped cream topping. A bit of citrus zest makes a lovely finishing touch!

A Saltine Cracker Crust, Really?

While you may balk when you see the first ingredient in this pie, trust Chef Smith—the salty crackers make the ideal base for such a sweet, luscious filling.

While some reviewers of the recipe for Atlantic Beach Pie on Southern Living note that a graham cracker crust—the likes of which Key lime pie fans are already well acquainted with—would make a good stand-in, the truth is that Saltines add a lovely hit of salt that balance out the sweetness of the filling. The only hiccup? Some reviewers note that a Saltine crust goes stale more quickly than a graham cracker one, so be sure to gobble up any leftovers quickly. (It shouldn't be hard!)

How to Make Atlantic Beach Pie

To make Atlantic Beach Pie, you'll begin with the crust: Crushed saltines are combined with butter, a touch of sugar, and an egg white before being pressed into a pie pan, set in the freezer for 10 minutes, and then parbaked until just golden.

While the crust cools slightly, you'll make the filling—and it couldn't be easier. Simply whisk together the condensed milk, egg yolks, and citrus juices, and pour the mixture into the warm crust. Bake until just set… and that's where the waiting begins. Indeed, this pie requires a bit of patience, as it needs to cool at room temperature before chilling until totally set—about three hours, all told, but it's well worth the wait.

How to Serve Atlantic Beach Pie

Atlantic Beach Pie is the perfect guest at any cookout, as so many of the steps are carried out in advance!

If you're planning on serving Atlantic Beach Pie as part of a cookout, be sure to get it started early in the morning so that it's chilling in the fridge by the time your guests arrive. When you're ready to serve your pie, all you'll need to do is add the finishing touches. Freshly whipped cream is smoothed on top of the lemon-lime filling just before serving, and if you want to gild the lily, you can also garnish with fresh lemon or lime zest for a pop of color and even more delicious citrus flavor.

How to Store Atlantic Beach Pie

Atlantic Beach Pie is best eaten as soon as it's made, but you can make your life easier by baking it the day before and topping with fresh whipped cream and zest just before serving. Any leftover pie will last up to four days in the fridge—but we'd be surprised if it lasts that long!

Editorial contributions by Emily Monaco.


  • 1 ½ cups finely crushed saltine crackers (from 1 sleeve, about 37 crackers)

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 large limes)

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

  • Lemon and lime zests, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together crushed crackers, melted butter, sugar, and egg white in a medium bowl until combined. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch glass pie plate; firmly press on bottom and sides. Freeze 10 minutes.

  2. Bake in preheated oven until crust is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, whisk together condensed milk and egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in lime juice and lemon juice until combined. Pour lime mixture into warm crust.

  4. Bake at 350°F until center is just set, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

  5. Beat cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Spread whipped cream topping over chilled pie, leaving about a ½-inch border of custard showing around crust. Garnish with lemon and lime zests, if desired. Pie can be stored, covered, without whipped cream topping, in the refrigerator up to 4 days. Spread with topping just before serving.

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