key lime pie gets a healthy make-over

March 21, 2012  |  Desserts and Baking


A few weeks ago I put out a call on my Facebook fan page and Tweeted to my followers to email me recipes that needed a healthy make-over.

I love making over recipes. I got my start at it in the EatingWell test kitchen when I was lucky enough to write their Rx for Recipes column for a spell. I got to make-over everything from latkes to pound cake. My proudest moment was when I had been working on making-over chicken salad from a famous cookbook. One of the head honchos came in at lunch time, and both the full fat version and my made-over version were sitting side-by side at the lunch line. After tasting both he had no idea which was the healthier version! Get that recipe here.

 limes for key lime pie

Anyway, so for the first of what I hope will be a regular make-over series here on HealthySeasonalRecipes, I am making over key lime pie for my dear friend Carolyn. She tries to stay away from sweets in general, so when she does treat herself to something sweet, she wants to make sure it is satisfying. Challenge accepted! I have been thinking about how to tackle this for a few weeks now, and after planning and testing, this is what I’ve come up with. Compared to the 630 calories in traditional key lime pie, the made-over version has only 260 calories per slice. And you can hardly tell it’s lightened-up with the ridiculously intense lime curd, tender gluten-free crust and billowy mile-high meringue. Here are some of the Make-over highlights:

  • No butter or cream
  • No refined flour
  • No dairy
  • 7 grams of protein per slice
  • Low glycemic agave instead of white sugar
  • 25% RDA of vitamin C
  • heart healthy almonds in the crust
  • Gluten Free
  • Half the calories of traditional key lime pie

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to drive it to her house so I don’t eat the whole darned thing! If you have a recipe you want made over, email me and let me know.


Key Lime Pie Gets a Healthy Make-over

Makes: 10 servings. Active Time: 1 hour. Total Time: 3 ½ hours


For the Crust

1 ½ cups finely ground almond meal, such as Bob’s Red Mill

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 egg, lightly beaten


For the Curd

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, from about 6 to 7 limes, divided

1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin, such as Knox 

2 whole eggs

3 egg yolks, save 2 whites for meringue

½ cup agave nectar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Meringue

2 egg whites

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 cup agave nectar



2 tablespoons dried coconut chips, toasted, optional

Lime zest


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch tart pan, with removable sides with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bring two inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler over high heat, see how to improvise one here.  Once water comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer.
  2. Prepare crust: Stir almond meal and 1/8 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons coconut oil with a fork until crumbly, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 egg, lightly beaten and mix until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough into the prepared tart pan and press evenly across the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Bake the tart crust on the sheet pan until firm to the touch and starting to turn lightly golden, 17 to 20 minutes.
  3. While crust bakes, prepare the curd: Pour ¼ cup lime juice into a small dish and sprinkle the gelatin over it to allow the gelatin to bloom. Whisk the remaining ¾ cup lime juice, whole eggs, yolks, ½ cup agave nectar, ¼ teaspoon salt, in the top bowl of the double boiler. Place the top bowl of the double boiler over the simmering water and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Allow steam to escape from the bottom of the double boiler periodically and continue cooking until the curd is thickened and coats the back of the spoon (nappe), 4 to 7 minutes. Remove the curd from the heat and stir in the gelatin mixture, 1 tablespoon coconut oil and vanilla extract. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
  4. When the crust is finished, remove it from the oven. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve into the crust. Cool the tart on a cooling rack in the refrigerator until cold and set, 2 to 6 hours.
  5. Prepare Meringue: Bring two inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of the double boiler over high heat. Once water comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in the top half of the (clean) double boiler with a hand-held electric mixer, until foamy and the cream of tartar is no- longer clumpy. Beat in ¼ cup agave nectar and place over the simmering water. Beat on high speed for 7 minutes until the meringue is billowy and very thick. Remove from the heat and continue beating until cooled and thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
  6. To serve: Spread the meringue on top of the curd. Garnish with the coconut chips and lime zest.

1 Comment

  1. You really did a great job making over the key lime pie! It looks amazing and all of the ingredients sound great. I’m totally gonna have to try it, my dad LOVES key lime pie!


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