Although it’s two days after Pi Day, I think it takes more than a day to fully appreciate pi(e). I was in the kitchen making these mini key lime pies on Monday, and continued yesterday with a strawberry cheesecake using the leftover ingredients. Key lime pies using actual key limes are a ton of work because you have to squeeze the juice out of dozens of tiny key limes to get any significant amount of juice. But I did it, and the result was 3 (tiny) uh-mazing key lime pies with dollops upon dollops of whipped topping.
What’s the inspiration for making key lime pie in March besides Chicago’s unseasonably warm weather and Pi Day? This post is another collaboration with the wonderful team over at Honest Cooking. Last month, I made and photographed potato and onion pierogi for their potato campaign, and last year, I made a vegan summer grilling spread. Their current campaign is with Florida Keys & Key West. While it was perhaps an obvious choice, I decided to make key lime pie for this project. I really wanted to try out the mini springform pans that my friend gave me on his birthday (yeah, my friends give me presents on their birthdays sometimes! I am spoiled), so mini pies it was!
The Florida Keys is home to five districts, each with their own personality and attractions. The southernmost paradise, Key West, is just miles from Cuba and is home to an enviably temperate climate and a delicious array of cuisines set to a beautiful backdrop. Bringing together a multitude of cultures that have made Key West home during its history, Key West’s food scene has delicious flavors that are difficult to find anywhere else in the US.
With an abundance of fresh produce, there are plenty of vegan options in the Keys, including 100% vegan Sugar Apple Cafe & Market, which has a comprehensive juice menu, and a sandwich and veggie burger menu. Also in Key West, Date & Thyme has a from-scratch, organic cafe and juice bar, and clearly marks each vegan option on the menu. There are plenty of other veg options in the area, and as any seasoned vegan traveler knows, check with Happy Cow!
Most of us (including me!) are still at home or at work waiting out the rest of winter, rather than hanging out on a tropical island. But you can eat desserts that taste like a tropical island! These key lime pies have a graham cracker base, a pleasantly tart filling, and dollops of aquafaba whipped topping. The recipe makes three mini pies, or one standard-sized pie. If you opt for a regular pie, you’ll just need to bake the graham cracker crust 5-6 minutes longer.
Mini Key Lime Pies
Makes 3 mini 4-inch pies OR 1 standard-sized pie
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
1/2 cup lime juice (20-25 key limes)
1 tablespoon lime zest
1/3 cup cornstarch or arrowroot powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
For the meringue whipped topping (optional):
1/4 cup aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas – learn more here)
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. If the crumbs are dry or won’t hold together when pressed, add a splash of milk to the bowl.
Grease 3 mini springform pans (or 1 standard pie plate) with margarine or cooking spray, then press the graham cracker mixture evenly over the bottom (and up the sides, if desired). Bake for 10 minutes, or until firm. Set aside to cool.
Combine all filling ingredients except the cream cheese in a medium saucepan and whisk to dissolve cornstarch. Turn the heat up to medium and stir frequently until very thick, 8 to 9 minutes.
Turn off heat, then stir in the cream cheese until smooth.
Let sit for a minute, then pour into prepared graham cracker crust(s). Cool completely on cooling rack, then cover and transfer to the refrigerator until firm.
To make the meringue topping, pour the liquid from the can of chickpeas into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use electric hand mixers…but you don’t want to do this by hand!). Add the cream of tartar. Whip the bean juice with the whisk attachment until it starts to thicken. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping. This process should take 6-8 minutes, but it can take up to 15 or 20 minutes. I made a video demonstrating aquafaba, or vegan chickpea meringue, so check it out if you haven’t tried it out yet.
Garnish the pie with lime slices and meringue whipped topping, if using. If you’re handy with a culinary torch, you could even toast the meringue until golden!