Atlantic Beach Pie Recipe (2024)

Recipe from Bill Smith

Adapted by Margaux Laskey

Atlantic Beach Pie Recipe (1)

Total Time
55 minutes, plus 4 hours' chilling
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Like a dreamy mash-up between a key lime and lemon meringue pie, this surprisingly fast and easy dessert is adapted from Bill Smith, who retired in 2019 after 25 years as the chef at Crook’s Corner, a Chapel Hill, N.C. restaurant that closed in June 2021. He was inspired by the lemon pies he ate at seafood restaurants in Atlantic Beach, N.C., while vacationing there as a child. While a food processor makes quick work of the saltine cracker crust, you don’t really need any special equipment — you can just as easily make it with your hands. Top it with whipped cream just before serving, and if you’re feeling flush, sprinkle it with flaky sea salt as they did at Crook's Corner, and citrus zest as we do: a lazy summer’s day in pie form. —Margaux Laskey

Featured in: A Pie to Cut Through Summer’s Heat

Learn: How to Make a Pie Crust

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Yield:One 9-inch pie

    For the Crust

    • sleeves saltine (with salt) crackers (about 60 crackers/200 grams)
    • 3tablespoons granulated sugar
    • ½cup/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature

    For the Filling

    • 4egg yolks
    • 1(14-ounce/396-gram) can sweetened condensed milk
    • ½cup/120 milliliters lemon or lime juice, or a mix of the two
    • Pinch of kosher salt
    • Fresh whipped cream, lemon or lime zest and flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)

Ingredient Substitution Guide


  1. Step


    Make the crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Using a food processor or your hands, pulse or crush the crackers finely. (Stop before all the crackers turn to dust; it’s O.K. if you have some little pieces.) Add sugar, then butter.

  2. Step


    Pulse to combine or work the butter in with your hands until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Freeze for 15 minutes, then bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the crust gets a little color.

  3. Make the filling: While the crust is cooling (it doesn't need to be cold), in a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks into condensed milk, then whisk in the lemon or lime juice (or both), and salt, making sure to combine them completely.

  4. Step


    Pour into the shell, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes until the filling has set. Refrigerate until completely cold, 4 hours up to overnight. Serve with fresh whipped cream, lemon or lime zest and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt, if desired.



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Cooking Notes


First time makin' a note! Made this dozens of times for a while now and people love it. It's a great pie. I have always wound up using 2 sticks of butter for the crust otherwise I find it too crumbly. Makes the baking time of the crust more like 30-35 mins. but it's worth it in my opinion. 16 mins. to cook the filling is always perfect (though I've never added salt to it). I don't even test to see if it's set at this point no matter the oven. Salt flakes on the whipped cream is a must.

Jean Miller

I am the daughter and granddaughter of Southern ladies and this recipe is the Real Deal. That said, true confession: l like this better with a graham cracker crust, which is how l made it this afternoon. I also used, and recommend, a blend of lemons and limes both for the juice in the filling and the zest on the whipped cream topping—lovely color and flavor. This is a perfect recipe: maximum deliciousness with minimal fuss. It was worth 18 minutes of oven-on time in Austin on a 103 degree day.


For all those that feel it should have a graham cracker crust & a meringue topping.... That's just a lemon meringue pie or key lime pie!!! This is called Atlantic Beach Pie for a reason.... because it has the added saltiness (Atlantic Ocean is salt water!) And the combination of salt and sweet is great! So the idea is to make something Different!!! Not the same old thing!!


I totally agree. Go with meringue. You’re not wasting whites and really, with such a rich filling why pile on more fat and calories with whipped cream? Also whenever a recipe calls for a crumb crust whether it be graham or saltine, I almost always substitute ginger snaps. Ginger and lemon (or lime) is delicious and complementary.


I like the saltine crust better than graham cracker! If you hate wasting egg whites, but are too lazy to do meringue, replace the 4 yolks with one whole beaten egg--it bakes and sets up perfectly, and who can tell the difference! For a 9-inch glass pie plate, 1 sleeve of saltines is perfect for 1 stick butter. Crushing the saltines in the sleeve + mixing the crust right in the pie plate = no food processor cleanup.

John Golden

This is so different from Bill Smith's original recipe in his book Seasoned in the South. No sweetened condensed milk but cornstarch to thicken the custard. I've made it, and it's classic. But it's topped with meringue, not whipped cream and the meringue is unusual. The bowl in which the whites are whipped is first coated with vinegar and salt then poured out. Gives a nice salty tang to the meringue.


No it wouldn't ;-)


I did this as described then wondered, why in Heaven's good name use a whipped cream topping when you have the whites of 4 eggs standing by to whip into a mirange (sp?) topping? That's how I did it ... I just happen to luv citrus pies and this one is easy peasy. But I ain't waistin' those egg whites, I'm gonna whip them to cover the pie whenever I put this together then stick it under the broiler for a tint of brown.

Sharon B.

You might be making a pie, but it's not =this= pie ...


The egg yolks aren't even necessary. I make a no-bake version of this using a packaged graham cracker crust, two cans of fat-free sweetened condensed milk, a cup of lemon or lime juice, and half a teaspoon of salt. The salt and the citric acid cause the milk to thicken without cooking. Just refrigerate for a few hours.


This is much better with about a tablespoon of good Tequila and a bit of orange zest added to the filling, and the crust made of crushed pretzels. It's called a Margarita Pie with these changes.


I love this pie... delicious, wicked easy to make.... but way too little of the custard (and too much whipped cream to fill the pie)for my taste. So I doubled the custard recipe the second time and served it with some maine blueberries ...yum


It's a pie. If you're that concerned about calories, salt, sugar, fat, etc... maybe don't eat it?


I substituted Ritz crackers for the saltines because I needed a last minute dessert and couldn’t get to the grocery store. This pie is fabulous. Everyone loved it.


Place the pie dish on a sheet pan.


Use the egg whites in an omelette —they will keep in the ref overnight.


I make this when I’m staying in a condo in Puerto Vallarta. It’s super easy to find saltine crackers here, versus graham crackers. I smashed mine up using a pestle. I’ve made this three times and I followed the recipe. Yes, the cracker crust is a little crumbly to work with but it does work. I found no need to use more butter. Just saying…


How this is enough custard to fill a 9 inch pie dish is beyond me. I had to go back to the store and buy more ingredients to double the custard super annoying.


I made this as written, and the crust was way too thick and unpleasantly bland. I would not use saltines again.


Does anyone know if it’s ok to make the saltine crust ahead and freeze overnight before baking the crust?


this is a 5 star pie and everyone I’ve served it to has LOVED it! Meyer lemon and lime I think is the best combo.


Add more butter to crust


Talk about fast easy and delicious. Crust came together with a bit more butter than in recipe. I probably could have blitzed the crackers a bit more but erred on the side of bigger crumbs instead of dust. Only had lemon juice but will make it half and half next time (lime). We had impromptu guests coming for dinner that night and this was perfect and chilled in plenty of time. Turns out this is a "pantry" dessert since I always have those ingredients on hand.


I have never had a pie using saltine crackers and I was amazed at how delicious it was. This pie is the perfect salty and sweet balance. I used premade whipped cream which I don't think took anything away from the pie. If you use homemade you can definitely alter the sweet to savory levels. I would not recommend changing the crust.


I loved this and it was so easy to make. The saltine crust is divine!


I have made this numerous times always with success. It’s easy and delicious and dinner guests always ask for more. No need to make any changes or additions (usually an annoyance for me when I see how readers alter a perfectly good recipe). It is my go to spring and summer dessert


Apologies if this has been covered already but is this feasible and if so, what's the advice about defrosting/serving to rejuvenate?


Made into bars with graham cracker and pretzel crust. Used salted butterAdded lemon, lime, and orange zest to “curd”

Cape Cod Cook

WOW, I was very skeptical of the saltine crust, but this is fantastic. I wondered about how long the whipped cream would hold up, but leftovers did just fine in the fridge for a couple of days (we had to control ourselves not to eat the whole at once). Toss some fresh berries on top to take this to the next level!


I used GF Tate’s Ginger Zingers for the crust. Pricey because it needs a bag and one half. Use about 5 tablespoons of butter or it sticks to pie plate. Very tasty.

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Atlantic Beach Pie Recipe (2024)
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