A cross between lemon meringue and key lime pies, Atlantic Beach Pie combines a salty crisp cracker crust with an orange-lemon custard filling and mounds of fresh whipped cream! Atlantic Beach Pie is a North Carolina coast classic and a Summertime favorite in many homes nationwide!
If you’ve found your way to this post and you’re wondering what the heck Atlantic Beach Pie is, you’re definitely not alone. See, I’m relatively new to this recipe myself. In fact, it was a few followers of the blog who recommended the recipe! And y’all, I gotta say a huge thank you to the folks who put me on to this.
It starts with a crunchy, sweet-salty crumbled cracker base that is then filled with the creamiest, tangiest citrus custard you’ve ever had. Topped with homemade whipped cream and a hefty sprinkle of sea salt, Atlantic Beach Pie is incredibly fresh, unique, and delicious. There’s no doubt in my mind that this will be my go-to Summer entertaining dessert recipe!
Each bite of this pie is light and bright in all the best ways, and its versatility is astounding. Use saltines or cookies for the crust, swap out orange juice for grapefruit, or top with meringue rather than whipped cream. The options are truly endless, but today I’m sharing my own concoction!
Perks and Highlights of the Best Atlantic Beach Pie Recipe
Cuisine Inspiration: Coastal Comfort
With its roots nestled deeply in seaside traditions, this Atlantic Pie brings the comforting flavors of the coast straight to your kitchen, no matter how landlocked you might be.
Primary Cooking Method: Baking
Embrace the warmth of your oven! Baking this beauty low and slow marries the flavors beautifully, creating a pie that’s both robust and comforting.
Dietary Info: Omnivore Delight
Packed with savory seafood, this dish is a protein powerhouse. It’s not for the strict vegetarians or vegans, but pescatarians will rejoice!
Key Flavor: Oceanic Bliss
Expect a palate-pleasing burst of the sea with every bite! From the freshness of the fish to the brininess of the ocean, this pie encapsulates the essence of Atlantic flavors.
Skill Level: Intermediate
You don’t need to be a ship’s captain to master this pie, but a little experience in the galley will help. Navigate through some basic skills, and you’re on course for a triumphant feast!
- All-Season Star: Whether it’s the heat of summer or the chill of winter, this pie transports you to breezy oceanic shores any time of the year.
- Versatile Filling: Go ahead, mix it up! This pie welcomes a variety of seafood – think shrimp, crab, or whatever floats your boat.
- Make-Ahead Magic: Perfect for planning! Assemble this pie ahead of time and pop it in the oven when you’re ready. It’s like finding buried treasure in your fridge!
- Crowd-Pleaser: The richness of flavors and heartiness serve up smiles all around. It’s a true showstopper at potlucks, family dinners, or any festivity.
- Nutritional Nugget: Beyond its mouthwatering taste, it’s a sneaky source of omega-3 fatty acids, thanks to our underwater friends. Healthy and tasty? That’s a win-win!
What is Atlantic Beach Pie?
Atlantic Beach Pie is basically a key lime pie, but made with lemon juice (rather than lime) and saltine crackers (instead of graham crackers) for the crust. This vintage pie was born in the 1950’s on the coast of North Carolina, where traditional seafood restaurants sling some of the country’s freshest fish finds. At the time of its conception, this pie was an exemption to the odd rule that dessert was not to be eaten after a seafood dinner. Folks actually believed that the combination could kill you!
Atlantic Beach Pie served as a solution to this superstition. Lemon juice was considered to be a digestive aid, so a lemon pie was sure to do more good than bad (or so they said). From there, the recipe took on a life of its own and became a staple at most restaurants down the Southern coast.
My recipe is a modern twist on this vintage recipe; it uses orange juice rather than lemon or lime and ritz crackers for the crust.
Ritz Crackers- Most Atlantic Beach Pie recipes will use saltine crackers for the base, but I saw an opportunity to change things around a bit. Ritz crackers are buttery and, when baked, become quite crisp and fragrant.
Unsalted Butter- Real butter means real flavor! Don’t use margarine or any oil-based butter or the flavor will be compromised.
Granulated Sugar- Most of the sweetness in this recipe is sourced from the condensed milk, so there isn’t much sugar required. A few tablespoons helps to balance out the added salt in the crackers.
Condensed Milk- In this recipe, condensed milk offers tenderness, moisture, and flavor, as well as color to the crust. By using sweetened milk, we also add an even, creamy sweetness to the custard.
Egg Yolks- Eggs are the main thickener in most custards and the yolks make them smooth and rich. It is essential to this recipe that the yolks be room temperature.
Lemon and Orange Juice- Traditional Atlantic Beach Pie recipes can vary in the citrus they use, some (like this one) use a mixture of juices. Fresh lemon offers brightness and tang, while orange adds sweetness and subtle floral notes. If preferred, you can use all lemon juice or a mixture of your own choosing.
Lemon and Orange Zest- This recipe calls for both fresh citrus juice AND zest; both work together to create a stronger, more intense flavor.
Vanilla Extract- Vanilla is used in both the filling and the cream to enhance flavor.
Heavy Cream- Fresh whipped cream might just be the best part of this pie. Don’t skip out on it!
Powdered Sugar- I’d recommend sifting the confectioners sugar to avoid lumps in your cream.
Kosher Salt- Salt brightens flavor. Do not use sea salt here.
Maldon Sea Salt- These shimmery shards make for a gorgeous, crystal-like topping. Each bite has a subtle crunch to it and a pleasant saltiness. Use as much or as little as you want!
How to Make Atlantic Beach Pie
CRUST: Start by crushing the ritz crackers and combining them with the granulated sugar and melted butter. Press the cracker mixture evenly into the pie pan, working your way up the edges and pressing firmly until the pan is covered. Chill for 15 minutes to set, preheating the oven in the meantime. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
FILLING: Combine the egg yolks, condensed milk, vanilla extract, orange zest, and lemon zest. Slowly add in the citrus juice, whisking vigorously until smooth and fully combined. Pour the filling into the (mostly) cool crust and bake for about 20 minutes. Set the pie out to come to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours (overnight is best).
TOPPING: Once ready to serve, make the whipped cream by whipping together heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Spread or dollop the cream on top of the pie and garnish with as much, or as little, flaky sea salt as you’d like.
NOTE: If you’re having a hard time achieving stiff peaks in your cream, try adding a tablespoon of cornstarch to every cup of cream. Using a good quality cream with a high percentage of milk fat (around 30-40%) will also help.
Storing Leftover Pies
This pie must be stored in the refrigerator in a well-sealed container. Personally, I love this storage container and use it all the time. Atlantic Beach Pie will keep for 3-4 days, but I find that it’s best to consume it within 2 days. Unfortunately, this pie cannot be frozen.
Best Summer Pie Recipes
Summer pies are my favorite! Light, fresh, and fruit-filled, these glorious recipes are the best part of the hotter days to come.
- Blueberry Hand Pies
- Strawberry Margarita Pie
- Lemon Icebox Pie
- Key Lime Pie
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Kool Aid Pie
Atlantic Beach Pie
For the Crust
- 2 1/2 cup ritz crackers
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
For the Filling
- 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
- 4 egg yolks room temperature
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the Whipped Cream Topping
- 2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of kosher salt
- Maldon coarse sea salt for garnish / optional
For the Crust
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Using your hands, or a food processor, crush the ritz crackers finely but not to dust. Add the sugar, then knead in the softened butter until the crumbs hold together like dough.
- Press the “dough” into an 8-inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is fragrant and golden-brown.
- Remove the crust from the oven and set it on the counter to cool. It doesn’t need to be cold, but give it at least 10 minutes to set a bit.
For the Filling
- While the crust is cooling, set out a large bowl and whisk together the yolks, condensed milk, lemon zest, and orange zest. Slowly add in the citrus juice, whisking until fully combined.
- Pour the filling into the shell and bake for 18-20 minutes. The pie is ready once the edges are set and the middle only slightly jiggles.
- Set the pie out to cool to room temperature, then cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
For the Topping
- In a mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream with powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract until stiff. Spread over the pie and return to the refrigerator until serving time.
- Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the top of the whipped cream, slice, and serve!