Enjoy Lemon Icebox Pie for a tart, sweet, and refreshing backyard barbecue treat. A simple, homemade graham cracker crust sets the stage for a luscious and creamy filling made of lemon juice and condensed milk.
I absolutely love desserts that are perfectly balanced between fresh, tart flavors and rich, indulgent ingredients. This lemon icebox pie will completely satisfy your sweet tooth without leaving you feeling weighed down!
If you’re new to baking, I highly recommend starting with a pie like this! It’s one of those recipes that is so straightforward to make, but it tastes as though it came from a professional bakery. Bring it to your next gathering or potluck, and your friends and family will love you!
What is an icebox pie?
While icebox pies are enjoyed in many areas of America, they have a special place in the South. Long before modern-day fridges, people kept their food cold inside iceboxes, which were made up of insulation layers and blocks of ice.
The first icebox cakes and pies were intended to be no-bake so the house would stay cool throughout the summer months. Nowadays, any pie that is intended to be served cold, like key lime pie or banana cream pie, can be considered an icebox pie.
What is lemon icebox pie?
Much like other icebox pies, a lemon icebox pie is an easy-to-make dessert that is meant to be served chilled. It starts with a graham cracker crust, which is then filled with a tart and creamy mixture made primarily of condensed milk and egg yolks.
I’ve opted for a meringue topping because I personally love the contrast of textures, but lemon icebox pies are often served with a whipped cream topping. Both are delicious options, and you can choose whichever one suits your preferences!
- Graham cracker crust: Made with crushed graham crackers, melted butter, and optional granulated sugar if you’ve got a sweet tooth like me!
- Eggs: You will need to separate the egg yolks from the whites. The yolks make up the custard filling, providing a rich flavor and structure. The whites form a light and airy meringue that we’ll be adding to the top of the pie.
- Condensed milk: It’s not a true lemon icebox pie without condensed milk! Combined with egg yolks, it makes the filling silky smooth, creamy, and perfectly sweet.
- Evaporated milk: Along with condensed milk, I also like to add evaporated milk to the filling. It creates a lighter custard consistency than condensed milk on its own.
- Lemon juice: For a tart, tangy, and bright flavor throughout the pie. Use freshly-squeezed lemon juice for the best flavor.
- Granulated sugar: Mixed with the egg whites to form the meringue topping, helping create stiff peaks and add a touch of sweetness.
- Cream of tartar: To prevent the meringue from weeping, don’t forget cream of tartar. The acid helps stabilize the whipped egg whites, contributing to a stiff, glossy, and billowy appearance. If you don’t have any cream of tartar, add ½-teaspoon of lemon juice for every egg white.
- Salt: Just a pinch for flavor enhancement!
How to make a lemon icebox pie
Step 1: Prepare the crust
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In the meantime, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a large bowl. Once they’re combined, pour the melted butter into the mixture and stir everything together until the crumbs are fully coated.
Step 2: Bake the crust
Transfer the graham cracker mixture to a 9-inch pie plate, then press the crust down into the plate and around the sides. Bake it for 10 minutes to set, then let it cool and work on the filling.
Step 3: Mix the filling
Separate the eggs, then mix the egg yolks, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and lemon juice until combined. Pour the filling into the prebaked graham cracker crust.
Step 4: Bake the filling
Bake the pie for 15-20 minutes, or until the filling just slightly jiggles. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack for about an hour.
Step 5: Make the meringue
While the pie is cooling, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer along with the granulated sugar, cream of tartar, and salt until stiff peaks develop. Spread the meringue on top of the pie, then chill it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
For a full-on backyard barbecue spread, serve your lemon icebox pie alongside recipes like Baby Back Ribs, Brown Butter Honey Cornbread, Grilled Corn, Sweet Tea, and Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese.
- Use whipped cream: Instead of a meringue topping, try serving your lemon icebox pie with homemade whipped cream instead!
- Different citrus fruits: Swap out the lemons for limes to make a lime icebox pie, or use oranges for a slightly sweeter version.
- Traditional pie crust: Substitute the graham cracker crust for a traditional flaky pie crust to give this recipe more of a lemon meringue pie feel.
Tips and tricks
- Fresh lemons: You may be tempted to grab a bottle of lemon juice at the store, but I assure you the flavor will be nowhere near what it is with freshly-squeezed lemons.
- Premade crust: While homemade is always better, you can always opt for a store-bought graham cracker crust if you’re short on time!
- Beat the mixture: Remember to thoroughly mix the egg mixture so the flavors and textures evenly distribute throughout the pie filling. The final mixture should be a pale yellow color.
- Don’t forget the acid: For a perfectly stiff and glossy meringue topping, you can’t forget to add the cream of tartar or another acid like lemon juice.
What to do with leftovers
There’s a good chance you own a refrigerator, so keeping lemon icebox pie leftovers cold is a breeze. Just follow these tips:
- Fridge: Keep your icebox pie well-covered in the fridge, and it will last up to 4-5 days. For longer periods of time, move it to the freezer.
- Freezer: Once you transfer the dessert to a freezer-safe bag or container, it will last for up to 3 months. I suggest letting it sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before you dig in. This way, the texture will be perfect!
If baking isn’t your thing, check out these simple no-bake dessert recipes:
- N0-Bake Creamsicle Pie
- No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake
- Kool-Aid Pie
- Berry Icebox Cake
- Blackberry Lemonade Icebox Cake
- Margarita Pie
- Strawberry Punch Bowl Cake
- No-Bake Banana Cheesecake
Lemon Icebox Pie
For the Crust
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar optional
- 1/2 cup butter
For the Filling
- 3 large egg yolks separate 3 eggs and hold on to the whites for meringue, room temperature
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
For the Meringue Topping
- 3 large egg whites
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
For the Crust
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk together graham cracker crumbs and sugar until combined in a large bowl. Next pour melted butter into the mixture and mix together until crumbs are well coated.
- Pour the mixture into a 9 inch pie plate and press down into the plate and around the sides. Press down tightly. It would also help to use a clean measuring cup to press the mixture down firmly in the pie plate. Bake for 10-15 minutes to set then let cool, for 10 minutes, and work on the filling.
For the Filling
- Mix egg yolks, condensed milk, evaporated milk and lemon juice until combined. Add to the crust .
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the filling just slightly jiggles then remove and cool on a cooling rack for about 60 minutes.
For the Meringue
- Beat egg whites with a mixer along with the cream of tartar and salt until the mixture starts to turn white (about 1 minute). Then slowly add sugar and continue mixing until stiff peaks develop. Spread on top of pie then cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.