Bright, tart and creamy, a from scratch old fashioned lemon pie is a perfect spring dessert. This recipe is incredibly simple with sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks lemon juice and zest. And it bakes up in a quick 10 minutes in a buttery graham cracker crust. Mounds of whipped cream on top and you've got a fantastic dessert for Easter or any night!
If I could only ever make one thing, it would be pie. It would also probably be the one thing I would choose to eat if I had to choose one thing. This old fashioned lemon pie is a recipe that my mom makes, my grandmother made every Easter, and one that I love. As a kid, I had three favorites and they were all citrus, key lime pie and lemon pie. All the other kids would go right for the brownies, which was awesome because it meant more of all the tart lemon treats for me.
Why you'll love this recipe
- The texture. Old fashioned lemon pie filling is not a typical lemon curd. It is tart and tangy like lemon curd, but has a significantly creamier, richer texture.
- Minimal baking time. This pie bakes for 10 minutes, not a second more. It heats up just enough to gently cook the egg yolks but not to alter the texture of the filling in any way. The acidity in the lemon juice finishes the cooking process which allows the pie to set perfectly without cooking, browning or worrying about overbaking. That makes this pie perfect for your next Easter or spring dinner, you can make ahead of time and it does all its magic setting up in the fridge.
- The whipped cream. Lemon pies often get a topping of meringue. But a typical old fashioned pie (like your grandparents would remember) gets a big dollop of whipped cream instead. No mess, no browning of the meringue. I like to use a barely sweetened whipped cream as it perfectly balances out the sweet/tart lemon and sweetened condensed milk filling.
What is the best crust for a lemon pie?
The pie filling has all the elements here so the crust is really up to you. This recipe calls for a vanilla wafer crust, which is basically a graham crust except you use vanilla wafers crushed up instead. I love vanilla and lemon together, and since the pie has a touch of vanilla extract in it, I think it is the perfect crust.
Old fashioned lemon pie comes together with very few ingredients, and many you have on hand. Here's what you need:
- Crushed up vanilla wafers and butter. These are the two ingredients in the crust.
- Egg yolks.
- Sweetened condensed milk. Using this takes care of sweetening the pie and also gives it that over-the-top creaminess.
- Sour cream
- Lemon juice.
- Lemon zest. The zest is where so much of the lemon flavor comes from.
- Vanilla extract. Just a little, I think it really puts this pie over the top. Lemon and vanilla are a match made in heaven.
Making lemon curd can be a bit of a pain and takes a bit of time on the stovetop. This filling comes together significantly faster and is creamier and more delicious.
After combining the vanilla wafers and butter, press them into a pie pan and bake for about 10 minutes to set.
All the filling ingredients go into a bowl and are whisked together until combined.
Filling is poured into the prepared pie pan and baked for 10 minutes exactly, no more.
The pie will look no different than when you filled it. It does not brown or get firm.
After cooling and chilling in the fridge, pile on the whipped cream (I use a cookie scoop to pile it on).
For fun, and totally optional, I bruleed some sliced lemons and added them as garnish.
Ingredient swaps and variations
There is always ways to make pies a little different, here are a few ideas:
- Mix up the crust. You can most definitely use a regular pastry pie crust for this. The filling is sweet enough to hold up to a neutral crust. Or, get creative with the cookie. Lemon and ginger are amazing together and this would be great made with gingersnaps. Alternatively, coconut would also be a fabulous addition to the crushed cookies for a fun variation.
- Use meringue instead of whipped cream. You can totally turn this into a creamy lemon meringue pie instead if you'd like. My coconut cream pie has a meringue topping that would be great on this pie.
Do not over bake. You will be tempted to want to bake this longer as it looks no different when you pull it out of the oven as when you put it in, but trust me on this. An old fashioned lemon pie is meant to be soft and creamy, and not firm, which is why this pie is barely bakes. The filling will set as it cools and it's recture is butter soft, which is just perfect.
Other spring desserts
Some other spring dessert ideas:
- 9-inch pie pan
- Stand mixer optional
For the crust
- 1 ½ cups vanilla wafers crushed in a food processor or by hand
- 4 tablespoon butter melted
For the lemon filling
- 28 oz sweetened condensed milk
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the top
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350.
To make crust
- Combine the crushed vanilla wafer crumbs and the melted butter in a bowl. Dump the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan and press up the sounds and on the bottom to make the crust. Using the bottom of a drinking glass or a measuring cup is an easy way to push down evenly. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes and cool while you make the filling
To make the filling
- In a large bowl combine all the ingredients. Whisk together with a whisk until totally combined. Pour filling into the cooled crust and bake for exactly 10 minutes. The filling will not brown and will remain jiggly and seem unset. Cool to room temperature first, and then put the pie in the fridge for at least four hours (I always do overnight).
For the whipped cream
- Beat the heavy cream and the powdered sugar in a cold bowl. You can use either a stand mixer, a hand mixer or a whisk (though this makes it harder). If you use a cold bowl and beaters the whipped cream will be more voluminous. Top the chilled pie with the whipped cream before serving.