Simple Atlantic Beach Pie

Simple Atlantic Beach Pie

A pie in a blue pie plate. The pie is topped with lemon slices and whipped cream.

Why this Atlantic Beach Pie is so simple:

  • The crust is made of items you probably have in your pantry- crackers, sugar, a pinch of salt and a bit of melted butter
  • The crust does not require rolling, shaping or fancy lattice work
  • The filling is just 4 ingredients and no cooking- just mix and pour into the shell
  • You can make this pie ahead of time- it actually gets better on day 2
a slice of lemon pie with whipped cream on a brown and white plate

Ingredients in Atlantic Beach Pie:

fresh ingredients:

  • lemons and limes
  • heavy whipping cream
  • eggs
  • butter

pantry ingredients:

  • saltine crackers
  • salt, sugar ( granulated and confectioner’s)
  • vanilla extract
  • sweetened condensed milk
a small copper saucepan filled with melted butter on an AGA range hot plate

How to make this Simple Atlantic Beach Pie:

  1. Make a saltine cracker crust with crushed crackers, butter, sugar and salt. Press the crumb mixture into a glass or ceramic pie plate.
  2. Chill the crust for 10-15 minutes. bake at 350 until golden brown. Chill on a wire rack.
  3. Make the filling with a can of sweetened condensed milk, lemon and lime juice and 4 egg yolks. Pour into the cooled pie shell.
  4. Bake the pie for an additonal 15 minutes. Chill the pie for 4-8 hours. Overnight is best.
  5. Top the pie with dollops of barely sweetened whipped cream or pipe whipped cream along the edges. Garnish with lemon slices. Chill leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
a yellow bowl filled with saltine cracker crumbs

Tips for a great pie:

  • Use only fresh lemon and lime juice
  • Real heavy whipping cream makes for the best topping- the canned stuff can tastes a bit gluey
  • A glass or ceramic pie plate is best- a metal pan can over-bake the crust causing it to taste bitter
  • Flavor intensifies if you can let the pie chill overnight. It’s even better the next day.
  • Do not add the whipped cream garnish until you are ready to serve- it can weep and ruin your beautiful pie if pipped on too early.
  • Do not grease you pie plate before adding in the cracker crumbs- the crust will slide the sides of the plate and not set correctly
  • Chill the crust for 10-15 minutes before baking to help the crust to set.
loose cracker crumbs in a pie plate

Common questions about this pie recipe:

Can I use Ritz crackers instead of saltines?

Ritz, while super yummy, are way too sweet for this recipe. They will make a great crust but the saltiness of the saltines is what makes the flavor of this lemony pie so good.

Can I substitute lime juice for lemon?

Yes- the pie will tastes more like a key lime pie, but it will still be yummy. You may want to add a bit more sugar to the crust to help balance the flavors. Maybe add 1 TBSP more of granulated sugar. .

I don’t have whipped cream- what else would make a good topping?

This pie is so good, it does not need the whipped cream- it just adds a layer of sweetness to the salty crust and the sour filling. Just a lemon slice or two is fine. You could also add a dollop of sweetened yogurt. Another idea is chill a can of full fat coconut milk, scrape off the solids and whip it in your stand mixture- add a little sugar or sweetener of choice- makes a great mousse like topping.

How do I store leftovers?

The pie will keep I up to 4 days in the fridge, but I doubt you’ll have any leftovers that last that long. 😉

I’m out of butter- what else can I use for the crust?

Egg whites are a great binder, but there is no substitute for the richness of butter.

a baked pie crust made of cracker crumbs in a blue ceramic pie plate

Other delicious citrus recipes to try:

a custard filled pie
A pie in a blue pie plate. The pie is topped with lemon slices and whipped cream.

Equipment needed for this recipe:

  • 9″ pie plate
  • mixing bowl- buy my favorite HERE
  • mixer for whipping heavy cream
  • pie server
a lemon pie with whipped cream piped around the edges

History of this recipe:

Back in 2011, chef and owner of Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, NC , Bill Smith, re-created this vintage pie as a dessert to serve after a large seafood meal. What goes better with seafood than lemon? The pie became a sensation launching Bill onto NPR’s All Things Considered, The Atlanta Food and Wine Festival and more. Although Bill Smith retired in 2019, he is well known for his food columns in the New York Times, Food & Wine, his two cookbooks: Southern Cooking and his best selling Crab and Oysters.

Bill’s original version calls for coarse sea salt on top of the whipped cream and less juice than my version.

Crook’s Corner is temporarily closed.

a bite of lemon pie on the tines of a fork

Meggen’s Favorite Southern Cookbooks:

Simple Atlantic Beach Pie

Recipe by Meggen Arthur Wilson Course: DessertCuisine: SouthernDifficulty: Easy


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This luscious pie is sweet and tangy filling nestled in a crunchy saltine cracker crust. Based on a vintage Southern recipe , later modified by chef, Bill Smith, this dessert whips up in less than an hour but requires a chilling time of 4-8 hours.


  • For the crust
  • 1 1/2 sleeves saltine crackers

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter

  • 3 TBSP granulated sugar

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • For the filling
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

  • 3 TBSP lime juice, freshly squeezed

  • For the garnish & topping
  • 2 cups whipped heavy cream

  • 2 TBSP confectioner’s sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 8 slices lemon- thinly sliced


  • Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
  • In a zip top bag OR the bowl of a food processor, pulverize the crackers into fine crumbs.
  • And in the butter, sugar and salt and mix well into the crackers. Press the cracker mixture into a pie plate. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crumbs into the bottom and the sides in a smooth even layers. Chill the crust in the freezer for 10-15 minutes
  • Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until just golden brown, but set. Let cool on a wire rack.
  • As the crust is cooling, mix the citrus juices, egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk in a bowl until smooth and fully incorporated. Pour this mixture into the cooled pie crust.
    Bake the filled pie for another 15 minutes until the center is set.
  • Remove the pie from the oven, let cool on the wire rack for 30 minutes, then chill in the fridge at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • Before serving, mix the vanilla and sugar into the whipped cream to sweetened. Pipe or dollop the cream onto the chilled pie and garnish with thin slices of lemon.


  • Based on 8 slices per pie: Nutritional information: calories 646, Total fat: 42.9 grams, sat fat 23.1 grams, cholesterol 118.6mg, sodium 462.3mg, total carbs 62.5grams, sugar 45grams, protein 7.6grams

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