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Atlantic Beach Pie

Atlantic Beach Pie - A uniquely delicious lemony custard pie, topped with whipped cream in a saltine cracker crust. A perfect salty-sweet dessert!

A few years ago, NPR’s All Things Considered radio show did a feature on the Atlantic Beach Pie – a North Carolina pie with a lemon custard filling and whipped cream topping, nestled inside a unique saltine cracker crumb crust.

Back when I first read about the Atlantic Beach Pie, I was very intrigued by the sound of it, so I printed the recipe and filed it away in my recipe notebook to try at a later date. Luckily for all of us – that later date is today!

Atlantic Beach Pie - A Family Feast

I can totally understand the huge popularity of this Atlantic Beach Pie! The filling is creamy, perfectly sweet, with a burst of lemony-citrus flavor. (You can use just lemon juice in the filling or a mix of lemon and lime juices. We used a mix of the two juices, and with lime juice added, the filling has a flavor very reminiscent of a key lime pie.)

But the real star of this Atlantic Beach Pie is the crust – a salty and sweet, uniquely-textured crumb crust made from saltine crackers, butter and a little bit of sugar. It’s fantastic and the perfect complement to the citrusy custard filling. It’s also unlike any other crumb crust I’ve tasted before! (And – I have to admit – I’m already thinking about other types of pie fillings that would go well with such a unique and delicious crust!)

Atlantic Beach Pie - A Family Feast

The lemony pie filling is topped with whipped cream plus some coarse sea salt for garnish if you’d like. (I prefer this pie without the extra salt, while Jack loved the extra salty taste!)

This simple recipe was shared with NPR by Chef Bill Smith who serves Atlantic Beach Pie at his North Carolina restaurant, Crook’s Corner. Earlier versions of this pie recipe are believed to have had a meringue topping rather than the whipped cream topping used here – the custard is made with four egg yolks and it’s likely that a meringue was made from the leftover egg whites so they didn’t go to waste.

Atlantic Beach Pie - A uniquely delicious lemony custard pie, topped with whipped cream in a saltine cracker crust. A perfect salty-sweet dessert!

The Atlantic Beach Pie recipe below is shared with you as written by Chef Smith with some of our own notes added based on our experience making this amazing pie. Enjoy!

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Atlantic Beach Pie

  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 32 mins
  • Total Time: 52 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers (about 60 crackers)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter (we found that 7 tablespoons of butter was the perfect amount to hold the crumbs together)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

For the Filling:

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two (we love a mix of the two juices best)
  • Fresh whipped cream (about 1 cup heavy cream, whipped)
  • Coarse sea salt, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. (We used our hands to ensure that we didn’t over process the crackers.) Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.
  3. While the crust is cooling (it doesn’t need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set.
  4. Chill completely before serving. Serve with fresh whipped cream (we used a piping bag to top the pie with whipped cream but you can also simply spoon it on top) and (optional) a sprinkling of sea salt.

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Atlantic Beach Pie - A uniquely delicious lemony custard pie, topped with whipped cream in a saltine cracker crust. A perfect salty-sweet dessert!

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  1. I swear I wanna make every single thing you post. This pie looks beyond amazing. No words. I think I will make this for Easter!!

    • Back at ‘ya Ashley! I adore your recipes too and always wish I was your next door neighbor so you’d invite me over for dinner! 🙂 Hope you enjoy the pie!

  2. Wow! This pie could change my mind about crumb type pie crust. Looks and sounds delicious! Pinned. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for the recipe! Our local pie shop had this as pie of the week, it was delicious and we’ve been craving it ever since! Do you use fresh squeezed lemons/limes?
    Thanks!

  4. Pretty darn good. I added some grated lemon zest to the custard. The crust though, i had enough crumbs left in the pie pan for another crust. Its good but didnt hold together at all.

  5. Hi…I just made this pie, and it is very tasty. The only problem is that I could not get the crust to stay together with just 7 Tbps of butter so used a whole stick. Also, when I cut it, the edge of the crust did not hold together??? The buttery flavor of the crust is SO addicting along with the crunchiness. My husband and I loved the flavor. I used only lemons but will try the mixture with limes next time.

    • Hi Charlotte – Glad you enjoyed the pie! I agree – the crust is a little crumbly! (For us, it seemed to stay together the best when the pie was completely chilled.) Having said that – we shared the original recipe as we found it online, but definitely feel free to use more butter (or fewer crackers – as written it makes a fairly thick crust) to make the crust crumbs stay together better.