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This Atlantic Beach Pie has a salty cracker crust and a creamy lemon-lime filling, topped with whipped cream. It’s fantastic!
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!
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!)
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.
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!
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)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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