Dr. Weston A. Price noted in his classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration that white sugar, white flour, and condensed milk were the original “displacing foods of modern commerce” which caused ancestral cultures to abandon their traditional diets to the peril of themselves and their children.
Even using organic sweetened condensed milk is problematic. The lengthy heating time required to reduce organic milk down to a condensed state thoroughly denatures the fragile milk proteins. Denatured milk proteins do not digest well even for those with a healthy gut. The enzymes produced by the body to perform the task no longer work properly, as the damaged milk protein molecules do not fit them like puzzles pieces to complete the appropriate metabolic reactions.
Undigested food molecules are a primary food for gut pathogens. They encourage their growth and proliferation, crowding out beneficial microbial strains. In addition, when a food does not digest well, a cleansing or allergenic reaction can be triggered by the body which frequently manifests as increased mucous production.
For these reasons, key lime pie made with sweetened condensed milk is to be avoided, organic or not!
Healthy Sweetened Condensed Milk for Key Lime Pie?
It is still possible to enjoy delicious key lime pie, however. A healthy sweetened condensed milk is easily made with coconut milk instead of dairy milk.
Coconut milk has very little protein, so the lengthy heating process to condense it down does not denature as it does with milk. I used to make it myself, but now I can actually buy affordably priced sweetened condensed coconut milk (sources). This saves a tremendous amount of time!
Key Lime versus Lime Juice
Another tweak I make to my personal key lime pie recipe is to use actual key lime juice.
The picture above shows me holding real key limes. As you can see, they look like mini lemons rather than limes.
When you cut them open, key limes are greenish on the inside just like a regular lime! The juice from key limes if much tarter, however, which makes the sweet-sour flavor of the key lime pie that much more tantalizing.
If you can get hold of true key limes to make the recipe below, it is well worth the effort. The flavor is significantly improved over using regular limes.
Key Lime Pie Crust
A third difference between conventional key lime pie recipes and my personal creation is using a chocolate cookie crust instead of a graham cracker pie crust.
The tart key lime flavor of the pie filling goes particularly well with the rich chocolate flavor of the crust.
As of this writing, there are no healthy chocolate cookie crusts on the market, so you will have to make your own. This recipe for a homemade chocolate cookie crust is very simple, fast and uses healthy fats. It also does not require pre-baking.
By using sweetened condensed coconut milk, juice from actual key limes, and a healthy chocolate cookie crust, you can create a key lime pie that will truly wow your family and friends. It will also be a pie that is not only delicious, but one that can be enjoyed in moderation with no risk to health.
Key Lime Pie Recipe
Separate the whites from the yolks for 3 of the 4 large eggs and set aside.
Lightly beat the 3 egg yolks with the whole egg in a glass bowl.
Slowly drizzle key lime juice into egg yolk mixture until just blended. Take care not to overbeat or the filling will get soupy.
Beat egg whites with dark maple syrup until stiff. Pour meringue onto key lime filling and spread with a large spoon until the pie surface is completely covered.
Bake key lime pie at oven preheated to 350 °F/ 177 °C for 15 minutes.
Remove pie from oven. Meringue should be light brown on top.
Let key lime pie cool on the counter until room temperature.
Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
If you use canned sweetened condensed coconut milk, take care to pour out and discard any clear liquid at the bottom of the can. Be sure to use 14 ounces of the thick sweetened condensed coconut milk and not any of this clear liquid else it will cause the filling to be too soupy. This may require more than 1 can depending on the brand purchased.
Bottled lime juice may be used in a pinch, but fresh key lime juice produces the tastiest results.
If you prefer to make your key lime pie without meringue on top, you can whip the egg whites and make macaroons instead. This video plus recipe for macaroons shows you how.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist