Lemon-and-lime icebox pie with a chocolate graham-cracker crust

Lemon and lime icebox pie DSC8159

The summer I was 10, I had an Elsie the Cow T-shirt. It had been a freebie at a swim meet, and so a bunch of my friends had the shirt as well. As it happens when several people have an identical item of clothing, you’d often find a group of us riding our bikes around the neighborhood, all sporting the same shirt. If people didn’t know any better, they might have though we were a young gang of gung-ho dairy lovers. But no matter how we felt about milk, the main reason it was a popular shirt was because it looked good.

Some T-shirts are better than others, and Borden’s marketing department had done well with this one by making it a red-and-white ringer tee with a clean graphic in the upper right-hand corner. Yep, that Elsie shirt was pretty fashionable for the early 1980s. Heck, I even remember wearing it on the Fourth of July with a pair of blue shorts for what I believed to be a stylish, patriotic look.

I hadn’t thought about that shirt in years, but I was recently reminded of it while cooking with sweetened condensed milk, which featured a smiling Elsie the Cow on the can. You know the one I’m talking about. But did you also know that sweetened condensed milk has Texan roots? Yep, its inventor, Gail Borden, spent much of his life in Texas and contributed to the state’s early history.

Lemon-and-lime icebox pie | Homesick Texan

Besides conceiving canned milk, Borden’s life was packed with achievements. For instance, during his time in Texas he helped write the state’s constitution; was a primary developer of Galveston Island; created the state’s first topographical map and surveyed the future site of the city of Houston. (He also famously got into a brawl with Sam Houston, but the details on that are a bit murky.) And, there are even two Texas towns and a county named after Borden.

All that said, Borden invented canned condensed milk in New York, the state where he was born. So while sweetened condensed milk may not be exactly be a Texan ingredient, its creator did indeed call Texas home.

Sweetened condensed milk’s Texan roots—at least spiritually, if not physically—may be why it’s one of my favorite treats. I’m not lying when I confess that I’ve been known to eat it straight from the can with a spoon. Of course, you can only do this for so long before you get sick, as it’s extremely sweet, rich and thick. But those qualities are what make it ideal for this no-bake lemon-and-lime icebox pie.

There are countless ways to make an icebox pie. Some recipes call for a baked custard, some recipes call for gelatin, and some recipes call for copious amounts of whipped cream. My lemon-and-lime icebox pie is made with a combination of cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk, along with a generous splash of citrus juice and zest for a bright, light flavor. It’s a classic combination, which I cobbled together from recipes found in Joy of Cooking and on Epicurious, the former explaining it’s the reaction of the citrus with the condensed milk that allows the pie to set up in the refrigerator without any eggs or baking required.

Icebox pies are traditionally made with a graham-cracker crust. Mine is no exception, though I do make a homemade chocolate graham cracker crust, which elevates this simple pie into something a bit more complex. Okay, I realize it’s hot outside and you might not even want to turn on your oven for the seven minutes this crust requires—but if you can stand the heat, I highly recommend you make this crust as its bittersweet tones complement the filling’s tangy sweetness.

Lemon-and-lime icebox pie | Homesick Texan

If you’re looking for a quick dessert that takes minimum effort to deliver maximum joy, you should give this lemon-and-lime icebox pie a try. You can make it any time of the year, but I find it’s best in the summer, especially if you top it with fresh fruit such as blueberries. And while it will be a hit at your weekend barbecues, you’ll find that it’s easy enough to be enjoyed on busy weeknights, as well.

Lemon and lime icebox pie DSC8159
4.67 from 6 votes

Lemon-and-lime icebox pie with a chocolate graham-cracker crust

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


For the chocolate graham-cracker crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers (about 8 large rectangles)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted, still warm

For the lemon and lime filling:

  • 1 8- ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 14- ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream and fresh blueberries for topping


  1. To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350° F and lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan. In a food processor or with a rolling pin, finely crush the graham crackers until they’re the texture of sand. Mix well the graham crackers with the cocoa, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt. Stir in the warm, melted butter until a dark dough is formed.

  2. Pat the dough into the pie pan, using either your hands, a measuring cup or a spoon to get it even. Bake for 7 minutes and then let the crust cool for one hour.

  3. To make the filling, in a blender mix together the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, lime juice, lemon zest, lime zest, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Pour into the cooled crust, and refrigerate covered for at least 2 hours to set the filling.

  4. Serve with whipped cream and fresh blueberries on top.

  1. Natanya @ Fete & Feast

    The Austin Food Blogger Alliance is having a pie social as part of a fund-raising activity and I've been thrashing about for what pie to make. I will thrash no more. How lovely and summery.

  2. Please provide the equally-tasty yet carbohydrate-free version of the recipe! LOL

    Thanks for this and all you do.

    Mark @

  3. This takes me back. When my brother was a teenager and I wasn't yet, he'd make lemon icebox pies with a recipe I think he got off a pack of Philadelphia cream cheese. Now I make them, though it's been a few years since the last time, substituting key lime for lemon juice. I don't think it ever occurred to either one of us to make a lemon-and-lime pie though. Definitely have to give it a try.

  4. I made this using the low-fat eagle brand and it was delicious. I used 3/4 cup of frozen limeaid (thawed) for the flavoring, as i didn't have lemon and lime. turned out great. Was not brave enough to try with low-fat cream cheese, but will experiment.

  5. Lisa Fain

    Natanya–I sure wish I could attend that pie social!

    Mark–Ha! I reckon if there was such a thing as sugar-free sweetened condensed milk, and if there was no crust, it would be low carb.

    Keith–What a fun memory! Hope y'all enjoy it!

    Jackie–You could maybe use Neufchatel cheese instead of low-fat cream cheese, as Neufchatel has less fat but is still creamy without fillers.

  6. Mary @ stylefyles

    oh my gosh, YUM!!! this is totally the kind of thing I would normally totally pass over (and in fact, I ALMOST did when skimming through my bloglovin feed)……..not personal or anything, just that I tend to like my desserts super chocolatey =)

    BUT recently a coworker brought a lemonade pie to work and it was DELICIOUS. I even went back for seconds. So of course I had to check your recipe out!!

    It's possible I'm turning over a new leaf. Thank you for your contribution and efforts =)

  7. Stacey!

    This reminds me of Alamo Cafe's Margarita Pie, which I just made for the first time this weekend! It was unbelievable!

  8. It's interesting that condensed milk isn't British, as I see it in British children's literature a lot: Winnie-the-Pooh eats it on at least two occasions, and Nigel Molesworth would eat it plain. I guess it spread quickly!

  9. Lisa Fain

    Mary–Hey, there's a bit of chocolate here, too! And you're very welcome!

    Stacey!–That I'll definitely have to try next.

    Sarah–I reckon it did travel quickly!


    This looks delicious! I usually have lemon meringue pie at least once per summer, but I think I'll go for this version instead!

  11. This is definitely going in the recipe box! I grew up in Houston and remember a read aloud book in elementary school (Texas Star) that chronicled Borden's family trek to Texas and Allen's Landing (I think, been a long time).

  12. Lisa Fain

    Flowercityfoodie–I love lemon meringue pie, too. This is just as good, if a bit different.

  13. Lisa Fain

    JAS–Oh! I'll have to keep an eye out for that book. I love old Texas history texts.

  14. Meister @ The Nervous Cook

    I love Elsie the cow! I'm also seriously impressed by the fact that you make your own graham-cracker crust. Talk about making something sweetly elegant from the top down — it looks and sounds delightful for a summer evening with friends.

  15. highlandsranchfoodie

    It's been awhile since I've heard anyone call that appliance that cools our food "Icebox". My parents never called it anything but that. I have a very similar recipe for an icebox key lime pie. Next time I make it, I want to try that crust of yours.

  16. I've been known to eat condensed milk right out of the can with a spoon, too! In fact, put some in some iced tea with a little cream and you have Thai iced tea.

    This is one of my favorite kind of pies. Well, anything with condensed milk in it is high on my favorite list!!


  17. Lisa Fain

    Meister–It's funny, my local grocery store doesn't sell graham cracker crusts, so I started making them. I've since decided they taste so much better from scratch and are a snap to make, as well.

    Highlandsranchfoodie–It's such a quaint term, I really like it! And I hope you enjoy the crust.

    Kenna–Now that's decadent! I've never heard of sweetened condensed milk in iced tea. That I'll have to try!

  18. Celeste

    I'm a fan of Nellie and Joe's key lime pie recipe, but I've got to agree that homemade crumb crusts are the best. Without all the compaction of a factory crumb crust, you get a pudding-esque layer where the filling meets the crust. When I do it with graham crackers I add some turbinado sugar. Next time I want to make it with some Ginger Thins I've had from Trader Joe's; they have thin slices of candied ginger in them. YUM.

  19. Lisa Fain

    Celeste–You read my mind! I've been thinking a ginger snap crust would be a spicy contrast with the citrus. I'll have to keep an eye out for those TJ cookies with the candied ginger.

  20. Bria @ West of Persia

    Sounds fantastic. Brings back lots of memories, as we used to eat these growing up. I, too, have been known to eat sweetened condensed milk from the can with a spoon. And yes, you must try to homemade Thai iced tea. It's awesome. If you want to use the exact kind of tea used at Thai restaurants, Kalustyan's in Manhattan carries it loose. (You could try a small amount; I quite like it–it's a lovely tea).

  21. Lisa Fain

    Bria–Kalustyan's is one of my favorite shops in NYC and I'm always looking for an excuse to go there. There will be glasses of Thai iced tea in my future!

  22. Anonymous

    I love that pie, only I make it with key limes if they are available, your blog makes me want to be a Texan, everything about the Lone Star state to me is wonderful, the people charming and warm and their food is just the absolute best..Sorry Mrs. Betty Ford just passed from this earth what a classy lady who fought for women and men in all forms and was not afraid to speak the truth and her mind..there doesn't seem to be ladies like her in our country much anymore–with the exception of Michelle Obama our current First Lady, Betty Ford was a true path blazer, going for ERA amendment and speaking her mind and soul about alcohol and drug dependency, God Bless her and her family, she paved the way for many many women..keep up your wonderful blog..this non Texan who wishes she were appreciates all you do on your blog! have a terrific summer. mjs from the 'couv in vancouver washington state!!!

  23. scmom (Barbara)

    Wow! Couldn't be easier. Thank you for sharing.

  24. I'm not a huge chocolate fan, so I'll either do a plain graham cracker crust, or a ginger snap crust — I've used ginger snap with icebox lemon and it was great, but I can't remember whether I baked the crust before filling. Do I need to if I'm not using chocolate?

  25. All Things Photography

    I made this tonight and it was amazing!!! seriously thank you for such a delish and easy recipe 🙂

  26. ekcelliott

    LOVE this recipe….but a question…I've never made a graham cracker crust that didn't require extra sugar (at least 1/3 c) for binding. When I made the crust, it was entirely too soggy and I couldn't really spread it up the side of the pan. I added some sugar and voila, it worked. Is it possible you forgot an ingredient?

  27. Lisa Fain


    AJ–I usually do.

    All Things Photography–Glad you liked it!

    EKCelliott–Yes, thank you for noticing! I add 3 tablespoons of sugar to the crust. Ingredient list is now corrected.

  28. havesomepie

    I can't believe this is your latest entry!! Today is my birthday (well it was 11 minutes ago) and I tried making a lemon tart as a pie and boy did it go horribly wrong! I was so ashamed! It never solidified in the oven like it was supposed to! I finally gave up after the crust totally burned and even after all that the inside was still just as liquid as can be! So I did not get my lemon fix for my birthday…and now you torture me with your perfect icebox pie! lol *shakesfist*

  29. Samantha @ Hectic Gourmet

    This looks so amazing!!

  30. Alice Q. Foodie

    that looks great Lisa! I love icebox pies – they're so easy and perfect for summer!

  31. Rocky Mountain Woman

    I make a lot of Key Lime pies in the summer with condensed milk and they are a big hit! I can't wait to try this!

  32. Your blog is quickly becoming my new favorite food blog! I love everything!!! yummy!

  33. splendid

    loved this recipe as did everyone at the party!!!! PERFECT TIMING! THANKS SO MUCH!!!!!!

  34. I made this last night! It was a humongous hit.

    I made a couple of changes, namely switched out the cocoa in the crust for shredded coconut (it was really good; next time I'll add even more) and added a couple drops of orange flower water to the filling since I realized too late that I was out of vanilla.

    Thanks for the super easy and foolproof recipe!

  35. Outstanding! Super simple to boot! I am more of a lime fan, maybe next time I will try the key limes.

  36. Anonymous

    This is a really great recipe — thank you for sharing!!

  37. senojjones

    yummm..Made this for my teenage boys. I'm a big hit tonight.

    I used Schlag for the topping, which is German for sweetened whip cream, a TBL of powdered sugar in a cup of heavy whipping cream.

    Very subtle flavor..


  38. Lisa,
    Tried lemon, then just lime. The lemon/lime combo is the best. This pie is addictive. Looking forward to picking up the book.


  39. I made this pie for our Memorial Day family get together. It was a huge hit! making another one for a camping trip to Granger this weekend!

  40. Hayley Hall

    5 stars
    Made this over the weekend. Easy and delicious. Kids loved it too. The blueberries were perfect with it. Thank you!!

    • Lisa Fain

      Hayley–What a treat to hear from you! I’m so glad y’all enjoyed the pie and that your kids approved!

  41. Lemmonee

    Would Nabisco Chocolate Wafers work? Ive got a couple of extra and need to use.

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