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Model Behaviors: Cilantro Lime Pie!

This recipe originally appeared on Model Behaviors.

Growing up, my family would take one epic camping trip every summer. Not just my immediate family, but all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents on my mom’s side of the family, plus my grandma from my dad’s side of the family, and any friends who wanted to come along, too. We’d book whole sections of the campground sometimes. My cousins and I would bring our bikes and explore the parks for hours, or we’d ski and tube on the back of my uncle Pat’s boat (he’d do his best to throw us off), or we’d traipse down to the community beach in a gang and swim until we couldn’t move our arms and legs anymore. There’d be endless fighting and bickering, but if anyone tried to mess with one of us, they’d have to answer all nine of us.

One of these camping trips took place at DeGray Lake in Arkansas. It was our last night there, and Pops pulled out the ice cream maker. While the machine whirred with his strawberry ice cream concoction, my mom and Aunt Marge doled out awards to everyone for our week of camping together. Granny got the Miss Discount Queen award because, while tubing (in her ’60s I might add), she let go and slid off the back with a jaunty wave. My four­year­old cousin Emily got Miss Whiney of DeGray because she fussed and whined the whole time we were there. She cried as she accepted her award. I’m proud to admit that I got the Happy Camper Award for always having a great attitude. Not sure I’d win that one today, but as a nine­year­old, it meant a lot.

After the awards ceremony, Pops dished out the ice cream while everyone else shared stories and memories from the past week. I just remember thinking I’d never tasted anything so good. No ice cream from the grocery store came close. And I didn’t even like strawberries!

In 2010 I started working at a small publishing house located on South Lamar, just a few blocks from where Lick would soon open up. Once it opened in the fall of 2011, I drove past it every day and thought, “I should really try that place. It looks interesting.” It wasn’t until mid­ 2012, when a friend from Houston came to visit my sister and me that we decided to all try it together. I sampled a few flavors—Blackberry Lemon Basil, Lemon Lavender, Honeyed Peaches and Rosemary—and felt torn. This was hands­down the best ice cream I’d ever had. It was creamy but not too sweet, and each of the unique flavor combinations piqued my interest. It brought me back to those camping trips, how I’d eat my ice cream with my eyes closed, listening to the voices of my family and feeling indescribably happy. While I thought it would be rude to sample every single flavor in the shop, I decided to try just one more, the Cilantro Lime. Y’all. I about fell

on the floor.

I immediately ordered two scoops on a waffle cone with no doubt or hesitation about my Decision.

After that I was a die­hard Lick fan. As a special treat, I’d swing by on my lunch break or right after I got off on Friday afternoons, sometimes with friends and sometimes on my own. I brought my friend and coworker Katie with me one time, and while we were enjoying our cones, we talked about how much we wished we baked more. I’d ordered Strawberry Basil, I think, and told her I thought that’d make a delicious pie flavor, along with the Cilantro Lime and the Lemon Lavender.

So this year, for my birthday, I decided to follow through on that wish. My birthday is on March 12, which is two days before Pi Day, and last year was the most epic of Pi Days because 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 represents the first 10 digits of pi. Of course, I had to celebrate with pie, so what better time to try and make my dreams of a cilantro key lime pie come true?

I found a couple different recipes for key lime pie, and then put my own twist on them. There are two things that make this recipe special. First, obviously, is the cilantro. Every time I mention this pie flavor to anyone, they always ask me why I decided to put cilantro in it, so I happily tell them about the inspiration, Lick Ice Creams, and urge them to stop by and try a scoop or two.The second thing that makes this recipe special is that I put the meringue in the filling. The pie turns out light and fluffy and not quite as decadent as your normal key lime pie. Usually this translates into me eating two or even three slices instead of barely being able to finish one. No regrets! I also think it pays tribute to how light and delicate all the Lick flavors are.

If you’re ready to wow your friends with a super delicious, super addicting pie flavor, here’s my recipe for cilantro key lime pie!

PS: I know it says “key lime” in the title, but I’m not into hand­squeezing over a dozen super tiny key limes. Regular limes taste just as great to me, and there’s less work involved. So no judgment here if you decide to go that route. (I wouldn’t even judge if you wanted to buy straight up lime juice and use that, shhh!)



1 box graham crackers

1/3 cup sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon

6 tbsp. melted butter

4­6 limes (10­15 if you’re using key limes)

3­6 stems of cilantro (use only the leaves)

3 eggs

1 14­oz can sweetened, condensed milk

3 tbsp. sugar

1⁄2 cup heavy whipping cream


For the Graham Cracker Crust:

Preheat oven to 375.

Make 1 1⁄2 cups of crushed graham crackers. You can either use a food processor or crush by hand. To crush by hand, break graham cracker into chunks and put in a plastic bag. Then roll with a pin or hit gently with a tenderizer.

Mix crushed crackers with 1/3 cup of sugar and cinnamon.

Pour in melted butter and stir.

Once everything has been mixed evenly, spread and press the mixture it into your slightly greased pie pan. The corner should be a little thicker than the bottom and edges.

Bake it for seven minutes.

Let cool for an hour and then place it in the freezer for another hour.

For the Pie:

Preheat oven to 325.

Wash cilantro and let dry.

Wash and zest two limes.

Squeeze the limes until you get one cup of juice.

Blend together the lime juice, zest, cilantro leaves (see Special Note), sweetened condensed milk, and three egg yolks. You can use a blender or a food processor for this.

Using handheld beaters, whip two egg whites and one tbsp. of sugar to make a meringue.

Combine the meringue and the lime filling, stirring until the consistency is even.

Pour the mixture into the frozen graham cracker crust.

Cook for about 25 minutes. When you give it a jiggle, it should be set before removing from the oven.

If you want to make whipped cream for the topping, wait until just before serving. Then whip heavy whipping cream and two tbsp. of sugar until the cream makes stiff peaks.

Refrigerate the pie until you’re ready to serve, top it with a (generous) dollop of whipped cream, and enjoy!

*Special Note: For a subtler cilantro flavor, only use leaves from three stems. If you want something bolder, bump it up to using the leaves from five or six stems.



Courtney Leigh writes young adult novels and makes music with a band called The Villettes. She blogs at Model Behaviors about music, travel, and social justice issues. When she’s not at home writing and sipping on some white wine, she’s usually out watching friends play shows around town in Austin.





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