Key lime pie typically does not contain gluten. The main ingredients in key lime pie are key limes, sweetened condensed milk, and eggs. None of these ingredients contain gluten. However, key lime pie crust is often made with graham cracker crumbs or regular pie crust, both of which contain gluten. So while the key lime pie filling itself is gluten-free, a standard key lime pie with crust would not be considered gluten-free.
Does Traditional Key Lime Pie Contain Gluten?
The traditional ingredients in key lime pie do not inherently contain gluten. The main components are:
- Key lime juice – Key limes are naturally gluten-free
- Sweetened condensed milk – Condensed milk does not contain gluten
- Egg yolks – Eggs do not contain gluten
However, most key lime pies are served with a crust, which typically does contain gluten:
- Graham cracker crust – Graham crackers contain wheat flour, which has gluten
- Standard pie crust – Traditional pie crust is made with all-purpose flour, which contains gluten
So while the key lime pie filling is gluten-free, a full key lime pie with crust would not be considered gluten-free due to the crust ingredients.
Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie Crust Alternatives
There are several gluten-free options for making a key lime pie crust:
- Gluten-free graham cracker crust – Use gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
- Almond flour crust – Substitute almond flour for wheat flour
- Coconut flour crust – Use coconut flour instead of regular flour
- Nut flour crust – Try almond flour, coconut flour, hazelnut flour, etc
- Crumb crust – Make a crust from gluten-free cookies or crackers
- No bake crust – Use a no-bake crust made without flour
Following a gluten-free pie crust recipe and using gluten-free ingredients where regular flour is called for will result in a gluten-free key lime pie.
Are Common Key Lime Pie Ingredients Gluten-Free?
Here is more detail on whether common key lime pie ingredients contain gluten:
Key limes are a small citrus fruit that are naturally gluten-free. The key lime juice used in pies does not contain any gluten.
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Sweetened condensed milk is made by removing about 60% of the water from regular milk and adding sugar. It does not contain any added ingredients that have gluten. Brands like Borden and Carnation are gluten-free.
Eggs on their own are gluten-free. However, some commercial egg suppliers add anti-caking agents that can contain gluten. Check the packaging to confirm the eggs are gluten-free if you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.
Most white granulated sugar does not contain gluten. However, some brown sugars may contain barley syrup as part of the manufacturing process, which contains gluten. Opt for plain white sugar or coconut palm sugar to be safe.
Regular graham crackers contain wheat flour and are not gluten-free. Check labels and only use brands that are certified gluten-free.
The main ingredient in traditional wheat pie crust is flour, usually all-purpose flour. To make a gluten-free pie crust, substitute the wheat flour with a gluten-free flour blend or almond flour.
Plain whipped cream does not contain gluten. Avoid stabilized or flavored whipped creams, as they may contain gluten ingredients.
Even if the ingredients in key lime pie are gluten-free, there is still a risk of cross-contamination with gluten during processing and preparation:
- Manufacturing equipment – Shared equipment may transfer gluten to otherwise gluten-free ingredients
- Kitchen cross-contamination – Flour in the air or shared utensils can introduce gluten
- Toasters – Toasting graham crackers on the same surface as gluten-containing bread
Those with celiac disease or NCGS should use extreme caution and inquire about manufacturing practices when consuming any packaged food items. When preparing at home, thoroughly clean surfaces, utensils, and hands to prevent cross-contamination.
Key Lime Pie Ingredient Labels
When purchasing ingredients, read all labels carefully to check for any hidden gluten sources:
- Call out allergens – U.S. labels must specify if wheat is an ingredient
- Check for warnings – May say “made in a facility…” or “manufactured on shared equipment…”
- Look for certification symbols – LF = lactose free, GF = gluten free, V = vegan
- Contact manufacturers – If uncertain, you can call and ask about gluten
Reputable gluten-free brands will state any allergen warnings clearly on packaging. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer for sourcing details.
Key Lime Pie at Restaurants
Dining out with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity requires extra care. Here are some tips for ordering key lime pie safely at restaurants:
- Check menus for “gluten-free” labels
- Ask servers about ingredients and preparation
- Request a manager consult the kitchen if needed
- Specify a gluten allergy to prevent cross-contamination
- Avoid garnishes that may have contact with gluten
Unfortunately, even menu items marked “gluten-free” can sometimes get cross-contaminated in a busy kitchen. Those with celiac especially need to inquire about prep practices. A credible chef will be knowledgeable about allergen protocols.
Homemade Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie
Making key lime pie at home allows you to control all ingredients and prevent cross-contamination with gluten. Here is a recipe:
Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie Recipe
- 1 1⁄2 cups gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- One 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup key lime juice (approx. 5-8 key limes)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix crust ingredients and press into a 9-inch pie pan.
- Bake crust for 5 minutes then allow to cool.
- Whisk filling ingredients together until smooth.
- Pour into cooled crust and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
- Garnish with lime zest before slicing and serving.
Making your own key lime pie is the best way to control for gluten. Be sure to use certified gluten-free labels only and thoroughly clean all prep surfaces and tools.
Packaged Gluten-Free Key Lime Pies
For convenience, there are some brands that offer pre-made gluten-free key lime pies:
- Deland Bakery – Gluten-free key lime pie
- Glutino – Gluten-free key lime tarts
- Against The Grain – Key lime mini pies
- Otis Spunkmeyer – Gluten-free frozen key lime pie
Always check labels to confirm gluten-free status and watch for allergy warnings. Only purchase reputable brands that are meticulous about allergen protocols in their facilities.
|Deland Bakery||Key Lime Pie||Graham Cracker||Yes|
|Glutino||Key Lime Tarts||Shortbread||Yes|
|Against the Grain||Mini Key Lime Pies||Vanilla Cookie||Yes|
|Otis Spunkmeyer||Frozen Key Lime Pie||Graham Cracker||Yes|
Is Lime Gluten-Free?
Yes, lime fruit and lime juice are inherently gluten-free. Limes are picked off trees and simply juiced, with no gluten-containing additives. Both standard limes (Persian limes) and key limes lack gluten. Any brand of lime juice you find in the grocery store will be gluten-free. However, flavored lime beverages could contain gluten depending on added ingredients. When in doubt, check labels!
What about Lime Flavored Foods and Drinks?
When it comes to lime flavored foods and beverages, it depends on the product and ingredients:
- Lime tortilla chips – May contain wheat flour
- Lime candy – Check labels for wheat ingredients
- Lime yogurt – Plain yogurt is GF, but some flavors have gluten grain toppings
- Lime sparkling water – Plain sparkling water is GF, but flavorings could add gluten
- Lime juice margarita – Tequila and lime juice are GF, but bar mixes may have wheat additives
As always, check the ingredient label and contact the manufacturer if you are unsure. Stick to certified gluten-free products when possible.
What about Corona Beer with Lime?
Plain Corona beer is gluten-free, as it is brewed from malt substitutes instead of barley malt. While the beer itself is safe, the lime garnish could potentially cause issues:
- Cross-contamination – If sliced on a shared surface with gluten-containing food
- Rimming – Margarita salt or sugar rim could have gluten sources
To be extra safe, you could request an uncut lime wedge and rim the glass yourself with a gluten-free salt substitute. Most restaurants take gluten allergies seriously and can accommodate this.
Should You Avoid Citric Acid?
Citric acid is an ingredient used as a preservative and flavor enhancer in many foods and beverages. Though it can be derived from wheat or corn, today it is primarily made through fermentation of simple sugars. According to the FDA, highly purified citric acid is gluten-free regardless of the source. However, individuals with celiac disease should be aware that some extraction processes may leave traces of gluten behind. If this is a concern for you, it may be best to avoid products with citric acid.
While key lime pie filling itself does not contain gluten, the standard graham cracker crust does. To make a gluten-free key lime pie, substitute the crust with a gluten-free version. Check all ingredient labels carefully, choose certified gluten-free brands when possible, and thoroughly clean cooking spaces to prevent cross-contamination at home. When dining out, make sure to specify the need for a gluten-free key lime pie so kitchen staff can take the proper precautions. With the right ingredients and care taken to avoid cross-contact with gluten, both home cooks and restaurants can prepare delicious gluten-free key lime pies.