Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie Recipe on Food52 (2024)

Serves a Crowd

by: Genius Recipes



142 Ratings

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • makes 1 pie

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Author Notes

A sweet-salty twist on a classic North Carolina lemon pie that's as lazy and beachy as summer should be. Adapted slightly from Bill Smith of Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Garnish with freshly whipped cream and coarse salt.

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Cuisinart Food Processor
- OXO Glass Pie Plate
- Heart Pie Server

Genius Recipes

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

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Bill Smith's Atlantic BeachPie

  • For the crust
  • 1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers (about 6 ounces or 60 crackers)
  • 1/2 cupsoftened unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoonssugar
  • For the filling
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cuplemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
  • Fresh whipped cream, for garnish
  • Coarse sea salt, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. 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 is golden brown.
  3. 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. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.


  • Pie
  • American
  • Egg
  • Milk/Cream
  • Fruit
  • Serves a Crowd
  • Summer
  • Memorial Day
  • Father's Day
  • Mother's Day
  • Fourth of July
  • Dessert

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kmpollock

  • clayshapes

  • linda

  • eloisemeissner

  • Yolanda Mihic

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

Popular on Food52

321 Reviews

Wishing I. August 31, 2023

I made this a couple months back for my girlfriend’s mother who adores all things lemon. It was a big hit! I then made it for friends but substituted Schar table crackers for the saltines. Like the crackers, my friends are gluten free. I was imagining that it was going to be an absolute dud but it was just as good if not better. Since, I have told a few friends about this game changing pie and they have all made it. They couldn’t wait to tell me how good it was. For the folks who are underwhelmed, I think maybe you’re not following directions properly? This really is an incredibly easy and absolutely delicious pie. Thank you!

Delicious pie. Easy recipe…. Plan ahead to prepare it the night before. Crust worked perfectly fine… weighed the crackers to 6 oz. Used soft butter but not melted. Added 1 teaspoon each of lemon and lime olive oil to enhance the flavor…. I didn’t have fresh squeezed juice. Tasty flavor with tart and salt perfect for hot summer.

Kmpollock July 24, 2023

This was amazing both times I’ve made it. So simple. If you have extra lemons and they’re starting to get tired, juice them and freeze in small containers. Perfect for this pie (lemon pasta, sidecar co*cktail etc). It is great with graham cracker crust too:)

clayshapes July 11, 2023

Really delicious, and so easy. I followed directions exactly - came out exactly as expected. Love the crunchiness and unusualness of the saltine crust. I wondered if it would come out crumbly, and not hold when slicing - but - it makes a really great crust - the saltiness really balances the sweetness of the curd - and billowy whipped cream balances it all perfectly. I might even try this once with a meringe topping instead - as the egg whites are just sitting there, waiting to be whipped!

Lanier W. July 8, 2023

I’ve made this several times and about to make again. I never seem to have leftovers; a thin slice every once in a while would be nice! The grandkids help with this one, easy for them to do with quick results. Enjoy!

linda July 2, 2023

IF there are leftovers, should it be refrigerated?

Elizabeth D. July 2, 2023

The pie has dairy and eggs, to be safe, I would refrigerate any leftovers (if there are any). Food poisoning is no fun.

eloisemeissner June 16, 2023

Maybe it was beginners luck, but I made this for the first time and it came out perfect! The crust pressed in nicely to the pie plate and the lemon filling was delicious. The pie was easy to cut as well. The lemon filling was so smooth and had a wonderful little pucker to the taste. I followed the directions exactly as written. I will be making it again for sure!

Yolanda M. March 9, 2023

The filling was dull / needed some grated rind and the taste of the evaporated milk was not great. The crust - meh.
Will not redo.

Rethyevy March 11, 2023

The recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk and not evaporated milk which is much different. Perhaps that's what made it...meh?

Zusie July 17, 2023

This recipe doesn’t specify the amount of whipped cream or adding salt or sugar to the cream. I topped the entire pie with cream as shown in the picture and it really filled the flavor. When I put the cream on the side I can actually taste the filling.

Zusie July 17, 2023

*dulled the flavor

MarcellaH March 7, 2023

This is so easy to make and DELICIOUS!!! I know I’ll be making this over and over!

plevee March 4, 2023

The first time Imade this it came together easily and was great. This time making and baking the crust has been nerve racking. It was too crumbly to hold together to line th pan. I added extra butter with not much improvement. Some cracker crust recipes use melted butter - maybe this would be easier?

NCdana May 24, 2023

Make sure you knead with your hands. Your body heat will almost melt the butter!

gingerroot January 16, 2023

This is a pie of my dreams. So easy and such a big reward. Highly recommend adding fresh lilikoi (passionfruit) if you have access to these fruits. I did half lemon juice and half fresh lilikoi. So fragrant and delicious.

Veronica January 17, 2023

It's become "my pie" too, everyone keeps asking for it at every special occasion. I will definitely try your version next time.

my tip: instead of cream I use the four egg whites to do a meringue on top ;)

CrystalFeder December 23, 2022

The most incredible pie. It's a showstopper. Hardest thing is the crust and it all comes together quite simply after that.

Jamie P. September 26, 2022

I substituted a pretzel crumb crust for the saltine one, otherwise followed the recipe as written. My family loved the pie. It's a super quick, super easy dessert. The lemon was delightful and refreshing after a lasagne dinner. I see it's cousinship to key lime pie, but lemons are a lot easier to get in Vermont, and I think I prefer the lemon!

danachit September 5, 2022

I love a good lemon/key lime pie with a homemade graham crust and was excited to try this twist on a classic. I was underwhelmed, unfortunately. The crust had little flavor and didn't stand out the way a graham crust does. And like others have said, it didn't want to hold together. I have gone back to the graham and will stay with that.

Danielle C. August 15, 2022

Anybody have a trick so that the crust stays together better when slicing? Thanks:)

Smaug August 15, 2022

A lot of people used more butter; you might look up other recipes for North Carolina Lemon pie (this is, far as I can see, a not particularly distinguished variation of a very old recipe)- most that I've seen use more butter and use corn syrup- an unjustly maligned ingredient- in place of some of the sugar, which leaves it less sweet and more coherent.

Bob R. March 2, 2023

Beat a few of the egg whites leftover from the yolks and fold and mix it into you crust mixture.

plevee March 4, 2023

I'll try that next time.

KellyM March 17, 2023

The original recipe includes an egg white in the crust.

dmfellowes July 24, 2022

I wish I read the reviews before making this. The crackers didn’t stick together well and we were left with a pie plate full of crumbles. It was so delicious and everyone raves about it. I plan to make it again, but will use the suggested extra butter to hold the crust together better. Or, I may cheat and use a graham cracker crust with some sea salt sprinkled on it. 5 stars for the taste of this pie!

Lisa M. July 24, 2022

I just used less crackers(55) instead of more butter. I found I always had left over for the pan size. Having said that it turned moist too quickly after baking. I actually like the crumbly crunchy crust better. Maybe the the the sweet spot is in the middle somewhere .

Cpruitt July 20, 2022

I made this pie for my family and it was a big hit. I’ve made it and given it to 2 different friends and they say “best pie ever.” The salty crust keeps the pie from being too sweet. I do add a extra tablespoon of butter to the crust so that it holds tighter. This has become a favorite recipe.

Lisa M. July 20, 2022

My dad’s friend is a Key Lime favorite man. I changed his mind for number 1 favorite with this recipe! Made it exactly as directed.

joytd July 15, 2022

After the pie has cooled, can I top with whipped cream and refrigerate, or does the whipped cream deflate?

Smaug July 15, 2022

You could try this- I didn't watch the video, but it's a pretty simple process, I assume they got it right. Should hold up for a few days.

Smaug July 20, 2022

Hm- evidently the video didn't come through; at any rate, you can stabilize the cream with a bit of gelatin; recipes and videos are plentiful..

amanda November 20, 2022

Hey Joy,
If you beat your whipped cream with 1t cornstarch, along with sugar, it stabilizes the whipped cream for a couple days. ( Or use powdered sugar, which contains cornstarch).

SFdabbler July 11, 2022

Really easy and a huge hit! I did have to add an additional 1/2 stick of butter as other reviewers mentioned. But once baked the crust held together well when serving.

Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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