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Cool and refreshing Lemon Icebox Pie
Tangy, tart and luscious Lemon Icebox Pie for lemon lovers!
What could be more perfect for summer gatherings than a dreamy, creamy Lemon Icebox Pie!? This flavorful pie is easily made ahead and refrigerated, or frozen until needed.
That’s right, Lemon Icebox Pie can be served either refrigerated or frozen, and we’ve done both. A refrigerated pie has a texture similar to Key Lime Pie, while frozen is more like ice cream. I love the pie both ways but my husband and I both agree that the refrigerated pie seems to have a bigger flavor.
There’s so much to love about this pie!
The filling is incredibly smooth and creamy with a perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture, and an over-the-top sweet/tart lemony flavor. This pie has an incredible balance of flavors made with only a few tasty ingredients.
Everybody loves this pie with the lightly sweet, buttery, crunchy graham cracker crust. The combination of smooth, creamy, tangy, tart, crunchy and buttery is heavenly!
This recipe is so easy to make, even non-pie bakers can make it. Give it a try!
Ingredients needed to make our Lemon Icebox Pie recipe:
For the graham cracker crust:
- graham crackers homemade or store-bought
- a few tablespoons of granulated sugar
- a pinch of salt
- melted unsalted butter
For the lemon pie filling:
- granulated sugar – two tablespoons to mix with lemon zest to make lemon sugar
- lemon zest from two lemons
- 6 egg yolks
- 2-cans sweetened condensed milk
- fresh lemon juice strained of seeds and pulp
For the topping:
- heavy whipping cream
- powdered sugar
- vanilla extract
- crushed graham crackers
- lemon zest
- thin sliced lemons
How to make Lemon Icebox Pie:
First make the graham cracker crust:
Break the grahams into the bowl of a food processor. Process the crackers with sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined.
TIP: If you don’t have a food processor crush the graham crackers in a large zipper bag using a rolling pin.
Press the crumbs into a deep-dish 9-inch pie plate and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing the filling.
Next make the lemon pie filling:
In a small food processor combine the lemon zest with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Pulse until the sugar is bright yellow and the zest is broken down into tiny pieces.
TIP: If you don’t have a small food processor you can crush the mixture using a fork or spoon pressing the zest up against the side of the bowl. The idea is to release all that amazing lemon oil into the sugar until it becomes yellow and moistened.
You can skip this step if desired and add the sugar and lemon zest at the same time as the egg yolks.
Combine the lemon sugar with the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks until they’re pale and thickened. Add the sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. Blend again then pour into the baked graham cracker crust.
Bake until the center of the pie jiggles a little and the edges are set; about 20 minutes. Cool completely then refrigerate or freeze as desired.
When ready to serve:
Beat the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla then beat on high until firm peaks form. Dollop the whipped cream on top of the pie and swirl decoratively. Garnish with crushed graham crackers and/or lemon zest and lemon slices.
The whipped cream can be added to the top of the pie as we’ve done in the photos, or dolloped on individual slices when ready to serve.
Shortcut: Use store-bought whipped topping like Extra-Creamy Cool Whip which holds up well at room temperature.
What if you don’t have a deep-dish pie plate?
This recipe was created to fit in a deep dish 9-inch pie plate. A standard pie plate with sloping sides is not deep enough to hold all the filling. But no worries! If the filling doesn’t fit into your pie pan, simply bake any leftovers in a lightly greased small oven-proof dish or ramekin.
Or, coat the ramekin with vegetable cooking spray and line with crushed graham crackers mixed with a little melted butter and sugar. Add the extra filling and bake for 10 minutes or so. Nobody needs to know you had a mini-pie of your own. Taste testing by the head baker is so important!
Another option is to bake Lemon Icebox Pie in a springform pan.
You can use either an 8 or 9-inch springform pan to make this pie recipe. Press the crust at least 1-inch high on the sides if using a 9-inch pan or 1-1/2 inches for an 8-inch springform pan.
Bake as directed then add the lemon pie filling. Once cooled we recommend freezing this pie before removing the sides of the springform pan. It looks more like a tart but still tastes great.
Can this Icebox Pie Recipe be made in a store-bought graham cracker crust?
You’ll need 2 store-bought graham crackers crusts for this recipe. Divide the filling between the smaller graham cracker pie crusts and bake for 13 to 15 minutes.
And finally, you can even cut the filling recipe in half and end up with a pie about as thick as our Key Lime Pie.
Our lemon pie filling bakes up perfectly in this glass 9.5-inch deep dish pie plate.
Should you refrigerate or freeze Lemon Icebox Pie?
Once completely cooled, you can refrigerate or freeze this pie until needed. This choice is completely up to you and whatever fits your personal preference.
If you’re serving this icebox pie on a hot day, I highly recommend freezing the pie ahead. Slice the pie while frozen and allow it to thaw for a few minutes before serving. It doesn’t melt like ice cream but will become soft if left outdoors on a hot day.
Also, freezing ahead allows you to make this pie well in advance of serving. The pie keeps great in the freezer, well sealed, for up to 2 months.
To serve and slice the pie slightly frozen, wrap the pie plate in a warm, damp kitchen towel. This helps release the frozen crust from the pie plate. Run a large thin knife under hot water and carefully dry with a towel. Slice and serve cleaning the knife in between cuts for a pretty presentation.
Either way, don’t add the whipped cream and garnish until ready to serve.
This recipe has been a family favorite for more than a decade!
Lemon Icebox Pie recipes have been around since the 1930’s. There’s no-bake versions and others like ours that require a little time in the oven. Enjoy this lovely dessert at your next family gathering and bask in the warm glow of all the oooooh’s and ahhhh’s!
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Lemon Icebox Pie
For the crust:
- 14 whole graham crackers
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
For the filling:
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- zest of 2 lemons no white pith
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice (4-5 lemons strained of seeds and pulp)
For the topping:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- crushed graham crackers for garnish optional
- lemon zest for garnish optional
To prepare the crust:
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Break the graham crackers into the bowl of a food processor. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. Pulse until the crackers are finely ground. Some small chunks is fine. Add the melted butter and pulse again until all the crumbs are moistened.
- Pour the crumbs into a deep 9-inch pie plate. See NOTES below if you don’t have a deep straight-sided pie plate. Using a measuring cup press the mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
- Bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Cool on a rack will preparing the filling.
To prepare the filling:
- In a small food processor combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar with the lemon zest. Process until the sugar is bright yellow and the zest is broken down into tiny pieces.
- Pour the lemon sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks and beat using an electric mixer until the yolks are thickened and pale.
- Add the sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. Blend on low until all ingredients are combined. Place the baked graham cracker crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the filling into the prepared crust.
- Bake the pie on the baking pan for 20 to 25 minutes or until the center jiggles slightly and the edges are set. The pie filling should not be browned. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
To prepare the whipped topping:
- In a large cold mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on high until firm (not dry) peaks form. Dollop the whipped cream on top of the pie and swirl decoratively. Garnish with crushed graham crackers and/or lemon zest and lemon slices.
- This recipe was created using a deep-dish straight-sided 9-inch pie plate. A standard pie plate with sloping sides is not deep enough to hold all the filling. If all the filling doesn’t fit your pie pan, bake leftovers in a lightly greased small oven-proof dish or ramekin. Or coat the ramekin with vegetable cooking spray and line with crushed graham crackers mixed with a little melted butter and sugar. Add the filling and bake.
- You can also make this pie in an 8 or 9-inch springform pan. Press the crust about 1 to 1-1/2 inches up the sides of the pan and bake according to directions.
- Another option is to use 2 pre-made store-bought graham cracker crusts and divide the filling evenly between the two. Reduce the baking time to 15 minutes. The pie will be thin like a traditional Key Lime Pie.
- For the crust place the sugar and broken graham cracker pieces in a large zipper bag and crush using a rolling pin. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with the melted butter. Stir until combined.
- Place the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl. Crush the mixture using a fork or spoon, pressing the zest up against the side of the bowl. You can also do this using your fingers. The idea is to release the lemon oils into the sugar until it becomes yellow in color and moistened.
- You can also skip processing the lemon sugar and simply add the lemon zest and sugar to the eggs and beat.
- This pie is best made a day ahead so it has time to chill properly.
- Once cooled, you can also freeze the pie then wrap in plastic wrap and foil to seal. The pie can be made ahead and frozen for up to 2 months. Move the pie to the refrigerator 4 to 5 hours before serving.
- To slice a slightly frozen pie wrap a warm, damp kitchen towel around the bottom and sides of the pie plate to release the crust. Run a large thin knife under hot water, then carefully dry. Slice and serve topped with sweetened whipped cream.
In the year 2011 we posted one pie recipe each week; 52 for the entire year. Lemon Icebox Pie was No. 11 on our list, and one of our all-time favorites.Over the years I’ve tweaked and tested this recipe and devoured more slices of Lemon Icebox Pie than I can to admit. Each one has been terrific, but this final version is perfection.
Lemon is always a great choice for a dessert and perfect for any occasion. As lemons are readily available year-round so there’s no need to search for hard to find fresh ingredients!
If you love icebox pies don’t miss this Strawberry Icebox Pie. This is a delicious pie made with the seasons best strawberries for intense flavor.
How about this Chocolate Icebox Pie recipe? No bake, easy and so delicious.
And finally, one of our favorites – Blueberry Lemon Icebox Cake. So much flavor with a gorgeous presentation!
Originally published March 2011, updated June 2021