North Carolina Lemon Pie

4.87 from 15 votes

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Rich and creamy North Carolina Lemon Pie combines just the right amount of sweet and tart flavors. It’s made with a secret pie crust ingredient too.

This lemon pie is super simple to make. The crust is as easy to put together as a graham cracker crust, but here’s the secret, it’s made from Saltines! How neat is that? It’s crisp and delicious! The filling is just beat together and then baked (no stove top cooking first) and then it’s topped with a bit of whipped cream. Easy!

top view of a lemon pie next to lemons and serving utensils
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North Carolina Lemon Pie

Lemon lovers unite! This pie marries tangy and sweet flavors in such a delicious way. It is simple to make and the finished product is so pretty. 

I can picture this lemon pie being served all summer long. It tastes light and fresh and works for all of your summer get togethers.  
This recipe comes from the May 2015 issue of Cook’s Country magazine. It’s the magazine version of my favorite cookbooks (produced by America’s Test Kitchen!) and it is always fabulous. You get smarter and hungrier every time you read this magazine.

a plate of lemon pie next to the pie

Frequently Asked Questions:

Does lemon pie need to chill in the refrigerator?

You will want to refrigerate the pie for several hours until it is completely chilled. This makes it ideal to make ahead so you don’t need to worry about it on the day you plan to serve it. 

How do I know when lemon pie is done baking?

Bake the lemon pie until the edges of the pie are set but the center still jiggles, about 15 to 17 minutes. Place the pie on a wire rack and let it cool completely. 

Should I use fresh lemon juice to make lemon pie?

Fresh lemons will always taste the best. You will need about 3 lemons for this recipe. 

How do I get juice out of lemons?

To get the most juice out of a lemon I like firmly roll the lemon on the counter with my hand before cutting and squeezing the juice. This will soften the lemon a bit and help you get the most juice out of each lemon.

How do I choose a good lemon?

When shopping for fresh lemons, there are a few tips to find lemons that are nice and juicy. One is to find lemons that feel heavy for their size- it means has lots of juice inside! Bright yellow lemons with no wrinkles are also a sign of a good lemon.

top view of a plate of lemon pie next to the pie

More lemon recipes:

If you’ve tried this Lemon Pie recipe or any other recipe on Bless this Mess, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some pictures of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories AND add your photo to your comment so that other can see your creation!

top view of a lemon pie next to lemons and serving utensils
4.87 from 15 votes

North Carolina Lemon Pie

Rich and creamy North Carolina Lemon Pie with just the right amount of sweet and tart and made with an secret pie crust ingredient!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 3 hours
Servings: 8


For the Crust

  • 6 ounces saltine crackers, about 1 sleeve or 36 crackers
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

For the Filling:

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk, (14-ounce)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus ½ cup juice,, (3 lemons)

For the Topping

  • ½ cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
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  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Add the saltines and salt to the food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs (about 15 pulses). Add the melted butter and corn syrup and pulse until the crumbs are about the size of oatmeal (another 15 pulses).
  • Add the cracker mixture to a greased 9-inch pie plate. Use the bottom of a dry measuring cup or glass and press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the dish.
  • Place the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake until light golden brown, 17 to 19 minutes.
  • To make the filling – whisk the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, cream, and lemon zest together in a bowl, add the lemon juice and whisk until well combined.
  • With the pie plate on the baking sheet still, remove it from the oven and pour in the filling (the crust does not need to be cooled) and place it back in the hot oven. Bake until the edges of the pie are set but the center still jiggles, 15 to 17 minutes. Place the pie on a wire rack and let it cool completely. Refrigerate the pie until completely chilled.
  • For the topping, use a stand mixer fitted with a whisk and whipped the cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium low until foamy (about a minute). Increase the mixer speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie and serve cold.


  • Be sure to measure the crackers by weight. A few packages sell them in 4 ounce sleeves so you’ll need 1 1/2 sleeves to get enough crackers for the recipe.


Serving: 1 of 8 slices, Calories: 483kcal, Carbohydrates: 48g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 18g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 177mg, Sodium: 251mg, Potassium: 241mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 37g, Vitamin A: 1027IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 175mg, Iron: 1mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

This simple North Carolina Lemon Pie is going to surprise and delight you, and I can’t wait for you to make it so that I can hear how much you enjoyed it!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Melanie says:

    This pie is wonderful!

  2. M Blackbird says:

    4 stars
    I use Ritz crackers. For the sides of the pan I set whole crackers on their sides. If you don’t like a lot of crust you can just line the pie pan in whole crackers.

  3. Viva says:

    Should the saltines be salted or unsalted, please?

    1. Melissa says:

      I’ve used salted, you could probably use either.

  4. Anna Starr says:

    I made this today and it NEVER set. I cooked it longer than required and it still
    dusnr book al the way through. If I were to go any longer, the pie crust would’ve burnt. I have NO idea what I did wrong. I’m not new to cooking and am pretty savvy in the kitchen, but I’m stumped! 🙁

    1. Melissa says:

      How odd. Did it set up at all once cooled?

    2. Bryan says:

      I believe the corn syrup is so it will it possible you omitted this, or it was bad?

  5. Theresa says:

    5 stars
    Simply put, this is a fantastic pie! It is so refreshing on a warm summer evening. The crust is excellent and the lemon filling is SO good!

  6. Sue G. says:

    This is now my husband’s favorite pie.

    1. Melissa says:

      It’s a fun one isn’t it?!

  7. Nancy says:

    Thanks for sharing your recipe, since some on Instagram are so snooty they want to make you pay for it!

  8. John Shea says:

    4 stars
    Terrific recipe. Thinking of making it in orange flavor, chocolate or choc and hazelnut. Probably need to change the crust but donxt know. Probably old discussion.
    Thxs for such a easy, delicious and I wonder versatile recipe. Grandkids loved it

    1. Melissa says:

      So glad you all loved it!

  9. Yanni Babelis says:

    5 stars
    The crust was very difficult to cut, I couldn’t lifted it. Followed the recipe instructions but somehow the crust on the bottom was stuck. Any feedback would be greatly helpful.

    1. Melissa says:

      You must be very strong and smashed it in there nice and tight! Next time you could not press it as hard, you might consider greasing the pan before using, or sometimes if you dip the bottom of the pan in hot water it helps too!

  10. Joanne Beebe says:

    [I wonder about a meringue topping?? Be great to use the 4 egg whites.

    1. Melissa says:

      I’ve thought the same thing before though I haven’t tried it. I’m sure it would be great!