Lemon Icebox Pie


Fluffy, creamy and tangy—and super cooling on a hot summer afternoon. It's hard to beat the appeal of this old-fashioned Lemon Icebox Pie.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Featured in 12 Desserts for Your Easter Table

Pie IS nostalgia. And this particular Lemon Icebox Pie represents my own personal stroll down memory lane, complete with sighs and happy feelings.

There’s just something about a creamy, dense lemon filling topped with sour cream, settled on top of a graham cracker crust. It’s one of those old-fashioned desserts that takes you back in time. It makes your cheeks pucker and your eyes roll with pleasure.

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Lemon Icebox Pie was one of the first desserts on our menu at the tiny restaurant I started with friends in upstate New York. The restaurant expanded, and a chef—actually a friendly neighbor with a summer house nearby (a weekend retreat from his fancy French restaurant in New York City)—became my mentor.

Our offerings became more and more sophisticated and European. But despite the European influence, we kept some old-fashioned American favorites by popular demand. Lemon icebox pie became one of our signature desserts.

Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe bake the pie


The pie itself takes under 25 minutes to put together, which is not bad in “pie time.” First, make the graham cracker crust (15 minutes, here’s the recipe), then make the filling (10 minutes). Baking and chilling take longer, so you’ll want to make this pie early in the day you want to serve it—or even better, the night before.

Once the pie is filled, baked and chilled, spread a layer of barely sweetened sour cream on top to give the pie a tangy counterpoint to all the filling’s lemony sweetness. The pie needs to go into the oven for 10 minutes once you add the sour cream, just to set the cream. Then it needs another turn in the fridge to completely chill again.

This is a quintessential summer pie, one you can imagine that your grandmother or great grandmother would make. Put this on the top of your “pies to-make” list and grab a slice of nostalgia.


Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Chill time: 6 hours, 45 minutes
  • Yield: 1 pie, 6 to 8 slices


 For the pie

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 prepared graham cracker crust, store-bought or homemade (cooled for at least 10 minutes if homemade)

For the topping

  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Set a rack in the middle position.

2 Make the filling: In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and whole egg until thoroughly combined. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk until blended. Add the lemon juice and stir to blend. Pour into the baked pie shell.

Lemon Ice Box Pie Recipe make the filling Icebox pie with lemon add the lemon juice Old-Fashioned Lemon Icebox Pie combine the filling ingredients

3 Bake the pie: Set the pie in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the outside edges look set and the center still jiggles slightly. Set the pie on a rack to cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe bake the pie

4 Make the topping: In a bowl, stir together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla until blended.

Icebox Pie with Lemon make the topping

5 Bake the pie with the topping: One to two hours before serving, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Set a rack in the middle position.

Spread the topping over the pie and bake the pie for 10 minutes to set the sour cream.

Remove the pie from the oven, cool briefly, and return to the refrigerator to chill until cold, at least 45 minutes.

6 Slice and enjoy! This pie will keep for up to 24 hours before serving.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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16 Comments / Reviews

No ImageLemon Icebox Pie

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Linda West

    I made the graham cracker crust for this so it would all be homemade and the pie got rave reviews from the family. I didn’t put any kind of topping on it and it was just perfect. It tasted EXACTLY like the ones my mom used to make for my dad’s birthday, so it’s been over 10 years since I’ve had one. Almost brought tears to my eyes, thinking of how this recipe brought back a flood of memories. THANK YOU!

  2. Jess

    Beautiful texture and the flavors pop. Added 1tsp lemon zest to the pie. Was unsure about the sour cream topping but sweetened as it is it tasted like yogurt. Loved this pie!!


  3. Amy

    Yummy pie! I had a pinch of salt to it as I tasted it after blending and felt it needed a little salt and I added about a tablespoon of lemon zest. I topped it with homemade cool whip and baked up some extra Graham cracker crumbs than sprinkled them on top it was very good. I’ll make it again.


  4. George Hooper

    Have not tasted it yet, waiting for it to cool. BUT you definitely need a 10″ pie dish, could not fit the ingredients into the 9″ I used. The prep time of 10 minutes is VERY optimistic also, especially considering mixing filling and topping, two sessions of baking and cooling. It sounds like you whip this up in 10 mins and throw it in the fridge. I know I’m slow, but it takes me almost 10 minutes just to squeeze enough lemons to get 1 cup of juice!

  5. Lechette Walker

    It has a very strong taste and the sour cream icing dos not compliment the standard taste. I would recommend the whipping of the egg whites Recipe.


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