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.
Lemon Icebox Pie Is Always on the Menu
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.
How to Make Lemon Icebox 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.
More Favorite Classic Pies
Lemon Icebox Pie
Technically, baking the graham cracker crust before adding the filling is not necessary, but I usually bake it because I like the toasty flavor.
- For the pie
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 prepared 9-inch 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
Preheat the oven to 350ºF:
Set a rack in the middle position.
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 graham cracker crust.
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.
Make the topping:
In a bowl, stir together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla until blended.
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.
Slice and enjoy:
This pie will keep for up to 24 hours before serving.