Lemon Ice Box Pie


This type of pie was named after the “ice box” it was stored in to keep cool.

Prior to World War II, the majority of Americans did not have electricity, so that meant no refrigerators to keep perishables.

Ice boxes, dating back to the 1830’s, were insulated (tin or zinc) boxes that typically held a twenty-five pound or fifty-pound block of ice. A small drain built into the box would direct the melted ice into a pan underneath (which needed to be emptied on a regular basis).

Cold and creamy, this lemony-dessert is a pie with Southern roots. I don’t remember my mother ever making this pie but, being born and raised in New Orleans, I’m certain she enjoyed her fair share of this frozen dessert.

Anyone who’s ever spent time in the south, knows how hot and sticky she can be. This refreshing chilled pie was created to serve family and friends, during those sultry summer months to help alleviate the heat and humidity of a steamy, southern summer.

Traditionally, all ice box pies were made with a graham cracker crust and a filling with a magic ingredient, Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. When mixed with an acid, (lemon juice) this “magic milk” thickens naturally without requiring heat. Genius!

Over the years, egg yolks have been added, creating a rich and silky pie, which now requires baking. Thankfully, for many of us, we have the luxury of refrigeration and air conditioning.


  • 14 graham crackers (whole)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest, finely grated
  • 7 egg yolks
  1. In a food processor, (or large freezer bag, crush with rolling pin) pulse broken graham crackers until ground.
  2. Add the sugar and salt, pulse until finely ground (not powdery). Pour in the melted butter, pulse unitl crumbs are evenly moistened.
  3. Transfer the crumbs to a 9-inch springform pan, press evenly on the bottom and up the sides.
  4. You’ll need two medium-size bowls. In one, whisk the condensed milk with the lemon juice. In the other bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale in color, then add the lemon zest.
  5. Combine the egg yolk mixture into the bowl with the condensed milk, beat until smooth.
  6. Pour the filling into the crust.
  7. Place the pan on a baking tray, bake in a 325* oven, 25 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool for an hour or so.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap, chill in the freezer for 8 hours or overnight.


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