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No-Bake Lemon Icebox Pie

Jessie Sheehan
Cook Time:
6 hrs
Prep Time:
15 mins
Servings:
8
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(17)

Chef notes

This lemon icebox pie is a winner not only because she is delicious to eat and gorgeous to behold, but also because she is an easy no-bake dessert. No-bake desserts, as the name implies, do not require an oven, which is appreciated during the dog days of summer (or when the oven is filled with other items that need cooking). Furthermore, no-bake desserts are often of the make-ahead variety. Make-ahead desserts are such a gift when entertaining. And because this particular make-ahead beauty benefits from a stint in the freezer, you can assemble this pie and freeze it for up to a month in advance of serving it (wrap in plastic wrap if doing so and top with whipped cream right before serving).

The lemon filling is assembled with only six ingredients — and two of them are optional! Cream cheese gives the filling its structure, condensed milk sweetens it and a little bit of salt cuts that sweetness. Finally, freshly-squeezed lemon juice not only provides the filling with its pucker-worthy flavor, but it also works a little magic and helps set the filling. When citrus juice is combined with dairy (in this case, both the cream cheese and the condensed milk), a reaction occurs that causes the dairy to firm up. No-bake cheesecakes take advantage of this reaction, as do “possets,” a lightly-set English pudding. The optional filling ingredients are a little lemon extract (for a  pop of flavor) and a little yellow food coloring (to enhance the color). The shortbread cookie crust adds a crispy texture, as well as lovely buttery flavor. The pie can be served frozen or just chilled from the refrigerator, but it will slice best if frozen. The soft and billowy whipped cream atop the pie is a wonderful textural contrast to the firm, tart filling, but you can also serve this pie naked, with just a dollop of cream on each slice, if you so desire. 

Technique Tip: Don’t overbeat the room temperature cream cheese or it will lose its structure. But be sure it is no longer lumpy when you add the condensed milk. Press the cookie crumbs firmly in the greased pie plate to ensure the crust doesn’t crumble when sliced. Freeze the pie after assembly for the cleanest slices.

Swap Option: You can use graham crackers instead of the shortbread cookies, if you prefer. And you can add lemon zest to both the pie filling and as a decoration over the whipped cream if you would like. 

 

Ingredients

Shortbread Crust
  • 2 cups (9 ounces) finely ground shortbread cookies, such as Lorna Doones
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
Lemon Filling
  • 1 (8-ounce) block full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract, optional
  • a few drops of yellow food coloring, optional
Whipped Cream Topping
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
Fulfilled by

Preparation

1.

Grease a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.

2.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the finely ground cookies, melted butter and sugar with a flexible spatula or your hands. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pie plate and press it onto the bottom and up the sides of the plate using a 1-cup measuring cup or your fingers. Place in the freezer while you assemble the filling.

3.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about a minute. Do not overmix. Add the sweetened condensed milk, salt, lemon juice, lemon extract and food coloring, if using, and beat just until combined.

4.

Pour the filling into the chilled crust and smooth the top with an offset spatula or butter knife. Place in the freezer for 4 to 6 hours or overnight. The longer the pie chills, the firmer the slices will be when you go to cut them.

5.

When ready to serve the pie, remove the pie from the freezer and let sit on the counter for about 10 or 15 minutes. Whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium to medium-high speed until soft to medium peaks form.

6.

Spread the whipped cream decoratively over the pudding. Wet a dish towel under hot water and ring out. Rub the dish towel over the bottom and sides of the outside of the pie plate before slicing and serving.

7.

The pie is best eaten the day it is made, but will keep for two days in the refrigerator if lightly wrapped in plastic wrap.