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Festive and Tart Grapefruit Meringue Pie

If you’re a fan of lemon meringue or key lime pie, then you’ll really like this version made with fresh grapefruit juice.  You won’t believe how simple and easy it is to put this grapefruit meringue pie together, but your guests will think you spent hours creating this absolutely delicious dessert.  Grapefruit is an unexpected twist on traditional citrus pies and this one could quickly become a new favorite in your dessert lineup!

Closeup of a plated wedge of grapefruit meringue pie with grapefruit wedges on the plate.
A grapefruit meringue pie may be a new addition to your Favorite Desserts list this year!

My Summer Potluck Staple

I started making key lime pies many years ago after I discovered Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Juice.  It made the most deliciously tart pies that were a hit with everyone who tried them.  A key lime pie became known as my signature dessert that I brought to any summer potluck I was invited to (dare I wonder if those pies were why I got invited?).

Not only have I made countless meringue pies in 9-inch pie form, I’ve also made them in individual ramekins (the pie recipe makes 8 ramekin pies).  They were elegant little desserts I served at formal, sit-down dinners I hosted — easy to prepare a day ahead so that all I needed to do was remove them from the refrigerator and serve.

Other Meringue Pie Versions

Besides key lime, I’ve made this pie in key lemon (Nellie & Joe’s also makes a Key Lemon Juice that is amazing) as well as regular lime and lemon flavors.  They’re all wonderful and it really comes down to your tartness preference.

Tangerine, orange, pomegranate, and even cranberry juice would make interesting and tasty variations of this pie and I suspect I’ll get around to those at some point.  Kiwi also has a nice tartness to it, so a puree of kiwi fruit might work as a substitute for the citrus juice — the pie filling would just be a little thicker than a pie made with fruit juice.

This red grapefruit meringue pie has been on my “To Do” list for a while, so I was glad when the opportunity presented itself to make it happen.

Closeup of plated wedge of grapefruit meringue pie.

Grapefruit Season

I’ve always thought of grapefruit as a summer food.  Warm weather is when I want to eat fresh grapefruit for breakfast and I usually associate citrus with salads, grilled seafood, and refreshing cocktails (adult as well as non-alcoholic).

So I was surprised to learn that grapefruit is harvested during the winter months, which makes it a winter food!  I admit, this information is taking a while for me to process and I’m trying to learn new ways to view grapefruit through a cold weather cuisine lens.  The idea of a version of my summer pie being made in the winter is a little easier to handle by using this fruit that comes into season long after pool parties and outdoor barbecues are over.

A Word About the Crust

Closeup of graham cracker crust in pie dish.

I’ve always made a graham cracker crust for my key lime and lemon meringue pies.  I’m not sure why — it’s just the way I’ve done it from the start and I’ve never seen the need to change it. The flavor of the crust works well with the flavor of the fruit juices I’ve used in the past so I used the same crust for this grapefruit meringue pie.

However, I’ve noticed store bought lemon meringue pies have a traditional pastry crust and they taste good that way, too.  Looking at the list of juices above that could be used to make variations on this pie, there are some instances where graham crackers wouldn’t be the best choice to use.

So if you’re using a juice that doesn’t seem like it would pair well with a graham cracker crust, or if you just prefer a rolled pastry dough crust, feel free to make one of those for your pie.

So Simple You Won’t Believe It

This is the easiest grapefruit meringue pie imaginable.  Each element of the pie (crust, filling, and meringue) is made with only three ingredients.

Crust:

  • Graham crackers
  • Sugar
  • Butter

Filling:

  • Grapefruit juice
  • Grapefruit zest
  • Sweetened condensed milk

Meringue:

  • Egg whites
  • Cream of tartar
  • Sugar

Every time I use this recipe, I end up going over the list of ingredients multiple times because I’m positive I must have left something out.  But this really is one of those cases where it doesn’t take lots of ingredients to make something that tastes amazing.

The Grapefruit Variety

Closeup of a red grapefruit used to make the grapefruit meringue pie.

In general, grapefruits are known to be at the bitter end of the citrus flavor spectrum.  I wouldn’t recommend using white grapefruit or varieties with yellow flesh since they tend to have the most bitter juice.

I chose a red grapefruit to use for my grapefruit meringue pie, but a sweet variety of pink grapefruit would also be a good selection.  With red or pink grapefruit, you get more of a tart taste because there’s a higher amount of natural sugar in the fruit to balance out the juice’s bitterness.

Fresh Juice Versus Bottled

Overhead view of grapefruit meringue pie filling in a mixing  bowl.

Originally I was going to use some bottled red grapefruit juice I had on hand.  But since I needed a fresh grapefruit for the zest, I figured I might as well squeeze the juice and use it instead.  There was a little pulp that made its way into the filling, but I didn’t see the need to strain the juice.  I did, however, make sure I removed any seeds before adding the juice.

If you can’t get a whole grapefruit, then bottled juice will work.  Substitute dried lemon zest for the freshly grated grapefruit zest.

Storing and Freezing

A grapefruit meringue pie should be kept in the refrigerator so that the filling stays at the proper consistency.  At room temperature it will become too loose and runny.  Your pie will keep for 3-4 days chilled.

I’ve frozen my key lime pies in the past, so I have no reason to believe the same can’t be done for a grapefruit version.  I baked the pie, cooled it completely, wrapped it well in several layers of plastic wrap, and then wrapped it in aluminum foil before putting it into the freezer.  Your grapefruit meringue pie should keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.

Making Your Grapefruit Meringue Pie

Ingredients for grapefruit meringue pie.

There are three stages to this grapefruit meringue pie, all of them quick and easy.  The crust is the first thing to make because it has to be pre-baked before adding the filling.

The Crust

Start by crushing one package of graham crackers into crumbs.  

Closeup of package of graham crackers on wooden cutting board.

In the past I’ve thrown these into a food processor, but I’m without one of those these days.  I crushed the crackers as well as I could while still in the sealed package.  I’m also out of gallon-sized resealable bags so using my rolling pin wasn’t an option.  So I used the next best tool I have, which is this potato masher — because of all the holes in the design of this particular masher, it ended up being a really great tool for the job.

Glass mixing bowl of crushed graham crackers and potato masher.

Mix in granulated sugar, add butter, and mix well.  Press into a pie dish.  I used a deep pie dish to account for the height of the meringue as the pie bakes.

Graham cracker crust pressed into a pie dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes and then allow to cool before adding the filling.

The Filling

Grate the zest of the grapefruit into a small mixing bowl.

A grapefruit seemed harder to grate than a lemon or lime.  I really had to put some pressure to get the grater to pierce the skin and scrape the zest off.  I grated the outside of the entire grapefruit into the bowl.

Closeup of red grapefruit used for zest and juice.

Cut the grapefruit into quarters and squeeze until you have ⅓ cup of juice.  Remove any seeds from the juice and then pour the juice into the mixing bowl with the zest.

Closeup of grapefruit quarters.

Pour in one can of sweetened condensed milk and stir until mixed well.

Pouring sweetened milk into mixing bowl.

Pour the filling into the graham cracker crust.

Pouring grapefruit meringue pie filling into graham cracker crust.

The Meringue

Closeup of electric mixer whisk with meringue on it.

Finally, it’s time for the meringue.  Separate the white and yolks of three eggs.  Put the whites into a medium-sized mixing bowl with ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar.

I actually had a false start with this meringue because I tried using the regular beaters for my mixter.  This proved to be a mistake because they just didn’t get the egg whites to stiffen properly.  After a few minutes of mixing on high, it became obvious that a meringue wasn’t forming and I threw out the first batch of egg whites and cream of tartar.

Instead, you must use a whisk attachment on your mixer (my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer whisk used to create the most amazing meringues I could practically sculpt with).  This little whisk attachment for my hand mixer did a surprisingly admirable job.

View of electric mixer whisk in egg whites.

Spread the meringue over the pie filling and seal it at the edge of the crust — I had to use my fingers at one point because the spatula was a little unwieldy.

Fully assembled grapefruit meringue pie ready to bake.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.  Gently shake the pie at 30 minutes to see how firm it is and determine if it needs additional baking time (mine needed all 40 minutes).

Cool the pie and then refrigerate UNCOVERED to chill before serving (takes about 3-6 hours).

Baked grapefruit meringue pie with wedge removed.

A New Holiday Dessert

Grapefruit might not be the fruit that automatically springs to mind for a pie flavor, but once you taste this grapefruit meringue pie, you’ll be sold on it.  Using seasonal fruit makes this a great addition to your festive winter gatherings.

Closeup of plated wedge of grapefruit meringue pie with slices of grapefruit on the plate.
Grapefruit Meringue Pie

Festive and Tart Grapefruit Meringue Pie

Yield: One 9-inch pie
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake  Time: 40 minutes
Chilling Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 10 minutes

Make room for this grapefruit meringue pie at the dessert table for your winter gatherings!  A traditional recipe for key lime (or lemon) pie gets a surprise twist of flavor from the juice of seasonal red grapefruit.  While grapefruit may not come to mind for citrus desserts, this may be the pie that everyone looks forward to seeing on the buffet line.  Pick up a fresh grapefruit and make this oh-so-easy grapefruit meringue pie that’s sure to please your family or guests this year.

Ingredients

  • 1 package graham crackers
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
  • 1 whole red or pink grapefruit OR ⅓ cup bottled grapefruit juice and 2 tablespoons dried lemon zest
  • 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 eggs whites, room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Instructions

For the Crust:

  1. Crush the graham crackers into crumbs.
  2. Mix in ¼ cup of granulated sugar.
  3. Add the melted butter and mix well.
  4. Press onto the bottom and sides of a deep 9-inch pie dish.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool before adding the filling.

For the Filling:

  1. Grate the zest from the outside of the grapefruit into a small mixing bowl.
  2. Cut the grapefruit into quarters and squeeze until you have ⅓ cup of juice.
  3. Remove any seeds before adding to the zest in the mixing bowl.
  4. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk and stir to mix well.
  5. Pour into the baked pie crust.

For the Meringue:

  1. Add the room temperature egg whites to a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  2. Add the cream of tartar.
  3. Using a whisk attachment for an electric mixer, beat the egg white and cream of tartar on high for ONE minute.
  4. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, continuing to beat on high.
  5. Once all the sugar is added, beat on high for an additional 2-4 minutes until stiff peaks form.
  6. Spread the meringue over the filling, sealing at the edges of the crust.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
  8. Cool the pie and refrigerate UNCOVERED until chilled, 3-6 hours.
Pinterest image of grapefruit meringue pie.

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