Desserts Pies + Tarts

blood orange pie

So, I’m on this blood orange kick. I keep buying bags of them, cutting them open one by one, just to see their pretty purple pieces stare back at me. I’ve eaten so many, hoping for inspiration, something new I can make with them. And then the idea came one afternoon, as I was scrubbing purple juice off my hands: blood orange pie. I am crazy about key lime pie – could I just trade some orange juice and zest and make some sassy dessert?

Yes, yes I could. And when I took my first bite, my mind immediately went to humid summer evenings, where my sister and I were tucked downstairs in the only corner of our house that was cool. There, stashed in the freezer, was a box of orange dreamsicles; our perfect summer treat. We would eat them slowly, the cold ice cream helping us momentarily forget our friend’s air conditioned homes where sleep came easy.

Blood Orange Pie
This recipe is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for Key Lime Pie. I tweaked it a bit – added vanilla and, of course, blood oranges. You could use regular oranges as well, if you can’t find blood oranges. Don’t worry about the color of the filling as you mix it with the sweetened condensed milk – it may look a little purplish-grayish, but I found it turned a nice rusty orange when the filling had set. You could always add a drop or two of food coloring if you want it to be a vibrant orange.

In the pie in the photos above I used homemade graham crackers – they were made with graham and teff flour, and are much darker than normal ones. I didn’t prefer them- the crust didn’t bake up quite right and was a tiny bit soggy. I would suggest store bought here. Also, I didn’t serve the pie with the blood orange slices – I highly recommend a pile of whipped cream on top, to balance the flavors.

NOTE: Several people have commented they are having trouble getting this pie to set. I have made this pie (and various versions of key lime and lemon) with good results many times over the years, but apologize for the trouble readers are having. If your pie hasn’t set, it could be that your oven temperature is off (this is a frequent problem with home ovens). Using an oven thermometer to check that your temperature is correct can help. Also, the directions for “set but still wiggly” might mean different things to different readers, so I’ve changed that to indicate that it should be set and mostly firm with just the slightest jiggle. 

blood orange filling
1 tablespoon grated blood orange zest
1/2 cup strained blood orange juice
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 [14 ounce] can of sweetened condensed milk

Whisk (by hand) the zest and yolks in a bowl until tinted light orange, about 2 minutes. Whisk  in the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, then orange juice; set aside at room temperature to thicken.

graham cracker crust
11 full sized graham crackers, processed to fine crumbs [1 1/4 cups]
3 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Adjust oven rack to center position and heat to 325. Mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar together. Add butter, and stir until well blended. Put the mixture into a 9 inch pie plate. Press crumbs evenly on bottom and up sides of the plate. Refrigerate crumbs for 20 minutes. Bake until lightly browned and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly.

Pour blood orange mixture into the warm crust, and bake until center is set and firm, but has the just slightest jiggle, 16 to 20 minutes (please read above note about baking time).  Return pie to wire rack and let cool. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours.

whipped cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Add cream, vanilla and sugar to a chilled mixer bowl. Beat on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and and continue beating, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly double in volume, and 30 seconds. Spread whipped cream on chilled pie and serve.

  • Reply
    Monday, January 29, 2024 at 5:26 pm

    What a delicious pie! The crust/method worked really well; will keep and use for other recipes. I didn’t have blood oranges so I used cara cara. After checking at 16 & 20 minutes, I increased the baking time to a total of 26 minutes for my oven; thank you Sarah for the note about being “set and mostly firm with just the slightest jiggle;” it helped a lot. The whipped cream was a must in layering the flavors. Thank you for another great recipe.

  • Reply
    Monday, November 15, 2021 at 8:41 am

    I got it to set!! Haven’t cut into it yet, but it looks fantastic. Couldn’t resist the recipe, and took all of the reviews into account. Read several key lime pie recipes for context, and noticed some differences. So I tweaked it a little bit.

    Whisked the yolks and zest first, before making the crust and juicing the oranges, so they would have extra time to interact. Probably half an hour or so.

    Subbed 2.5 tablespoons of lemon juice for 2.5 tablespoons of blood orange juice to increase acidity,

    Let the whole mixture sit out at room temperature for 40 minutes before baking, which increased the thickness substantially up to about 30 minutes. I noticed the last 10 minutes didn’t make much of a difference. I would leave it out for 30.

    Used 1.5 teaspoons vanilla paste plus one teaspoon vanilla extract. A whole tablespoon of extract seemed like a lot of liquid.

    Added 4 drops red food coloring because I’m out of yellow. It is such a lovely coral color.

    Upped my oven temperature to 335 and baked for the whole 20 minutes.

    IT SET!! It looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it 🙂

  • Reply
    Ann-maree Davey
    Friday, April 16, 2021 at 5:28 am

    I would use a seaweed agar agar setting agent, vegans use this instead of gelatine.
    Think that this should work

  • Reply
    Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 11:43 am

    I made this “recipe” in March 2021. the written directions did not produce a set pie. The filling refused to firm up and it stayed a soupy mess. We will now be attempting to eat this pie frozen instead. It looks like other people have had similar issues with the pie not firming up, so if many people have the same problem then it is likely the recipe is poorly made and written. I followed the recipe exactly and I am very disappointed with it. Please edit or remove this recipe.

  • Reply
    Thursday, January 28, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    Hi everyone! I was searching the web for blood orange pie recipes and noticed this filling-not-setting issue in this recipe, as well as another one that were both adapted from key lime pie recipes. It came to my mind that the issue might be due to lack of acidity: since much of the thickening in a key lime pie filling occurs due to the milk and egg proteins and the lime acid curdling, it makes sense that using a generally less acidic citrus may yield different results based on the batch of oranges you happen to get. A possible solution could be to boost the acidity of the of the filling by replacing part of the orange juice with, say, lemon juice.

  • Reply
    Sunday, December 6, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    First of all, the custard is SO good! YUM!! But the pie would not set for me either. I followed the instructions very carefully. After six hours in the fridge I gave up, put it in the freezer and told everyone it was a frozen pie. They were blown away by how good it tasted. I’m going to figure out a custard that will set properly and write it back soon. Thanks for taking the time to write this!

  • Reply
    Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 2:47 am

    Thanks for any other informative site. Where else may just I
    am getting that kind of information written in such a perfect manner?
    I have a undertaking that I am simply now operating on, and
    I have been at the look out for such information.

  • Reply
    Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Hi. I made this, and it didn’t set properly. I triple-checked the ingredients and let it bake a bit longer. I hand whisked the eggs and zest. I hand whisked everything else too. Should I have used my machine or my beaters once I added everything else? Leaving it out didn’t thicken it at all…

    • Reply
      Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      Hi Julie, I’m sorry you had problems with the pie! You don’t need to beat it with a machine/beaters, just with your hand/whisk. The orange/sweetened condensed milk mixture thickens slightly while it sits. You mention whisking eggs and zest- did you just use the yolks?

      • Reply
        Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 12:32 pm

        I did just use the yolks. I’m not sure what happened.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Just tried to make this pie for my husband’s birthday but it would not firm up and was a soupy mess. I followed the directions but they are not clear as to what the consistency of the egg white and orange zest mixture is supposed to be: soft peak, firm peak, or something else? I blended on high until it was foamy and “tinted light orange” like in the directions but it was not firm at all. I mixed in the rest of the ingredients for the filling and let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes but that did not thicken either. After the initial time in the 325 degree oven I did an additional 10 minutes at 350 but it just stayed super runny and did not firm up in the least. We had to trow it out. I looked at the key lime recipe and in the pictures it looks like the filling, I’m assuming since it looks green, is very thick and fluffy but neither set of directions specify a long enough beating time nor describe a consistency like that is supposed to be reached. I want to make this recipe but it seems like it is missing steps. What is the filling supposed to look like/is there a missing step/ingredient?

    • Reply
      Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 9:54 am

      Lauren – You mention using eggs whites, but it is just the yolks that are to be used. Egg whites will make this an entirely different pie, and would account for the runny-ness. Also, I should have stated ‘whisk by hand’ – in recipes I specify if you need a machine for blending, by whisking I mean just using a whisk and a hand. But I see that should have been more clear! So sorry about that and I’ll change it.

  • Reply
    Sara Schultz
    Monday, March 4, 2013 at 7:29 am

    I HAVE to make this! Not kidding. I’ll be back within a week or so to let you know how it goes. I’m gonna try to pick up some blood oranges from the farmer’s market this weekend for it.

  • Reply
    Aviv Lubell
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply
    Aviv Lubell
    Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Beautiful pictures, if the pie tastes half as good as the images look I’ll be very very happy. Cannot wait to try this out with our homemade vanilla extract.

  • Reply
    Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Repost or not, this pie is lovely, Sarah. Those pictures are making me wish that a slice would materialize as a mid-afternoon snack.

  • Reply
    Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I adore blood oranges and wish there were more dishes that would convey their incredible deep blood red colour. Having said that, this still looks utterly wonderful so I’m not complaining 🙂

  • Reply
    Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 1:41 am

    you know i’ve thought about doing a re-post of popular recipes i’ve created
    i mean why not?
    if they are that good i’d hate for people to miss out
    good thinking!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Oh my. That shot of the pie on the stand with the completely dreamy cloud of cream and perfectly translucent slices of blood orange on top is so beautiful. This sounds like a nice respite from the harshness of winter. I can’t stop buying the blood oranges either. Every time I cut one open, there’s a solid 5 seconds of pure delight. Just amazing.

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Whoa. This pie is all kinds of amazing!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Blood orange is the one citrus fruit I haven’t had yet this season. To the farmer’s market! 🙂 This pie sounds so bright and fresh!

  • Reply
    london bakes
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Just beautiful (I feel like I always say that but it’s true)

  • Reply
    Jenny @ BAKE
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 9:02 am

    beautiful photographs!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I love how you can’t help yourself but redo the photos…I am desperate to do the same! So good to know we can get better at this stuff right? Keep them coming! Zoe

  • Reply
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:18 am

    I love this photos!and this pie:)

  • Reply
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Mhhh, looks delicious!

    Liebe Grüße Trina ?

  • Reply
    Tartlet Sweets
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Such a beautiful pie! I, too, love blood oranges. They’re so pretty. Probably my favorite winter citrus next to grapefruit.

  • Reply
    Monday, February 4, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    This sounds delicious. Lovely photos!

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