Celebrating the Sunshine State's Unique Treasures


Make the Best Ever Sour Orange Pie

Author: Robin Draper
Date: December 15, 2016 12:00 am
Category: What to Eat
Type: Desserts


Authentic Florida's Sour Orange Pie

Make the Best-Ever Sour Orange Pie

Florida’s citrus is ripening in the groves and it’s time to make this Best Ever Sour Orange Pie, one of my family’s all-time favorites that is especially popular during the holidays.

And if you can find sour oranges, consider yourself lucky, but if not, learn how to create this fabulous pie using fresh Florida oranges and lemons. 

The "Best Ever" title comes from my husband who claims it is better than my Key Lime Pie. I'll let you decide!

Many sour oranges grow wild in Florida and usually have bumpy, thick skins

What is a Sour Orange?

From the Everglades to Georgia if you find an orange tree growing wild it is likely to be a sour orange. Brought by the Spaniards to St. Augustine in the 16th century when Florida was first settled by Europeans, this hardy citrus soon became a staple ingredient to flavor foods. Considered too sour to eat alone – although some do, with salt and even hot sauce, this orange, also known as the Seville, spread throughout the state. It was traded with Native Americans and grown by settlers and will sprout from sown or discarded seeds, thus growing wild all over Florida. (It is distinctive from a regular orange with its thick, bumpy skin.) Eventually, with added sugar, it became popular in jams and jellies, and pie. If you are lucky enough to have access to a sour orange tree, this pie recipe will give you a great way to use those acidic and sour fruits. Or, you can try to find them in a specialty grocery store. Cuban grocers usually stock sour oranges to make mojo sauce commonly found in the roast pork and chicken dishes. Some Floridians even use backyard calamondins as an alternative in sour orange pies. The calamondin is a small citrus hybrid, with a very sour-citrusy flavor.

For this recipe, we will use a combination of orange and lemon to achieve that flavorful sour orange taste.

Sour Orange Pie Recipe

Florida oranges, lemons and the zest of a fruit can be used for Sour Orange Pie

Use 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed Florida orange juice with 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice (boiled down to ¾ cup of syrup).


Use 1-2 Florida sour oranges – a specific orange found at some specialty (Cuban) grocery stores or citrus stands. (Use ¾ cup of juice)


Calamondins are small sour-citrusy tasting, found in backyards or at local nurseries

Use 12-18 Florida calamondins – small sized fruit that resemble oranges but are the size of key limes, also found at specialty stores or citrus markets (use ¾ cup of juice). Will need to cut and squeeze in a hand-citrus squeezer

For all variations use the zest of whatever fruit you use before you squeeze the fruit. This is what makes the pie so flavorful.

Shopping Ingredients 

Pie Crust Ingredients

  • 1/3 of a 1-pound box of graham crackers
  • 4 Tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup of sugar 

Note: If you prefer a store bought crust, I recommend purchasing a graham cracker crust. Or if you like a regular flour crust, they are found in the grocery's frozen section.

Pie Filling Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 Florida oranges (medium sized)
  • 2 Florida lemons (medium sized)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of orange zest - be sure to zest before you squeeze the juice! (put aside 1 teaspoon to sprinkle over the baked pie for garnish)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of lemon zest
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Meringue Topping Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon, cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup of sugar


Food processor (optional)

1 - 9 or 10 inch pie pan (glass is best)

Mixer (hand or large one)

1 – Rasp or grater (to zest the orange and lemon)

Electric juicer or hand juicer



Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.

Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and pulse for 1 minute, creating fine crumbs.  If you don’t have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and crush the crackers with a rolling pin, again, creating fine crumbs. Place in the food processor (or bowl).

Make your own graham-cracker crust or purchase store-bought

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave (1 minute). Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Pour the mixed ingredients into the pie pan. Press the mixture into the bottom and side of the pie pan, forming a neat edge up the side of the pan.  Bake the crust at 350 degrees until set and lightly golden (about 8 minutes). Set aside to cool on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

Directions for the Pie Filling

Make Sour Orange Syrup

After zesting the outside of 2 oranges and 2 lemons, set the zest aside.

Zest and juice the fruit

Next juice the oranges and lemons (you may have more juice than you need). Measure ½ cup of orange juice and ½ cup of lemon juice.

Create a syrup from orange and lemon juice combined with sugar

Place 1 full cup of the combined juice in a small saucepan, add ½ cup of sugar and bring to a boil. After bringing to a full boil, turn down to medium heat and continue cooking for 20 minutes, reducing to ¾ cup of combined juice. This will look like syrup and thicken as it cooks.

Next, separate 4 eggs – placing the egg yolks in one small bowl and the egg whites in another bowl (set aside the egg whites for the pie meringue topping).

In an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the four egg yolks with 1 heaping teaspoon of orange zest and 1 heaping teaspoon of lemon zest at high speed until very fluffy, for 5 minutes. Next, gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. 

Combine egg yolks, zest and condensed milk

Slowly add orange and lemon syrup

Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the combined orange/lemon syrup, mixing just until combined, no longer. 

Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake the pie for another 10 minutes, or until the filling has just set (should not jiggle).

Pour the mixture in the pie crust, sprinkle with orange zest

When the pie comes out, sprinkle the top with remaining orange zest (or if you like, wait and put it on top of the meringue).

Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Set aside. Keep the oven on. 

For the meringue topping (optional):

Note: if you don’t want to make the pie with meringue, whipped cream is an alternative.

Make meringue from the remaining egg whites

With a mixer, beat the 4 egg whites at high speed with ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar for about 4-5 minutes until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until blended. Next, spread the meringue over the pie filling; seal to edge of crust. 

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees. Bake for 5-10 minutes (or until the meringue is golden) BUT don’t take your eyes off the oven, keeping the door slightly ajar.

There is a WOW factor in not only the look but the taste!

Refrigerate the pie for at least 4 hours or overnight. If you don’t have enough time, freeze for one hour.

Remove, slice, plate and enjoy!

Slice, plate and enjoy!

To receive Authentic Florida's free ENEWs, featuring travel and living updates, delivered weekly, sign up on the home page Authentic Florida, voted Blog of the Year and Best Travel Blog at the Orlando Sunshine Awards.

About the Author: Robin Draper is a Florida native and blogger devoted to the simple and delightful pleasures for Florida living. This article is connected to Robin's Google+ profile.


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Talk About This Post on Authentic Florida

Tim Wright on December 20, 2016 said:
Thanks Robin. I've been trying to resurrect this historical and delicious Florida dessert for a few years now. I've noticed it's beginning to make an appearance on the menus of a few upscale restaurants throughout the state. It's always been one of my favorites and it's a delightful surprise to anyone I serve it to. My wife's sour orange pie recipe recently won first place in the 2016 Duval County Agricultural Fair Pie contest.
Robin on December 19, 2016 said:
Yes, only 10 minutes.
Keely on December 19, 2016 said:
So you only bake this for 10 minutes with the filling in?
Robin Draper on November 30, 2016 said:
Here ya go! Place 1 full cup of the sour orange juice in a small saucepan, add ½ cup of sugar and bring to a boil. After bringing to a full boil, turn down to medium heat and continue cooking for 20 minutes, reducing to ¾ cup of combined juice. This will look like syrup and thicken as it cooks.
Katherine on November 30, 2016 said:
I'll be using sour orange juice for this pie, rather than the orange/lemon combination. Can you please let me know if I would still boil it with sugar to make a syrup like you've described above? If so, do I begin with the 3/4 cup of juice you mention in the top section, or the 1 cup of juice you specify in the recipe directions? Thanks for clarifying.
Robin Draper on July 30, 2016 said:
Jim, the only place I know of that serves Sour Orange Pie is the Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek near Gainesville
Jim Rice on July 30, 2016 said:
Where in Southwest Florida, maybe the Naples area, can I find Sour Orange Pie? Maybe a restaurant.
Rose Holden on January 25, 2016 said:
we have orange tree which surprise! has sour oranges. I'll make this in the next couple of days, having company.
Robin Draper on December 19, 2015 said:
Good luck Jennifer Ann. And if you can't find the sour oranges, it's easy to modify!
JenniferAnn on December 19, 2015 said:
This is my new Christmas Day pie! Cannot wait to get out there and collect the wild oranges?
Carol Merrill on March 10, 2015 said:
Sounds yummy

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