Atlantic Beach Pie easily evokes the seashore with citrus and saltines

We recently returned from another lovely trip with Michelle’s family to Dewees Island, South Carolina, where Michelle once again tried to eat fresh local shrimp each day. Charleston restaurants were of course happy to help, but as usual Michelle turned out several shrimp dishes herself, including shrimp and grits casserole, shrimp salad and, of course, our annual Low Country Boil.

Peeling, deveining and cleaning the crustaceans is something Michelle finds especially distasteful, and we generally abstain from eating seafood away from the shore. So we were very happy to find something that can remind us of the beach all year round, without having to source or clean fresh raw shrimp.

Atlantic Beach Pie

According to chef Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill (where we once stopped back when we were frequenting North as opposed to South Carolina beaches), Atlantic Beach Pie is simply called “lemon pie” on the Tar Heel coast. While the traditional version calls for meringue, we prefer Smith’s substitution of whipped cream. We also added some sliced fresh strawberries, because they were in season. But the most distinctive feature, and what sets it apart from a Florida Key Lime Pie, is the saltine cracker crust.

In addition to its excellent combination of citrusy, salty and sweet flavors, this pie is amazing because of its simplicity. Though it requires a long chill, the pie can be slapped together in a very short time, with the most effort involving smashing up saltine crackers. We were so happy with this dessert we made it several times during our stay, and again for guests after we returned home.

We’ll undoubtedly give Atlantic Beach Pie another go in winter, when Steve despairs of finding local fruit. While we endure the cold and dark, we can eat pie and imagine roseate spoonbills, warm ocean breezes and alone time on the beach. With every bite, our return to Dewees will be that much closer.

RECIPE NOTES:  Smith’s version of Atlantic Beach Pie has been featured many places online. Our State Magazine, National Public Radio and Food52 all have the recipe (the latter even has a step-by-step picture version). We didn’t make any changes. We did learn, after trying it at home, that the recipe works well in a 9-1/2 or 10 x 1″ plain (not fluted) tart pan with straight sides and a removable bottom—if the crackers are smashed finely. You lose a bit of the beach house rusticity, but it is decidedly easier to cut and serve.


  1. I share Michelle’s love of shrimp. And when you can get them right off the boat, so to speak, they’re an incredible treat. I’ve never been to South Carolina but I’ve enjoyed them immensely when I’ve been to visit my “snowbird” parents in Florida.

  2. I do enjoy a tart Key Lime Pie and am very intrigued with this one made with saltines. I do think I would enjoy the salty sweet combination.

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