Easy Key Lime Bars Recipe
This recipe is the perfect summer dessert for your next picnic or BBQ. The key lime filling is refreshing, creamy, and just the right amount of tart, and I love the sweet animal cracker crust and how simple it is to prepare!
There are two main parts of this recipe: the crust and the filling.
- For the crust, you’ll need animal crackers, brown sugar, salt, and unsalted butter.
- For the filling, you’ll need cream cheese, grated lime zest, table salt, sweetened condensed milk, egg yolk, and fresh lime juice.
You can also add a garnish of shredded toasted coconut to your key lime bars, but that’s completely up to you. Some people don’t like the texture of coconut so you could also leave it in a separate bowl off to the side if people want to sprinkle some onto their bar!
Key Limes vs. Persian Limes
Key limes are smaller, slightly more yellow, thinner skin, more seeds, less acidic, and have a more distinct aroma and flavor. Persian limes are larger and more tart.
You’re going to need a lot more Key limes than you will Persian limes, but either type works for these key lime bars.
Bottled vs. Fresh Lime Juice
Yes, you can use bottled lime juice instead of fresh lime juice, but it is another factor that will affect the flavor. Fresh lime juice is better!
The flavor of fresh lime juice is brighter and more intense than bottled. Fresh juice has less time to oxidize and doesn’t have any preservatives. Bottled lime juice may be a little more bitter and muted.
Also, I recommend checking the ingredients on your bottled lime juice to make sure it is actually pure juice and not sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
Helpful Tools for This Recipe
Here are two kitchen gadgets that I recommend having for this recipe:
- Zester – You can zest without one of these, but they definitely make the job easier. Here’s the one I use.
- Juicer – You’ll need one of these if you’re planning on using fresh lime juice. Here’s a good one.
How to Make Key Lime Pie Bars
This recipe is really easy to follow. Just note that your key lime bars will need to be made at least 4 1/2 – 5 hours ahead of time in order to allow for cooling and chilling times.
Step 1. Making the Crust
The sweet animal cracker crust is the perfect juxtaposition to the slightly tart, creamy lime filling.
First off, blend your animal crackers, brown sugar, and salt into nice fine crumbs with a food processor or high power blender.
Next, add your melted butter and pulse until your crumbs are evenly moistened. About 10 pulses should do it.
Finally, press your crust mixture into your 8×8 pan and bake until golden brown! Make sure to use a foil lining and hang some excess over the sides of the pan for easy removal later on.
Step 2. Making the Key Lime Filling
While the crust is baking, it’s time to get to work on the creamy filling for your key lime bars!
Mix your cream cheese, zest, and salt with a rubber spatula.
Next, add your sweetened condensed milk and whisk until incorporated with no lumps. After that, gently whisk in the egg yolk and lime juice until incorporated. Your filling is finished!
You can now pour your yummy key lime filling over the golden-brown animal cracker crust you baked earlier. Be sure to spread that filling to the edges of the pan and smooth it out with a rubber spatula afterward.
Step 3. Baking and Cooling the Key Lime Bars
Ok, now it’s time for baking round two. When the edges begin to pull away from the pan (about 15-20 minutes) take out your key lime bars and let them cool on a rack to room temperature. This should take around 1 to 1.5 hours.
After that, cover the bars with foil and refrigerate until chilled. This will take at least 2 hours.
And finally, your bars are ready to serve! Sprinkle with toasted coconut if you’d like or enjoy them as is.
How to Toast Coconut
If you are going to include the toasted coconut on your pie bars, it’s super easy to make. I just use a skillet over medium heat, add shredded coconut, and once it starts to heat up, toss regularly to help toast evenly and prevent burning.
When it starts to turn golden, it will toast up quickly! Then remove it from the skillet, so it doesn’t continue to brown. It can go from toasted to burnt pretty fast!
Enjoy your delicious pie bars! If you have leftovers, you can store them in the fridge for up to two days, just note that the crust will soften slightly.
If you want to make more key lime bars, you can double this recipe to fill a 9×13 pan. Just increase your baking time to account for this.
Recipe slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.
More Recipes for Lime Fans:
- Strawberry Yogurt Lime Smoothie
- Honey Lime Enchiladas
- Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Grilled Lime Chicken
- Key Lime Cake
- Sweet Lime Rice
- Key Lime Pie
Easy Key Lime Bars Recipe
- 5 ounces animal crackers
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon grated lime zest (about 2 large limes)
- pinch table salt
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 large limes or 20 Key limes)
- 3/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted until golden (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325° F.
- Use foil to line an 8x8 pan, with overhang on 2 of the sides so it can be used like a sling. Spray the foil with cooking spray.
- In a food processor or high power blender, pulse animal crackers, brown sugar, and salt until evenly fine crumbs (about 1 1/4 cups crumbs). Add melted butter and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened, about 10 pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Bake until golden brown, 15-18 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zest, and salt with a rubber spatula until combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk until incorporated and no lumps. Gently whisk in the egg yolk and lime juice until incorporated. Pour filling onto crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with the rubber spatula.
- Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from the pan, about 15-20 minutes. Cool on rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Cover with foil and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
- Lift bars from pan using the foil sling and cut into 16 squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut, if desired. Enjoy!
- Refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days; crust will soften slightly.
Want more? Double recipe and make it in a 9x13 pan. Increase baking time by a few minutes, as needed.
3-4 hour cooling time is not included in the time estimates above!