Key Lime Bars

by Melissa on March 26, 2008

When Joelen posted about her new blogging event, Tasty Tools, I immediately knew I wanted to make key lime something. I love all key lime desserts, but have never made any at home. When I went to Target to pick up a microplane, I wandered into the magazine aisle, and “The Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Reviews of 2008” jumped right out at me. I flipped through it and sure enough on page 56 “The Best Key Lime Bars.”

The bars came out pretty good, there was something a little “off” in the texture of the filling for me though. I am not sure what it was, but it was almost a little grainy. It may have been something I did, but I followed the directions exactly.

**Update: After sitting overnight, the texture of the filling is much better today. **


The Best Key Lime Bars

ATK Note: If you cannot find fresh Key limes, use regular (Persian) limes. Do not use bottled lime juice. Grate the zest from the limes before juicing them, avoiding the bitter white pith that lies just beneath the outermost skin. The optional coconut garnish adds textural interest and tames the lime flavor for those who find it too intense. The recipe can be doubled and baked in a 13- by 9-inch baking pan; you will need a double layer of extra-wide foil for the pan (each sheet about 20 inches in length) and should increase the baking times by a minute or two.


  • 5 ounces animal crackers
  • 3 tablespoons packed light or dark brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly


  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • pinch salt
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup Key lime or fresh lime juice (see note above)(I really wanted to use key limes, so I squeezed all but a couple from the bag to make 1/2 cup)

Garnish (Optional)

  • 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut about 12-inch length extra-wide heavy-duty foil; fold cut edges back to form 7 1/2-inch width. With folded sides facing down, fit foil securely into bottom and up sides of 8-inch-square baking pan, allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

TO MAKE THE CRUST: In workbowl of food processor, pulse animal crackers until broken down, about ten 1-second pulses; process crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds (you should have about 1 1/4 cups crumbs). Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with fingers). Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Do not turn off oven.

TO MAKE THE FILLING: While crust cools, in medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zest, and salt with rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly).

TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Pour filling into crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

Loosen edges with paring knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut, if using, and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 2 days; crust will soften slightly. Let bars stand at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving.)


I am willing to try another recipe, so if you have one or know of one, please feel free to leave me a comment with a link!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

bridget March 26, 2008 at 7:34 am

Mmm, I’ve made these several times, and I love them. I’ve never noticed a grainy texture though. I don’t know what might have caused that!


sheila March 26, 2008 at 8:15 am

my hubby loves key lime. this is a recipe i will have to try!


katie102006 March 26, 2008 at 8:34 am

I love lime. These look so good! Refreshing and delicious!


Jennifer September 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm

As a native Floridian, I hold key limes near and dear. But my preferred Key Lime Bar recipe is this:

Adapted from “Lemon Curd Bars Cockaigne” from the Joy of Cooking 1997):

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Position rack in center of oven.

Make a crumbly crust from:
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c powdered sugar
12 T cold butter

Press into 13×9 pan. Be certain to press the crust 3/4″ up the side of the pan (otherwise the bars will have cosmetic problems).

Bake 20 – 30 minutes until golden. While crust is baking, get to work with juicing and zesting the key limes. Set aside to cool. Adjust oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Whisk together until well combined:
6 large eggs
3 cups sugar

Stir in:
1 T key lime zest
1 c key lime juice
2 T water (or more juice, but the bars will already be pretty tart)
2 drops green food coloring (to get that perfect key lime color)

Sprinkle over the top and stir until well blended:
1/2 c all purpose flour

Pour filling into crust. Bake until set (about 35 minutes). Cool completely before cutting bars. Optionally dust bars lightly with powdered sugar immediately before serving. Store in the fridge.

I have been meaning to try altering the Lemon Bar recipe from The New Best Recipe to see if it is better (probably is), but this recipe is quite nice and pretty easy.



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