Key Lime Bars
These from-scratch key lime bars are simple, fresh, light and absolutely delish. The perfect summer dessert for the lime lovers in your life!
I served these (and the caramel brownies, incidentally, which are like the dark side when compared to the ethereal lightness of these bars) at a recent book club I hosted at my house. And I have to say, they have skyrocketed to the most requested recipe.
I’ll be making these a lot this summer. Simple, fresh, light and absolutely delish.
There are several brilliant things about these simple key lime bars. Let me share:
1) The crust is made with animal crackers. Weird, kind of. And really, really genius. The texture and flavor of the simple and sweet animal crackers makes a delicious, nutty-like crust. I love the crust on these bars. Love it.
2) The wonderful lime filling doesn’t overwhelm the crust. Which really works in my opinion. It leaves the taster (me, in this glorious instance) with the satisfaction of a deliciously creamy, tart filling and enough buttery, golden crust to offset the utterly tasty limeness of the lime.
3) Cut into small squares, these bars are a) adorable and b) utterly perfect for a light, yummy dessert in the summer heat.
4) Even though the recipe title references Key limes, you can use regular big ol’ limes if you don’t feel like juicing a bazillion of the little Key limes and no one will be the wiser.
Key Lime Bars
- 5 ounces animal crackers, about 2 1/2 cups animal crackers
- 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- Pinch salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 tbsp grated fresh lime zest, from about 2 limes
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- Pinch salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup fresh lime juice, from about 3-4 regular limes or 20 Key limes
- ¾ cup shredded coconut, toasted (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, adjusting an oven rack to the middle position. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, letting two opposing edges hang over at least an inch or so. Grease the foil with cooking spray.
- For the crust, process the animal crackers, sugar and salt together to fine crumbs in a blender or food processor. Drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs and pulse to incorporate (or stir together in a bowl with a fork). Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press the crumbs into an even layer. Bake the crust until fragrant and golden, about 15-18 minutes.
- For the filling, while crust bakes, in a medium bowl, stir the cream cheese, lime zest and salt together until combined. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk until smooth (you can use a handheld electric mixer, if you want). Whisk in the egg yolk and lime juice until combined.
- Pour the filling evenly over the crust. Bake the bars until the filling is set and the edges just slightly begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, 15-17 minutes.
- Let the bars cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Then cover the pan with foil and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil overhang and cut into squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut if desired.
Recipe Source: from The Cook’s Country Cookbook
66 Comments on “Key Lime Bars”
This has been a favorite since you posted it 11 years ago! I love it-but would love a full size pan version!
These Key Lime Bars are PERFECTION!!!!
Need to make these! Do you use animal crackers- like the kind in a giant bag/bear or animal crackers like the kind that come in a little red box?Thanks!
I use the kind that have the texture like shortbread cookie – if that makes sense. I think that’s more like the boxed variety vs the giant bag of crackers that are more like a crunchy breadstick texture.
I think I followed the directions as written but the crust was crumbly and separated from the cheesecake. Great flavor though! I used the animal crackers but I think graham crackers would work also.
I tried this recipe for a July Fourth potluck and was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the lime filling was very good, although it could have used a bit more of the cream cheese. However, the crust was not working. I did take my chances, and doubled the recipe for a 13″ x 9″ glass pan. Hence I doubled the amount of the animal cracker crumbs and it was way too much. In fact, that was mostly what was in the pan, a lot of crumbs that no one wanted. I would not choose to make this recipe again, but if I did, I would change the crust and make it different, more like a shortbread crust. Following this recipe, there was not enough butter used to make the crust stick together.
I made my trusted lemon bars also, and the whole pan got eaten, but the lime bars there were 3/4 of the pan left.
Realized I’m out of cream cheese. You think it would matter if I skipped it?
It would definitely change the texture – I don’t know the exact outcome, though as I haven’t tried it without.
Amateur question: I don’t have a zester or grater (I know…sad.), so I used a vegetable peeler then threw it in the food processor, then chopped with a knife. Why do I see the green bits in my filling, but I don’t see bits in your picture?
Mandy – I’m guessing it might be because your zest is in a bit larger pieces than mine. My zester gets the zest very fine. Also, it might be because of the picture. In person, I can see very tiny green flecks that just don’t show up well in the picture.
Do you use a microplaner?
Yes, I use a microplane for the zest.
Love these bars! Just wondering if anyone has ever frozen them?
Hi Jessica – I’ve never frozen these bars but I’ve tried with lemon bars and they don’t fare too well in the freezer in my opinion.
Hi Ann – I’m not familiar with the foods you do have available there (sorry!) so I can’t give a for sure substitution list but you can use regular limes in place of key limes and for the crackers, use another lightly sweet cracker (like graham crackers, if you have those). Good luck!
I live in Australia! I have only discovered your site in the last week. I love reading your recipes and would love to try some including these key lime bars BUT we don’t have key limes (unless they’re called something else here) and also have no idea what animal crackers are and, finally, will have to go to a conversion site to change ounces to grams, degrees to centigrade,etc. Please advise re alternatives for the crackers and key-limes! (Awaiting the results of the election with baited breath!).
I have made these 4 times in the last 2 weeks (twice for events and twice for my husband and me!) Obviously, we love them. One change – I don’t love coconut, so I reserve about 2 tablespoons of the crust mixture and sprinkle it on top after it comes out of the oven.
Thanks, Mel! I appreciate your quick response and can’t wait to try these delicious sounding lime bars! Blessings to you!
Linda – I’ve never used the bottled lime juice so I’m not sure. I’d probably still use 1/2 cup. Good luck if you try it!
How would it be to use bottled key lime juice? Would you still use 1/2 cup? These sound delicious!
They sound very good, BUT there is a BIG difference in taste between Key limes and regular limes. Key limes are a hybrid of limes and lemons. If it isn’t made with Key limes it isn’t Key lime bars, but lime bars.
Key limes are a hybrid of limes and lemons? Is that true? thought they were just a different kind of limes found in Florida keys among other places.
Made these yesterday and they were fabulous! Made the crust using gingersnaps and added a sour cream topping and they were perfection!
These are really delicious. I came across this recipe that I’d printed out about a year ago and made it for book club. It was a huge hit. Thaks for the recipe!
Made these today and they turned out amazing! FYI if you can’t find animal cookies in your hometown, but you do have a Trader Joes, use their Cat Cookies for the crust. They taste just like animal cookies. Thanks for the recipe!
These are baking in the oven right now! I used the crust from the lime/buttermilk bar recipe. I had no idea that limes would have no intention of voluntarily giving up their juice, so my amazing husband said, “Challenge accepted!” Then he wandered into the garage and came out with a pair of VICE GRIPS! 🙂 Suffice to say, those little lime suckers didn’t have a drop of juice left in them once he was finished! 🙂
Made these for my Norwex party. They were a hit. Thank you!!
I made these for a group of restaurant people, talk about picky…… And they all loved them!!!! I’ve made them with the Key limes and regular. Do the regular and save time for more important things. Even my uber picky CIA trained husband agreed. Great recipe.
Hi Mel, can you double this recipe and make in a 9×13 dish? I’ve made this twice in the 8×8, rave reviews. I’m making it for Easter. Thanks for all of your delicious recipes. You’re my ‘go to’ site.
Tiffany – yes, I think this recipe should double just fine for a 9X13-inch pan. The crust and filling might be slightly thicker when doubled in the 9X13-inch pan so keep an eye on baking times but I think it will work out fine.
I’ve just recently stumbled on your blog and I am addicted. Your recipes are fabulous and the pictures beautiful. I have already save dozens of recipes to try in the near future.
I made these bars this weekend for our Sunday night family dinner. They were DELICIOUS!!!! They reminded me a lot of key lime pie (which we love in our family) but it was much easier to serve smaller pieces and keep the guilt down. Thanks for the delicious recipes.
I made these for a potluck dinner and they were a hit! everybody loved them. Thanks so much for this wonderful recipe.
These were yummy! I made them in our toaster oven so I didn’t heat up the whole house, and I used graham crackers (since I had them, but I want to try the animal crackers version), and I think if anyone else makes them in their toaster oven, cook them for a shorter time, maybe as much as 5 minutes less. The crust had a slightly burned flavor on the bottom, but not horrible, and they were still yummy!
I made these with the Cherrybrook Kitchen gluten free mini vanilla graham cookies and boy did they turn out great! My family enjoyed them and did not even know that the crust was GF. I never have to worry about whether or not I am going to like your recipes. Your recipes are always a hit. Thank you for another great recipe!
Made them tonight and they were gone before I could even plate them!!! Perfect summer treat, plus LOVED animal crackers! You never let me down! Thanks for the delicious recipes 🙂
They were good, but the crust needed just a bit more brown sugar. I’m going to try the animal crackers in my next batch.
I just made these today with pretzels (omitted the salt) for the crust. It’s in the fridge chilling and I’m taking it to a party. Will let you know how they turned out!
Mel, you’re a genius! If I top these little beauties with coconut my weird coconut hating kids will keep their grubby hands off of them and I can have them all :). These look so delicious. I can’t wait to try them.
This is from Cooks Illustrated – I love their stuff!
I made these for my husband for Father’s Day. He declared them his new favorite dessert. They were so good and very easy to make. Thanks for a great recipe!
animal crackers?!? terrific! although it’s a wee bit disturbing to think of grinding all those critters into crumbs, it’s surely worth it in the end. 🙂
LOVE the idea of using animal crackers as a crust!!
Love lime! We get organic animal (Whinny the Pooh) crackers from Costco. They are cheap and come in a big tub.
I also made these for my husband for father’s day. I think I ate most of them. 🙂 All I can say is YUMMY!!! I bought animal crackers to use for this recipe, but my husband let the kids eat them. So I used 1 pkg of graham crackers instead and added 6 TLB of butter, and it worked out great. Too great, I think I need to make these everyday. Thanks again for your fabulous recipes. I have tried many, and they all taste delish.
Just made this for my husband for Father’s Day – he loves lime / key lime pie… it was a big hit. And just a little piece packs huge taste. Delicious. A keeper, for sure.
alright, you’ve convinced me! ill make some 🙂
Oh my pure deliciousness! I cannot wait to try these!
Oh! I LOVE it! I love lime and lemon desserts and you described this perfectly. They sound heavenly! I love the crust being made from animal crackers. I bet it is delicious!
In my grocery store- Albertsons- they carry a brand called Wild Harvest that is organic. And the animal crackers are delicious (so are the bite sized chocolate chip cookies 🙂 ) If you can find them, Natalie, they are great. Can’t wait to make these myself- maybe for the next book club I have to host. Thanks for the idea Mel!
I made these today (already, I know, you just posted them today.) They turned out WONDERFUL. And I even forgot to add in the egg yolk. Oh well, next time.
Thanks for another great recipe.
Animal crackers for the crust — simply brilliant! I’m not a huge fan of lime, but this recipe sounds so mouth-watering and tempting I’m going to have to try it!
My husband loves key lime pie so I’m saving this one for him! Thanks–I love the unique crust!
mel, you are a goddess!
I will definitely be trying this! I love love love lime recipes!
These look fantastic! I love the animal crackers in the crust!
I love lime flavored desserts! They are so refreshing! I love that this recipe uses the animal crackers for the crust (I don’t know why I haven’t thought of that before)!
I have a lime bar that I make all the time that is more cheesecake than this version and I top it with coconut and macadamia nuts too!
Here’s the recipe for my lime bars if you are interested:
Looks delicious, Heather. Thanks!
You mentioned salt in the filling, but it’s not actually listed. How much did you use? I’m anxious to make these babies!!
Joyce – thanks for the heads up. It is a pinch of salt.
I’m so used to seeing key lime bars with graham crackers, but the use of animal crackers sounds delightful. This whole recipe sounds delightful, as a matter of fact.
I just made a batch of key lime bars on Monday. I enlisted husband to juice the key limes. His fabulous idea, upon rummaging through my kitchen tool drawer, was to use the Pampered Chef garlic crusher! The halved key limes fit in there perfectly, and with his strength, juiced super!
I adore key lime pie. Animal crackers sound v. interesting. Is it possible to find animal crackers without HFCS?
Natalie – that is a good question. I didn’t even look for non-HFCS because my options were so limited in the first place. I bet if you look hard enough you can find an organic/natural brand.
I have Bunco tomorrow night and offered to bring dessert. I’m going to make these!! Yum!
Just wondering, which brand of animal crackers did you use? There are so many different ones and they all taste so different. Does it matter?
Rebecca – you are right, animal crackers are not created equal. I used the Barnum’s brand and they were buttery and delicious.
These sound fantastic! Love new ideas for crusts and this is such a fun one! What a great treat to take for a lunch at the beach!