Key Lime Pie Bars

I’ve been blogging 5 years and can count on one hand the number of lime recipes I have.

And that includes squirting some lime over avocado. Time to branch out and make a classic.

Key Lime Pie Bars - Plenty of bold lime flavor in these easy bars that are a twist on the classic pie everyone loves!

Except rather than making classic Key lime pie I made Key lime pie bars. I’ll always take bars over pie since making pie crust is never on my to-do list, and this is a one bowl, no-mixer recipe.

Just like my Lemon Bars, there’s nothing lackluster about how much robust lime flavor is present. The filling is tart and bold without being overpowering. While baking the butter and brown sugar in the crust caramelize, and it plays perfectly off the lime.

Key Lime Pie Bars - Plenty of bold lime flavor in these easy bars that are a twist on the classic pie everyone loves!

It’s the same crust I used in Peanut Butter Swirled Cheesecake BarsSalted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars, and Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars.

It seriously makes the bars. It’s a keeper, even for someone who doesn’t like crust. It’s got just enough crispiness and crunch, yet there’s slight chewiness, and it holds together without crumbling, something that graham cracker crusts don’t always do.

Key Lime Pie Bars - Plenty of bold lime flavor in these easy bars that are a twist on the classic pie everyone loves!

For the filling, I used actual Key limes. They’re smaller ping-pong sized limes, about half the size of average limes. They’re typically grown in the Florida Keys, hence the name. I found a bag of about 25 for $2.49 at my regular grocery store and literally needed almost all of them to get 1/2 cup lime juice.

If you can’t find Key limes, just use regular limes or I’m sure bottled lime juice will be just fine. I’m wishing I had gone either of those routes because juicing all of those mini limes wasn’t what I had bargained for.

Key Lime Pie Bars - Plenty of bold lime flavor in these easy bars that are a twist on the classic pie everyone loves!

The filling is simply lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, 1 egg, sour cream (I used lite), and sugar. Because I didn’t want the bars to resemble cheesecake, I avoided using any cream cheese and instead used sour cream to lend richness and creaminess.

After whisking together the filling and tasting it, I thought it was a little bitter. Taste your mixture, and because all limes and palettes vary, add sugar if necessary.

Key Lime Pie Bars - Plenty of bold lime flavor in these easy bars that are a twist on the classic pie everyone loves!

Baking times will vary based on oven and climate variance, the type of sour cream used (lite makes batter runnier thus taking longer to bake), and if sugar was added (makes batter runnier). The center should be set and not too jiggly. Always watch your bars, and not the clock. Bake until done.

After removing the pan from the oven, the bars looked like a beating heart was pulsing under the surface for over 2 minutes. It was like watching on a science experiment on the cooling rack. It should go without saying, but you must allow them to cool for at least a couple hours at room temp, cover them, and refrigerate until chilled. I cannot imagine eating warm Key lime pie.

Key Lime Pie Bars - Plenty of bold lime flavor in these easy bars that are a twist on the classic pie everyone loves!

 It’s an easy dessert to make a few days before an event and just keep parked in the fridge until you need it.

Key Lime Pie Bars - Plenty of bold lime flavor in these easy bars that are a twist on the classic pie everyone loves!

The bars remind me of warm weather, ocean breezes, and I want to blast some Margaritaville.

And make one, too. To wash down the bars with.

Key Lime Pie Bars - Plenty of bold lime flavor in these easy bars that are a twist on the classic pie everyone loves!

Print Print Recipe

Key Lime Pie Bars

These easy, one-bowl, no-mixer bars are full of robust lime flavor. The filling is tart and bold without being overpowering. While baking, the butter and brown sugar in the crust caramelize, it plays perfectly off the lime, and the crust really makes the bars. It's got just enough crispiness and crunch, yet there's slight chewiness, and it holds together without crumbling. I used freshly squeezed Key limes, but if you can't find them, substitute with regular limes, but bottled lime juice will likely be fine. Make sure the Key limes are not too hard or too green, or they'll be bitter. Mine were and I needed to add sugar; taste your filling before adding it. Bake until bars are set in the middle. Slight jiggling is fine, but not sloshing. Bars will be bubbling vigorously so use caution when removing them from the oven and allow to cool at room temp before chilling in the fridge.

Yield: one 8x8 pan, 9 to 12 squares

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: about 55 minutes, divided

Total Time: 4+ hours, for cooling


1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch salt, optional and to taste

one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup lime juice (freshly squeezed Key lime juice is optimal; use regular limes if necessary, or substitute with bottled lime juice only if you must)
1/2 cup sour cream (lite is okay)
up to 1/2 cup granulated sugar, optional and if necessary, see directions
thinly sliced limes for garnishing, optional


  1. Preheat over to 350F. Line an 8x8-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Crust - In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  3. Add all remaining crust ingredients and mix with a fork to combine.
  4. Turn loose crumbs out into prepared pan and using a spatula, pack mixture firmly into pan in an even, smooth, flat layer.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes. While crust bakes, prepare the filling.
  6. Filling - Combine first 4 ingredients in a large mixing bowl (same one used for crust is fine), and whisk until smooth and combined. Taste filling. If it's bitter or too tart, add sugar as necessary, to taste. I used 1/2 cup sugar because my Key limes were a bit bitter.
  7. After 10 minutes, remove crust from oven and pour filling over it, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
  8. Return pan to oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until center is set with only some slight jiggle; some looseness is okay, but there should not be sloshing in the center. You'll notice the filling near the edges start setting up first; remove pan from oven when center starts to take on the same appearance as the edges. Don't let the bars get 'browned', they should stay fairly pale and light. Bars firm up more as they cool. Bars will be bubbling vigorously so use caution when removing them from the oven.
  9. Allow bars to cool in pan on a wire rack for about 2 hours. Cover pan with foil (to prevent fridge smells), and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, or until well chilled before slicing and serving. Optionally, garnish with thinly sliced limes before serving. Bars will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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80 Responses to “Key Lime Pie Bars”

  1. Katrina @ WVS — March 27, 2014 at 9:58 am (#

    I rarely bake with limes and it’s so silly since I love them so much. Thanks for the reminder and the FAB recipe! xx

  2. Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet — March 27, 2014 at 9:58 am (#

    Can’t beat a good classic! Gorgeous photos, Averie! Pinning!

  3. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe — March 27, 2014 at 10:07 am (#

    Oh, Averie, these key lime pie bars look wonderful! I love citrus desserts, but usually end up using lemons over limes. Time to switch it up!

  4. Jaclyn — March 27, 2014 at 10:09 am (#

    I’ve been wanting to make a key lime pie since last summer! These bars look like sheer perfection!

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 10:14 am (#

      You are so sweet! I still want your creme brulee bars!

  5. Liz S. — March 27, 2014 at 10:16 am (#

    Can’t believe you’ve been blogging for 5 years already! I remember your blog from the beginning :D

    Excellent key lime bar recipe!

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 10:19 am (#

      YOU WERE MY VERY FIRST COMMENTER, EVER!!!! And I will never forget that!! Thank you, Liz! I hope you’re doing awesome :) xoxoxo

  6. Rochelle @ Oh So Sweet Baker — March 27, 2014 at 10:26 am (#

    These key lime pue bars look heavenly. Simple butbi bet the pack a zesty punch

  7. Sarah@WholeAndHeavenlyOven — March 27, 2014 at 10:46 am (#

    Such gorgeous bars! I’ve made lemon bars before, but now I so want to try lime bars. —they would be perfect for this summer! (but I definitely plan on trying them before summer rolls around!) Gorgeous pictures, as always. pinned!

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 10:54 am (#

      thanks for pinning & the photography compliments!

  8. Melissa Karras — March 27, 2014 at 11:50 am (#

    I saw someone IG a bottle of pure Key Lime juice. *head slap* I need to find that because I love key lime desserts! These look perfect. I’m dying over that crust…and bars. Bars all the way!

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 12:45 pm (#

      I wish I had a bottle of pure Key lime juice handy :)

  9. Norma | Allspice and Nutmeg — March 27, 2014 at 12:10 pm (#

    I love love key lime bars, pies, all of it. These bars look perfect. pinning

  10. Ceara @ Ceara's Kitchen — March 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm (#

    Averie these look amazing and so much like spring/summer! I am very excited to try these and your very delicious looking and easy go-to crust! I can relate 100% on bars over pie crust – too much fuss! Pinned!

  11. Amy | Club Narwhal — March 27, 2014 at 12:31 pm (#

    Averie, these bars look like a burst of tropical paradise! I saw some key limes at the store the other day and now I have an excuse to go back and get them. I love lime anything, especially if sweetened condensed milk is involved :)

  12. Katy — March 27, 2014 at 12:35 pm (#

    I don’t know if I’ve ever seen lime/lemon bars with sour cream! What a unique idea and I bet it adds to that tart flavour really well. I love how creamy the centre looks, just perfect.

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 12:44 pm (#

      Most of them use cream cheese but I didn’t want key lime pie cream cheese bars which is easy to wind up with so this was a good option for the creaminess (without making custard or some complicated pastry creme) minus any cheesecake taste. My family isn’t big on cheesecake so I have to be careful!

  13. Katie — March 27, 2014 at 1:32 pm (#

    Bars beat out pie always, whether I’m baking or eating. I’ve never actually made a pie, and I have no desire at all to do so.

    Did you read about the drought causing lime shortage in California? Might not be able to get those limes so cheaply anymore…

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm (#

      There’s always a drought here. It’s a bit…dramatized? I mean, yes, it’s dry. But it always is. And then I see the public municipalities watering the sidewalks and streets. Err, the grass but the sprinklers are so mis-aligned that Balboa Park is watering the street most days. Nothing like conservation at it’s finest :) But I digress. I think the limes were actually from Fla though! lol

  14. Lindsey @ American Heritage Cooking — March 27, 2014 at 1:44 pm (#

    These are a delicious deviation from your norm! They sound divine! And I have to agree that an easy bar crust beats out pie crust any day!

  15. J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats — March 27, 2014 at 3:34 pm (#

    I love lime in desserts! This sounds amazing. And I know how you feel about squeezing those tiny limes, I made a hummus recipe where you had to individually peel the chickpeas by hand. Delicious end product but half way through I was like what have I done to myself…haha.

  16. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence — March 27, 2014 at 4:30 pm (#

    Jorge looooves Key Lime Pie. I need to make these for him :)!

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 6:47 pm (#

      Really? Ok well do NOT buy the little bag of key limes from Ralph’s. Just buy the lime juice so you don’t want to punch a wall juicing all those things! lol

  17. Laura (Tutti Dolci) — March 27, 2014 at 4:48 pm (#

    Beautiful bars, love the all the fresh lime juice and graham crust!

  18. Amy @ Amy's Healthy Baking — March 27, 2014 at 5:56 pm (#

    After reading your first few lines, I just realized I barely have any lime recipes either! I used lime juice in a marinade once, but… I think that’s it. It’s so much easier to bake with lemon when my parents have 4 trees in their backyard that they always ignore! I love the idea of bars instead of a pie, especially with that easy crust. Definitely an amazing dessert Averie — just like always! :)

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 6:45 pm (#

      Oh Im jealous of all those lemon trees! I used to live in a rented house with a 100+ year old tree and it was HUGE!!!! and it had like 100+ lemons on it at all times. Ridic.

    • Amy @ Amy's Healthy Baking — March 30, 2014 at 1:22 pm (#

      That’s incredible!! If only you could move that lemon tree when you moved to a new home… Now that would be awesome! :)

  19. Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust — March 27, 2014 at 5:58 pm (#

    That crust is seriously fantastic. I am so in the mood for lime, and I’ve never had key lime pie. I need to fix that!

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 6:45 pm (#

      Wait. WHAT.?? There are SO many things you say you’ve never had, tried, etc and I’m like how can this be?! Omg Dorothy! Since you love lemon so much, I can totally see you digging these lime bars! It’s kind of like an edible margarita :)

  20. Brittnee Bryan — March 27, 2014 at 5:58 pm (#

    Oh my gosh, my mouth is watering. These look delicious!! I will most definitely have to try these out. I just stumbled upon this blog, and I am so very glad that I did. I am now following and I look forward to more scrumptious recipes. Thanks, Averie!

  21. Jennifer — March 27, 2014 at 6:44 pm (#

    I must make these bars. Key lime pie is one of my holiday dessert standbys. My son loves it and it’s so easy to make. Although, I must confess, I always use Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Juice instead of squeezing all those tiny little key limes.

    • Averie Sunshine — March 27, 2014 at 6:49 pm (#

      And I totally need to use that N & J’s bottled juice next time :) WAY easier!

  22. Jem — March 27, 2014 at 11:53 pm (#

    Hi Averie! These look amazing :) Is there any substitute for the condensed milk?

  23. ANDY — March 28, 2014 at 12:54 am (#

    haaa! love it :))

  24. Paula — March 28, 2014 at 3:47 am (#

    I have only had key lime pie a couple of times and have never made it. I haven’t seen any key limes in the grocery store, but I’ve seen the juice and would probably opt to use it. I know those things are tiny and it sounds like the juicing was a lot of work! These are a great recipe for spring–fresh, light, citrus-y. I am in the mood to bake something to go with your salmon tonight! Oh–I am getting my scoby today!! Let the fermenting begin….

    • Averie Sunshine — March 28, 2014 at 8:31 am (#

      Oh that’s awesome with your scoby! I remember when I got my first, it was like getting a new pet :) Just make sure to leave it alone once you put it in, don’t jiggle, jostle, move around your container. It will look like nothing is happening for a few days and then barely some life. And then within about 4-5 days you’ll see things working and then you should be good to go. The first batches are very prone to hostile yeast take-over, or can be, is the BEST most informative site I’ve ever read on brewing. He knows everything. And will actually respond to emails (within a week or so).

      And that’s great about baking, and the salmon, and yes buying lime juice is wayyyy easier :)

  25. Annie @Maebells — March 28, 2014 at 5:12 am (#

    Love! Lime desserts are my favorite! I think this will make its way to our Easter table this year !

  26. Melanie @ Carmel Moments — March 28, 2014 at 6:12 am (#

    I definitely don’t use lime enough either. These look perfect. Love the idea of bars over pie too. So much simpler than rolling out that dreaded pie crust. Pinning!

  27. Amanda — March 28, 2014 at 6:59 am (#

    These look great, you did great!

  28. Liz@Virtually Homemade — March 28, 2014 at 7:00 am (#

    These are amazing. My daughter is obsessed with lemon bars so she will love these. Pinned!

  29. Kris — March 28, 2014 at 8:12 am (#

    Ooh. Yum. I’m too lazy to hand-squeeze limes, either the big ones or the key limes, but this would be easy-peasy with lime juice. I’d be sneaky enough to buy a lime and slice it on top to make it *look* like I went to the work of squeezing. Deception at its finest.

  30. Danae @ reciperunner — March 28, 2014 at 3:43 pm (#

    Lime desserts really do take a backburner to all the lemon desserts, I’m glad you posted these. My husband loves key lime pie so I know he will LOVE these bars! The crust looks amazing!

    • Averie Sunshine — March 28, 2014 at 8:12 pm (#

      You’re totally right they do, but it’s nice to work in some lime every now and then!

  31. Tracy | Pale Yellow — March 28, 2014 at 5:14 pm (#

    Your hand must have been sore from juicing so many little limes! I would just buy the juice and a few key limes to garnish!

  32. ami@naivecookcooks — March 28, 2014 at 5:19 pm (#

    Lemon bars are my all time fav but I need to give them a try still. These look gorgeous!

  33. sippitysup — March 28, 2014 at 5:48 pm (#

    Key Lime. So cute. Reminds me that I’m going to Key West in April I haven’t been since the 80s. Which means I must practically be in my 80s, right? GREG

    • Averie Sunshine — March 28, 2014 at 8:09 pm (#

      You. Key West. The 80s. Omg what I wouldn’t give for some stories. Don’t suppose you ever made it to Studio 54 either? : )

  34. Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures — March 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm (#

    These bars scream sunshine to me! The crust looks nice and crisp, just the way I like it.

  35. Elizabeth — March 29, 2014 at 12:33 am (#

    Love citrus bars! These look so tart & refreshing.


  36. The Macadame — March 29, 2014 at 2:07 am (#

    You are BAR QUEEN!
    I love lime flavour so much – can’t wait to make these!
    Anisa – The Macadame. xx

  37. Helen @ Scrummy Lane — March 29, 2014 at 5:21 am (#

    Hi, Averie! I love these, and your photos are so pretty! It’s weird but ever since I made a cake with lime and coconut, I’m seeing lime-flavoured things everywhere. It’s a sign! (for what I’m not sure. Eat more lime-flavoured sweet things? I hope!)

    • Averie Sunshine — March 29, 2014 at 6:11 am (#

      That’s great that you see more lime around. I still see so.much.lemon. Not a bad thing, but it’s nice to give lime some…limelight :)

  38. Mary Frances @ The Sweet Tooth Life — March 29, 2014 at 5:31 am (#

    Trust you to take my expectation of key lime bars and blow it away! I really like that you didn’t use any cream cheese; a texture surprise for everyone! These look so creamy. I bet they were packed with lime flavor! I think I’ll go the already juiced route; 25 little limes is a lot if juicing!

  39. Meredith — March 29, 2014 at 1:07 pm (#

    Incredibly delicious!

  40. zerrin — March 30, 2014 at 12:23 pm (#

    I’ve wanted to make Lime pie for a long time, but I just don’t have that courage! You encouraged me to try with these fantastic looking bars! Pinning!

  41. Linda — March 30, 2014 at 3:41 pm (#

    Hi Averie,
    I was out of town and just saw this post…cleaning out my mail!! Can I share a little trick, use your garlic press on your key limes to juice them. It works great you get all of the juice and some pulp, scrape the bottom of the press, and no seeds them pop out the lime ( they look like mini berets) So easy!!

    • Averie Sunshine — March 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm (#

      So I LOATHE garlic, as in, I hate hate hate it and don’t have a garlic press but I can see where that would be so helpful here! Thanks for the tip!

  42. sally @ sallys baking addiction — April 1, 2014 at 2:15 pm (#

    Averie, I simply LOVE key lime pie!! It’s one of my most favorite desserts in the world. I made some key lime bars and pie last year after returning home from St. Lucia. I’m craving key lime all over again as the weather (finally!) starts to warm up. I don’t have many lime recipes on my blog either – what a shame because I love its flavor. Hey, ever have key lime pie paired with dark chocolate? It’s amazing!

    • Averie Sunshine — April 1, 2014 at 3:45 pm (#

      I remember your Key Lime Bars and your St Lucia trip very well! I am so ready for some limey, tropical desserts (and drinks) :) And lime does not have the crowd appeal lemon seems to (at least so far for me) but I think I maybe prefer lime stuff! I can imagine lime and dark chocolate would be…sublime!

  43. Erin — April 1, 2014 at 6:11 pm (#

    These look absolutely amazing! I am total key lime / lemon fan and the crust sounds terrific as well! Great stuff! :)

  44. Jocelyn@BruCrew Life — April 1, 2014 at 10:21 pm (#

    These look mouth-watering!! I think I need to make some of these bars soon. And such gorgeous photos, girl! Pinned! :)

  45. Laura Dembowski — April 4, 2014 at 5:34 pm (#

    Love a good graham cracker crust! And of course key lime anything is awesome!

  46. dorothy-louise — April 7, 2014 at 5:24 pm (#

    This looks like the perfect recipe to use all the key limes that I bought! (I plan on trying to propagate the seeds!) One question; how about subbing the sour cream for plain Greek yogurt? Sounds probable…

  47. Trinity — April 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm (#

    Made these for a get together and had some guests that prefer “not too sweet” desserts and this was just perfect. I left out the sugar and the tartness was spot on! The consistency was also perfect and I didn’t have to change a thing..with recipes that are creamy or based on pie, I’m always nervous it’ll end up too soupy but these are wonderful!!

    • Averie Sunshine — April 19, 2014 at 3:52 pm (#

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the bars and that they were the perfect sweetness and consistency!

  48. Kris — May 4, 2014 at 11:09 am (#

    I’ve been eyeing these little bars up since you first posted them. I agree with Trinity’s comment–I didn’t add any sugar (I did use bottled lime juice due to my inherent laziness) and they ended up having a perfect consistency and sweet/tart flavor. According to my 8-year-old daughter, these are her favorite cookies ever and I WILL be making them again. From the sounds of forks scraping the plates, I think everyone else agreed! Gotta get every last smidge!

  49. Steff — July 25, 2015 at 6:54 pm (#

    That slight bitterness you mention actually comes from the key limes. The best way to fix it is not extra sugar, as you would naturally think, but a couple of tablespoons of lemon! Trust me on this (and bonus! that makes one or two less key limes to squeeze). Fresh squeezed juice is the only way to go in this one– there is absolutely no comparison– try it, people!!  It may be heresy, but I think you CAN get away with persian limes instead of key limes– if they’re the only fresh limes available–but still add the lemon to brighten up the taste.  Just think of juicing all that fruit as a way to burn off a few of the many so-totally-worth-it calories you’re going to consume once you taste how delicious these are! (And get one of those cute hand squeezers– like a garlic press but bigger and designed for citrus. They cost 5 or 6 bucks and they’re so easy and work like a charm! Thanks for the recipe!

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