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Key Lime Bars

This recipe is based on the famous Key lime pie from Joe's Stone Crab restaurant in Miami Beach. If you can't find Key limes, use regular fresh lime juice. The bars will keep, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for up to three days. Food editors prepared this recipe as part of the "Cookie of the Week" series on Martha Stewart Living Radio.

  • Yield: Makes about 16
Key Lime Bars

Source: Holiday Cookies 2005, December 2005


  • 1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • 2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice (about 23 Key limes total)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Key limes, thinly sliced into half-moons


  1. Make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a small bowl. Press evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake until dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. (Leave oven on.)

  2. Make filling: Put egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly. Raise speed to high; mix until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add lime juice; mix until just combined.

  3. Spread filling evenly over crust using a spatula. Bake, rotating dish halfway through, until filling is just set, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or overnight).

  4. Cut into 2-by-2-inch bars. Put cream in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Garnish bars with whipped cream and a slice of lime.

Cook's Note

Ungarnished bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Reviews (23)

  • SexySweet 23 May, 2014

    I made this recipe today as Martha Stewart is the first person I turn to as a reliable source for any recipe. I was disappointed as I tasted the end result and thought that the amount of key lime juice (2/3 C) was way too much. It was far too tart even for me and my friends. However the graham crust and the overall texture of the bar were spot on. I went back to research other key lime bar recipes and many had called for nearly half the juice so I am not sure if it was a typo. I will try again..

  • MrBillTheBoss 24 Mar, 2013

    Oh Jesus, Thank You For Blessing Us With The Beautiful and Georges..."Mrs. Anita Pelaez" and Her Original Recipe Key Lime Pies. Put Simply, The Finest Key Lime Pies On The Face Of The Earth! Nobody Does It Better Than Anita Does! So Keep The Faith Baby and Enjoy Anita's Key Lime Pies. Praise The Lord For Anita's Key Lime Pie Factory and Grill In Asheville, N.C. Near The Biltmore Estate.

    God is Good, God Is Great, Let Us Thank Him For The Magic Of Anita Pelaez and Her Key Lime Pies. Ahmen.

  • Happy baker 14 Mar, 2013

    I love this recipe. It is so delicious. I am going to make them for St. Patrick's Day!

  • bakinginks 10 Aug, 2012

    I've used this recipe a few times this summer. It is even better than the one I had been using for a pie. In fact, when I recently went to Florida (not the keys though) I ordered a slice of key lime pie at a bakery thinking I was in key lime pie territory. I ended up throwing it out because it didn't compare to the one I'm making in the midwest! I use bottled key lime juice along with my own recipe for homemade whipped cream and it's perfect.

  • witheroney 3 Aug, 2012

    I have made this recipe for three different parties this summer- twice with fresh squeezed key lime juice and once with the bottled juice. While I had a slight preference for the fresh limes, each time I made it the bars were the first dessert to go! At one party, they never made it out of the kitchen! The crust itself is so appealing that I almost buried my face in it the moment it came out of the oven!
    Add confectioners sugar to the whipped cream if you like it on the sweet side. YUM!!!!

  • ferlie 24 Jul, 2012

    To anon414........the sweetness in the filling comes from the condensed milk. It is very rich and sweet. Not sure why your squares were not. Did you maybe use evaporated milk instead?

    Good baking!!

  • Jeff Reiman 26 Jun, 2012

    This recipe is to die for!

  • Roseann Caruso 22 Jun, 2012

    I did have to make adjustments in the recipe- I made more graham cracker crust to make a nice base and since I was transporting this I froze rosettes of whipped cream and sprinkled zest for garnish. I can't believe my market actually had key limes and the clerk suggested squeezing them with a garlic press. It worked great and they tasted wonderful!

  • anon414 18 Jun, 2012

    I was so disappointed in this recipe, and I followed it exactly. There was way too much butter in the crust, and after baking with the liquid filling, it turned out to be completely soggy and mushy. The filling was WAY too sour - there definitely needs to be sugar or some kind of sweetener in this. The end product was inedible, and I had to throw the whole tray out. Such a waste!

  • Anne417 14 Jun, 2012

    This is a simple recipe and the bars are simply wonderful. Light and perfect! I had to transport them, so I did not serve with whipped cream. I toasted a bit of coconut and sprinkled on top, right before serving! Be sure to do all the mixing for the time described in directions, for a light and fluffy filling. Do refrigerate over night, too!

  • aulait 10 Sep, 2011

    "Florribean Lime Juice" not from concentrate is available from King Arthur Flour.Closet to "Joe's" been able to find in VA. Real Limes are very small and Not deep Green.Roll them.A very different flavour from Larger Limes.Also,a few moments on "low" in Micro should give more Juice if "rolling" them doesn't Produce.Some haven't juice inside,look like "cotton".Great recipe any way one does it.

  • bigislandmama 22 Aug, 2011

    I love this recipe but I use passion fruit (we call it lilikoi in Hawaii) juice instead of lime juice and oooh my god-It's absolutely sinful!!! I always substitute a couple of tablespoons of organic extra virgin coconut oil for some of the butter and I add some shredded coconut to the food processor with the graham crackers. It's an incredible alteration! Tonight I'm trying chocolate graham crackers for the crust. We'll see how that turns out.

  • kershaw 9 Jul, 2011

    Some of you closer to the Mason-Dixon line will know that you can get key lime juice in bottles, which allows all of us to have this wonderful pie all year 'round. There is a difference between the key lime and a regular lime, and the bottled juice is the next best thing. I don't think that regular lime juice even compares.

  • ljwaldron 3 May, 2010

    Super simple to make, but look difficult and so delicious. I served them the way depicted in the photo; a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle of crumbs, no lime slice tho. They really impressed. Definite winner!

  • VictoriaBerman 16 Feb, 2010

    These were pretty much a snap to make. Though having a Kitchen Aid to whip those yolks takes the work out of it. Hand whipping would be a hassle I used bitter orange instead of limes, and it turned out great. You could probably substitute lemon or grapefruit.

  • VictoriaBerman 16 Feb, 2010

    These were pretty much a snap to make. Though having a Kitchen Aid to whip those yolks takes the work out of it. Hand whipping would be a hassle I used bitter orange instead of limes, and it turned out great. You could probably substitute lemon or grapefruit.

  • rachel_nyc 21 Feb, 2009

    rats! my comments never show up properly. wanted to say just made these and they were delicious.

  • rachel_nyc 21 Feb, 2009

    Just made these

  • hungrybois 6 Sep, 2008

    These are South Florida, Key Limes are found everywhere, if you dont have a neighbor with a tree, then you can go to the grocery store and buy a bag of 12 or so for less than $5.00.

  • mschembrir 14 Aug, 2008

    To jimsonly-apparently you have never used a true KEY LIME. They are very small, that is why you need approx. 23 of them.

  • jimsonly 12 Aug, 2008

    For 2/3 cup of fresh lime juice, you need 23 fresh limes? Whoever types/edits your recipes gets very sloppy with accurate measurements

  • krazykow 25 Jul, 2008

    i agree with photothyme, this is sublime!!. in south africa we do not know what graham cracker crumbs are, so i used nutticrust biscuits, which have a ginger flavour - divine!!!! i actually used 1 and a half tins of condensmilk, as i looked at the weight

  • photothyme 7 Jun, 2008

    These key lime bars are sublime (no pun intended). However note the error in the list of ingredients. It should read: 1 CAN sweetened condensed milk, (14 ounces), NOT 1 CUP sweetened condensed milk, (14 ounces).

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