Perk up your recipes with three varieties of limes.

By Kelly Vaughan
September 16, 2020
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Janelle Jones

Everyone knows and loves Key lime pie—the tart dessert, which hails from the Florida Keys in the southeastern United States, is made with the zest and juice of Key limes. But what are Key limes and how do they differ from regular limes? Below, we're explaining what sets Key limes apart from other citrus fruit. Along the way, you'll get to know two other varieties of limes—Persian limes and kaffir limes.

What Are Persian Limes?

Persian limes are the variety of limes that you're most likely to pick up in the grocery store. They're smaller than regular Eureka lemons but larger than Key limes. Persian limes are characterized by their thin, smooth rind, seedless flesh, acidic flavor, and juiciness. Use Persian limes when you want to add acidity to sweet and savory meals. Lime juice pairs particularly well with Asian ingredients and cuts the sweet and saltiness of hoisin or teriyaki sauce; taste the magic of lime juice in our recipe for Teriyaki-Glazed Grilled Chicken or summery Grilled Corn with Fish Sauce and Scallions.

Of course, there's nothing like a squeeze of lime juice over fish tacos or beef chili—two Mexican-inspired favorites. Another Tex-Mex winner is our recipe for Spicy Chicken-and-Lime Soup, which is made with two tablespoons of fresh Persian lime juice. Lime juice is also a staple in cocktail recipes like these Mango-Passionfruit Mojitos, our Yellow Watermelon Margaritas, and Shaken Piña Coladas.

What Are Key Limes?

Key limes (also known as Mexican or West Indian limes) are smaller than Persian limes and known for being incredibly aromatic, juicy, and acidic. Their aroma is even more potent and refreshing than Persian limes. They're the star ingredient in, what else but Key Lime Pie, but their iconic fragrance and flavor are also prized by bartenders in addition to bakers.

The juice from Key limes shines in sweet desserts, such as this Key Lime Bundt Cake. The juice and zest is used in both the cake batter and the simple syrup, which is brushed over the top of the warm, freshly baked cake. Another stunning sweet treat is our No-Bake Key Lime Cheesecake, which uses the juice and zest of 16 Key limes.

What Are Kaffir or Makrut Limes?

Super fragrant with a thick, bumpy skin, Kaffir limes are rare to find but should be treasured if you get your hands on them. According to Mani Skaria, founder of US Citrus, the pulp from Kaffir limes is "yellowish-green, very sour, slightly bitter, and very fragrant." They're harder to find than regular Persian limes, but like most citrus, this variety of limes is at its peak in winter and very early spring, so stock up when you find them. You can use them in place of regular limes and they're especially prized in Thai cooking.

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