Nothing says summer like key lime bars! I absolutely had to make these after seeing…
Key lime cheesecake bars allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds: key lime pie and luscious cheesecake. This perfectly light, summertime treat will make you feel like you’re in Florida, enjoying a delicious treat by the water (and sugar and carbs weren’t invited!).
You’ll fall in love with the crisp graham cracker flavored crust, topped with a rich and creamy cheesecake filling, flavored with tart, yet sweet lime. Savor every bite of this light, decadent treat!
key lime pie versus cheesecake
At its most basic, key lime pie has a filling made with sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, and egg yolks, in a cookie or graham cracker crust. Key lime cheesecake takes that up a notch and combines the key lime flavor with classic cheesecake. Instead of condensed milk, cheesecake ingredients are used like eggs and cream cheese.
Many people use bottled key lime juice or freshly squeezed key lime juice. You can do both for this recipe however the recipe calls for regular, Persian limes (that you find in the grocery store next to the lemons) combined with fresh lemon juice.
how to make key lime cheesecake bars perfectly
There are 2 critical, life-altering steps, to take in this recipe which I outline below. If you do these steps, you’ll get a.) a nice crispy graham cracker crust and b.) a cheesecake filling that doesn’t crack.
Now, would it be the worst thing in the world if your graham cracker crust was slightly soft?
I guess not. But why have soft crust if you don’t have to?
Also, I suppose if a cracked cheesecake filling is the worst problem you ever have, you’re in pretty good shape but again, you’ll feel such a sense of accomplishment when you pull these bars out of the oven with NO cracks!!
I want that for you!
making the graham cracker crust
The crust is extremely easy. Add flour, xanthan gum, sweetener, salt, cinnamon, a small amount of honey and butter to a bowl. The butter must be cold (that’s the secret). Use your hands or a fork to combine everything, leaving bits of butter (see image below). Once it’s combined, place it in a parchment-lined 8-inch pan lightly (cover the surface area and pat down slightly but don’t worry if it’s not “tight” like typical dough. Place back in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. When you take the pan out of the fridge, place it in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the sides are slightly browned. Lower the oven to 325 degrees and set aside the pan to cool.
Cold butter is ideal for baked goods that should be crisp. Butter that’s straight from the fridge doesn’t get fully incorporated into a batter; instead, it gets broken down into small pieces throughout your dough. Since butter is about 18 percent water, steam is released in those pockets during baking, which helps create flaky layers.
making the key lime cheesecake filling
This filling is also extremely easy to make. You’ll start by placing room temperature cream cheese in a mixing bowl or stand mixer. If you forgot to leave the cream cheese out, no worries, simply open it on the counter, cut it in 1 inch slices and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it’s soft.
Once the cream cheese is added to the bowl, use the whisk attachment and mix on low-medium until smooth. Add the room temperature eggs & yolk (again, if you forgot to pull them out, put them in warm water for 5-10 minutes before you crack them).
Add the lime juice & zest, lemon juice, sweetener, salt, vanilla, arrowroot flour, and milk of choice. I’ll put substitutions in the notes section of the recipe. Continue to beat on medium-low until smooth.
Once it’s smooth, taste, and see if it needs anything else. If it’s too tart, add a little more sweetener and a pinch more salt.
Pour the filling in the slightly cooled dough pan. Get a larger pan (anything that the 8-inch can fit into) and add about an inch of water to the pan. Place the key lime cheesecake pan in the water. The water will keep the filling from cracking. The alternative heat source (steam vs. just oven heat) will cook the filling more gently. Note, if you don’t have a bigger pan, you can fill a pot with water and place it on the rack under the key lime cheesecake pan.
key lime cheesecake bars without condensed milk
Instead of traditional key lime pie filling, made with condensed milk, the filling in these key lime cheesecake bars is mostly comprised of cream cheese and egg, with a little arrowroot flour (to thicken) and milk of choice.
can key lime cheesecake bars be dairy-free?
Definitely—I make my version dairy-free and give those ingredient options in the recipe below. I like to make my own ghee rather than buy it. I’ll make a large batch every month or so and store in jars in the fridge and freezer. It’s a lot less expensive this way. It’s very easy to do – here’s a great step-by-step tutorial on it.
Instead of regular cream cheese, made with cow’s milk, I use dairy-free versions. My favorite brands are Kite hill, Miyokos, or, Violife. I’ve recently converted to using dairy-free in my cream cheese frosting and love it. I find people can’t taste the difference, especially if it’s made with other ingredients.
what is the difference between a lime and key lime?
Grocery store limes, generally speaking, are Persian limes, which are larger and tarter than their Florida cousins. Key limes are smaller and contain more seeds than Persian limes, while Persian limes have a thick, bright green skin, and Key lime skin is thin and tends to be a little on the yellow side.
For this recipe, I use regular, grocery store limes however you could substitute with key limes (you’ll need to use more because they’re smaller).
Brown erythritol – you can use Swerve brown, Lakanto golden, Sukrin gold, coconut sugar, or brown sugar. (Note the last 2 aren’t low-carb).
Powdered erythritol – you can use Swerve powdered, Lakanto powdered or confectioners sugar (not low-carb). If you don’t have the powdered version of a sweetener, add regular erythritol to a dry food processor or coffee grinder to powder it.
Honey – you can omit however it adds a nice flavor and the minimal amount keeps this recipe low-carb.
Cream cheese – feel free to use dairy-free cream cheese, like Kite hill, Miyokos, or, Violife
Arrowroot – substitute with tapioca flour or cornstarch.
9 servings per container
- Amount Per ServingCalories194
- % Daily Value *
- Total Fat
- Cholesterol 68mg 23%
- Total Carbohydrate
- Dietary Fiber .9g 4%
- Sugars 1.6g
- Protein 5.8g 12%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.