Combining the refreshing flavor of key lime pie and the irresistible creaminess of classic cheesecake, this key lime cheesecake is two mouthwatering desserts in one. Made from only 8 ingredients total, this smooth & tangy homemade cheesecake is so much easier than you’d ever guess! For recipe success, follow my in-depth instructions.
This key lime cheesecake recipe is sponsored by PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, whose products I’ve always trusted in my baking.
Remember my chocolate peanut butter cheesecake bars? I’m thrilled to show off this quality cream cheese again! As always, all opinions are 100% my own. You know I only work with brands I truly love!
Maybe you’ve caught on by now or maybe you haven’t, but I’m completely nuts about cheesecake. Have you seen my extensive collection of cheesecake recipes? When developing a new flavor, I turned to another dessert love of mine: key lime pie. Sweet and citrus-packed, this warm weather favorite sits on a buttery graham cracker crust. The marriage of two iconic desserts was inevitable. Welcome to the ultimate dessert duo!
If you’re wild about key lime, you’ll flip for these individual upside down key lime pies, key lime pie bars, and dark chocolate key lime truffles too. And if you want a party ready cheesecake, you’ll love these mini margarita cheesecakes!
Many readers have asked about replacing the limes with lemons in this cheesecake. Follow this recipe for lemon cheesecake instead.
This Key Lime Cheesecake Is:
- Made from just 8 ingredients
- Perfect for spring & summer celebrations
- Wonderfully sweet & tangy
- Unbelievably creamy
- Flavor-packed with plenty of key lime
- Easy to make ahead or freeze
Homemade cheesecake has the reputation of being difficult to make. I’m here to break that barrier. Because guess what? If you know how to turn on your electric mixer, you know how to make cheesecake. Most of the “work” is hands-off while the cheesecake bakes and cools. This key lime pie cheesecake batter comes together in just 1 bowl and if you read through and follow my instructions, you can easily avoid cheesecake cracks, lumpy batter, and over-baking. (These are all problems you could face if you didn’t have a solid recipe!)
Overview: How to Make Key Lime Cheesecake
- Make the crust: A graham cracker crust is a natural choice as it’s the usual accompaniment to both key lime pie and cheesecake. Press the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan. Here’s a tip: use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crust in tightly!
- Pre-bake the crust: A quick 10 minutes in the oven helps the crust set up before adding the cheesecake batter on top.
- Make the batter: The ingredients come together in a certain order. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together first, then beat in the rest of the ingredients except for the eggs. Add the eggs one at a time, beating only until combined. Over-beating the eggs incorporates too much air into the batter, which causes the cheesecake to deflate and crack.
- Prepare the water bath: I promise a water bath is nothing complicated. You see, cheesecake needs to bake in a humid environment. Adding steam to the otherwise dry oven prevents cracks on the surface of your key lime cheesecake. Additionally, it keeps the dessert extra creamy and moist. There are two options for preparing a water bath and both are detailed in the recipe below. The cheesecake can sit in a roasting pan of water in the oven or you can place a roasting pan of hot water on the bottom rack. (This is what I do for flourless chocolate cake! Works like a charm.) I actually have an entire post and video tutorial for How to Make a Cheesecake Water Bath. Taking a few extra minutes to prepare a water bath is well worth it.
- Bake the cheesecake: This key lime cheesecake can take anywhere from 55–70 minutes. It’s done when the edges are lightly browned and set. The very center of the cheesecake will still be wobbly, but don’t worry, it will set as the dessert cools.
- Cool the cheesecake: Cheesecake doesn’t like vast temperature differences, so cool it using my guaranteed method—turn off the oven, crack open the door, and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 1 hour. After that, place it on the counter at room temperature to fully cool down. When it’s cool, chill it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or even overnight.
Trust Me on This Cooling Method
There’s no greater test to your willpower than those few hours waiting for this key lime cheesecake to cool! But every minute is completely worth it when you take that first unbelievably refreshing, satisfying, key lime-packed bite. 🙂
2 Quick Success Tips
- Use Bricks of Cream Cheese: To guarantee the cheesecake sets up properly, use 8 ounce bricks of full-fat PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese. Do not use low fat cream cheese or cream cheese spread that’s sold in a tub.
- Room Temperature Batter: Make sure all of the cheesecake batter ingredients are at room temperature so the batter remains smooth and combines quickly. Beating cold ingredients together will result in a chunky over-beaten cheesecake batter, hardly the way we want to start!
I love serving key lime cheesecake with homemade whipped cream, lime slices, and fresh berries. Though I guarantee that no one would turn down a plain slice either. Ha!
How to Freeze Key Lime Cheesecake
- Cool the cheesecake on the counter before freezing. No need to chill it in the refrigerator.
- Freeze on springform pan: Remove the outer rim from the springform pan. Wrap the cheesecake with the bottom of the pan with a few layers of plastic wrap, then a final layer of aluminum foil.
- Freeze without springform pan: After the cheesecake has completely cooled, run a sharp knife underneath the crust to release it from the bottom of the pan. Carefully slide it onto a parchment paper lined piece of cardboard or use a plate. Wrap it all in a few layers of plastic wrap, then a final layer of aluminum foil.
- Freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- Do not freeze cheesecake with any toppings. Add toppings when serving cheesecake.
Key lime pie meets cheesecake in this refreshing and simple cheesecake recipe! For the best results, use either water bath method described in the recipe and notes below.
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) graham cracker crumbs (about 12 full sheet graham crackers)
- 5 Tablespoons (71g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 32 ounces (904g) full-fat brick PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (225g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120ml) key lime juice*
- 1/3 cup (80g) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons key lime zest*
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- homemade whipped cream
- fresh berries
- key lime or regular lime slices
- Adjust the oven rack to the center position, with a lower oven rack in place for the water bath described in step 5, and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Make the crust: If your graham crackers aren’t crumbs yet, use a food processor to pulse them into fine crumbs. Pour crumbs into a medium bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter until combined. Mixture will be sandy. Press firmly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. No need to grease the pan first. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crust down tightly. Pre-bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow crust to slightly cool as you prepare the filling.
- Make the filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the lime juice, sour cream, vanilla extract, and lime zest then beat on medium-high speed until fully combined. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. After the final egg is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. To help prevent the cheesecake from deflating and cracking as it cools, avoid over-mixing the batter as best you can.
- Pour cheesecake batter into warm crust. Use a rubber spatula or spoon to smooth it into an even layer.
- Prepare the simple water bath (see recipe note for traditional water bath method): Boil a kettle or pot of water. You need 1 inch of water in your roasting pan for the water bath, so make sure you boil enough. Place a large metal baking or roasting pan (I usually use a 9×13-inch baking pan—do not use glass) on the bottom rack of the preheated oven. Pour boiling water into pan, about 1 inch deep. Immediately place the cheesecake on the center rack. Close oven to trap the steam inside. This unique water bath adds steam to the oven without having the cheesecake sit inside the water itself, which is the traditional water bath method explained in the recipe Notes. See How to Make a Cheesecake Water Bath for more information.
- (Note: if you notice the cheesecake browning too quickly on top, tent it with aluminum foil halfway through baking.) Bake cheesecake for 55–70 minutes or until the center is almost set. When it’s done, the center of the cheesecake will slightly wobble if you gently tap the pan. Turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven as it cools down for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, then cool cheesecake completely at room temperature. Then refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Use a knife to loosen the chilled cheesecake from the rim of the springform pan, then remove the rim. Add optional toppings if desired. I used a piping tip for the pictured whipped cream. Using a clean sharp knife, cut into slices for serving. For neat slices, wipe the knife clean and dip into warm water between each slice.
- Cover and store leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead Instructions: This cheesecake can be made the day before. It has to chill for quite some time before serving. See step 6. Another way to make this cheesecake ahead of time is to freeze it. Cheesecake can be frozen up to 3 months. See instructions in blog post above.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Food Processor | 9-inch Springform Pan | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Zester | Spatula | Oven-Safe Roasting Pan (I use this 9×13-inch baking pan)
- Key Limes: If you don’t have access to key limes, use the same amount of regular lime juice and lime zest instead. You can usually find bottled key lime juice next to the regular lime juice in most grocery stores.
- Traditional Water Bath: Boil a pot of water. You need 1 inch of water in your roasting pan for the water bath, so make sure you boil enough. As the water is heating up, wrap aluminum foil around the springform pan—you can do this before or after you pour in the cheesecake batter. Place the wrapped pan inside of a large roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water inside of the pan and place in the oven. (Or you can place the roasting pan in the oven first, then pour the hot water in. Whichever is easier for you.) Bake as directed. When cooling the cheesecake in the oven in step 6, leave it sitting inside the water bath. Remove it from the water bath when letting it cool at room temperature.
- Room Temperature Ingredients: Bring all cold ingredients to room temperature before beginning. Room temperature ingredients combine quickly and evenly, so you won’t risk over-mixing. Also, beating cold ingredients together will result in a chunky cheesecake batter, hardly the way you want to begin!
- Non-US Readers: Don’t have graham crackers where you live? Don’t have graham crackers where you live? Use 200g ground digestive biscuit crumbs instead (about 13–14 biscuits), the same amount of butter, and add a bit more sugar (about 1/3 cup, or 67g). You may need to add a few extra minutes to the pre-baking time, as digestive biscuits are not quite as crispy-crunchy as graham crackers. And from what I understand, spreadable cream cheese sold in a tub in countries outside of the US is a little different from the spreadable cream cheese in the US. It’s thicker, sturdier, and more solid and should be OK to make cheesecake. I have no experience with it, but this is what I’ve heard from other non-US readers.
Keywords: cheesecake, key lime pie, lime