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 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.) 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 Cheesecake
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 7 hours, 45 minutes (includes chilling)
- Yield: serves 16
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
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
- four 8-ounce bricks (32 oz/904g) full-fat 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.
- (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.
- 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
Reader Comments & Reviews
Want to make these mini size. I see you have key lime pie in muffin tins, but I want the key lime cheesecake… How many muffin tins would it take? Alternatively, what if I did mini cheesecake tins?
Hi Emmy, You can use this recipe, but follow the assembly, baking, and cooling instructions for mini cheesecakes.
Thanks! I also noticed that this has significantly less sour cream than your classic cheesecake. I know there is also a lot more liquid from the lime juice, but how does that impact texture?
Would this recipe work with the instructions for your mini cheesecakes? Have a party and would like to make it into mini cheesecakes for ease of serving?
Yes! You can use this recipe, but follow the assembly, baking, and cooling instructions for mini cheesecakes.
Mine got very brown and i didn’t notice it till near the end so I tried putting foil over it but caught it and ruined the top
I noticed that this has significantly less sour cream than your classic cheesecake. I know there is also a lot more liquid from the lime juice, but how does that impact texture?
Would a flavored yogurt work in this? I’m thinking coconut
Hi Meagan, That should work, yes!
For curiosity, why do you not recommend using a glass pan for the water bath? Im looking to make this recipe, but I only have a glass 9×13. Would an aluminum baking pan work?
I used a glass baking tray, I just heated it first with hot water for 10 mins before putting it in the oven, then poured out that water to add the Boling water. Worked out splendidly!
Anything Key Lime is my weakness – I love it! Was just thinking of making a Key Lime Pie when I stumbled on this recipe! I was wondering how this might translate into muffin-tin mini-cheesecakes? Would the baking time decrease? Thank you!
Hi Susan, This is exactly how we make Mini Key Lime Pies in a muffin pan!
Followed this recipe, but used lemons instead of limes and wow! It was a huge hit. Everyone raved about it.
I made your lemon curd recipe to add on top for another hit of lemon. It was delicious! Definitely will be making again.
My adult son loves cheesecake and told me this was as good as a five-star restaurant. It really is! I had leftover batter and poured it in a glass dish and baked it at the same time as the cheesecake. We then, by the spoonful, put it on a graham cracker with a little whipped cream on top and it was fantastic.
Great recipe, thanks for posting. I was going for a super high lime / citrus flavor and altered the crust a bit by increasing the gram cracker after adding lime juice, lemon extract and zest, lots of zest.
I made this this week for my husband’s birthday. It turned out great! I did have to cook it a little longer than the recipe stated, but I am pretty certain my oven’s temp is slightly off. It has such a great key lime zip and a wonderful texture. Everyone loved it!
Instead of graham crackers, can I use digestive biscuits and crush it in a food processor?
Yes you can!
Do you think this could work with only yolks? I have a recently diagnosed egg white allergy and have been craving cheesecake! So far I’ve been able to just use yolks for cookies & cakes but haven’t tried cheesecake yet!
Hi Carly, unfortunately I can’t say for sure. You’d likely need to add a couple more yolks if you’re removing the whites. Let me know if you test anything. If you’re interested, here are all of my recipes using additional or only egg yolks.
First time EVER making a cheesecake; turned out really well.
Had to hand-squeeze over a dozen tiny key limes; couldn’t find any bottled juice around.
I don’t use IG, but I had a VERY tall cake at the end of the baking time; it slowly deflated to a normal size during its in-oven cool down period.
Thanks for the great recipe!!
Hi! This recipe looks amazing! I want to make it for Mother’s Day dessert tomorrow evening. I do not have a springform pan. Do you think I could use a pre-made graham cracker crust for this recipe?
Hi Kristin, you need a springform pan to bake a full cheesecake, but you can try my key lime bars or mini key lime pies.
I live in a small town and couldn’t find key limes. But I used just half a bottle of lime juice (probably about 75 mL) and the zest of one lime, the cheesecake turned out perfect! I couldn’t decide between a lime cheesecake and plain, but the hint of lime was just enough. So many good reviews from people who tried it, and even people who don’t love lime loved this. Thank you Sally!!!
Thank you for the recipe. What do you think about using a pretzel based crust vs the graham cracker?
Would be delicious with the sweet, tangy, and salty. I don’t have a recipe for one but let me know if you try it!
I was so happy with this when it first finished baking, looked jiggly in the centre and so I left the oven door open a crack while it cooled. Halfway through this cooling a large crack formed right in the middle though! What can I do differently next time to prevent this?
Hi Sophie, I wrote a post, How to Prevent Cracks in Cheesecakes, that you can use to help troubleshoot. I hope it helps!
This recipe is FANTASTIC! Easy peasy to make and I love that I didn’t have to put the cheesecake in an actual water bath, (I had issue before with soggy crust) it turned out perfect and oh-so good! Perfectly tangy. Delicious. Mine had a crack in center but I mixed up sour cream with powdered sugar, and made a little layer on top. It turned out beautifully!
So, my 11 year old son enjoys baking. In the last 6 weeks, he has made your NY style cheesecake 3 times, which is amazing and probably our favorite dessert. Yesterday, he made the key lime cheesecake which might now be our top favorite tasty treat! It is so creamy and with the added tartness, you cannot resist having more than one piece. Sally–your recipes are stellar and we truly enjoy experimenting with different ones on a weekly basis.
Hello, is it possible to make this in a 10-inch springform pan? Thanks in advance!
Definitely! The bake time will be on the quicker side.
Can this recipe be made with Meyer lemons instead of Key limes?
I can’t see why not!
Hi again Sally – wondering if you can possibly shed some light on why this cheesecake didn’t turn out for me! I am currently sitting while the cheesecake bakes, but its been baking for 70 min and is still very wobbly. I tented aluminum foil over it at about 60ish min because it was browning too much. It’s also rising up incredibly high, at least 3/4 inch above the rim of my spring form pan (which is a 9in regular spring form). I followed the recipe exactly, no subs, and with all your tips. Could it just be my oven?
Completely normal! All ovens are different and because of their size, batter consistency, and wet ingredients, cheesecakes have a wide window for doneness in the oven. I made another recipe earlier this year and it took close to 95-100 minutes. Keep it tented to protect it from over-browning. Hope you enjoy it!
Thank you, Sally! That’s a relief and definitely what I was figuring was the issue. My oven must just take longer to bake cheesecakes. It was in the oven for 2 hours total! And then for another hour to cool down. The top was over-browned for sure (next time I’ll tent it earlier with the foil) but I covered it with fresh whipped cream and it was a total hit with my family – we all loved it! Thank you so much for the amazing recipes!
This looks delicious! I know the answer is probably no, but could this be baked in any other types of pans besides a springform? I don’t have one, and I would love to make this this weekend for my Mom’s birthday (and I definitely won’t be able to get my hands on a springform pan beforehand, because, #quarantine )
Hi Danielle! You can try this recipe as cheesecake bars or individual cheesecakes in a muffin pan. See my mini cheesecakes recipe for assembly instructions. For cheesecake bars, you may want to halve the recipe. Follow the pan size, pre-baking crust, and baking instructions for my white chocolate raspberry cheesecake bars.
This looks terrific. I do have a question about the 9×13 hot water bath. Could I use 2 8×8 or 3 9×5 metal pans? My 9×13 pans are all glass and, since there are only the two of us, I don’t really want (or need) another large baking pan. Thank you. BTW, how are you feeling? Also, your Soft & Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are devine!
Sure can! Two smaller pans would be sufficient.
So looking forward to making the key lime cheesecake for a party.
How did you make the whipped cream topping “rondelles” around the edge of the cake?Looks like a pretty big cake decorating tip.
Hi Sue! I used a piping tip for the pictured whipped cream, Wilton 8B.
Could I use this same recipe but bake it into smaller cheesecakes in a muffin tin? (Of course, adjust the bake time?) If so, do you have any suggestions how I might prepare the pans so that it’s easy to get them out? (I wish I had my springform pan, but it’s still at college and because of stay at home orders, I’m not allowed to go get it.) Thank you!
Hi Lauren! I recommend using this recipe, but following my assembly, baking, and cooling instructions for mini cheesecakes.
Can you make this without the zest?
Absolutely. No other changes necessary.
How many key limes are needed for 1/2 cup of key lime juice?
Hi Sheryl, A lot! Key limes are tiny, you only get 1-2 TBS of juice per lime. You can usually find bottled key lime juice next to the regular lime juice in most grocery stores.
As a Floridian who grew up with a key lime tree in my backyard, I feel compelled to let you know that these are not key limes in the photos! Key limes are yellow, almost the same color as lemons, but small like a golf ball. They have a much different flavor than regular green limes 🙂
Hi Kathryn, yes I’m aware 🙂 Hard to find key limes where I live when I photographed this recipe 2 months ago. Luckily we have bottled key lime juice when fresh isn’t available, too!
Just wondering why to NOT use a glass baking dish for the water bath?
It could explode in the oven.