Key Lime Cheesecake

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.

key lime pie cheesecake

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 this spring, 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.

key lime pie cheesecake

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!)

Philadelphia cream cheese bricks

graham cracker crust in springform pan

key lime cheesecake batter

Overview: How to Make Key Lime Cheesecake

  1. 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!
  2. Pre-bake the crust: A quick 8 minutes in the oven helps the crust set up before adding the cheesecake batter on top.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 🙂

key lime cheesecake in springform pan

key lime pie cheesecake with whipped cream

2 Quick Success Tips

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

key lime pie cheesecake

slice of key lime cheesecake

How to Freeze Key Lime Cheesecake

  1. Cool the cheesecake on the counter before freezing. No need to chill it in the refrigerator
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
  5. Do not freeze cheesecake with any toppings. Add toppings when serving cheesecake.
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key lime pie cheesecake

Key Lime Cheesecake

  • Author: Sally
  • 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

Description

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.


Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (150g) graham cracker crumbs (about 10 full sheet graham crackers)
  • 5 Tablespoons (70gunsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup (50ggranulated sugar

Cheesecake

  • four 8-ounce bricks (32 oz) 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
  • 1 teaspoon key lime zest*
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

Optional Toppings


Instructions

  1. 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).
  2. 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 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow crust to slightly cool as you prepare the filling.
  3. 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.
  4. Pour cheesecake batter into warm crust. Use a rubber spatula or spoon to smooth it into an even layer.
  5. Prepare the simple water bath (see recipe note for traditional water bath method): 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. Place a large metal baking or roasting pan (I usually use a 9×13 inch baking pan– do not use glass) on the bottom oven 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.
  6. (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 shake 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Cover and store leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Keywords: cheesecake, key lime pie, lime

80 Comments

  1. sounds fantastic!

    1. Thanks so much, Denise!

  2. Géo aka(Gunny) says:

    Is anyway to buy key lime juice or regular key limes I can’t find it in any of my stores. Gunny

    1. Yes! See my recipe note. Depending where you are located, you can usually find bottled key lime juice next to the regular lime juice in most grocery stores.

    2. Pat Houghton says:

      Key lime juice, “Nellie and Joes” is available online at www.keylimejuice.com, 1-800-546-3743.

  3. Hi Sally
    This sounds delicious unfortunately I cannot get Philadelphia block cream cheese in my country (Israel), only the whipped. Do you have any advice on how to use the whipped instead or how to make my own block cream cheese?

    Thanks
    Roze

    1. Hi Roze! I don’t recommend whipped cream cheese in cheesecake. Have you tried a ricotta cheesecake recipe before? I don’t currently have one in my archive. The amounts/ratios of ingredients would be a little different, but you could definitely add key lime juice and zest.

      1. thanks I will try ricotta and play around with the recipe a bit!

      2. Rose
        There is a You Tube Video I found for you called How to make Cream Cheese Substitutes you may want to go look at. It looks easy and she says use it like you would in a recipe that calls for cream cheese. Hope this helps you and good luck

  4. Ooooh I can’t wait to try this as I can find Philadelphia cream cheese! Now I’ve gotta find key lime juice

    1. I hope you love this cheesecake, Abby! Happy baking 🙂

  5. Kelly | Maverick Baking says:

    This looks like the gorgeous taste of summer we all need right now!

    1. Thank you, Kelly!

  6. Janet mouyianis says:

    My graham cracker crust remains mushy, so frustrating and embarrassing when you serve it. I did a water bath and prebaked it. Ireadputting an egg white wash on the crust after ?!?

    1. Hi Janet! Did you already prepare, bake, and chill this recipe or are you asking for graham cracker crust tips in general? I’m happy to help. You can pre-bake the crust for a few minutes longer and definitely use the water bath mentioned in this post (where the cheesecake doesn’t sit in the water). Or try reducing the butter in the crust. I haven’t tested the egg white method, but let me know if you do!

  7. Super excited to try this out, I love Key Lime pie AND cheesecake. Win win. Question though – what is the reason for not using a glass pan in the oven for the non traditional water bath?

    1. It could explode without batter inside of it (and just water) in the hot oven.

  8. Just wondering why to NOT use a glass baking dish for the water bath?

    Thank you!
    Todd

    1. It could explode in the oven.

  9. 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 🙂

    1. 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!

  10. Mmmmm, this looks YUMMY! I could really go for a slice of this right about now 🙂 I’d love a recipe for New York style crumb cheesecake, if you have/will consider developing one at some point.

    1. Thanks so much, Erin! A New York style crumb cheesecake sounds delicious 🙂

  11. Hi Sally! I’ve tried many of your cheesecake recipes- all delicious! I wanted to share my method for a foolproof water bath.
    1) Use a cake pan that is at least 1 inch larger in diameter than your spring-form pan.
    2) Set the spring-form pan into the cake pan before you put it in the water-bath.
    Super easy & leak proof!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, L!

    2. I found a really brilliant tip online that I use when I bake a cheesecake. I put a my springform pan into a poultry lookbag with a few large slits ontop and then put the pan-in-bag into a bain-marie. Have never had water leak into my cake and no cracks 🙂

  12. Sheryl Robinson says:

    How many key limes are needed for 1/2 cup of key lime juice?

    1. 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.

  13. Can you make this without the zest?
    Thanks

    1. Absolutely. No other changes necessary.

  14. Yvette Elliott says:

    You are spot on for the cooling tip. It’s best for cheesecakes and flourless chocolate cakes too. Allowing that extra time in refrigeration also it to develop a more intense flavor profile!

    Really looking forward to making this cheesecake!

    1. I hope you enjoy this cheesecake, Yvette! If you try it, I’d love to know what you think 🙂

      1. Yvette Elliott says:

        Will do, Sally! My plan is to make it for my grandson’s b-day when all the COVID craziness if over!!!

  15. 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!

    1. Hi Lauren! I recommend using this recipe, but following my assembly, baking, and cooling instructions for mini cheesecakes.

    2. How long would I cook in individual ramekins?

  16. Madeline Dulak says:

    Using a chocolate cookie crust is a great alternative to graham cracker crust.

  17. 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.

    1. Hi Sue! I used a piping tip for the pictured whipped cream, Wilton 8B.

  18. 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!

    1. Sure can! Two smaller pans would be sufficient.

  19. 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 )

    1. 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.

      1. Barbara Gray says:

        I have not made this recipe. I wanted to tell you that the one I make uses 3 8oz packages of cream cheese, 1 8oz container of full fat cool whip, and 1 can condensed milk and 1/2 cup of Key Lime juice. No baking involved in the summer time. Serve with whip cream. You know what steps come first. I have made your banana cake, it’s the best I ever ate.

  20. 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?

    1. 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!

      1. 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!

  21. Can this recipe be made with Meyer lemons instead of Key limes?

    1. I can’t see why not!

  22. Hi Taleen! The cream cheese can’t set up into cheesecake texture without eggs– it would just taste like sweetened cream cheese batter. Try my no bake cheesecake.

  23. Hello, is it possible to make this in a 10-inch springform pan? Thanks in advance!

    1. Definitely! The bake time will be on the quicker side.

  24. Sally! I am drooling over this one. I always love your recipes, but this one is just begging to be baked. I had my first key lime pie a few months ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since! But to pair it with cheesecake…omg. Thanks for always creating the best treats for us! Hope you’re staying safe. xo

    1. I hope you’ll give this one a try, Jessica! If you do, let me know how you like it 🙂 Hope you’re staying safe, too!

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

  27. 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?

    1. Hi Sophie, I wrote a post, How to Prevent Cracks in Cheesecakes, that you can use to help troubleshoot. I hope it helps!

  28. Thank you for the recipe. What do you think about using a pretzel based crust vs the graham cracker?

    1. 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!

  29. 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!!!

  30. 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?

    Thanks

    1. 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.

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