You’re going to love these 7-ingredient key lime pie bars, a square version of my favorite key lime pie recipe. Cream cheese adds the most delightful cheesecake flavor (and helps the bars set!), and a buttery graham cracker crust is a wonderful base for the tangy filling.
Like key lime pie (or even mini margarita cheesecakes!), these key lime pie bars are truly one of the most refreshing, flavorful spring/summer desserts. And you know what? They’re incredibly easy to make.
Today’s recipe is typically my go-to when I need a no-fuss crowd pleasing treat. I just brought them to a BBQ the other night! (See even more BBQ cookout desserts.)
Why You’ll Love These Key Lime Pie Squares
- All the texture and flavor of traditional key lime pie, but a little more cheesecake-y
- Only 7 ingredients (see all of my 8 ingredients or fewer recipes)
- Tangy-sweet flavor
- Thick, buttery graham cracker crust, or spice things up with gingersnap crumbs!
- Grab & go—no fork needed!
You Need Just 7 Ingredients:
And this includes the crust. I count key lime zest AND juice as 1 ingredient… key limes!
Start With a Crumb Crust
Below you’ll find my basic graham cracker crust recipe. It fits into a 9-inch square baking pan perfectly, as well as many 8-inch and 10-inch pans, and pie dishes. I love this particular crust because it’s altogether crunchy, buttery, thick, and not overly sweet like many crumb crusts of its kind. I use it for strawberry cream cheese pie, lemon blueberry cheesecake bars, and these mini key lime pies.
- You need a careful ratio of 3 ingredients: graham cracker crumbs, sugar, & melted butter.
- Use a food processor or blender to grind 12 full-sheet graham crackers into crumbs.
- Stir the graham cracker crumbs and sugar together before mixing in the melted butter.
- Press into your lined pan just until it’s no longer crumbly. Do not pack down too hard.
Other crust options:
- Gingersnap Crust: The original version of this recipe called for a crust made from finely crushed gingersnap cookie crumbs mixed with melted salted butter. I used store-bought gingersnaps, the hard and crunchy kind. The sweet/spicy flavor of the gingersnaps is an unexpected and delightful contrast to the tangy flavor of key lime. If you’d like to make the crust with gingersnaps, you can find the instructions in the recipe Notes. (Gingersnap cookie crumbs would be unbelievable on these upside down key lime pies, too!)
- Graham Nut Crust: Or you could combine graham cracker crumbs with ground macadamia nuts, like I do in my favorite key lime pie recipe.
- Pretzel Crust: Or try the pretzel crust from these peanut butter cup pretzel bars.
No matter which crumb crust you choose to use, press it into a 9-inch square baking pan lined with parchment paper, and give it a head start in the oven while you mix together your filling. (10 minutes prebake, as instructed below.)
Key Lime Pie Square Filling
This 4-ingredient filling is tart, creamy, and sweet. The perfect balance of all three. Tangy, not sour. Smooth, with just the right custard-meets-cheesecake texture.
First, you need key lime juice.
Key limes can be difficult to track down out of season, which is the majority of the year. They’re smaller, more yellow, and a little sweeter than standard limes. You can substitute regular limes for key limes in this recipe, or use half lime juice and half lemon juice.
Yes, absolutely. The brand I typically buy is called Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice, and it’s sold in most major grocery stores next to the bottled lemon juice. Not only does this make it possible for year-round key lime pie squares, but it’s also a lot easier than juicing all those tiny key limes by hand!
You also need the following ingredients:
- Cream Cheese: I don’t use it in my key lime pie recipe, but I wanted today’s filling to lean a little more towards key lime cheesecake. The flavor is subtle—we’re only using 4 ounces of cream cheese in the filling (1/2 of a brick), and that small amount manages to produce the creamiest key lime pie bars in the world. Avoid the fat-free kind.
- Egg Yolks: Egg yolks stabilize and set up the key lime filling.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk: One 14-ounce can of full-fat sweetened condensed milk sweetens the dessert and provides a smooth texture. I also use this in my oatmeal lemon crumble bars.
- Lime Zest: Lime zest gives the filling some colorful speckles, not to mention even more lime flavor. Zest either 1 regular lime or 2 key limes.
Spread the filling over the crust while the crust is still warm. Why? This will help the filling adhere to the crust a little better.
The bars don’t take long to bake to bake, but they do require cooling and chilling before you can slice into them.
How to Cut Neat Squares
Cool baked key lime pie bars at room temperature for about 1 hour, and then refrigerate them for 2 hours or until the bottom of the pan feels cold. If you cut the bars into squares too early, they’ll fall apart. If I’m serving these at a party or event, I prepare them the night before just so I know they’ll cool and chill long enough to yield neat squares.
Slice them with a sharp knife and wipe the knife clean between each cut.
Are you hungry yet? Because I don’t have any key lime pie squares left to share. 😉
You need just 7 ingredients to make these simple key lime pie bars, a handheld version of my key lime pie recipe. Today’s bars are creamy and tangy with a simple graham cracker crust. Be sure to cool and chill the bars before cutting into squares.
- 12 full-sheet graham crackers (to yield 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) graham cracker crumbs)
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 4 ounces (113g) full-fat brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 4 large egg yolks
- 14-ounce (397g) can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup (120ml) key lime juice
- 2 teaspoons lime zest (about 1 lime or 2 key limes)
- optional for garnish: whipped cream and lime slices
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 9-inch square baking pan (I love this one and this one) with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to easily lift the bars out of the pan. Set aside.
- Make the crust: If you’re starting out with full graham crackers, use a food processor or blender to grind them into fine crumbs. You can also place them in a zip-top bag and crush them into fine crumbs with a little arm muscle and a rolling pin. Stir the graham cracker crumbs and granulated sugar together in a medium bowl, and then stir in the melted butter. The mixture will be thick, coarse, and sandy. Try to smash/break up any large chunks. Press into the bottom of the lined pan.
- Prebake crust: Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Cool for a few minutes as you prepare the filling in the next step.
- Make the filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg yolks. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, and lime zest until combined. After mixing the filling with your mixer, give it a final whisk by hand to make sure there are no cream cheese lumps at the bottom of the bowl. Pour/spoon filling evenly onto the warm crust.
- Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the edges of the bars appear set and the center is only *slightly* jiggly.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes at room temperature on a wire rack and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours.
- Lift the parchment paper out of the pan and cut into squares. Feel free to garnish with whipped cream, lime slices, and/or extra lime zest. I used Wilton 1M piping tip on the pictured bars.
- The bars stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can freeze the bars for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Food Processor | 9-Inch Square Baking Pan or this 9-Inch Square Baking Pan | Glass Mixing Bowl | Citrus Zester | Citrus Juicer | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Cooling Rack | Piping Bag (Reusable or Disposable) | Wilton 1M Piping Tip
- Non-US Readers: 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.
- Gingersnap Crust: The original recipe used to call for a gingersnap crust. To make this version, combine 2 cups (240g) finely crushed crunchy gingersnap cookies with 3 Tablespoons melted salted butter. Pre-baking and baking instructions remain the same.
- Can I Bake This in a 9×13-inch Pan? You can, but I have had better results baking a smaller batch, as written, in the 9-inch pan. If you want to make a larger batch, double each ingredient and bake in a 9×13-inch pan. Prebake the crust for 10 minutes, pour in the filling, and bake for about 35 minutes.
- Leftover Egg Whites: Here are all my recipes that call for egg whites.
Keywords: key lime pie bars