Tangy and sweet, creamy and crunchy, this key lime cheesecake hits all the right notes. It combines the flavors of the fan-favorite key lime pie with the texture and richness of a cheesecake.
The bottom is a simple graham cracker crust that’s buttery and crunchy, while the filling is an ultra-creamy cheesecake with the fruity tang of fresh key lime. It’s topped with a sour cream and key lime zest whipped cream that is fluffy, light, and the perfect balance to the rich cheesecake.
Make it several hours or even a day ahead since the cheesecake needs to chill so that it fully sets. No matter where or how you serve it, you’re sure to be popular.
As Easy as Key Lime Cheesecake
While this recipe requires a few phases (crust, filling, and topping), there is minimal hands-on time, and you can break up the prep as needed.
First, a simple graham cracker crust is pressed into a 9-inch springform pan and baked. Meanwhile, make the filling. It’s a simple mixture of cream cheese, key lime juice and zest, sugar, and eggs that comes together quickly. Scrape the cheesecake filling on the crust and bake just until set.
This is quick, easy, and almost foolproof cheesecake recipe doesn’t require a water bath since the thin but rich and satisfying filling does not have a tendency to crack. Let it fully cool and chill.
Finally, make some zesty whipped cream. You have options for decorating: Spread the whipped cream on top of the whole cheesecake or slice the cheesecake and serve it with a dollop of whipped cream on the top or side.
Key Limes vs. Limes
Many-a key lime purist will tell you that you simply cannot make key lime desserts without key limes. The tart little limes do pack a mighty punch and have a distinctive flavor slightly different from typical limes, but they can also be hard to come by, especially out of season.
If you can’t find fresh key limes, use plump Persian limes (the standard variety usually found at grocery stores). I’m a firm believer that fresh limes trump bottled key lime juice, even if the flavor isn’t quite the same. It’ll still be incredibly delicious—just call it lime cheesecake instead and no one will mind.
What If You Don't Have Springform Pan?
This recipe calls for a 9-inch springform pan, but you can use a pan in a different size or shape. I recommend that you use a metal pan, not a glass or ceramic one. When using a square or rectangular pan, line it with parchment paper—it’ll help you lift the cheesecake out! Here are some options:
- 9x9-inch pan: Bake the cheesecake for 20 minutes. This is a great shape for cutting the cheesecake into bars.
- 8x8-inch pan: If you don’t have a 9x9-inch pan, bake the cheesecake in an 8x8-inch pan. They will be slightly thicker and will take about 25 minutes to bake.
- 9x13-inch pan: To make a big batch, double the recipe and bake it in a 9x13-inch pan for 22 to 28 minutes.
Delicious Recipe Variations
While this cheesecake is excellent as-is, here are some variations to try that will yield an equally delicious treat:
- Gluten-free: Use gluten-free graham-style crackers or crumbs.
- Pretzel crust: For a salty, crunchy crust, swap the graham crackers for lightly salted pretzels. Omit the salt in the crust and filling.
- Chocolate: Swap the graham cracker crumbs for chocolate cookie crumbs. To serve, drizzle the cheesecake with chocolate sauce or sprinkle it with a handful of mini chocolate chips.
- Naked: Leave off the whipped cream topping for a tarter and more intense cheesecake.
- Coconut: Top the cheesecake with lightly toasted coconut flakes.
Got Key Limes?
Key Lime Cheesecake
For the cheesecake
Cooking spray, for the pan
6.8 ounces graham crackers (about 12 crackers), or 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup (135g) sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon key lime zest
1/4 cup fresh key lime juice (from about 8 juicy key limes)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
For the whipped cream
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon key lime zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 (9-inch) round springform pan
- Food processor
Prepare the oven and baking pan:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the inside of a 9-inch round springform pan with cooking spray. Set it aside.
Make the crust:
Break up the graham crackers into smaller pieces and add them into a food processor. Attach the lid and pulse about 20 times until fine even crumbs form.
Add the powdered sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pulse to combine.
In a small heatproof bowl, add the butter and microwave on high in 30-second increments until melted. Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and pulse until fully combined. It should look like moist sand and loosely stick together when pressed with your fingers.
If using store-bought graham cracker crumbs, add it into a medium bowl and use a rubber spatula to stir it with the powdered sugar, salt, and melted butter until combined.
Bake the crust:
Transfer the crumbs into the prepared springform pan. Use your hands to press them onto the bottom in a compact, flat, and even layer, making sure to press into the corners. If the crumbs stick to your hands, wet them with a little water.
Bake the crust until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let it cool on the counter while you make the filling.
Make the filling:
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, sugar, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (You can also do this in a medium bowl using a handheld electric mixer. )
Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the sour cream and 1 teaspoon key lime zest and beat on medium speed to combine, about 30 seconds. Add the key lime juice and beat for about 30 seconds.
Scrape down the bowl again with the rubber spatula. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating just until combined and scraping the bowl between each addition. Do not overbeat.
Bake the cheesecake:
Scrape the cheesecake filling on top of the baked crust. Use the rubber spatula to spread it into an even layer. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edges are set and the center jiggles like Jell-O when you gently shake the pan.
Set the pan to cool on a wire rack until it comes to room temperature, about an hour. Transfer to the fridge and chill uncovered for at least two hours.
Make the topping:
In the bowl of a stand mixer set with a whisk attachment, add the heavy cream and whisk on medium speed until thickened and doubled in size. Stop the mixer and add the powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue whisking until soft peaks form.
Add the sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon key lime zest, and vanilla. Whisk just until stiff peaks form.
You can also do this in a medium bowl using a handheld electric mixer.
Decorate and serve:
Remove the cheesecake from the fridge and run a small knife along the outer edges of the cheesecake. Release and remove the springform ring.
To decorate the cheesecake, either spread or pipe the whipped cream on top of the cheesecake before slicing it, or slice the cheesecake and serve it with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.
Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the cheesecake. For clean cuts, run the knife under hot tap water between slices.
Leftovers can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 3 days. The cheesecake, without the whipped cream topping, can also be frozen for up to 1 month.
The whipped cream topping can be kept in the fridge for a day or two. It will decrease in volume over time, so give it a quick whip with a whisk to bring it back to life.
Did you love the recipe? Leave us a review in the comments!
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 12 to 16|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 20g||26%|
|Saturated Fat 11g||57%|
|Total Carbohydrate 23g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||2%|
|Total Sugars 15g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||7%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|