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Recipe: Key lime bars a sweet-tart treat for sharing

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Traditionally, Key lime pie is made from Key limes, also known as Mexican or West Indian limes. They’re smaller and more sour than conventional limes. Combined with super-sweet condensed milk, egg yolks and a graham cracker crust, their juice makes a terrific pie.

These dessert bars are the traditional pie’s less fussy but equally irresistible buddy. Go ahead and use Key limes if you’ve got them, but the limes available in most grocery stores, called Persian or Tahitian limes, will work beautifully, too. They’re also considerably less work to juice. You’d need about a dozen Key limes, whereas you’ll need only about six conventional limes. And — purists, avert your eyes — if you’re short on time, you can use bottled Key lime juice. Just be sure you’re getting 100% juice without added sugar.

For the crust, vanilla wafer cookies step in for the classic graham crackers. The vanilla complements the floral notes of the lime nicely. To finish, the bars are topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream, which tames the lime’s acidity and is less finicky than meringue.

Super simple to make and travel friendly, these bars beg to be taken to your next (responsibly distant) picnic, no plates or silverware required. Cut them before you leave, but spoon on the whipped the cream just before serving.

Then sit back and feign exhaustion while the praise rolls in. You’ll look like you’ve earned it.


  • >> Crust:
  • 1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (115 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • >> Filling:
  • 1-3/4 cups condensed milk (1 14-ounce can plus 1/2 cup)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Key lime or conventional lime juice, fresh or bottled
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • >> Topping:
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides of pan.

In a food processor, combine vanilla wafers and sugar; pulse to make fine crumbs. Add butter and process until evenly moistened. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake until fragrant and a shade darker, 15 to 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice and lime zest.

Pour filling over crust (it’s OK if it’s still warm) and bake until filling is set, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, then cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Use a sharp knife to release edges. Using parchment overhang, carefully lift bars and transfer to a cutting board.

Just before serving, whip heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Top bars with whipped cream and cut into 16 squares to serve. Serves 16.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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