Lime Bars

June 23, 2011

Although it’s not the season for citrus fruit, there were still several vendors selling cheap limes at the market this weekend, probably “seconds” that were slightly past the sell-by date. What better use for them than to make a delicious dessert?

These lime bars can be made with either regular limes or key limes – you need about 4 regular limes or 20 key limes to get the required zest and 1/2 cup of fresh juice. Limes aren’t exactly my favorite citrus to zest; their skin seems to be tougher than lemons and oranges. It takes a lot longer to zest a few small limes than larger oranges, but these lime bars are worth it! They are just the right combination of tartness and sweetness, and the crumbly crust and crunchy toasted coconut on top contrasts nicely with the smooth filling.

A variation for triple-citrus bars using limes, oranges, and lemons is also listed in the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, and I’m looking forward to trying those as well!

Lime bars

Makes 16 bars



  • 5  ounces animal crackers
  • 3  tablespoons packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • Pinch salt
  • 4  tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly


  • 2  ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1  tablespoon finely grated lime zest
  • Pinch table salt
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1  egg yolk
  • 1/2  cup fresh lime juice


  • 3/4  cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted until golden and crisp


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Fit an 8×8-inch baking pan with a foil sling. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. For the crust: In food processor, pulse animal crackers until broken down, about ten 1-second pulses; then process crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds (you should have about 1 1/4 cups crumbs). Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with fingers). Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Do not turn off oven.
  3. For the filling: In medium bowl, whisk cream cheese, zest, and salt until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly).
  4. Assemble and bake: Pour filling into crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.
  5. Loosen edges with knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve.

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