My Key Lime Cheesecake features a smooth and creamy key lime custard filling over a crisp graham cracker crust. This recipe is easy, with NO water bath and minimal prep time. Recipe includes a how-to video!
A Slice of Paradise
This highly-requested key lime cheesecake recipe eluded me for years. Three years, to be exact. While you might think that it would be as simple as adding a splash of lime juice and zest to my classic cheesecake recipe, it turns out that is absolutely not the case.
Simply adding lime juice actually negatively affected the texture; made it too mealy, too airy for what should be a smooth and creamy custard, and resulted in a lackluster lime flavor that was lost beside the tang of the cream cheese. I went through dozens of boxes of said cream cheese before repeatedly, begrudgingly, tabling the recipe to perfect at a later time.
The key lime cheesecake breakthrough finally came when I cracked the code for my lemon cheesecake recipe. Rather than simply adding juice (which contains a great deal of water and results in the awkward texture), cooking the juice into a curd results in a smooth, creamy custard. Equally importantly, it also yields bright key lime flavor that’s not too sour with just the right amount of tart–like a key lime pie and cheesecake rolled into one!
Cut yourself a slice, and you’ll be grateful this recipe only took three years of testing! 😉
What You Need
You need just 9 ingredients to make this this cheesecake! Here are a few of the important ones:
- Key lime juice. If you have access to key limes–great! Otherwise, bottled key lime juice is fine. When I can’t find fresh limes I use the brand pictured above (Nellie & Joe), which is evidently not a true key lime (it’s a “key west lime”, tricky!) but does in fact yield the proper key lime flavor and is preferable to regular lime juice (which I don’t recommend).
- Room temperature cream cheese. Full-fat, brick-style cream cheese is the only kind I recommend using in any of my cheesecake recipes.
- Sour cream. This works nicely with the key lime flavor, deepening it and imparting just the right amount of tartness to the key lime cheesecake.
- Graham crackers. Digestive biscuits will also work if you don’t have graham crackers in your area. Gingersnaps would be delicious too!
SAM’S TIP: Your key lime curd will need to cool completely before you add it to the cheesecake batter. To speed this up, you can place the curd in the fridge (just remember to place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface first!)
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Key Lime Cheesecake
- Whisk together the curd ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat-low heat until thickened. The thickening will happen quickly and be quite subtle, it won’t thicken quite as obviously as, say, pastry cream but you’ll notice the whisk will leave subtle trails and the mixture will likely begin to bubble.
- Pour the curd through a fine-mesh strainer and let it cool completely.
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugars, then stir in the melted butter.
- Press this mixture into a springform pan, going as far up the sides as you can. You want the crust to be higher than the key lime cheesecake batter will be once added, this is key to preventing cracks!
- Cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth, then stir in the sour cream.
- Drizzle in the key lime curd with your mixer on low-speed.
- Add the eggs one at a time, then stir once more to make sure everything is incorporated.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. Let the cheesecake chill completely before slicing and serving.
SAM’S TIP: Be gentle with your eggs! I’ve found that overbeating cheesecake batter, particularly once the eggs are added, can cause the cheesecake to crack.
Frequently Asked Questions
No! Like all of my other cheesecake recipes, this recipe produces a smooth, crack-free cheesecake without a water bath.
To avoid cracks, make sure to press your graham cracker crust as high up the sides of the pan as you can. Doing this will allow the crust to contract with the cheesecake as it cools, this preventing cracks during the cooling process. Overbeating the batter (particularly the eggs), using cold ingredients, opening the oven too much, and cooling too quickly can cause the cheesecake to crack too, so be mindful of these.
No. Key limes are less acidic and more floral than regular limes, so the flavor would be off. If you can’t find key limes in your grocery store, look for bottled key lime juice or key west lime juice in the juice aisle. You can use a regular lime zest for a garnish though, since it’s such a small amount.
Key lime pie has a more tart, more sweet, and less creamy flavor and texture. Key lime cheesecake has the flavor of key lime pie but also a strong cheesecake flavor, a thicker texture, and is taller.
Key lime pie (and in turn, key lime cheesecake) should not be green. It should have a yellowish hue with maybe a slight hint of green, but not overtly so. Key lime pies that are green usually have food dye added to them.
So many of you have been waiting for this recipe, and I can’t wait to hear what you think!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Key Lime Cheesecake
For Key Lime Curd
- ½ cup (118 ml) key lime juice
- 3 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
- 1 ½ cups (170 g) graham cracker crumbs
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar firmly packed
- 5 Tablespoons (71 g) unsalted butter melted
- 24 oz (680 g) cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten, room temperature preferred
- Combine key lime juice, egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and whisk to combine. Add butter and turn stovetop to medium-low heat.½ cup (118 ml) key lime juice, 3 large egg yolks, ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon table salt, 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened (it will become more opaque and will likely begin to simmer just below the surface). Once this happens, immediately remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl.
- Allow curd to cool completely before using in cheesecake batter, you may speed up the process by placing a piece of wax or parchment paper against the surface and refrigerating until cooled (about 30 minutes). While cooling, prepare crust and preheat oven to 325F (165C).
- Stir together graham cracker crumbs and sugars. Add butter and stir until well-combined and all crumbs are moistened.1 ½ cups (170 g) graham cracker crumbs, 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar, 5 Tablespoons (71 g) unsalted butter
- Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9” springform pan. Set aside. Once curd has cooled, prepare cheesecake batter.
- In a large bowl using an electric mixer (or using stand mixer with paddle attachment), stir together cream cheese and granulated sugar on medium-low speed until creamy, smooth, and completely combined.24 oz (680 g) cream cheese, 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- Add sour cream and stir until combined. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula.¼ cup sour cream
- With mixer on low-speed stir in cooled key lime curd until completely combined.
- Add eggs one at a time, stirring on low speed until just combined after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed to ensure batter is uniform.2 large eggs
- Pour batter evenly into prepared cheesecake pan and bake in the center rack of your oven on 325F (165C) for 50-60 minutes. The cheesecake should be mostly set once finished but the center will still jiggle slightly like jello once it is finished baking.
- Allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature for about an hour then, once it’s cool enough to pick up, transfer to refrigerator to chill 6 hours or overnight before slicing and serving (I leave the cheesecake in the springform pan until serving).
- Serve topped with a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream.
StoringStore in the refrigerator for up to 5 day. I store directly in the springform pan covered with foil or plastic wrap.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Hi! I’m planning to make this this weekend and I’m wondering if you’ve ever had the key lime cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. If so, is this recipe is comparable to that? That one is nice and tart and that’s what I’m hoping for.
Hi Tyana! I haven’t had the one from the cheesecake factory, but this is a nice tart cheesecake. 🙂
I’ve made this twice now and it got rave reviews both times. I served it with two easy sauces, mango and raspberry. I’ve tried all your cheesecake recipes now, and they’ve all been winners! I especially like that yours do not require a water bath – who wants to fool around with that!? Have not tried the stuffed cheesecake recipes, so will try those next!
One request, how about a clam chowder recipe? There are lots of them out there, but would love to see what you come up with!
Hi Wayne! I’m so glad everyone has enjoyed it so much! I really don’t like fussing with a water bath! I will add a clam chowder to my list. 🙂
The curd calls for unsalted butter but currently i only have salted. Should I omit the 1/4 tsp of salt? I was also curious if baking the crust first for about 10 min would be ok
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Michelle! Just add a small pinch of salt instead. Yes, that will be fine. Enjoy! 😊
My husband loves key lime pie and I love cheesecake so I’ll be making this right away. Just a note though…you might want to change the baking time to “minutes” rather than “seconds.” 🙂