Key Lime Cheesecake

Enjoy the best of both worlds.

key lime cheesecake
Photo: Photographer: Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist:Christine Keely Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
13 hrs 15 mins

Key lime pie and cheesecake are classics for a reason. Both silky, creamy desserts make for a decadent end to a meal, especially on a hot day. And since both are so complimentary in consistency and taste, it's only natural that they be combined.

For this recipe, we'll show you how to make a Key lime-themed cheesecake fit for any function or gathering. We'll also give you some ideas for how to accent your cheesecake, as well as how to achieve the best consistency. If you're looking to add this tart treat to your baking rotation, read on for more tips.

How to Make Key Lime Cheesecake

To ensure this combination truly captures the best of Key lime pie and classic cheesecake, it's important to start with a solid cheesecake recipe, as well as a basic understanding of what makes for a perfect cheesecake filling. Luckily, we've got a great guide that will walk you through the steps to making the perfect American-style cheesecake, from crust to cooling. Once you've got the basics down, making a Key lime cheesecake is as easy as adding as much Key lime juice and zest as you like to your filling.

Step 1. Make the crust

If it's your first cheesecake, start with making a graham cracker crust. Mix together graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar, then press that mixture into an oil-coated springform pan. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes at 325, until lightly browned.

If you'd like, you can try other variations on this graham cracker crust. Oreos could be used for a chocolate crust, for example.

graham cracker crust
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer

Step 2. Make the filling

Next, make your filling. Make sure to let your cream cheese soften before mixing your ingredients. Some recipes call for heavy whipping cream as a thickener, others for sour cream; experiment to find what works best for you.

Make sure not to overmix your filling, or you'll risk it falling while it's cooking. By the same token, however, you'll unfortunately need a hand or preferably stand mixer to make a good cheesecake at hand. No matter how hard you work at it, it's near impossible to make a smooth cheesecake batter by hand.

cheesecake filling in stand mixer
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer

Step 3. Prep the water bath

Once you've made your filling, you'll want to create a water bath for your Key lime cheesecake. Wrap your springform pan in two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil, and find an oven-proof container that is both big enough to fit the springform pan and deep enough that water can reach halfway up the springform pan. A roasting pan often works best for this. This process, also called a bain marie, helps ensure a smooth center.

cheesecake in water bath
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer

Cook your cheesecake until the center is nearly set, which could take up to 1 hour and 20 minutes at 325°F. The hard part is the additional waiting you'll need to do even after the cheesecake has finished cooking and has cooled for a couple of hours on a wire rack. You'll want to further chill the cheesecake overnight before serving to truly make the experience sublime.

Hoping to make a Key lime take on a Japanese cheesecake? If so, you'll need to follow similar steps, but with the addition of folding a meringue into your cheesecake mixture.

How to Top a Key Lime Cheesecake

Of course, you can just slice and serve your cheesecake once it's chilled. But if you'd like to get a little fancy, why not add a few toppings?

Whipped cream is a simple and classic topping. If you have access to fresh Key limes, you could also add a thin slice of lime to each cake slice. But feel free to branch out beyond the usual whipped topping. Chocolate or fruit syrups can both make excellent additions to a Key lime cheesecake. A recipe linked below recommends strawberry sauce on Key lime cheesecake, but pomegranate or cherry syrup would also be delicious.

And if you're willing to pop your cheesecake in the freezer for a bit before serving, a fun topping idea could be to add magic shell chocolate syrup to your cheesecake for a bit of crunch to each bite. You could also dip frozen slices in melted chocolate for the same result, though this would take a bit more work.

Substitutions for Fresh Key Limes

As pointed out in our breakdown of the key differences between Key limes and other varieties, there's not likely to be a big uproar if you can't find Florida's favorite lime. Some professional chefs claim a slight taste difference between desserts made with Key limes and those made with Persian lime (the lemon and lime descendent most commonly carried in American grocery stores). Again, however, that difference is slight enough that it's not worth fretting over.

Let's say, however, that you're determined to get some Key lime taste in your cheesecake, fresh citrus or no. If that's the case, try looking for Key lime juice. You can most likely find it either in the mixed drinks section or with the other citrus juices and baking goods. It'll give your cheesecake the slightly sweeter lime taste that Key limes are known for.

Citrus Cheesecake Recipes to Check Out

- Dreamy Lemon Cheesecake
- Key Lime Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce
- Lemon Bar Cheesecake
- Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake

Editorial contributions by Tadhg Hylier Stevens.



  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (such as Keebler) (from 1 [13½-ounce] box)

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) salted butter, melted

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • Cooking spray


  • 5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon grated Key lime zest (from 3 limes)

  • cup bottled Key lime juice (such as Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Juice

  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream


  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Additional Ingredients

  • Graham cracker crumbs

  • Key lime slices


  1. Prepare the Crust: Preheat oven to 325°F. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and granulated sugar in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Press mixture on bottom and 1½ inches up sides of a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned and fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool Crust completely in pan on a wire rack, about 20 minutes. Wrap outside of pan in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

  2. Prepare the Filling: Beat cream cheese with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar and flour, beating until smooth, about 1 minute. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Beat in lime zest, lime juice, and heavy whipping cream on low speed just until combined. Pour Filling into cooled Crust.

  3. Place springform pan in a roasting pan. Add hot water to roasting pan to reach halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake at 325°F until center is almost set but still slightly wobbly, 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes. Turn off oven, and let cheesecake stand in oven, with door partially open, 1 hour.

  4. Remove cheesecake from roasting pan, and place on wire rack. Remove foil from outside of pan, and cool cheesecake completely, about 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap (avoid touching top of cheesecake), and chill until very cold, at least 8 or up to 24 hours. Run a knife around outer edge of cheesecake to loosen from sides of pan, if needed. Remove sides of pan.

  5. Prepare Topping: Beat heavy whipping cream and vanilla in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until foamy, about 20 seconds. Gradually add powdered sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form, about 1½ minutes. Place cheesecake on a serving platter; dollop with Topping, and gently spread over top of cheesecake. Garnish with graham cracker crumbs and Key lime slices. Cover any leftovers with plastic wrap, and store in refrigerator up to 5 days.

Updated by
Tadhg Hylier Stevens
photo of tadhg stevens

Tadhg Stevens is an independent journalist and food writer with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to writing food history and home-cooking guides, Tadhg has conducted dozens of taste tests to help consumers find the best for their pantries. They are a writer for Southern Living.

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