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Just Don’t Call Them Key Lime Squares

February 25 2008 by Kristin at The Kitchen Sink in Dessert,Recipe » 44 comments


After growing up in Minnesota and traveling only so far as Chicago for college, I didn’t expect that my early undergrad days would involve a language barrier. But barely hours into the orientation backpacking trip, I was informed that I said the words “bag” and “boat” wrong. I can only imagine the hilarity that would’ve ensued had I busted out a “yah, sure” or an innocent “you betcha.”







Many of my other speech idiosyncrasies, according to my new fellow collegians, involved food. Not only did I pronounce several words “wrong” (e.g. bagel), but I also had downright hysterical words for some foods. For instance, the “casserole” is a foreign term in my homeland, where we make hot dishes (which involve at least two cans of cream of mushroom soup per 9×13 inch pan). And then I really had my new friends in stitches when I told them about the great Minnesota treat: bars.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)


Not “treats.” Not “squares.” No, sir, we make bars. There are the cereal variety: Rice Krispies Bars; Special K Bars. And those that feature produce: rhubarb bars; pumpkin bars. And, of course, the “fancy” bars: cheesecake bars; pecan pie bars.


So, I’m very happy to introduce this recipe for Key Lime Bars into my repertoire. These will definitely make repeat performances in my rotation of baked goods. They’ve got all the best traits of key lime pie—a nearly-crumbly graham cracker crust cradling a velvety, cool, tart custard. But they’ve got the rustic, bite-sized appeal of a bar. It’s a good thing Ms. Stewart called them by their correct name, because I might have been a little conflicted about making key lime squares.


Key Lime Bars
Martha Stewart Living

1 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs
2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice , (about 23 Key limes total)
1 cup sweetened condensed milk, (14 ounces)
2 Key limes, thinly sliced into half-moons

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a small bowl. Press evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake until dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.(Leave oven on.)

Make filling: Put egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly. Raise speed to high; mix until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add lime juice; mix until just combined.

Spread filling evenly over crust using a spatula. Bake, rotating dish halfway through, until filling is just set, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or overnight).

Cut into 2-by-2-inch bars. Garnish bars with whipped cream and a slice of lime.

44 comments so far. »
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  1. Gretchen Noelle says on February 25 2008 at 7:08 am:

    Oh. My. Goodness.

    Delicious-ness is junpming off your page! I want one!!!

  2. RecipeGirl says on February 25 2008 at 7:29 am:

    Wow, that’s a lot of lime squeezing you had to do! I’m assuming this was part of your Mexican feast- they look delicious! I made Margarita Cake last year for Cinco de Mayo that had little lime slices on top too- it was rather yummy. (It’s on RecipeGirl.com if you’re interested in that one). Another great post!!

  3. kellypea says on February 25 2008 at 7:39 am:

    These look really amazing. Great photographs…I can just imagine the flavor.

  4. Patricia Scarpin says on February 25 2008 at 7:43 am:

    Anything with lime has my undivided attention – these look divine!
    You can call them whatever you want and I’ll still be begging for some. :)

  5. Erin says on February 25 2008 at 8:46 am:

    Gorgeous documentation! I don’t like key lime at all, but these are beautifully presented. I’m sure they were gobbled up in record time.

  6. rachel says on February 25 2008 at 9:27 am:

    These “bars” look great! Send me some! :)

  7. michelle says on February 25 2008 at 11:38 am:

    i’m pretty sure those are “squares” but whatever you call ‘em, they look great.

    i love the simplicity of key lime pie. and, of course, i love

  8. Deborah says on February 25 2008 at 12:30 pm:

    These are gorgeous! I call these bars as well, but the rice krispie ones are treats!

  9. Zoe Francois says on February 25 2008 at 12:38 pm:


    Great Minnesotan minds think alike! I just had a craving for Key Lime and made a cheese cake. These look great, I’ll try this recipe next time!

    Thanks, Zoë

  10. Allison says on February 25 2008 at 1:13 pm:

    I’m sure Ren is beaming with Pride… as well as nudging mom to whip him up some! They look beautiful!!

  11. Brynn says on February 25 2008 at 4:21 pm:

    You had me at key lime. yum.

  12. JEP says on February 25 2008 at 7:23 pm:

    Beautiful & mouth-watering photos! Bite-size bars…ah, yes…portion contol:)

  13. eggsonsunday says on February 25 2008 at 8:33 pm:

    Oh, wow, these look delicious! I’m going to have to give them a try…beautiful presentation and photos, too. :)

  14. brilynn says on February 25 2008 at 8:44 pm:

    No matter what you call them they look amazing!

  15. Gretchen Noelle says on February 25 2008 at 10:41 pm:

    I wanted to let you know I just tagged you for a meme…

  16. Erica says on February 26 2008 at 9:36 am:

    I could have wrote this blog. I grew up (and now still live) in the Twin Cities. I attended school at Columbia in Chicago and my college roomate STILL makes me say “bagel” to this day. Great recipe, I can’t wait to make the bars!

  17. allyson says on February 26 2008 at 10:12 am:

    could you just use the key lime juice instead of all the squeezing?

  18. jeremy says on February 26 2008 at 10:55 am:

    Yeah, those photos are making me hungry for some bars. Mmmm. I once had a heated discussion about the word for a knit winter hat. We call them “beanies”, Ohioans call them “Toboggans”.

  19. ourkitchensink says on February 26 2008 at 11:00 am:

    Thank you, everyone!

    Gretchen: Thanks for the tag. I’ll hop to it!

    RecipeGirl: I’ve never loved my citrus reamer more.

    Zoe: Your cheesecake is gorgeous!

    Allyson: I’m sure you’re could use bottled juice, but the recipe does call for freshly-squeezed. Plus, I’m a sucker for using-and-abusing citrus (the more zesting and squeezing involved, the happier I am).

  20. Patti says on February 26 2008 at 7:36 pm:

    They are delicious as well as beautiful “bars”. Thanks for the preview taste!

  21. Kristen says on February 26 2008 at 8:04 pm:

    Wow. Those look fabulous. *adds to ‘to-make’ folder*

    And you’ll be happy to know, in Massachusetts, it’s bars as well. ;)

  22. Hairy Weisenheimmer says on February 27 2008 at 10:50 am:

    Gotta try these this weekend, dontchaknow ;-)

  23. Jenny P says on February 28 2008 at 4:42 pm:

    The bars look great! Of course 8 months pregnat anything with citrus looks good. I almost peed my pants laughing at the pronounciation of bag, and bagle. It brought back some of the best memories of my college roomate (listed above).

    Thanks for the smile!

  24. ourkitchensink says on February 28 2008 at 9:24 pm:

    Patti: Thanks! You know you guys are always welcome to sneak peeks!

    Kristen: I always knew I like Massachusettsans.

    HW: Well played.

    Jenny P: You’re welcome. Thanks for the comment.

  25. Sara says on April 05 2008 at 3:45 pm:

    Just reading this post on “bars” made me miss my home in North Dakota…just across the river! Every spring, I start to crave lime, lemon, and peach desserts. I am making this for dessert next weekend! Thanks.

  26. Bruce Anderson says on May 10 2008 at 12:44 pm:

    I think I need to make these for tomorrow. We’re having a “dessert supper” for mother’s day, and I know a few folks (OK, me) who’ll enjoy an alternative to the heavy pies and cakes.

  27. Bruce Anderson says on May 11 2008 at 11:55 pm:

    They turned out well, if a bit…ah…POTENT? I think the next time I make these I’ll cut the juice to half a cup and see how that works. I like lime, but I’ve got to drown these in whipped cream to make them edible. :(

  28. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on May 12 2008 at 11:17 am:

    Bruce: So sorry to hear that! I didn’t find them too tart at all. Did you use fresh key lime juice? If not, I wonder if the bottled is more potent?

  29. Pat says on June 22 2008 at 11:08 am:

    I made these last night for a bis party. Doubled the recipe and put in a 9×13 pan. Didn’t bother with the mixer and just used a whisk. I also used Nellie and Joe’s Key lime juice in the bottle, couldn’t find fresh key limes and this is better than using regular lime juice. Easy and delicious, went over very well. I think next time I will put the pan in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before serving and then cut into smaller bars. Just terrific on a tray with cookies and brownies. Everyone loved the sweet and tart refreshing treat.
    Can’t wait for another party!

  30. elizabeth says on November 04 2008 at 2:43 am:

    Hi, I know this is months past the post-date, but I had been looking and looking for an easy great recipe for month. It’s my favorite dessert and can’t be found ANYWHERE around here…So, this morning I am making the recipe for the fourth time in as many weeks. It’s so great, completely easy…I can’t ruin it and that’s saying alot…I appreciate you posting it.

  31. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on November 06 2008 at 9:05 pm:

    elizabeth: Thank for your note! Glad you liked them.

  32. Lisa says on November 24 2008 at 8:09 pm:

    I am trying this for the first time tonight. Tell me is the second ingredient suppose to be cinnamin?

  33. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on November 24 2008 at 8:22 pm:

    Lisa: No, it’s finely ground graham crumbs (as opposed to the ground graham crumbs in the first step). I am assuming that this is a texture thing. I would grind up all the crumbs at once, reserve 2 1/2 tablespoons and grind those up a little finer.

  34. Lin says on March 13 2009 at 8:45 pm:

    My daughter and I love the movie “Drop-Dead Gorgeous”. If you haven’t seen it, rent it. It is Minnesota-based and one of the things they talk about is “coffee and bars”. We love the accents, and it is a funny flick!
    Those bars look yummy, hope I can find 23 key limes!

  35. Denise says on April 02 2009 at 10:21 am:

    My youngest son will love these! He always orders key lime pie for dessert when we dine out.

    Just discovered your blog. What a terrific find! Can’t wait to try some of your recipes for Easter.

  36. Kate the Librarian says on July 07 2009 at 6:17 pm:

    Sorry this is rather post-dated, BUT after making these, I just had to comment! These were FANTASTIC. My husband has almost eaten the whole pan of these and is already asking me to make them for his office’s potluck later on this month. I did committ one sin and used regular lime juice. I know many have said juicing 23 key limes is worth it, but I suffer from laziness and juicing 7 regular limes was enough for me. Still fantastic. Thanks for a great recipe!!!

    PS- I also confirm that we say “bars” here in New England. A square is a shape, not a tasty treat. Period.

  37. Jill says on July 26 2009 at 7:02 pm:

    I made these and loved them. Thanks for posting this recipe!

  38. Victoria says on August 15 2009 at 11:17 pm:

    It was great!!! Thanks again for the post!
    Made a double recipe for the party and had to squeeze 2 bags of limes… good thing my husband came to help and used garlic press to make things go faster. Grinded all the crackers – didn’t see the need in the texture… Hope everybody will enjoy the bars as my big noisy family did :-)

  39. Amy says on September 13 2009 at 8:06 am:

    These are INCREDIBLE bars!
    I was looking for a special Jimmy Buffett inspired dessert to make for our pre-concert tailgaiting at Alpine Valley and these were a HUGE hit! The freshly squeezed key lime juice is definitely worth the time and effort. Born and raised in Minnesota (and sadly transplanted in the Land of Cheeseheads) I know an excellent BAR when I taste one! Thanks for the recipe!

  40. Sandra says on June 28 2011 at 1:29 pm:

    These look wonderful, but key limes are yellow, not green. I think you used regular limes. Either way, they look great. And since I have a bag of limes on my kitchen counter, I think I will try your “not-key-lime” bars this weekend!

  41. Sandra says on June 28 2011 at 1:32 pm:

    Oh, one more thing….. try it with ginger snaps instead of graham crackers for the crust. D-Licious!

  42. Tiffany says on March 02 2012 at 6:42 am:

    Question: I am interested in making these but were they difficult to remove from the pan without messing up? Did the crust get stuck to pan at all? I’d like to make them for a party and i want the presentation to be perfect. Perfect squares..oops i mean bars (in a perfect square shape) :)

  43. CHERYLE says on May 21 2012 at 10:20 am:

    I loved these but used key lime juice from a bottle. They were extremely tart and a little much for many people at the party I had. I cut into 2″ squares and then quartered them so that I would have more. I was nervous that they would fall apart when I tried to get them out of the pan but made sure to cut through completely and they came out beautifully.

  44. Gretchen says on September 19 2012 at 10:16 pm:

    Wondered if anyone’s made these and discovered that they can only stay intact and keep from being runny if they’re cold. They are truly delicious. but after about an hour out of the refrigerator, they don’t hold their shape. I know I followed the recipe correctly.

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