Key Lime Cheesecake

This easy key lime cheesecake is tart, just the right amount of sweet, and unbelievably delicious. More good news? It doesn't require a water bath!

key lime cheesecake sprinkle with lime zest with one slice removed on a plate

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Tangy and sweet, creamy and crunchy, this key lime cheesecake hits all the right notes. It combines the flavors of the fan-favorite key lime pie with the texture and richness of a cheesecake. 

The bottom is a simple graham cracker crust that’s buttery and crunchy, while the filling is an ultra creamy cheesecake with the fruity tang of fresh key lime. It’s topped with a sour cream and key lime zest whipped cream that is fluffy, light, and the perfect balance to the rich cheesecake.

Make it several hours or even a day ahead since the cheesecake needs to chill so that it fully sets. No matter where or how you serve it, you’re sure to be popular.

As Easy as Key Lime Cheesecake

While this recipe requires a few phases (crust, filling, and topping), there is minimal hands-on time, and you can break up the prep as needed.

First, a simple graham cracker crust is pressed into a 9-inch springform pan and baked. Meanwhile, make the filling. It’s a simple mixture of cream cheese, key lime juice and zest, sugar, and eggs that comes together quickly. Scrape the cheesecake filling on the crust and bake just until set. 

This is quick, easy, and almost foolproof cheesecake recipe doesn’t require a water bath. This one does not have a tendency to crack. Let it fully cool and chill. Finally, make some (key lime) zesty whipped cream. You have options for decorating: Spread the whipped cream on top of the whole cheesecake or slice the cheesecake and serve it with a dollop of whipped cream on the top or side. 

Slice of key lime cheesecake.

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Key Limes vs. Limes

Many-a key lime purist will tell you that you simply cannot make key lime desserts without key limes. The tart little limes do pack a mighty punch and have a distinctive flavor slightly different from typical limes, but they can also be hard to come by, especially out of season.

If you can’t find fresh key limes, use plump Persian limes (the standard variety usually found at grocery stores). I’m a firm believer that fresh limes trump bottled key lime juice, even if the flavor isn’t quite the same. It’ll still be incredibly delicious—just call it lime cheesecake instead and no one will mind.

What If You Don't Have Springform Pan?

This recipe calls for a 9-inch springform pan, but you can use a pan in a different size or shape. I recommend that you use a metal pan, not a glass or ceramic one. When using a square or rectangular pan, line it with parchment paper—it’ll help you lift the cheesecake out! Here are some options:

  • 9x9-inch pan: Bake the cheesecake for 20 minutes. This is a great shape for cutting the cheesecake into bars. 
  • 8x8-inch pan: If you don’t have a 9x9-inch pan, bake the cheesecake in an 8x8-inch pan. They will be slightly thicker and will take about 25 minutes to bake.
  • 9x13-inch pan: To make a big batch, double the recipe and bake it in a 9x13-inch pan for 22 to 28 minutes.
A bite of key lime cheesecake.

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Delicious Variations

While this cheesecake is excellent as-is, here are some variations to try that will yield an equally delicious treat:

  • Gluten-free: Use gluten-free graham-style crackers or crumbs.
  • Pretzel crust: For a salty, crunchy crust, swap the graham crackers for lightly salted pretzels. Omit the salt in the crust and filling.
  • Chocolate: Swap the graham cracker crumbs for chocolate cookie crumbs. To serve, drizzle the cheesecake with chocolate sauce or sprinkle it with a handful of mini chocolate chips.
  • Naked: Leave off the whipped cream topping for a tarter and more intense cheesecake.
  • Coconut: Top the cheesecake with lightly toasted coconut flakes.

Got Key Limes? 

A slice of key lime cheesecake cut out.

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Key Lime Cheesecake

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Cool Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 50 mins
Servings 12 to 16 servings

Ingredients

For the cheesecake:

  • Cooking spray, for the pan

  • 6.8 ounces graham crackers (about 12 crackers), or 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 2/3 cup (135g) sugar

  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

  • 1 teaspoon key lime zest

  • 1/4 cup fresh key lime juice (from about 8 juicy key limes)

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

For the whipped cream:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

  • 1/2 teaspoon key lime zest

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Special Equipment

  • 1 (9-inch) round springform pan
  • Food processor

Method

  1. Prepare the oven and baking pan:

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the inside of a 9-inch round springform pan with cooking spray. Set it aside.

  2. Make the crust:

    Break up the graham crackers into smaller pieces and add them into a food processor. Attach the lid and pulse about 20 times until fine even crumbs form.

    Add the powdered sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pulse to combine. 

    In a small heatproof bowl, add the butter and microwave on high in 30-second increments until melted. Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and pulse until fully combined. It should look like moist sand and loosely stick together when pressed with your fingers.

    If using store-bought graham cracker crumbs, add it into a medium bowl and use a rubber spatula to stir it with the powdered sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and melted butter until combined.

    Process graham crackers in food processor.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

    Make crust in food processor.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

  3. Bake the crust:

    Transfer the crumbs into the prepared springform pan. Use your hands to press them onto the bottom in a compact, flat, and even layer, making sure to press into the corners. If the crumbs stick to your hands, wet them with a little water. 

    Bake the crust until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let it cool on the counter while you make the filling.

    Press crust down into pan.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

  4. Make the filling:

    In the bowl of a stand mixer set with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, sugar, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (You can also do this in a medium bowl using a handheld electric mixer. )

    Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the sour cream and 1 teaspoon key lime zest and beat on medium speed to combine, about 30 seconds. Add the key lime juice and beat for about 30 seconds.

    Scrape down the bowl again with the rubber spatula. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating just until combined and scraping the bowl between each addition.

    Beat cream cheese for key lime cheesecake.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

    Add key lime zest to cream cheese mixture.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

    Key lime cheesecake batter.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

  5. Bake the cheesecake:

    Scrape the cheesecake filling on top of the baked crust. Use the rubber spatula to spread it into an even layer. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edges are set and the center jiggles like Jell-O when you gently shake the pan.

    Set the pan to cool on a wire rack until it comes to room temperature, about an hour. Transfer to the fridge and chill uncovered for at least two hours.

    Baked key lime cheesecake in pan.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

  6. Make the topping: 

    In the bowl of a stand mixer set with a whisk attachment, add the heavy cream and whisk on medium speed until thickened and doubled in size. Stop the mixer and add the powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time and continue whisking until soft peaks form. 

    Add the sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon key lime zest, and vanilla. Whisk just until stiff peaks form.

    You can also do this in a medium bowl using a handheld electric mixer.

    Whipped cream topping.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

    Add key lime zest to whipped cream topping.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

  7. Decorate and serve:

    Remove the cheesecake from the fridge and run a small knife along the outer edges of the cheesecake. Release and remove the springform ring. 

    To decorate the cheesecake, either spread or pipe the whipped cream on top of the cheesecake before slicing it, or slice the cheesecake and serve it with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.

    Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the cheesecake. For clean cuts, run the knife under hot tap water between slices.

    Leftovers can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 3 days. The cheesecake, without the whipped cream topping, can also be frozen for up to 1 month.

    The whipped cream topping can be kept in the fridge for a day or two. It will decrease in volume over time, so give it a quick whip with a whisk to bring it back to life. 

    Did you love the recipe? Leave us a review in the comments! 

    Key lime cheesecake topped with key lime zest.

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
284 Calories
20g Fat
23g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 16
Amount per serving
Calories 284
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 26%
Saturated Fat 11g 57%
Cholesterol 88mg 29%
Sodium 195mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 15g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 55mg 4%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 92mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.