What are Key Limes

Key limes, also called West Indies or Mexican limes, are small yellow-green citrus fruits grown in the Caribbean and in certain regions of the United States. They are known for having a tart flavor, being less acidic than other types of limes, and for their association with Key lime pie.

What Are Key Limes

Key limes are an American variety of lime that are grown primarily in Florida and the Caribbean. They’re smaller than regular limes and have yellow skin, a thin rind, and highly acidic juice.

Although they originated in Southeast Asia, this citrus fruit was introduced to America by the Spanish. They took it with them from the West Indies to Florida in 1565. Because the climate was so similar, it was easy for them to grow here, and their popularity only increased as their reputation grew. Key limes also became a popular crop for use on ships because they were easily preserved, meaning they lasted long enough to make it through long journeys at sea.

Key limes are known for having a tart taste rather than the pure sweetness of most other varieties of lime. If you can’t find them in your local grocery store or farmers market, you may be able to order them online or at specialty food stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. This type of lime is especially popular during summer months when fresh fruit is available—they’re often used in cocktails like margaritas and mojitos!

Nutritional Value Of Key Lime?

Key limes are a good source of vitamin C, which is important for immune function, wound healing, and keeping gums healthy. A single key lime contains about 13 milligrams of vitamin C, which is almost 20 percent of the daily recommended intake for men and 25 percent for women, according to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. Key limes also contain potassium, iron, and calcium.

Dietary fiber plays an important role in digestion by adding bulk to stools and helping food move through the digestive tract more quickly. A key lime provides 1 gram of dietary fiber per serving, or 4 percent of the daily recommended intake for men and 6 percent for women. Dietary fiber may also help reduce high cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease.

Calcium, potassium, and iron are nutrients that are critical to the health of bones and teeth. A key lime provides about 4 percent of the daily recommended intake for calcium, 16 percent for potassium, and 2 percent for iron.

key limes

What Does Key Lime Taste Like?

Key limes have a more concentrated, intense citrus flavor than regular limes. They are often described as floral and aromatic. Key lime is so different from the larger, more common Persian lime that it’s like comparing a lemon to orange.

When ripe, key limes have a yellowish-green skin and are smaller than lemons — about 2 inches in diameter on average. They’re not easy to find in grocery stores because they bruise easily and don’t ship well.

While the juice of key limes tends to be sweeter than that of the standard lime, it has less juice due to the small size of the fruit. It also has more seeds, so it is recommended that you use a fine strainer when squeezing them.

Key limes are one of the most popular fruits in Florida, where they’re often part of a breakfast plate or added to a bowl of cottage cheese along with grapefruit. The zest is used to add flavor to salad dressings and desserts as well as Thai, Indian, Mexican and Caribbean cuisines.

Key Lime vs. Regular Lime 

Key limes are smaller than regular limes, but the difference does not stop there. The key lime juice is more tart and has a stronger fruity flavor than regular lime juice. Key limes also have a stronger aroma than regular limes. Key lime juice is often used in desserts and cocktails, including Key Lime Pie and the Mojito.

Regular limes are called Persian or Tahitian limes. Regular limes are much larger than key limes, but they contain less juice and are less acidic than key limes. Regular lime juice is used in beverages such as margaritas and limeade.

Key limes are commonly found in the United States but they can also be found in Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. They are an important crop to many countries throughout the world. Key limes are often used for garnishes and flavoring dishes.

Cloves and cinnamon (sweetened) can be used to flavor drinks and recipes.

Today, key limes are mainly used for cooking and in the making of drinks. The fruit is used for juice and the small key-shaped segments for flavoring. The fruit may be wrapped in a thin slice of lime, or preserved whole with or without seeds.

Where To Buy Key Limes


The Midwest supermarket chain Mariano’s sells key limes in its produce department, typically near the regular limes. It’s one of the few places that carry them year-round, and it may be your best chance of finding them if you live outside of Florida.

World Market

Cost Plus World Market is another viable option for buying key limes. The store sells them in small bags that usually contain 20 to 30 key limes, depending on their size. You can find them in the fruit section or the snack aisle.


Costco is an excellent choice if you’re looking to buy a lot of key limes at once and don’t mind paying a membership fee to shop there. The warehouse club sells bags containing roughly 200 key limes each. That may seem like an insane amount of fruit, but it’s easy to go through that many when making large batches of lime juice for cooking and cocktails.

Grocery Stores in Key Lime-Growing Regions

There’s really no substitute for buying fresh key limes from a store near where they were grown, especially if you want to make key lime pie in the summer or key lime juice for cocktails during the rest of the year. Try grocery stores in Florida and Texas, where many people grow and sell their own trees. Most will sell limes individually if you ask; some may even be willing to ship them to you.

Fruit-Sharing Farms

If you’re looking for a more sustainable way to purchase key limes, consider renting a space to grow your own. Some of these fruit-sharing farms also offer classes in how to grow and use them (see below).

Lime Love Gardens: Lime Love Gardens is a Florida farm that shares its 300 limes among members who pay around $1,000 for six trees. Each member can expect about 10 pounds of picked limes per year.

How To Store Key Limes

If you plan on using the key limes within one week after buying them, you can keep them at room temperature. Place the fruit in a bowl on your countertop or table. For example, place them on the kitchen table if you eat most of your meals there and cook often in your kitchen. Keep the bowl away from heat sources and direct sunlight to prevent spoilage

Keep key limes in an unsealed plastic bag with several holes poked into it in the refrigerator to keep them better preserved. The limes will stay fresh for about a month. If you’re lucky enough to have a key lime tree, you can easily keep key limes on hand all the time

What Food Can Cook By Key Lime

Key limes are a distinct variety of lime that’s smaller and more acidic than other varieties, such as Persian limes or Tahitian limes. These small citrus fruits are a staple in the foods of the Florida Keys: pies, cocktails, preserves, and salads. The distinct flavor is associated with the region, and its popularity has spread throughout North America.

Baked Goods

Key lime juice makes a distinctive addition to baked goods. It can be used to flavor cakes, muffins, and breads. Many recipes call for key lime zest as well, which can be added to icing or frosting. The zest can also be sprinkled on top of cookies after they’re baked.

key lime

Salad Dressings

Key limes are commonly used to make salad dressings and sauces because they add a tart counterpoint to the flavor of greens. Key lime juice is an essential ingredient in many ceviche recipes, which involve marinating raw fish in citrus juice. It can also be used to make vinaigrettes that are served over leafy green salads or fruit salads.

Frozen Treats

Key lime juice is often used as a flavoring for desserts like ice cream, pudding, and sherbet. Margaritas are a popular frozen cocktail made with tequila and key lime juice. A homemade version of the popular frozen treat can be made by blending ice cream with key lime juice, lime zest, and a bit of sugar or simple syrup.


Key limes are an essential ingredient in many classic cocktails, like the margarita or the Singapore sling. You can make your own bottled mixers with it as well, such as a grenadine syrup that’s used to flavor sweetened drinks and desserts.


Key limes are often used to make marinades for fish and seafood. The acid in the juice tenderizes the meat, and its tart flavor goes well with the taste of seafood. You can also marinate vegetables using key lime juice as well, or mix it with other fruit juices to create a marinade that works well with chicken and pork dishes.


In conclusion, the key lime is an understated fruit that deserves to be lauded as one of the most important agricultural contributions from American soil.

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