key lime pie bars
If there is one type of pie I could eat for the rest of my life, it’s Key lime pie. And these Key Lime Pie Bars are the square-shaped, sky-high version of the beloved sweet-tart pie with a buttery graham cracker crust, thick lime filling and delicate whipped cream topping. If you’re in the mood for a treat that’s easy, cool and citrus-kissed, you’ve come to the right recipe!
The Best Key Lime Pie Bars You’ll Ever Have
Hello hello! Anyone else totally thrown off by the long holiday weekend, as per usual? Whenever there is a Monday holiday, I am lost in confusion as to the day/time/month for a good, oh, three to four days. I’m hoping that means that, by the weekend, I’ll know that it is FOR SURE Saturday, but until then? It’s TueWursday.
In any case, I hope your weekend was beautiful. We had an extremely chill weekend filled with beanbag toss games in the backyard, day drinking, movie-watching on rainy afternoons, delicious pizza with dill pickles on top, a few house projects and just a lot of relaxing. We’re coming into a week with a lot going on, including having the first floor of our house painted (!), so it was a cozy and calm start to summertime.
But perhaps the best part of our weekend? These Key Lime Pie Bars, of course. When I gave one to my ever-picky-eater Avery and asked her if she liked them, she looked me square in the eye and said, fully serious, “Like them? I LOVE THEM.” And that’s all the proof I need to tell you that these are the best Key Lime Pie Bars you’ll ever have.
What is a Key Lime Pie Bar?
I’ve grown up on Key Lime Pie, and I have no plans to stop enjoying it anytime soon. When we’d take our annual vacations to Florida, my dad would always, without fail, purchase a Key Lime Pie from the local pie shop — and after that pie shop closed, he continued the tradition with a Publix Key Lime Pie. And then we would sit, sandy and sunburned, and each devour a hearty slice of that graham cracker-crusted, sweet and citrusy tart yellow filling and generous dollop of thick whipped cream on top and be so so happy.
I wanted to recreate that sense of Key Lime Pie goodness in bar form, where the basic components of a traditional pie remain but the benefits of a dessert bar also are reaped. And so, these Key Lime Pie Bars were born: a dessert bar baked in a square baking pan with a buttery graham cracker crust, a super-thick, super-tall Key lime filling and a soft, pillowy, cloud-like topping of homemade whipped cream. It’s like being on vacation in Florida again, except I get to sleep in my own bed (a win-win, really).
Ingredients You’ll Need
The ingredients needed to make these Key Lime Pie Bars are easier to find than you think. So before you get nervous because you don’t know where to find fresh Key limes or Key lime juice anywhere but, well, Florida, I’ve got good news for you. Here are the main ingredients you need to make these dessert bars:
- Graham crackers (and splurge for the good ones, mmk? None of that generic cardboard).
- Sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk).
- Key lime juice (I sometimes find the Nellie & Joe’s brand in the juice aisle near the bottled lemon/lime juice at my grocery store, so look there first!); BUT, if you don’t find any, guess what? Regular fresh lime juice works just as well. It’s a little more tart than Key lime juice, but at the end of the day, no one will be the wiser when they take a bite. Just be sure to use FRESH lime juice (like the juice squeezed directly from a lime) rather than bottled lime juice, please and thank you.
- Egg yolks; the yolks will give the lime filling its signature, curd-like flavor and texture and help the bars to bake into sturdy-yet-soft squares of deliciousness.
- Fresh lime zest (from the aforementioned limes) for a little added zing.
- Heavy cream to make the fresh whipped cream! But if you’re thinking you’ll just squirt some of that pre-made whipped cream from a can on top, your secret’s safe with me.
How to Make Key Lime Pie Bars
The process to make these citrus-kissed pie bars is so simple, you can make them with your kids! But also if you just need a little quiet time to yourself in the kitchen and you want to make these bars alone for just a few peaceful minutes for the love of — OK, well, that’s just fine, too. Here’s how in six steps:
- Step One: Make the graham cracker crust. Be sure to press it gently, but firmly, into your foil-lined baking pan so it bakes into one solid base for your bars.
- Step Two: Make the Key lime filling. Simply whisk together some sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice and lime zest. Pour the filling over your cooled crust, and bake until it’s just set (aka still slightly jiggly, but the center doesn’t move too much).
- Step Three: Exercise your patience and let the bars cool completely. I know it’s hard. But I believe in you. YOU’VE GOT THIS.
- Step Four: Make the whipped cream topping! Just some heavy cream + sugar + vanilla + unicorns + rainbows = pillowy clouds of sweet goodness for your pie bars.
- Step Five: Let the bars chill in the fridge for a couple more hours. I know. I KNOW. It’s worth it, trust me. You are strong and you have the willpower to wait.
- Step Six: OK WE CAN EAT THEM NOW. Whew. You did it. I am so proud.
Tips for the Best Pie Bars
Now that we’ve exercised some seriously impressive patience and restraint to wait for these bars to be ready to eat, let’s talk about some tips for baking the best pie bars ever:
- When lining the pan with foil, make sure you leave enough foil on two sides of the baking pan as “handles” so that when the bars are ready to cut, you can lift the entire batch out of the pan without a mess.
- To get those clean cuts on your pie bars, use a sharp knife and cut straight down into the bars like you’re using a cleaver — don’t swipe the knife through the bars — then lift the knife straight up. Also, clean the knife after each cut.
- You can store the bars with the whipped cream on top, but if you want to serve them later, you can leave off the whipped cream until a couple of hours before you plan to serve them.
- You can store Key Lime Pie Bars covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. That’s three full days of cutting off slivers of pie bars for a lil’ something whenever you want. Just a pro tip for you.
It’s finally summertime and I’m here for it, feet up and Key Lime Pie Bar in hand on this lovely ThurSundesday. Life is good.Print
Deliciously sweet-tart, sky-high pie bars made with a graham cracker crust, Key lime filling and sweetened whipped cream topping.
For the crust:
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8 full crackers, finely crushed)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
- 1 3/4 cups sweetened condensed milk (about 1 1/2 cans, or 21 ounces)
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup Key lime juice*
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
For the topping:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Lime zest, for garnish (optional)
- Heat oven to 300°F. Line an 8x8x2-inch square baking pan with foil.
- In a small bowl, stir graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and butter until a sandy mixture forms. Press gently and evenly into bottom of prepared baking pan. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and set. Set aside to cool completely.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice and 1 tablespoon lime zest until well combined. Pour carefully and evenly on top of cooled crust.
- Bake filling at 300°F for 30 to 40 minutes or until filling is still slightly jiggly but center is just set. Transfer pan to cooling rack to cool completely, about 2 hours.
- Once fully cooled, make the topping: In a medium bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat heavy cream, sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream evenly over cooled bars. Sprinkle with lime zest for garnish, if desired. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before slicing and serving. Use foil to help you remove the bars from the baking pan before slicing.
- Bars will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days.
- *If you can’t find Key lime juice (my go-to brand is Nellie & Joe’s, found in the juice aisle of my grocery store near the bottled lemon juice), you can use regular lime juice instead! It will taste just as good. Be sure to use fresh lime juice instead of bottled lime juice for the best flavor.
- Use any leftover sweetened condensed milk to make Vietnamese Iced Coffee!
Keywords: graham cracker crust, Key lime pie filling, homemade whipped cream