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This is a great dessert that I adapted (sort of) from a recipe in The Best of America’s Test Kitchen, which by the way, is my current favorite cook book. I love the science behind the process. These test chefs develop recipes, try out products, taste ingredients, and mess with cooking utensils until they come up with the right mixture using the right cookware. Then they fill us in on assorted tips and tricks for culinary success, so we don’t have to bang ourselves over the head with a rolling pin when a cake falls or the fish buckles. Yikes! I’m glad they do all this testing and retesting so the rest of us can sit back and take credit for wonderful treats. Keep in mind that The Test Kitchen isn’t gluten-free, but nobody’s perfect. And we can adjust for that.

I served these cool and refreshing Key lime treats on Christmas Eve during a full-blown Colorado snowstorm. Key lime, as in the Florida Keys. You know, warm and sultry. Not
Arctic and frosty. Oh well, no one complained as they’re rich, sweet, and slightly tarty. And that’s a nice combination, wouldn’t you agree?

See below for photos I took at my house and just a few blocks from downtown Golden, Colorado on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after. See – it’s been cold and snowy around here.

The outhouse? Oh that. Hey, everyone has priorities and mine happens to be a fancy KitchenAid built-in double oven with convection options. We all have to make choices.



Key lime treats

what you need

2 cups finely pulsed gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
4 tablespoons brown sugar

5 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons grated lime zest *
pinch of salt
2 cans (14 ounces each) sweetened condensed milk *
2 large egg yolks
1 cup Key lime or fresh lime juice *

what you do
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the extra foil to hang over the edges of each side of the pan so you can lift out the baked Key lime treats. That way they don’t stick to the pan. Lightly coat the foil-lined pan with oil spray.
2. For the crust: blend the crackers in a food processor until finely ground. Add brown sugar and pulse to combine. Drizzle butter over the crumbs and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened with butter. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until a deep golden brown, about 18 minutes. Cool the crust while making the filling. Do not turn off the oven.
3. For the filling: while the crust cools, combine cream cheese, lime zest, and salt in medium sized bowl. Add condensed milk and blend until well mixed and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Whisk in the egg yolks. Add lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly).
4. Pour the filling over the cooled crust and smooth with a spatula. Bake until set and the edges begin to pull away slightly from the sides, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, 1 to 2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least two hours.
5. Remove from baking pan by lifting all four edges of foil extensions (you might need help with this). Using a good knife, cut into squares. Refrigerate until serving.

* Don’t use bottled lime juice. Regular limes are fine to use, it’s not necessary to use Key limes as it takes way too many to get 1 cup of juice. Grate the lime zest before juicing them and avoid the bitter white part just below the lime skin. I used 5 limes total for the juice and zested 3 of them to get 2 tablespoons of lime zest.

* Sweetened condensed milk is a blend of milk and sugar that is concentrated to form the base for a variety of sweet desserts. The water has been removed from the milk and sugar added, yielding a thick, sweet product. While sugar isn’t inherently “bad”– too much of it definitely can be and there’s a lot of it in these treats. To ease my conscience, I used Santini sweetened condensed milk because it’s the only one available that is organic. I always choose organic if possible.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

5 Responses to “Key lime treats”

  1. Annie says:

    I love the looks of the Key Lime Treats, and I, too, am a fan of those fine folks at America’s Test Kitchen. I believe they are responsible also for The Best Recipe, which is a cookbook that my son Gordon gave to me several years ago and which I keep by my “reading chair” as a go-to book anytime I need a dinner idea or just want to read about good food. Another favorite cookbook is How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. Happy New Year!

  2. Tevis says:

    Actually, I just made these lime bars the other day and brought them into an office full of gluten eaters and every single one of them told me that they tasted amazing and if I hadn’t told them, they would have never though they would be gluten free. Also, my boyfriend, a Midwest gluten junkie ate about three of these last night and loved them.

    This is one of the best recipes ever!!

  3. Melissa says:

    Annie — I just checked out Mark Bittman’s website and it’s awesome. Thanks for the tip. I will order his book; maybe one for you too, Tevis.

    He has a whole recipe section on the website that is great. I think I’ll try the Bean Burgers. Thanks!

  4. Cindy says:


    I am curious as why to avoid using bottled lime juice. I noticed that a sample of “real lemon” or “real lime” powdered junk I had contained dairy ingredients (I don’t remember about gluten). Or is the fresh lime juice just since fresh is infinitely better (especially for vitamin C I am guessing…?)

    These look good by the way! I never use sweetened condensed milk. I used to use only evaporated milk and sweeten with Stevia, but it’s tricky and now its not worth the effort for my nondairy goodies. Now I use agave and/or blackstrap molasses and coconut milk for most to all things like that. I found out over break that I can push my sugar too far 🙂 I think now I’ll be more vigilant, hehe. Yor treats look awesome though! Hey, if I could, I would. For now I’ll eat the virtual image 🙂


  5. Melissa says:

    Hey Cindy — fresh lime juice is just better for this recipe. It gives it a nice freshness you don’t get from bottled. Plus the bottled stuff gives it a weird taste. And yeah, sweetened condensed milk isn’t the best, but it sure works well with some baked goods. For certain people, it’s out of the question, but for most people in small doses on rare occasions, it’s okay. I had way too much sugar over the holidays as well and am now on a sugar cleanse. Argh…
    Good to “see” you again!

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