Key lime, also known as Citrus aurantifolia, is a small, round, and yellow-green citrus fruit, prized for its intense tart flavor and aromatic fragrance. Originating from Southeast Asia, the key lime is now predominantly grown in tropical and subtropical regions, with the Florida Keys being famously associated with it.
Home cooks and consumers appreciate key limes for their versatility in both sweet and savory dishes, with key lime pie being an iconic dessert. Their juice also adds a tangy touch to marinades, dressings, and beverages, enhancing a variety of recipes with a burst of flavor and acidity.
When it comes to cooking with key limes, the most common issues arise from treating them the same as regular limes. They are more aromatic, with a stronger, tarter flavor that can really elevate your dishes. However, they are also smaller and juicier, which sometimes makes it challenging to extract their juice without a citrus press.
Many people also make the mistake of overheating the juice, which disturbs its delicate acidity. If you're using key limes in baking, add them last to ensure that their unique aroma doesn't evaporate during a long cooking period.
To get the most out of this ingredient, be sure to use both the zest and the juice of the key lime. This gives your dish a more potent lime flavor. Try this tip when making the famous Key Lime Pie and you'll get raving reviews from your guests.
Another lesser known tip is to roll the key limes on your counter before cutting it. This helps release more juice. Also, key limes can also be used in savory dishes like fish and chicken to give them a tangy kick.
How are key limes different from regular limes?
Can I substitute regular limes for key limes in a recipe?
How do I juice a key lime?
What can I use key limes in?
How should I handle the zest of key limes?
Why does my key lime dish taste bitter?
Can I use key lime juice in cocktails?
Why are my key limes turning yellow?
Is Key Lime Pie the only dessert I can make with key limes?
Are key limes only for desserts?
Expiration & Storage Tips
When does key lime expire?
Key limes are usually best used within 2 weeks of purchase when stored at room temperature, but if you want to extend their life, you can refrigerate them where they can last for around a month. If you have a lot of limes and can't use them within this timeframe, juicing the limes and freezing the juice will allow it to last for 3 to 4 months in the freezer.
How do you tell if key lime is bad?
The easiest way to tell if a key lime has gone bad is by looking at its color and feel. If the exterior has turned a light brown and the skin has softened, it may still be edible but the flavor will have started to deteriorate. If the limes have shriveled, feel dry or if there is any visible mold, discard the limes as they are likely spoiling. Similarly, if the juice has been frozen for more than 5 months, it is likely to start losing its flavor and fresh aroma.
Tips for storing key lime to extend shelf life
• Store key limes at room temperature if you plan to use them within a week or two.
• For a longer shelf life, keep them in the refrigerator, inside a plastic bag in the crisper drawer to conserve moisture.
• If you have a large quantity of key limes, consider squeezing and freezing the juice in ice cube trays. Once frozen, transfer these 'lime cubes' to a freezer bag or airtight container. You'll have fresh lime juice ready to use for months.
• Avoid keeping limes in a bowl of fruits where they can ripen quickly due to ethylene gas released by other fruits.
• Limes are sensitive to damage so handle them with care to avoid bruising or breaking the skin, which can cause them to deteriorate faster.