Cooking & Baking

Coconut Key Lime Bars

You may remember I recently wrote a post on how I made a Key lime pie with a Fruit Loops crust. Well, as quickly as the pie went, the Key lime juice remained. It’s been sitting, lonely and forgotten, in the back of the fridge since that pie day. While it is a food product that has quite a long shelf-life, it was taking up valuable real estate and mocking me with its tangy goodness. So I put my mind to it to use it up. As it turns out, it’s great in salad dressings, smoothies and marinades, but I wanted to give it one last moment in the spotlight. As spring is slowly creeping out from behind those rain clouds, it’s the perfect time of year for sweet and tangy dessert bars. One of my favorite things ever is lemon bars. They’re buttery, have a wonderful rich, creamy texture and are a refreshing treat perfectly suited to spring picnics and outdoor activities of all sorts. I knew if I could make these heavenly treats with lemon juice, I could make them with lime juice, but I wanted to add something extra to play off the intense lime flavor. And what goes better with lime than coconut? With those famous lyrics on repeat in my head, “you put the lime in the coconut…”, I got to work. 

I have an excellent lemon bar recipe, and it took very little adjustment to get where I wanted to go. All it took was a little shredded coconut, a pinch of zest and a touch more sugar. Key lime juice is incredibly potent and interacts with sugar a little differently than lemon juice does, and I didn’t want to end up with a permanent sourpuss screwed into my face. These were intuitive changes though, and my first try left me with just what I was looking for. Here’s what you’ll need.

Coconut Key Lime Bars (Yield: 1 8″x8″ pan)


For the Crust:

4 oz. unsalted butter, softened

50g granulated sugar

120g a.p. flour

1/4 tsp. salt

50g unsweetened shredded coconut (I used the finest shred I could find)

For the Filling:

2 whole eggs

1 egg yolk

200g sugar

zest of 1 lime

75g Key lime juice 

20g a.p. flour

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting


1. Preheat your oven to 350F and spray an 8″x8″ pan liberally. Alternately, you can spray the pan and line with parchment, allowing the paper to hang over the edges of the pan, and then spray the parchment. I didn’t find this necessary in a ceramic pan, but if you’re using a metal one you may want to go this route.

2. For the crust: In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.

3. Add the flour and salt and mix just to combine. Then add the coconut and mix to evenly distribute it throughout.

4. Turn out the dough into your greased pan and press flat onto the bottom, creating a small ledge all the way around. If your fingers stick to the dough too much, dip them in a little flour and dust a tiny amount over your dough.5. Bake the crust until firm in the center and golden around the edges, about 20-25 minutes. 6. Allow the crust to cool completely.

7. For the Filling: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the sugar and lime zest and beat until the oils from the zest have been transferred to the sugar and it looks a bit like damp sand.

8. Add the whole eggs and the yolk and beat to combine with the sugar mixture.

9. Add the Key lime juice and beat to combine. 

10. Add the flour and mix.

11. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake 20-30 minutes until the custard is completely set.

12. Allow the bars to cool completely at room temperature and then refrigerate at least 1 hour. Refrigerating them overnight will help to merry the flavors and make cutting easier, if you can stop yourself from eating them that long!

13. Remove from the fridge and cut into 16 pieces, or less for larger bars. Dust with powdered sugar and devour.

I think this kind of dessert is perfect for a small gathering. They’re easy to pick up and eat and just as satisfying as cake. If you’d like to personalize these for you and your friends, cut out you and your friends’ first initials from some paper or card stock, lay one on each bar, and dust with powdered sugar. Then remove the paper and you have a special treat for all your special people!Lay these out with some sweet cocktails at a party and you’re ready to go! I love the combination of the tart Key lime flavor and the sweet, nuttiness of the coconut. The coconut also adds a great texture to the crust, making them even more enjoyable to eat. Plus, you can’t beat that color! It’s so festive and, although citrus are actually winter fruits, they always make me think of summer days.

Chef’s Tip:

Beating the sugar with the lime zest helps to enhance the color of your filling. Make sure to use the zest of a very ripe, juicy lime, as it will contain more oils in its skin, which is where all that beautiful chlorophyll is stored. When you’re done making your filling, if you’re unhappy with the color of your filling, (the egg yolks will dull the green color significantly), you can add a drop of leaf green food coloring and a drop or two of yellow food coloring. Just remember, with food coloring, a little goes a long way and the color will continue to deepen as it sits. So don’t add too much. You don’t want your bars to go nuclear!

I hope you enjoyed this and found another use for your forgotten bottle of Key lime juice as well. Comment with any questions or thoughts!

xo – Cassie

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