Freshly squeezed key lime juice and zest are the stars of these soft and delightful crinkle-style Key Lime Cookies. They're just the right blend of citrus and sweet, offering a unique twist on traditional cookies.
Happy key lime season to everyone who celebrates! Trust me when I say that I celebrate. I have a hard time not purchasing fresh key limes whenever I see them at the store and I use them every chance I get for as long as they're available near me.
When I got my first batch of limes this year, I knew I had to make cookies with them. I made these soft lemon cookies last year and they were such a huge hit, that I decided to make a very similar cookie, but using key lime juice instead of lemon juice.
The results were delicious and I'm so happy to be sharing this recipe here with you today!
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
If you're a fan of key lime flavor, you'll definitely want to try these cookies because they're packed with it without it being overbearing. They're also incredibly soft and come out perfect every time.
These key lime cookies are very easy to make and pretty, too. They're essentially a crinkle cookie and the extra sugar they're rolled in gives the tart lemon juice a nice sweet balance.
🍈 What is the difference between key limes and regular limes?
Some people claim there isn't much of a difference between the flavor in key limes and regular limes, but I definitely think there is! I absolutely love key lime season and bake with them whenever I can.
Here are some of the big differences between key limes and "regular" (or what are most often known as Persian) limes:
- Size and Color: Key limes are much smaller, typically about the size of a golf ball, and they turn yellow when ripe. Persian limes, on the other hand, are larger and stay green when they ripen.
- Taste: Key limes are known for their distinct, tart flavor that is often described as a bit more floral and aromatic than regular limes. Persian limes have a milder, less complex flavor that isn't as tart or sweet.
- Juice Content: Because of their smaller size, it takes more key limes than regular limes to produce the same amount of juice. They can be a pain to squeeze, but I recommend using a citrus press and it's not so bad!
- Availability: Persian limes are available year-round in most supermarkets. Key limes can be harder to find, especially outside of the regions where they are grown, like Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. They also have a shorter season, which typically runs through the summer and early fall.
- Seeds: Key limes usually contain seeds, whereas Persian limes are often seedless. They seeds are tiny though and, of course, if you use a citrus squeezer, they will be conveniently left behind.
Aside from the key limes, the rest of the ingredients in this cookie recipe are pretty basic ingredients and things you likely already have in your pantry. Here's what you need (be sure to check out the recipe card at the bottom of this post for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions):
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Large egg + large egg yolk
- Freshly squeezed key lime juice
- Fresh key lime zest
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Green food coloring or mix of yellow and blue: this is optional if you want your cookies to have a slightly green hue to them. Otherwise, they'll basically look like sugar cookies.
- Confectioners' sugar
🍪 How to make key lime cookies
Making these cookies is also quite easy! As I mentioned, they're made in the style of crinkle cookies. So after you make the dough, you'll roll it into balls and coat it in granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar (the granulated sugar will help the confectioners' sugar better adhere).
To start, preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together butter and 1 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
Now you're ready to add the egg, egg yolk, key lime juice, and key lime zest. You'll already start smelling that fabulous key lime fragrance.
It's important that you zest the key limes before you juice them. And note that using a citrus press will make extracting the juice so much easier!
Mix until just combined. Your mixture will likely look a little gloopy and that's OK.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Now, pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined, taking care not to over-mix.
Fold in green food coloring (or a mix of yellow and blue) until well combined, if desired.
If you don't add any food coloring, the cookies will basically take on the color of sugar cookies. And there's nothing wrong with that! I just wanted my key lime cookies to be a little green-ish.
Place remaining 3 Tbsp granulated sugar in a small bowl and place confectioners’ sugar in a separate small bowl.
Using about 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll dough into balls. Roll each ball into granulated sugar, followed by confectioners’ sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
Not only does the granulated sugar coating help the powdered sugar adhrere to the cookie dough, it also helps prevent it from absorbing into the cookie as it bakes, so you can get that gorgeous crinkled look.
Bake cookies for 15-17 minutes, until set. They should still be nice and soft. Let them cool in the pan for a couple minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
Check out those perfect crinkles!
But even more importantly than these looking pretty is the fact that they taste absolutely delicious! Any key lime fan is going to truly love these.
The soft and chewy cookies have the best citrus flavor without being overpowering or too tart at all.
Serve these at an outside summer party (perhaps with a key lime pie mojito?) or just make them to enjoy at home with your afternoon tea. Either way, I hope these encourage you to purchase key limes every time you see them!
⏲️ How to store
Once cookies are cooled, you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week.
If you want to keep the cookies for longer, you can freeze them. Place them in a freezer-safe airtight container or bag. They can last up to 3 months in the freezer.
When ready to eat, just thaw them at room temperature.
🎉 Variations on recipe
These key lime cookies are pretty simple and really allow the key lime flavor to shine. I think they're pretty much the perfect cookies. That said, there are a lot of other ingredients that really complement key lime and so much you can do to add to the flavor profile of these cookies. Here are some ideas:
- Boost the amount of key lime juice and/or zest: I like the amount of citrus zing these cookies bring, but if you want more of a punch, you can add more juice or zest.
- Add a key lime or vanilla glaze: You can whip up a quick key lime or vanilla icing and drizzle it over the top of the cookie.
- Add white chocolate chips: White chocolate and key lime is a seriously dreamy combination! If you prefer chocolate chips, you can use milk or dark.
- Dip in white chocolate or dark chocolate: Dip these cookies in white chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate for extra flavor and a fun look.
- Add shredded coconut: Who doesn't love key lime and coconut together?
- Mix in crushed graham crackers: Adding some graham cracker crumbs into the cookie dough will make these cookies taste more like key lime pie cookies!
- Add vanilla extract: I almost always put vanilla extract in my cookies, but don't use it here because I wanted the key lime flavor to shine on its own. But vanilla and lime do go really well together, so you can use some if you want!
Whether you keep these key lime cookies as is or you add in some ingredients to jazz them up, they're likely going to become your new favorite cookies!
And now that I have a stock of key limes, I'm planning to make these key lime pie bars next!
Can I use bottled key lime juice instead of fresh?
I know it's a pain to juice all those tiny limes, but I highly recommend you use fresh key lime juice to make these cookies! In my opinion, it has much more flavor than bottled juice and these cookies will taste much better.
Plus, you really need the key lime zest in this cookie batter and you won't get that unless you have the fresh limes!
👩🍳 More summer cookie recipes
If you're looking for more cookies that are fabulous in the summer (though they can all be enjoyed any time of year!), I've got a lot of easy summer cookie recipes for you. Here are some of my favorites:
I hope you're planning to celebrate key lime season in cookie form! And, of course, more specifically with these soft and chewy key lime cookies.
Do you love baking with key limes in the summer?
Key Lime Cookies
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup + 3 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed key lime juice (from about 12 key limes)
- 2 tsp key lime zest
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2-3 drops green food coloring or mix of yellow and blue (optional)
- ⅓ cup confectioners' sugar
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
- Add egg, egg yolk, key lime juice, and key lime zest and mix until just combined.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Pour dry ingredients into wet mixture and mix until just combined, taking care not to over-mix. Fold in green food coloring (or a mix of yellow and blue) until well combined, if desired.
- Place remaining 3 Tbsp granulated sugar in a small bowl and place confectioners’ sugar in a separate small bowl. Using about 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll dough into balls. Roll each ball into granulated sugar, followed by confectioners’ sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
- Bake cookies for 15-17 minutes, until set. They should still be soft. Let cookies cool in pan for a couple minutes before moving to rack to cool completely.