This creamy, tangy key lime cheesecake with pecan crust tastes like a perfect combination of key lime pie and New York-style cheesecake. It sits atop a nutty graham cracker and pecan crust and is topped with sweetened whipped cream. If you love citrus-infused cheesecakes, you’ll also love this cranberry-orange version.
This recipe combines the unique subtle tartness of a key lime pie in a surprisingly nutty cheesecake crumb crust. Key lime pie is the signature dessert of Florida, and is considered the only uniquely American dessert.
The Florida Keys are known for producing these smallish yellow rind key limes that are juicier and have a more well-rounded acidity than the slightly larger, dark green, less juicy key limes grown in other regions of North America. If you cannot source key limes in your area, substitute with an equal amount of half lime juice and half lemon juice.–Belinda Smith-Sullivan
Key Lime Cheesecake with Pecan Crust FAQs
Can I omit the pecans if I have allergies?
Sure thing. Just go with another 1/2 cup of graham crackers. While the pecans add a lovely salty crunch to the crust, if allergies are a concern, don’t risk it.
Can I use regular limes if I can’t find key limes?
You can – but note that key limes are sweeter than regular (Persian) limes. The Persian lime has a more acidic flavor and doesn’t boast the fruity-floral fragrance that key limes do, so there will be subtle differences in the results.
Still, you can use one tablespoon of Persian lime juice as a substitute for 2-3 tablespoons of key lime juice in your recipes, and still end up with a delicious dessert.
How do I stop my cheesecake from cracking?
There are several things you can do to avoid cracks in your cheesecake.
1. Make sure you start with room temperature ingredients.
2. Don’t overbake your cheesecake. You want it to just be set in the center.
3. Let it cool completely before removing the sides of the springform pan.
For more information, check out this article on How to Prevent Cracks in Your Cheesecake.
Key Lime Cheesecake with Pecan Crust
For the pecan pie crust
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter melted
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the cheesecake filling
- Three (8-oz) packages full-fat cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup full-fat sour cream at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (grate limes before squeezing for juice)
- 1 teaspoon grated key lime zest preferably organic
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Thin slices of key lime for garnish
Make the pecan pie crust
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- In a large bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, pecans, butter, and sugar and press firmly into the bottom of a 9-inch (23-cm) springform pan. Cover the bottom and outside of the pan with foil.
Make the cheesecake filling
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, sour cream, flour, and then add in the eggs, 1 at a time, and beat well after each.
- Mix in the lime juice, zest, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Place the cheesecake pan in another larger pan and place in the preheated oven. Fill the larger pan halfway with hot water. Bake until slightly firm in the center, about 70 minutes.
- Turn off the oven, leaving the door ajar about 8 inches (20 cm), and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and from the water bath and cool completely in the pan. If making ahead, refrigerate until ready to decorate and serve.
- Remove the sides of springform pan and place the cheesecake on a serving plate.
Make the topping
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overbeat or the cream will turn into butter.
- Scoop the whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe desired pattern onto cheesecake and garnish with lime slices.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I love a citrus-y dessert so I was very excited to try this Key lime cheesecake with pecan crust. It’s delicious! Creamy and dense, with a nice balance of sweetness and tartness.
Baking it in a water bath and cooling it in the oven for an hour made for a pretty foolproof cheesecake, smooth and level with no cracks.
My one small qualm is that the crust is pretty thick. I am a bottom crust only person when it comes to cheesecake, and would have preferred about three-quarters the amount of crust. If you are pressing your crust up the sides of your pan you might find it just right.
I couldn’t find Key limes, so I went with Persian limes instead. If you have access to Key limes I imagine it would be even more delicious, but you can definitely make this with Persian limes!
To create a watertight cover for the springform pan, I took 2 pieces of foil about 15 inches long and stacked them on top of each other. Then, I folded the long edge of the stacked pieces up about 1 inch. I folded 2 more times to make a seam, and opened it up to have one large sheet. Did the same thing with another 2 sheets of foil, then stacked one on top of the other and wrapped the pan. No water leakage!
Truly a phenomenal cheesecake. Following the recipe will yield a creamy interior with a salty and sweet crust that did not crack or crumble! The pecan crust recipe is spot-on and yields the perfect amount of crust that is easy to work with.
If you are looking for a tart, rich, and fluffy cheesecake-look no further than this Key lime cheesecake with pecan crust! This is one of the best cheesecakes I have ever made and I have made a lot!
The crust shines through because of the addition of pecans. The pecans add a nuttiness you will not find in the all graham cracker crusts. The cream cheese, sour cream, and fresh key lime juice all joined forces to create the fluffiest and most satisfying texture!
Piping the homemade vanilla whipped cream on top made this cheesecake look so beautiful.
The key to the fluffy cheesecake texture is bringing all the ingredients to room temperature, baking the cheesecake in a water bath, and letting it properly cool in the oven. Do yourself a favor and make this for the next special occasion in your life!
Originally published July 1, 2022