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.

A whole key lime cheesecake with pecan crust topped with lime slices and whipped cream on a plate.

Key Lime Cheesecake with Pecan Crust

4.84 / 6 votes
This tangy key lime cheesecake with pecan crust is made with a tangy citrus cheesecake filling that sits atop a toasted pecan and graham cracker crust.
David Leite
Servings12 servings
Calories525 kcal
Prep Time1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time4 hours


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.
Southern Sugar

Adapted From

Southern Sugar

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Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 525 kcalCarbohydrates: 36 gProtein: 8 gFat: 40 gSaturated Fat: 21 gMonounsaturated Fat: 12 gTrans Fat: 0.2 gCholesterol: 163 mgSodium: 283 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 26 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Belinda Smith-Sullivan. Photo © 2021 Kate Blohm. All rights reserved.

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.

A slice of key lime cheesecake with pecan crust on a white plate, topped with a lime slice and a dollop of whipped cream.

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!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Tall, luscious, perfect! Except for a rather small, 2″ crack. Most of the water in my bain-marie had evaporated when I took the cheesecake out of the oven. So next time I will remedy that, and I will also butter the sides of the pan. I covered the cheesecake with the whipped cream, so no one knew about the crack except me. And now you. Everyone who has begged me for a slice has declared it the best cheesecake ever. And all I did was follow the recipe in blind obediance.

    1. Wonderful, Sandy! We’re so pleased that this was such a success. Thanks for taking the time to let us know.

  2. Please, I want to make this cheesecake, I have a convection oven, will it be more time than your suggestion?
    Thanks, molly

    1. Molly, a convection oven usually takes less time and I would watch it carefully so you can make any adjustments. I would check the cheesecake about 15-20 minutes earlier and when it is slightly firm in the center proceed with step 6. Please let us know how it turns out.