Key lime, also known as West Indian or Mexican lime, is unique citrus with a specific flavor. The key lime is smaller, rounder, with thinner skin and more seeds compared to the Persian lime.
Key lime also has a more intense, aromatic, sour, and bitter flavor than Persian lime. So, it is used in very sweet desserts to balance their sweetness with its bitter and sour flavor.
Key lime juice and zest are used to enhance the flavor of various vegetables, fruits, meats, and seafood. They are used in desserts, baked goods, salads, sauces, marinades, and dressings. You can also use them in cocktails or as a garnish on plates and glasses.
One of the most known desserts made with key limes is the key lime pie, a perfect blend of sweet, tangy, creamy, and crunchy flavors and textures.
It is hard to find key limes in grocery stores because in the USA they grow only in Florida, Texas, and parts of California. They are also imported from Mexico, Central, and South America and are more expensive than regular Persian limes.
Therefore, if you can’t find key limes or they are too expensive for you here are some substitutes you can use instead of key limes in your recipes or beverages.
Substitutes for key lime include Persian lime juice, lemon juice, black limes, bitter orange juice, grapefruit juice, apple cider vinegar, tamarind paste, lime oil, lime juice powder, and orange juice.
Let’s learn more about each substitute below!
Best Key Lime Juice Substitutes
Here are some of the substitutes you can use instead of key lime juice. They don’t have the same flavor as key lime juice but they will enhance the flavor of your recipe and give new and fresh notes.
1. Persian Lime Juice
Persian lime is bigger, without seeds, and has thicker skin than key limes.
It is the most common type of lime you can find in stores. Persian lime has a more acidic flavor than key limes and lacks the floral aroma that key limes have.
You can use one tablespoon of Persian lime juice as a substitute for 2-3 tablespoons of key lime juice in your recipes.
2. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice makes a good substitute for key lime juice because of its acidic and sweeter flavor than key lime juice.
It will not give the same flavor as key lime juice to your recipes but lemon juice will enhance and give them a nice fresh, sour flavor.
You can use it as a substitute for key lime juice in sauces, marinades, desserts, dressings, and cocktails in a 1:1 ratio.
3. Black Limes
Black limes are small sun-dried limes with a sour, citrusy, earthy, and slightly bitter flavor.
They are usually used in Middle Eastern cuisine as a whole or in powder form to add sour flavor to soups and stews. They are also used in spice rubs for poultry, meats, and seafood.
Use black limes powder as a substitute for key lime juice in a 1:1 ratio in soups, stews, rice, marinades, or sprinkle over pasta and salads.
4. Bitter Orange Juice
Bitter orange or Seville orange is a cross between mandarin orange and pomelo. It has a sour and bitter flavor and is usually used to make different marmalade, sauces, marinades, salad dressings, desserts, and cocktails.
You can use bitter orange juice as a substitute for key lime juice both in sweet and savory dishes in a 1:1 ratio.
5. Grapefruit Juice
Grapefruit is a cross between sweet orange and pomelo with a sour, sweet, and bitter flavor.
It is usually used in marinades, dressings, desserts, cocktails, salads, and other sweet and savory dishes. This juice is sweeter and less sour than key lime juice but it will provide a beautiful flavor to your recipes.
Substitute key lime juice with grapefruit juice in a 1:1 ratio.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a liquid with a sour, pungent flavor and strong smell.
It is used in sauces, dressings, marinades, desserts, baked goods, and drinks. You can use apple cider vinegar as a substitute for key lime juice to get a sour flavor in your recipes but in a smaller quantity.
Use ½ tablespoon of apple cider vinegar as a substitute for 1 tablespoon of key lime juice.
7. Tamarind Paste
Tamarind paste is made of the fruit of the tamarind tree. It has a sour, citrusy flavor and a thick, sticky texture. You can find it in many different sauces, soups, marinades, curries, dips, candies, desserts, and cocktails.
Substitute 2 tablespoons of key lime juice with 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste.
8. Lime Oil
Lime oil is a cold-pressed oil extracted from the lime zest. It has an intense, concentrated lime flavor and is usually used in cooking and baking as a substitute for lime juice or lime zest.
You can use lime oil as a substitute for key lime juice in different desserts, marinades, dressings, beverages, and baked goods.
Use one drop of lime oil as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of key lime juice.
9. Lime Juice Powder
Lime juice powder is a good product to have on hand whenever you need key lime juice.
It is made from lime juice, lime oil, and maltodextrin and has an intense, sour lime flavor. Lime juice powder works well in sauces, dressings, soups, marinades, desserts, baked goods, and beverages.
Mix 1 teaspoon of lime juice powder with 2 tablespoons of water and use as a substitute for 2 tablespoons of key lime juice in your recipes.
10. Orange Juice
Orange juice is sweeter and doesn’t have the same sour flavor as key lime juice.
However, it will provide a sweet and slightly sour orange flavor to your recipes. You can use it in desserts, marinades, sauces, baked goods, and beverages.
Substitute key lime juice with orange juice in a 1:1 ratio.
What Can I Use Instead Of Key Lime Juice?
Instead of key lime juice, you can use Persian lime juice, apple cider vinegar, lime juice powder, lime oil, black limes, tamarind paste, bitter orange juice, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, or orange juice.
Can I Use Regular Lime Juice In Place Of Key Lime Juice?
You can use regular lime juice in place of key lime juice, but you will not get the same flavor as with key lime juice. Regular lime juice is more acidic and lacks the floral aroma of key lime juice, so keep that in mind.
How Do You Make Regular Lime Juice Taste Like Key Lime?
You can make regular lime juice taste like key lime juice if you mix equal amounts of fresh lime juice and fresh lemon juice. You will get a similar sour flavor but it will not be as aromatic as key lime juice.
Can I Use Bottled Lime Juice For Key Lime Pie?
You can use bottled lime juice for key lime pie, but it will not have the same flavor and aroma as when it is made with fresh key lime juice.
Key lime pie is a perfect mixture of sweet, sour, flavor, and crunchy and creamy texture. This pie is famous because it has the unique flavor that key limes provide.
Can You Use Regular Limes In Key Lime Pie?
You can use regular limes in the key lime pie if you can’t find key limes. But your pie will lack the beautiful aromatic flavor that key limes give to the pie.
Key Lime Juice Vs Lime Juice: What’s The Difference?
Key lime juice has a stronger, aromatic, bitter, sour, and slightly sweet flavor. While lime juice has a more acidic flavor than key lime juice and lacks the floral aroma that key lime juice has.
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice To Concentrate: What’s The Ratio?
Fresh lime juice has a better flavor than lime juice concentrate because lime juice concentrate is highly processed.
Lime juice concentrate is made from the juice extracted from the limes. The water content that key lime juice has is evaporated and after that dried to make a powder.
Lime juice concentrate contains food colorings and preservatives to improve its appearance and increase its shelf life.
It is always better to use fresh lime juice but if you don’t have it on hand you can use lime juice concentrate instead.
As a substitute for 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice, you can use a mixture made with 1 tablespoon of water and ½ teaspoon of lime juice concentrate.
Key limes are small citrus fruits packed with flavor used in various desserts, cocktails, and marinades. One of the most know desserts made with key limes is the key lime pie which has a special flavor because of key limes.
However, since key limes are not easy to find, you can use some of these substitutes instead of key limes. They will not give the exact flavor like key limes to your recipes, but they will improve their flavor and make them taste even better.
What is your favorite substitute for key limes? Share your answer in the comment section below!