Key limes are loved and highly desired for their distinct aromatic flavor and unique, citrusy scent, which makes them almost irreplaceable. So what do you do when you can’t get your hands on them for that delicious key lime pie or evening cocktail?
There are a few key lime substitutes that you can use if you don’t have access to the real thing, and we talk about them in detail in this article. We also take a look at some differences between key limes and regular (Persian) limes, and what to expect when you substitute one for the other.
If you’re aiming to add a bit more flavor to your summer limeade/lemonade, then we might have just the best substitute for you.
Can You Use Limes Instead of Key limes?
Regular limes, also widely referred to as Persian limes, are bigger, greener, and more accessible than key limes, but can you use them in place of key limes?
It all depends on what you’re using them for. You can use limes instead of key limes when making recipes or drinks, but if you’re looking for the same health benefits, key limes cannot be replaced.
Because of their alkalinity, key limes stand out among other citrus fruits including regular limes and lemons. This means that the same health benefits cannot be gained from using these fruits as substitutes.
When it comes on to flavor and aroma, limes can be substituted for key limes, especially in recipes and drinks. The key though is knowing how much you need and being content with the acidic nature of limes in comparison to the alkaline nature of key limes.
Can You Substitute Persian limes for Key limes in a Key lime Pie?
When it comes to making the famous and tasty key lime pie, it can be difficult to find a substitute that is closest to the original recipe, but we may have the answer for you.
Regular limes are a great substitute in key lime pie, as long as they’re fresh. Using bottled lime juice is not recommended because it strays even further from the original flavor that you’re trying to regain.
Using Persian limes won’t give you that same tangy and tart aroma, but they will give you a flavor that is the closest to key limes that you will be able to find, and you won’t need to use as many limes either!
Persian limes are larger in diameter, making them produce more lime juice than key limes. If you’re still not sure about using regular limes, we do have some other key lime substitutes that you may prefer listed below.
List of Key lime Substitutes
When it comes to substituting other citrus fruits for key limes there is no way to get that aroma and flavor that is unique to key limes. You can, however, get a flavor that is close enough to mimic what you want.
If you’re making a drink or a particular recipe that requires key lime juice or key lime zest, we have some recommendations that you can use as substitutes.
- Regular/ Persian limes – As stated above, Persian limes are the closest substitute to key limes that you can find. Not only are they similar in taste and flavor, but they are also very accessible as they’re sold in most major grocery stores.
- Lime & Lemon juice – Lemons by themselves are not a great recommendation to use for this substitute due to their distinctly different flavor. When you combine lemon and lime juice though, you make a great solution.
Scientists, homemakers, and chefs alike all recommend using half lemon, and half lime juice as a great substitute for key lime recipes or cocktails.
Many other resources point to using other fruits such as tamarind for that same tart flavor, and even yogurt, depending on the recipe, but there has been no evidence to prove that these are effective substitutes.
For those who don’t have access to limes in general, you may look to bottled lime juice as an effective solution.
Can You Use Lime Juice Instead of Key Limes?
While bottled lime juice can be effective in certain circumstances, it is not a great key lime substitute in most circumstances, according to recent studies.
It is not recommended that you use bottled lime juice as a key lime substitute, as it is not as fresh, aromatic, or natural, as key limes.
To help you understand some of the distinct differences between key limes and bottled lime juice, we’ve compiled this table below. , please take a look at the following table.
|Property||Key limes||Bottled Lime Juice|
|Taste||Sweeter, more tart, aromatic, zesty, and flavorful||Not sweet, less tart and flavorful, not tart|
|Health Benefits||Alkaline and alkalizing to the body, improves immunity, rich in Vitamin C||Less nutritious, has less Vitamin C, acidic in nature|
|Amount Necessary||Less is used because of their tartness and flavor||Less tart and flavorful causing you to use more|
|Usefulness for recipes||More time consuming as deseeding is necessary before use, and more key limes are needed because of their small size||Easy to use, but more is necessary for recipes and comparable flavor|
|Accessibility||Hard to find, seasonal, requires that it must be grown in appropriate soil for maximum health benefits||Easy to grab from your local supermarket or farmer’s market|
Do Key Limes and Limes Taste the Same?
Key limes and limes have many similarities, which is why limes are a good substitute.
However, key limes and limes do not taste the same. Key limes are sweeter, more tart, and are alkaline in nature, while limes are not sweet, less tart, and are acidic.
Both key limes and regular limes have a similar flavor though, but the difference can generally be told by tasting one in comparison to the other.
Depending on how each is used, whether in cocktails with alcohol or drinks, the difference in flavor may not be as distinct as using each on its own.
Related: Key Lime Water for Weight Loss
Can You Substitute Key Limes in Recipes?
When making key lime smoothies, pies, teas, soups, dressings or any other meal where key limes are the main ingredient, you will be able to tell if a substitute was used.
Even so, you can use a substitute for key limes in your recipes as long as you don’t mind the missing distinct aroma or taste of key limes, and those incomparable alkaline health benefits.
Using a mixture of half lime juice and half lemon juice in every recipe that requires you to use key lime juice, is a popular way to mimic the original flavor. So if the recipe calls for 2 tablespoon of key lime juice, then you need to use 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, combined with one tablespoon of lime juice.
While this can never completely replace that distinct key lime flavor and taste, it definitely helps.
There are many recommendations for key lime substitutes available, but the best one for you will depend on what you needed the key limes for. However, while you may be able to mimic that same flavor, the taste will not be the same.
So when you’re making that coveted key lime pie or your morning smoothie, make sure to use the best key lime substitute that you can find!
We hope this article has helped to give you some insight on how to substitute limes for key limes when they are not available.