Key limes have been lauded for centuries as a great additive to the diet that provides several health benefits that improve bodily functions. More recently, the Dr. Sebi alkaline vegan has popularized key limes as the only citrus fruit that is alkaline in nature.
If you have never had a key lime before, then you may be curious about the taste. So, what do key limes taste like?
Key limes are a type of citrus fruit that has a sour, acidic taste that is much sharper than that of regular limes. Key limes have a strong tart, and aromatic flavor that helps to offset the sweetness of sugar.
When used in baking, key limes add a tartness that can be refreshing, especially in hot weather. The zest of a key lime also imparts a unique flavor to dishes, and the juice can be used as a marinade or dressing.
Now, let’s take a detailed look at the taste of key limes, in comparison to regular Persian limes and even lemons.
Do key limes taste like lime?
Key limes and limes look similar, but on closer inspection, there are distinct differences between the two, including size and taste.
Key limes do not taste like limes, but rather, they taste more tart, flavorful and aromatic than regular limes. They are also more floral in taste than regular limes, with a slightly bitter taste based on the level of maturity.
Although key limes are also smaller than regular limes, they are known to be more potent, more refreshing, and juicier than regular Persian limes, especially when they have reached full maturity.
Depending on what your recipe calls for – such as key lime pies, key limes may be the best bet, especially in comparison to regular Persian limes. So, are key limes sweeter than Persian limes?
Which is sweeter between Lime and key lime?
Neither key limes nor regular limes are sweet, but because of their difference in pH levels, one is known to be less acidic and sweeter than the other.
Key limes are known to be sweeter than regular limes, mostly because they are not acidic when they have reached peak maturity. Where Persian limes become more acidic and tangy when they have matured, key limes tend to become more tangy-sweet.
This is one of the main reasons many prefer to use key limes in certain recipes and cocktails. The tart and flavorful aroma of key limes provide a citrusy scent, but it is sweeter, more alkaline and fragrant. This unique taste imparts the taste of popular recipes such as key lime pies.
It may surprise you to know that the sweetness of a key lime is directly dependent on its level of maturity, as underripe/green key limes have a more sour/tart taste than the ripe limes with a slightly sweeter tint. Overripe/ bad key limes on the other hand tend to be bitter side.
Now, let’s discuss the different tastes of key limes at different stages of maturity.
Key lime tastes (green, ripe, overripe)
As stated above, key lime is best tasting when it is at peak maturity level. This is normally identified by their yellow-green outer colour, and their firm but juicy feel when touched.
For you to identify the difference in taste between a key lime based on its level of maturity, we’ve created a detailed list below, ranging from green to overripe key limes.
- Green/ Immature or Premature Key Limes – When key limes are their youngest, they are firm to the touch with a completely green outer colour. At this stage, they are not ready for consumption, and you will not get all the health benefits that are possible when you eat a key lime. Green or immature key limes are bitter to the taste, not juicy, quite seeded and are also acidic. Key limes should not be picked or used at this stage.
- Yellow-green/ Mature Key limes – At their yellow-green stage, key limes are mature, firm but juicy, and ready to be picked. At this stage, key limes are ready for consumption, and you will get maximum health benefits when you use them at this time. Yellow-green or mature key limes are tart but sweet, mostly because they are alkaline.
- Yellow/ Ripe Key limes – After maturing, key limes ripen completely and their entire rind turns yellow. They are safe for consumption at this stage, but the taste can be sweet or bitter-sweet, depending on how long they have been ripe.
- Overripe/ Spoilt Key limes – When key limes have been ripe for a while, they begin becoming overripe or spoilt. This can normally be identified by a change in colour, from yellow to yellow-brown, brown spots, or completely brown with mould. At this stage, the key limes are mouldy, bitter and are not safe for consumption by anyone. Eating mouldy key limes can lead to a host of digestive complications.
Different Lime Variety tastes
Key limes have a taste that is distinct, and unmatched by any other limes, but depending on the taste you’re looking for, there may be some varieties that may be best suited for your specific recipe.
That is why we’ve compiled this list of different lime varieties and their tastes, at various levels of maturity.
|Variety of Lime||Scientific & Alternative Names||Taste at Peak Maturity Level|
|Key Limes||Mexican Limes, West Indian Limes, Citrus aurantifolia||Tangy-sweet, fragrant, flavorful|
|Persian Limes||Bearss Limes, Citrus latifolia||Acidic, not flavorful, tart|
|Kaffir Limes||Citrus hystrix||Extremely tart and acidic, too acidic to add to recipes|
|Calamansi Limes||Philippine Limes, Citrus Microcarpa||Lime juice is sour but the juice from the rind is sweet, flavorful|
|Blood Limes||Australian blood lime, Citrus australasica hybrid)||Sweet & tangy, with edible rind|
Do key limes taste bitter?
If you’re still not sure about the taste of key limes, let’s break it down for you. Key limes can sometimes be bitter, especially if you are using an overripe or spoilt type, but key limes at peak maturity level tend to be tangy-sweet and tart, not necessarily bitter.
When compared to the regular lime, key limes are sweeter and more flavorful. Once you use the correct mature key lime fruit, it will not taste bitter or acidic to you.
Are lemons more sour than limes?
Both lemons and limes are well-known citrus fruits, but people seldom know that there are actual differences between the two that makes one better for you than the other.
Lemons are more sour than limes, largely because lemons are very acidic and tart in nature, while limes, key limes particularly, are sweeter, tangy-sweet and alkaline.
Both fruits are great additions to your diet, but the alkalinity of key limes allow you to benefit from more health benefits than if you were to have a lemon.
Key limes are tart, tangy-sweet and flavorful, but only when they have reached peak maturity and are ready for consumption. Not only are they tasty, but they provide a host of health benefits that are great to improve bodily performance.
Limes are tasty, but key limes are the sweeter, more flavorful variety, that will be best to use individually. If you are making a recipe or cocktail, we hope this will help you to decide which lime is better for you.