Key Lime Cookies

Key lime cookies with glaze and sprinkles.

If you’re craving the sweet-tart sensation that only lime cookies deliver, these Key lime cookies are for you. They’re made with a few everyday ingredients and for really puckery flavor, one that’s not so everyday but worth seeking out.

This article has been updated since its original publication. The recipe is new and improved. This post contains affiliate links.

I’ve lived in South Florida for 25 years and am very familiar with key limes. I use them for everything from salads and drinks to cakes, tarts, and ice cream.

In these cookies, the key lime flavor is apparent from your first taste. The shortbread is soft and melt-in-your-mouth good, with distinct citrus flavors. The simple powdered sugar icing softens the tartness, and the sparkling sugar rim adds a satisfying crunch to each bite.

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What’s the difference between key limes and regular limes?

There are a few ways you can tell the two apart.

First, size. Key limes are much smaller than their Persian counterparts, usually about 1 to 2 inches in diameter, about walnut size.

When ripe, key limes have yellowish skin, and they are far seedier than Persian limes.

The flavor difference is subtle, but you will notice a slightly less tart, softer flavor in Key limes.

If you don’t have key limes available, you’ll likely be able to find key lime juice in a bottle, or feel free to use regular Persian limes for this cookie recipe. It’s ok, I won’t tell.

  • They have a cool, refreshing key lime flavor that’s irresistible.
  • You’ll be able to make the lime cookie dough ahead of time.
  • Makes a manageable amount of cookies (not too few, not too many).

Ingredients for key lime cookies:

  • All Purpose Flour – I use King Arthur’s unbleached flour.
  • Powdered Sugar – 10x sugar works well here.
  • Salt – to balance the flavors.
  • Cornstarch – gives the cookies a soft, tender crumb and helps with rise.
  • Butter – I use unsalted butter.
  • Key Limes (or Persian limes)
  • Citric Acid – to give the key lime cookies a noticeably puckery flavor.
  • Heavy Cream – to create the icing.
  • Colored Sprinkles (we used green sparkling sugar)

You’ll notice there are no eggs in this cookie recipe. Don’t worry. The buttery shortbread is flaky and soft without the need for an egg.

The secret to really lime-y cookies

OK. Let’s talk about the lime flavor of these cookies… It comes from 3 separate lime components layered together.

  1. Lime zest (from a key lime or regular Persian lime). The most intense, pure flavor in citrus is found in the zest (not the bitter white pith). Adding lime zest will give your cookies a natural lime flavor that’s soft and delicate.
  2. Freshly squeezed lime juice (or bottled key lime juice {affiliate link}) augment the lime flavor, but it softens as it bakes into the cookies.
  3. Citric acid. This is my secret ingredient for bumping up the tartness in the cookies. It’s optional, but it makes all the difference if you have some. You can use citric acid in many things, from iced tea to simple syrup, so it’s a good thing to have on hand. You can usually find it in the grocery store, but if you can’t, get it online {affiliate link}

The lime zest and lime juice will give these cookies a subtle lime flavor that’s very good on their own.

Add the citric acid and take it to a new level. Cool lime-flavored cookies that practically quench your thirst — if that’s possible.


  1. Mix the flour, powdered sugar, salt, cornstarch, and citric acid in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Beat softened butter with lime zest and lime juice until blended.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat until you have a soft dough.
  4. Divide the dough into two portions and place on two sheets of parchment paper. Roll them into logs.
  5. Sprinkle the key lime cookie logs with colored sugar or sprinkles and roll them back and forth until they’re evenly coated.
  6. Roll them in the parchment and twist the ends. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 5 days.
  7. Slice and bake the key lime cookies for 9-11 minutes.
  8. Let the lime cookies cool, and decorate them with icing and more colored sprinkles.

It took me a few tries before I got this, but rolling the cookie dough into logs is easy; here’s how I did it (without making a mess.)

How to roll the cookie dough into logs

  • Place the cookie dough on parchment paper and fold one end of the paper over the ball of dough, with the sealed end facing you.
  • Loosely fold your fingers over the dough in the parchment and gently pull the parchment and dough toward you. The dough will narrow into a log encased in parchment paper (so it’s not making a mess on your countertop).
  • The lime cookie dough log should be about 1 1/2″ – 2″ in diameter.

Decorating the cookie edges with green sprinkles

After you’ve rolled the dough into the log, generously sprinkle it with colored sugar or sprinkles.

Hold the parchment by the edges and roll the dough back and forth in the sprinkles until it’s evenly coated.

You can use sparkling sugar, jimmies, or sprinkles to coat the outside (or use none)—your choice. I used sparkling green sugar for these cookies to echo the color of key limes.

Please make sure to refrigerate the cookies for at least 2 hours to set; if not, the dough will be too soft to cut, and the cookies will be misshapen.

Slice and bake cookies

When the cookie dough has chilled, slice them into 1/4″ thick rounds and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, about 1 to 2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are just barely browning but set. It takes about 9-11 minutes.

I recommend letting them rest on the cookie sheet for about 1-2 minutes, then transferring the lime cookies to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

The cookies must be cool before decorating them. Don’t rush it.

Making icing for decorating

This is a simple icing mixture. It’s just powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of heavy cream. You want the consistency of the icing to be thick enough to spread with a spoon or offset spatula and not be runny.

Pro-Tip: Add the cream to the confectioner’s sugar one tablespoon at a time and mix it thoroughly before adding more. This way, you’ll be able to judge when the consistency is right. If it needs more cream after you’ve added three tablespoons, add one teaspoon at a time.


Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. If you’re stacking the cookies, separate the layers between sheets of parchment paper.

Swaps and Variations:

  • Try these buttery cookies with other citrus varieties like lemons, Meyer lemons, grapefruit, or calamondin/calamansi limes.
  • Drizzle the lime cookies with melted white chocolate instead of icing them.
  • Sprinkle the icing with lime zest (not too much) instead of sprinkles.


How far in advance can I make the lime cookie dough?

You can make it up to 5 days in advance and keep it well wrapped in the refrigerator. If you need to store it longer, double-wrap the dough and freeze it until you’re ready to use, then defrost it for several hours in the refrigerator.

How long will the cookies last?

They’ll be good for several days (3-5) when kept in an airtight container.

Can I freeze lime cookies?

Yes. Freeze them in an airtight container, separated by parchment paper, for up to 2 months.

More cookie recipes you’ll love:

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a stack of iced key lime cookies on a green napkin.
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4.67 from 18 votes

Key Lime Cookies

These key lime cookies have a sweet, tart citrusy flavor with a satisfying crunch from the sparkling sugar rim and sweet glaze to finish them. Citric acid amplifies the tartness in these cookies, but you can make them with just lime juice and zest for a more subtle flavor.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword bar cookies, key lime
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 50 cookies



  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon citric acid (optional, but really gives the cookies a tart flavor).
  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon key lime juice from fresh key limes or bottled – I like Nellie and Joe’s Famous
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest from about 2 limes
  • green sugar for garnish


  • cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream


  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, salt, cornstarch and citric acid. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the softened butter, lime zest and lime juice until creamy. Add about half of the flour mixture and mix in until just combined. Add the rest of the flour, and mix until it forms a soft dough.
  • Cut two large pieces of plastic wrap and lay them flat on a work surface. Divide the dough in half. Place one half in the center of one piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic wrap over on the dough and work the dough into a 10″ log. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
  • Sprinkle the cookie dough log with colored sugar and roll it back and forth on the parchment paper until the log is evenly coated with colored sugar. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 5 days.
  • Remove the dough and make sure that the log is round, by rolling it on a flat surface. If you have one or more areas of the dough that have flattened out from resting, roll them a little more until they’re round and refrigerate for an additional 10-20 minutes, until firm.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside.
  • Use a very thin, sharp knife to slice the cookies into 1/4″ slices. Place 1″ apart on the cookie sheets and bake 9-11 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Cool for one minute on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze

  • Mix the powdered sugar and cream together until smooth. The icing should be soft and spreadable, but thicker than drizzling consistency.

To glaze the cookies

  • After the cookies have cooled, spoon a little of the glaze on top and smooth out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with the sparkling sugar and let stand until the glaze has hardened.
  • To store the cookies: keep them in an airtight container at room temperature. Separate stacks of cookies with parchment paper to prevent sticking.


Calories: 70kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 0.4g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 30mg | Potassium: 6mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 122IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 0.2mg
These buttery key lime cookies are such a tasty treat. They're made with lime zest and juice with a secret ingredient that adds a tart kick to this lime cookie recipe. The easy glaze gives the citrusy cookies a sweet finish, and the sparkling sugar edges add a satisfying crunch to each bite.

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  1. 5 stars
    These cookies are the bomb! That citric acid really makes an impact. I found small cellophane bags of it at Sprouts market and that makes the biggest difference. These cookies are beautiful and so delicious. My grandson loves them!

  2. 5 stars
    Do these freeze well? They’re so good, but I want to save some for later.

  3. Pamela G. says:

    5 stars
    I have to tell you, when I stumbled upon these cookies this evening I was surprised at myself. I normally do NOT care for cookies that have an icing on them. I think its for several reasons. First, often icing, frosting, glaze, whatever it may be is super sweet and I am not a super sweet kind of gal when it comes to eating cakes or cookies. Next, they’re messy to store or keep and almost impossible to ship. And finally…’s just one more step that by the time I’m finished baking the cookies I want to be done with them and not worry about a topping to mess with. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t say I will NEVER do it, its just not my first choice and almost always when I see a cookie with a topping I keep right on going. But these were different, I’m not sure why. I even surprised myself how interested in the cookie I was. I don’t know if it was the sparkling sugar or what about them but I stopped, I saved, and now, I’m actually surprised at how excited I am and how quickly I want to get some baked. Unfortunately the first batch I can’t have any at all. I sadly have to eat gluten free. I may take a little nibble to see what they’re like but that will be it. If I completely fall in love with them for ME……I’ll try converting them to gf with the Cup4Cup flour substitute. Life has become SO much easier since this has FINALLY hit the market. I’m hoping I can find a way to package and send to a friend in Texas. With all the Tex-Mex and also Mexican food they eat these should fit right into the menu.

    1. I’m right there with you Pamela — I like to make the cookies and be done with it. These truthfully didn’t take that long — the hardest part was waiting for the icing to dry. I’m sorry to hear about the gluten-free. I’ve actually got a few baking recipes on the site that are gluten free – there’s a banana bread and blueberry muffins both VERY GOOD. I haven’t done a gluten free cookie yet, but with you as a reader, I guess I need to look into that!

  4. 5 stars
    I love these Key Lime Cookies. I use a lot of limes but had never tried the citric acid trick before. Wow! What a punch of flavor.

  5. 5 stars
    These cookies are incredible! I was going to skip the icing, but ended up making it at the last minute (it was easy). It made such a difference. Great way to add some citrus flavors in a beautiful package.

  6. April J Harris (@apriljharris) says:

    5 stars
    Your Key Lime Sparkle Cookies are wonderful. I can’t get key limes here in England but the citric acid makes it do-able.

  7. Teri Go ese says:

    5 stars
    Hi and Happy Holidays! Love your cookie recipe! Signed up for your blog as well as pinned your recipe to my lime board!

  8. Allison Day says:

    5 stars
    Thank you again for sending these to me, they were so good! My fiance, who’s not normally a sweets kind of guy, kept asking, “Do we have anymore of those cookies I like?” “You mean the key lime ones?” “Yeah, those… they’re really good.” I fear for our waistlines now that you’ve posted the recipe, because no doubt about it, I’ll definitely be making them soon! ^_^

  9. Iman Brooks says:

    5 stars
    OMG, looks so good. I have to try this!