Key Lime Pie Bars in honor of Alex’s Lemonade Stand

In honor of Alex's Lemonade Stand, these key lime pie bars take all the ingredients we love about the pie and lighten them up ever so slightly for a less caloric, lower sugar treat.

I’ll talk about these yummy key lime pie bars in a few. First, I want to talk about the return of Alex’s Lemonade Stand this Saturday, July 25th to San Diego.

"Our mission is simple: to raise money for and awareness of childhood cancer causes—especially research into new treatments and cures—and to encourage and empower others, especially children, to get involved and make a difference for children with cancer.” Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

The grassroots fundraising project was started in 2000 by Alexandra "Alex” Scott, a terminally ill child of four years old, to raise money that she could, in turn, give to the doctors who were treating her so they could help other children as well. Her first stand manned by her and her brother raised $2,000. She and her family continued to hold yearly lemonade stands to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Her call to arms quickly spread and by the time of her death in 2004, she, along with the help of others holding their own lemonade stands, had raised $1 million to help fund research for childhood cancer. The lemonade stand has gone on to be become a national charity, with lemonade stands of all shapes and sizes popping up around the country. They have raised $100,000,000 for pediatric cancer research, funding over 500 projects to date.
Locally, the Miller Tribe are hosting their 10th Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Their efforts to date has raised more than $100,000, making their effort the largest fundraising stand in California. This year, they will have two stages: in Normal Heights as in the past and in North Park in front of Thorn Street Brewery.

If you're in San Diego, come out and support the stand. If you don't live locally or can't make it out, consider making a donation directly to the Miller Tribe's efforts.

Normal Heights
3366 Adams Avenue from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
FM 94.9 will be broadcasting live.
Come buy some lemonade, play some games, get your photo taken with Star Wars characters, participate in the silent auction which includes a gorgeous citrus basket from Melissa's Produce, discounted Legoland tickets, bake sale, discounted Hess Fest tickets, and more!

North Park
Satellite stand will be at
3176 Thorn Street from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Lemonade, discounted Legoland tickets, discounted Hess Fest tickets

In addition, the following businesses are donating sales from that day so get out there and eat, drink, and know a percentage of your bill is going towards a great cause!

Check out the list: 

Melissa’s Produce Citrus Challenge 

Once again, Melissa’s Produce, based in Los Angeles, has provided local San Diego food bloggers with citrus to create something in honor of this weekend’s Alex’s Lemonade Stand happening here in San Diego. We received pink grapefruit, oranges, meyer lemons and key limes. For last year’s event, I made a Meyer Lemon Plum Upside Down Olive Oil Cake. This year, I opted to play with the key limes.

Key lime pie, to be exact. I’ve always thought it sounded rather refreshing. However, my experience when giving in to the idea while dining out has always been a bit of a let down – their cloying sweetness always overpowering any semblance of limey goodness. 

Other times, they've stared at me from their glass display cases dressed in garish green and accessorized with frilly dots of whipped cream attempting to lure me in not realizing that their greenness did nothing for me. Instead, I invariably passed them over for creamy cheesecake. I can almost forgive that fake green color in mint chocolate chip ice cream but in a pie, it just looks so wrong. Surely, that wasn’t what the pie was supposed to taste and look like?

Being a lover of classic margaritas and growing up preferring limeade over lemonade, I continued to peruse key lime pie recipes thinking that one day, I might try making one myself. 

A few years ago, I read a story in where the recipe testers baked several key lime pies trying different variations to see how they could improve upon discerning the “key lime” flavor in a traditional key lime pie. What they discovered was that by adding a bit of lemon juice to the mix they were able to heighten the key lime flavor. 

I'm not unfamiliar with this concept of adding a bit of something to make an ingredient taste more like itself. For example, adding espresso to baked chocolate goods to accentuate the chocolate flavor or how adding a bit of chocolate to mole balances the chile flavor. So adding a bit of lemon to make key lime taste more like key lime made total sense to me.

Armed with this knowledge, when a bag of key limes arrived in my Melissa produce box, I decided to attempt my own version that kept the classic elements: key limes, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and graham crackers while marrying the idea of the classic key lime pie with my all-time favorite dessert, cheesecake. My challenge? I wanted the pie to not be overly sweet with no compromise on the lime flavor and a texture more cheesecake-like than pudding-like. 

At the time that I was developing this recipe, I had greatly reduced my sugar intake and had been developing recipes with alternative sugars. So I started by substituting the white sugar. Some recipes that came up for me during my research called for anywhere from ¼ cup up to 1 cup of sugar for the graham cracker crust alone. Paired with the sweetened condensed milk in the filling, that's a lot of sugar. 

Instead, I used my favorite granulated 1:1 sugar replacement for baking, an organic erythritol from Micro Ingredients (zero calorie, zero carb). On Amazon, it's 28 cents an ounce as opposed to the Swerve brand at most grocery stores, which averages 52 cents an ounce. 

To address the cheesecake factor, I added sour cream and mascarpone. Because this added so much more body to the typical recipe for key lime pie, I added a bit of liquid stevia (10 drops, the equivalent of 2 teaspoons regular granulated sugar) in addition to the sweetened condensed milk. For those of you not sure about stevia, it is my preferred sweetener for coffee and teas and some dessert. Of all the stevia brands I've tried, I have found that SweetLeaf tastes the best to my palate and their Sweet Drops SteviaClear has become my go-to when adding to wet ingredients. 

Also, to address portion control, I opted to make bars instead of pies. By using a 9- x 13-inch pan instead of a typical 8-inch square pan that a lot of bar recipes utilize, the recipe yielded 24 squares instead of 16 from the same amount of ingredients. The squares are a little thinner than your average square bar, however, this small change meant that I was able to further lower the calorie, fat and sugar content per serving without feeling cheated.

The result of all my experimentation is total lime-forward goodness that is still a bit tart and not overly sweet. 

Although by no means “healthy”, and despite the addition of the sour cream and mascarpone, it is a lighter version than a lot of the popular bar and pie recipes I came across during my research. I plugged my final recipe into the MyFitness app on my phone to check its nutritional data. Per 2-inch square, this will set you back 163 calories, 17 grams of carbs, 9 grams of fat and 11 grams of sugars. 

You might read that and think that it's still a bit of an indulgence for someone watching their overall sugar intake. Well, you are probably right. However, it is meant to be an occasional bit of naughtiness and by no means, an everyday treat. Let’s put it another way: That grande Caramel Frappucino you might get once a week? Well, that has 410 calories, 15 grams of fat, 66 grams of carbs and 64 grams of sugar. So I say, skip the Frapp and make these instead.

Key Lime Pie Bars with Meyer Lemon

In the photos, I have homemade whipped cream but I didn’t include it in my calculations above. I’ve included my method for making it below, if you want a little added creaminess. I think they taste just as delicious with and without the whipped topping. Also, I opted to use whole eggs to help give some airiness to the texture as I always find key lime pie too dense. You can, however, choose to use just the yolks for a more dense bar.

Yield: 24 (2-inch) squares


For the crust:
12 full graham cracker sheets
½ cup whole pecans
¼ cup erythritol (or white sugar, however, add 2 grams of sugar, 2 grams of carbs and 8 calories to the above nutritional data if you do sub)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:
1 cup light sour cream
4 ounces mascarpone
8-12 drops liquid stevia
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
zest of 2 key limes (about 2 tablespoons)
⅔ cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (about 12 limes)
juice of 1 Meyer, or regular, lemon (about 3 tablespoons)

For the optional garnish:
⅓ cup heavy cream, ice cold
zest of 1 key lime
8 drops liquid stevia, or to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9- x 13-inch pan with cooking spray. Line it with parchment paper, leaving a few inches on two sides to use as “handles” to lift out the bars when ready to cut and serve. Spray the parchment with cooking spray and set pan aside.

Break the cracker up a bit then add them to a food processor with the chopping blade in place. Drop in the pecans, erythritol, brown sugar and cinnamon. Pulse a few times to start the grinding, then run until it’s a homogenous crumb-like texture. Remove to a bowl and add the melted butter, stirring to combine well. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan and using your hands, distribute the crumbs evenly in the pan, firmly packing them down to form a crust. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Leave oven on.

While the crust is baking, stir the sour cream and mascarpone in a small bowl until smooth. Add liquid stevia a few drops at a time, tasting after each addition until desired sweetness is achieved; set aside.

Add the eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until light and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add the sour cream mixture, sweetened condensed milk, zest, lime juice and lemon juice; beat on medium high for 2 minutes. Pour the custard over the graham cracker crust. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until custard is set and just barely jiggles in the middle. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely for 2 hours at room temperature then cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight before cutting. When ready to serve, lift and remove from pan then cut into twenty-four, 2-inch squares.

For optional whipped cream topping: About 30 minutes before serving, place a small metal or glass bowl in the refrigerator along with a wire whisk, if beating by hand, or the beaters of an electric hand mixer. After 30 minutes, remove the bowl and whisk from refrigerator, add the cold cream and half the zest to the bowl and whip vigorously for several minutes until soft peaks form. Whip in the stevia, starting with 5 drops, adding more to taste. Top each lime bar square with 1 tablespoon of whipped cream. Garnish with a sprinkling of lime zest.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Melissa's Produce to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand: Foundation for Childhood Cancer. Melissa's Produce supplied the fruit for this post. I was not otherwise compensated and am not compensated by Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for this post. As always, all opinions expressed are my own and not influence by the sponsorship.