What Is The Difference Between Key Lime And Lime?

Difference Between Key Lime And Lime

Limes are summer staple and are popular all over the world. Either key limes or regular limes, they go great in savory foods, beverages, cocktails, and sweet treats. But ever you think, what is the difference between key lime and lime? And, can you substitute one for another? So, in this article, we will discuss how key limes are different from regular limes?

Many people treat both varieties equally and use them interchangeably. But it is not the real fact. Although key limes and limes belong to the citrus fruit family, there are dozens of dissimilarities among them. They differ from each other in size, appearance, flavor, and shape. So, let me discuss all these differences in detail.

What Is The Difference Between Key Lime And Lime?

Key lime is a citrus hybrid having a spherical shape with a stronger aroma and taste. Key limes are native to tropical territories of southeast Asia and South Asia. More prominently, their name is associated with the Florida Keys, where they are well known as a flavoring agent in key lime pies.

However, regular limes are citrus fruits of round shape with a sour or tart flavor. They are heavily grown in Mexico, Persia, and Australia. Limes are rich source of vitamin C and antioxidants. Therefore, they go great in traditional cocktails, beverages, and other refreshing drinks.

Citron, pomelo, sweet lime, and wild lime are some hybrid varieties of regular limes. In addition, key lime is a citrus hybrid of lime with a distinct flavor and aroma.

The major difference is their origin, flavor, and seasonal availability. So, let’s know them one by one.

Size Difference Between Key Lime And Lime


The most prominent and significant difference between key lime and lime is their size. Key limes are smaller in size than regular limes and almost half of the lime. So, when you put them side by side, you will quickly notice key limes for their small size.

And, if you are looking for key limes in any grocery store, choose them by considering their size. It is the difference one can notice at a glance. So, keep in mind as it would be helpful for you.


Apparently, key limes have a smooth outlook as compared to limes. When unripe, key limes are dark green while limes are bright green with rough, coarse, and wild skin.

However, ripe key limes are yellowish green with noticeable green patches, while limes turn bright yellow when completely ripe.

In addition, key limes are fruits of round or spherical shape. On the other hand, regular limes are not rounded but oblong shaped.

Trees Origin

Key lime and lime trees have a different origin. Key limes were firstly originated in Florida Keys and Mexico. However, regular limes were native to Persia, South Asia, and India.

Nowadays, key limes are heavily grown in tropical areas of California, America, Africa, and Persia. At the same time, south Asia and India are the regions of high lime production.

Trees Description

Like smaller fruit sizes, key lime trees are also small and stout. Key lime trees grow up to 10m, on average. They have prominent thorns with smooth leaves. And thus, they are suitable for indoor growing.

On the other hand, lime trees grow taller up to 15 m, on average. They have pointed leaves with less prominent thorns.

Availability Difference Between Key Lime And Lime

Key limes are in season throughout the summer season in Florida. However, American and Mexican key limes are in season in the summer months from June to September. Usually, key limes are also available in early fall. However, in the areas of high key lime production, they are available throughout the year.

On the other hand, limes are available throughout the year because of their high production and supply. The peak season for limes is the summer months, from May to October.

These are all apparent differences between key lime and lime. But, the answer to what is the difference between key lime and lime is not yet completed. So, here we will tell you other dissimilarities between them.

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Key Limes Have Thinner Peel

When you cut limes into two, you will notice a thicker peel or rind surrounding juicy flesh. This thicker peel or pith is usually inedible for its bitter taste. Therefore, people discard their outer peel and eat flesh in a variety of different ways.

At the same time, key limes have a thinner peel with more potent and juicy flesh. So, you can also differentiate key limes and limes by analyzing their peel.

Key Limes Are Less Acidic

Although key limes are also citrus fruits like lemons and regular limes, but they are not as much acidic as limes. Their PH is higher and thus have a less acidic flavor. Therefore, key limes add a more refreshing fruity flavor to baked creations and savory foods.

In contrast, limes have low PH and are more acidic. For their higher acidity, limes are pretty common in beverages and cocktail crafting.

Key Limes Are Seedless

Key lime is a seedless variety of limes, and thus, they are without seeds. However, some key lime varieties have few little seeds as compared to regular limes. Such seedless varieties result by parthenogenesis.

However, regular limes have seeds as they are not parthenocarpic fruits. So, it is the key difference between key lime and lime, one will notice immediately after cutting.

Key Limes Are Tangier And Aromatic

Although key limes are less acidic but still tangy and tart to taste. They leave a distinct tartness with slight sweet notes on your taste buds. On the other side, limes are more acidic, tangier, and somewhat sour to taste than key limes.

Moreover, key limes have a distinct stronger aroma than limes. That’s why key limes are the best choice for savory and sweet foods, as they are more zesty and aromatic.

Key Lime Juice Is More Potent

As key lime is smaller than lime, so one needs double key limes than regular limes to produce a glass of juice. Therefore, more key limes add more intense flavor and aroma to juice.

As key lime juice is more potent than limes, it is widely common in foods, cocktails, and desserts to give an extra refreshing flavor.

Key Limes Are Rare

Key limes have limited production than limes. Limes are usually available round the year while key limes are rare because of their short supply.

In addition, key limes are not suitable for storage as they have a shorter life span. Therefore, key limes are harder to find, while one can buy limes easily from any supermarket or store.

Key Limes Are More Nutritious

Key limes are more nutritious and healthier as compared to limes. This is because they are full of Vitamin C, minerals, and dietary fibers. Furthermore, they are high in antioxidants.

On the other hand, limes are higher in Vitamin C and antioxidants but provide less fibers, and minerals. However, limes are healthier than lemons.


Key limes are meant for a delicious key lime pie. They are well known for their zesty flavor and intense aroma in Florida. Besides this, key limes also go great in cocktails, drinks, fruit juices, and other desserts.

On the other hand, regular limes are more common all over the world. And that’s why people love to eat them in numerous delicious ways. Limes are pretty common in Indian cuisines and soups. However, pickling of limes is also a great way to enjoy them throughout the year.

So, you know all about the differences between key lime and lime. Among them, some differences are apparent, while few depend on their internal structure and flavor.

However, there is a quite difference between key lime and lime, but they also have some similarities. For example, they belong to the same family and genus. Both are higher in Vitamin C and antioxidants.

Both are pretty common in traditional foods, cuisines, and beverages. Moreover, both have a natural tart and tangy flavor. Their citrus zest is widely used in savory as well as sweet foods.

Can You Substitute Lime For Key Lime?

There is nothing that substitutes the intense flavoring, tanginess, and aroma of key limes. However, if your favorite recipe calls for key limes and you have no access to them, you can substitute limes for key lime. Interestingly, many people treat them the same and use them interchangeably in their recipes.

Limes give a tart finish to your final dish but are less aromatic and intense in flavoring. So, it would be better if you make your recipes using key limes instead of limes.

However, you can also try different varieties of limes instead of key lime. And, they will provide somewhat similar flavor touch as key lime to food dishes.

How To Juice Key Limes?

To squeeze juice from key limes is as simple as you think. You can juice key limes either by blender, juice presser, or manually by hand.

However, if you make juice by blender then the final taste will be not so good as you expect. Therefore, the best way to extract juice from key limes is by squeezing.

So, cut key limes into halves and press them by your thumb and fingers to drain the juice. The amount of juice per key lime significantly depends on the ripening and freshness.

However, it would also be best if you want to juice key limes using a citrus rimmer, fork, or juice press. So, it’s all up to you.

Read Also: Why Is Pomegranate Juice So Expensive?

Can You Freeze Key Limes?

As key limes have a short life span and limited production, key limes are not available round the year in some countries. So, you may think can you freeze key limes for later use?

And, the answer is yes. You can freeze them well for later use. But you must follow instructions to freeze them well.

First of all, buy fresh key limes, clean them, and dry them completely. After that, cut them into halves and put them into a baking dish separately. Freeze them for 2 to 4 hours.

Then, transfer the frozen limes into freezer bags, seal the bag, and put it in the refrigerator. In this way, key limes remain fresh and juicy for 2 to 3 months. And, you can use them to make delicious pies, marinades, cocktails, and savory food dishes.

Buying Guide

No matter whether you are looking for key limes or limes, choose the ripest fruits. If you want to buy limes for your favorite dish, put the ripe fruits in your cart. Look for bright yellow limes as they are less sour, juicier, and flavorful.

However, if you want to buy key limes for a delicious lime pie, choose the bright yellowish key limes with light green patches. They should not be soggy and dull as they would be less juicy and fresh.

Final Words

What is the difference between key lime and lime? There are lot more differences between them. They are different in appearance, size, flavor, shape, seasonal availability, and origin. However, there are also few similarities between them.

For instance, they are higher in Vitamin C content, acidic flavor, and nutrients. So, one can enjoy them in a variety of different ways.