I don't know about y'all, but this year is becoming more and more bleak and confusing by the day. If you, like me, are in need of a bright little pick me up to remind you of simpler times, look no further than these Coconut Ginger Key Lime Bars. Spicy ginger, tart key lime juice and creamy coconut are packed into perfectly portable dessert bars.
Table of contents
Why I Love This Recipe
2020 is still, well... 2020. From tornados to hurricanes, Coronavirus to major social protests, epic wildfires in Australia and the western US, this year has been a freaking doozie. Don't judge me for looking towards my first love - baking - to ease the pain. I highly suggest you give it a try. It has been my go-to de-stressor since I can remember.
You might think I'm joking, but these little dessert bar dreamboats may be just enough to lift your mood (for at least a little while). Key lime bars were one of my earliest baking successes, and I've elevated these with the spicy Cobra Kai-esque punch of ginger and the addition of dreamy coconut.
What's even better? Unlike cookies that take multiple rounds of baking, all the goodness of these dessert bars gets made in a single batch in a single pan and a single bake. You're about to have a full tray of 36 lip-puckering key lime pie bars at your fingertips in no time, and with almost no clean up.
Ingredients and Equipment
This recipe is pretty dang simple. As far as equipment goes, you'll need a food processor equipped with the blade, a mixing bowl, a silicone spatula and a 9 x 13. PSA: do yourself a favor and remember that food processor blades are sharp. I forgot and earned myself a thumb bandage.
Most of the ingredients are pantry staples - oats, butter, flour, spices, sweetened condensed milk, salt, and leavening. The two elements you'll want to invest in for supremely delicious key lime dessert bars are real Key Lime Juice and some spicy, store bought gingersnaps.
TIP: To make these bad boys vegan, feel free to substitute coconut oil or vegan butter for the crust, and use a homemade vegan sweetened condensed milk for your filling. To make them gluten free, just substitute a 1-to-1 gluten free flour for the all purpose stuff.
What are Key Limes, and why should I use them?
Key Limes are a specific variety of limes that have a distinctive floral quality to them. While you could ostensibly use regular lime juice to make these key lime bars, the flavor would likely be a bit less complex.
In addition, key limes are much more tart or astringent than their conventional counterparts, making them a perfect match for über-sweet condensed milk. By the way, the filling is that simple. Just mix key lime juice and sweetened condensed milk, and you get a velvety smooth custard like filling.
While I have never lived where they are readily available fresh, Nellie's is a brand that is easily available on most store shelves. Seriously! I have been using this same brand since I was but a wee lass in the 4th grade trying to earn some friends through baking. Note: it didn't work because kids are mean, but the bars were bangin'.
How to Make Coconut Ginger Key Lime Bars
First, you'll want to make your key lime filling. Simply mix your deliciously tart juice with the sweetened condensed milk until uniform. Set it aside and let the magic happen! While you prepare the crust/crumble layer, the acid in the juice will thicken the milk into a perfect custard.
Secondly, you'll need to make the crust and crumble mix. Start by dumping your gingersnaps into the bowl of the food processor and turn them into dust. I don't mean that in a "send 'em where the sun don't shine!" kinda way. I mean process them until they're pretty fine so they can play nicely with the other ingredients.
Now add the oats to the mix and do the same dang thing. You want those oats to be processed pretty fine. Finally, just dump the remaining ingredients into the bowl and process until uniformly combined. The crust and crumble is now complete.
All that is left is assembly. In a greased 9 x 13 pan, press about ⅔ of the mix to create the base layer. Try to get it as even as possible so the filling layer will bake evenly. Pour in your key lime custard. Use your hands to shape the remaining crust mixture into various sized crumbs and sprinkle it over the filling.
TIP: To get this (or any other) crumble topping to have some big crumble pieces, I like to smash it in my hands by making a fist.
Now just pop the whole tray into a preheated oven and try to distract yourself from the deliciously bright citrus smells enveloping your house. In about a half hour, you should be ready to pull them out of the oven. So easy, right?
The most important (albeit unfair) step
If you're like me and love to relish in cookies warm (who am I kidding, I mean scalding hot) from the oven, do not succumb to this urge. The key lime filling needs time to set up, and the beautiful crumb base won't achieve proper shortbread consistency if you act too quickly.
So, while this isn't technically a step because you don't really have to do anything, I am writing it here because it's invaluable. WAIT. Let your 9 x 13 cool, and then refrigerate it before cutting into perfectly tart little dessert bars just begging to get eaten.
NOTE: These Ginger Coconut Key Lime Pie Bars can remain at room temperature for up to three days, or in your fridge for up to a week. I don't anticipate this will happen because they are that delicious. But in case you wanted to know if they can be made ahead, the answer is yes.
Congratulations! You have just made three dozen mouths very happy! (Or in our case, 6 mouths happy 6 times over). Until next time, friends! I hope you have a happy, healthy and well fed week.
Want more recipe inspiration? Check out these other awesomely easy desserts:
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Ginger Coconut Key Lime Bars
- 1 C Key Lime Juice
- 2 cans Sweetened Condensed Milk use homemade vegan condensed milk if preferred
- 10 oz Gingersnaps
- 1 C Rolled Oats
- ½ C Sugar
- ½ C Brown Sugar packed
- 1 ½ C AP Flour substitute 1-to-1 gluten free flour if preferred
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¾ C Sweetened Flaked Coconut
- 4 oz Butter melted. Sub vegan butter if preferred.
- ¼ C Unrefined Coconut Oil
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.
- Combine condensed milk and lime juice in a bowl, stirring until well combined. Note: a whisk will help, but you can achieve the same result using a spoon and some patience.
- Put the gingersnaps in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Process (pulsing) until only small crumbs remain. Add oats and process for about 10 seconds, breaking the oats into smaller pieces. Add remaining dry ingredients and pulse till combined. With the blade of the processor running, drizzle in melted butter. Process until well combined.
- Using about ⅔ of the crumb/crust mixture, create a cookie base by pressing firmly into prepared pan. Try to keep the cookie layer level for even filling.
- Pour filling over base, using an offset spatula, rubber spatula or back of a spoon to spread it evenly.
- Using remaining crumb/crust mixture, top the filling layer. NOTE: To create larger crumbs, simply squeeze mixture in your fist.
- Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and set. Let pan cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate for about an hour. Slice into pieces and ENJOY!
- To make these bars gluten free, simply substitute 1-to-1 gluten free flour for the AP Flour
- Substitute homemade vegan sweetened condensed milk if preferred
- Allow to chill completely before refrigerating, then be sure to refrigerate for at least an hour for best slices
- Bars will keep in an air tight container for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to a week in the refrigerator.