A Fun Twist on Two Classics: Key Lime Bars with Chocolate Pistachio Crust

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Key Lime Bars w Chocolate Pistachio CrustWhat do you get when you cross a lemon bar with key lime pie? Key Lime Bars with Chocolate Pistachio Crust.

Key lime pie is a recent addition to our Thanksgiving food traditions. How did this happen? Well, honestly, I don’t know. I think @dormantchef wanted to recreate something we once made in our gourmet group. Unwilling to add any more tasks to my list on Turkey Day, @dormantchef and @gregorytlee took charge. Now Thanksgiving just isn’t complete if we aren’t dividing up the key lime pie with dark-chocolate lined macadamia crust into 12 tiny pieces for everyone to squeeze into their already full stomachs.

Key Lime Bars w Pistachio Crust

First pass with no chocolate

So when I came upon this recipe from Martha Stewart for Lime Squares with a Pistachio Crust, my interest was piqued. We love lemon bars, love key lime pie so this seemed like a natural citrusy follow-on. They’re a winner – a little quicker to put together than the pie and a little bit lighter to eat. But to satisfy the family’s chocolate obsession, I decided for @dormantchef’s birthday, I would add a little bit of chocolate ganache to the pistachio crust, mimicking the Thanksgiving pie. The original recipe has no chocolate in it so feel free to skip this step – they were gobbled up the first time even without the add-on.

What’s the payoff for this multi-step process? A layer of flavors and texture in each bite: crunchy nutty crust with just a hint of the tangy zest and then the creamy pudding-like filling followed by the rich dark creamy chocolate ganache.

Key Lime Bars w Chocolate Pistachio Crust

Key Lime Bars w chocolate (photo taken by @gregorytlee)

Here’s how they come together:


Key Lime Bars
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Key Lime Bars with Chocolate-lined Pistachio Crust

Adapted from a recipe on marthastewart.com

Course Dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 236 kcal
Author Beth Lee



  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (plus a bit more for the pan) 1/2 stick
  • 2/3 cup shelled pistachios I used unsalted
  • 1 cup 4 ounces graham cracker crumbs (6 crackers)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest about zest of 1 medium size lime or 5 or 6 key limes


  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk 1 can
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice about 2 regular limes or 14 key limes


  • 4 oz dark chocolate of your choosing bar or chips
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or 325 convect.
  2. Prepare the 8 X 8 inch cake pan by brushing it with melted butter and then lining it with a piece of parchment paper that overhangs two opposite sides by about 2 inches.
    Key Lime Bars w Chocolate Pistachio Crust
  3. Prepare the crust. The original recipe calls for putting all the ingredients in a food processor and pulsing until it is combined and finely ground, adding the melted butter last. I chopped the crackers and nuts separately in my small Cuisinart then I combined the zest with the sugar using my hands to really blend the zest in with the sugar – a method I learned from Dorie Greenspan. Then I mixed the sugar mixture, nuts, graham crackers and butter all together by hand in a medium mixing bowl. Probably quicker to use the Martha method but I wanted to use my small Cuisinart and get the extra hit of flavor that mixing the zest into the sugar imparts
    Key Lime Bars w Chocolate Pistachio Crust
  4. Press the nut graham mixture into the prepared pan leaving about a 1 inch crust all the way around. Bake this for about 8 - 12 minutes until slightly brown at 350 regular or 325 convect. For me, it took about 11 minutes at 325 convect.
    Key Lime Bars w Chocolate Pistachio Crust
  5. While the crust is in the oven, you can prepare the filling and just refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. If you are using key limes, it will take extra time to render the ½ cup of lime juice. If you use regular limes, this will only take 2 – 3 limes. Pour the condensed milk into a medium bowl, add the two egg yolks and whisk together. Then whisk in the lime juice.
    Key Lime Bars w Chocolate Pistachio Crust
  6. When the crust is done, let it cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. If you want to speed the cooling along, stash it in the fridge or even freezer for a short time. (But don’t forget about it!)
  7. Optional: If you want to line it with chocolate, when the crust is nearly cool, make the ganache. Chop up 4ozs of your favorite dark chocolate or buy your favorite dark/bittersweet chocolate chips. Place them in a medium size bowl. Heat the whipping cream to boiling on the stovetop or in the microwave. Add the boiling cream to the bowl with the chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Then start stirring in one direction with a whisk until it combines and all the chocolate is melted. It will look smooth and shiny. Let this mixture cool for a little while then you can spread it on the cooled crust with a spatula or frosting spreader to make the layer of chocolate. Place the chocolate lined crust in the fridge or freezer to harden for 15 minutes or so. If you want to learn more about making ganache and all the other ways you can use it, check out Savory Sweet Life's post or this tutorial on Baking 911.
    Key Lime Bars w Chocolate Pistachio Crust
  8. Once cooled, you can pour in the filling and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 or 325 convect to set up the filling. Take out of oven and cool on a wire rack, then place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour before serving. The bars will lift out of the pan using the parchment overhang (thanks again to Martha for this great idea!). Cut into squares using a serrated knife and if you want them to look crumb-less on the sides, clean knife between each cut.


Key Lime Bars w Chocolate Pistachio Crust

Key Lime Bars w chocolate (photo taken by @gregorytlee)

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13 Responses to A Fun Twist on Two Classics: Key Lime Bars with Chocolate Pistachio Crust

  1. Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life April 29, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    These look delicious…I am a huge key lime pie fan so when I saw this recipe, I had to stop by. Can’t wait to try it!!

    • Beth Lee May 8, 2015 at 7:57 am #

      Let me know if you do! I always love feedback! Think I’m going to make these for my hubby’s birthday!

  2. Ali @ Home & Plate April 29, 2015 at 6:18 am #

    Pistchio crust? Love this idea. And key lime is the perfect filling. Yum.

    • Beth Lee May 8, 2015 at 7:56 am #

      Thanks for stopping by! You guys are making me want to start baking right now!

  3. Kristen @ A Mind Full Mom April 29, 2015 at 4:46 am #

    These bars look amazing, but that crust–oh my!! I could just eat that by itself.

    • Beth Lee May 8, 2015 at 7:45 am #

      My husband was just asking for pistachios last night — maybe I’ll make these bars for him for his bday next weekend! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Carol Sacks May 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    So inventive! Love the combo, Beth!

    • Beth (OMG! Yummy) May 22, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      I wish I could take credit for the pistachio in the crust but I can take some credit for the chocolate addition. It was a hit with the food lovers that tasted it, for sure.

  5. sandy corman May 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    um, um, good-um, um good. when are you bringing some to this neighborhood?

    • Beth (OMG! Yummy) May 22, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      Next batch – I promise but remember – you’ve eaten the key lime pie at Thanksgiving so you’re already in the club 🙂

  6. lizthechef May 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    I LOVE your combo of flavors here – very creative, and you outline the method very clearly.

    • Beth (OMG! Yummy) May 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      thanks Liz! I’ve become a real lime lover this year and especially loved all the beauty of the ingredients in this dish before it is even prepared!

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