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The 5 Best Substitutes for Key Lime Juice

Have you ever wondered what makes key lime juice so special?

Fans of this delicious tart and tangy juice treasure it for its unique flavor profile and versatility in recipes.

Its tangy goodness can be found as a star ingredient in cakes, pies, curds, and marinades or just as a flavorful addition to cocktails or drinks.

For those of us who don’t have the convenience of fresh-squeezed Key Lime Juice available, there are a handful of substitutes that work well too.

From Persian lime juice to apple cider vinegar, knowing how to substitute for key lime juice is essential for making your favorite dishes and beverages.

What’s Key Lime Juice?

Key lime juice is a tart, bright-tasting citrus juice that comes from a small, yellow-green fruit called the Key (or Mexican) lime.

This unique fruit originated in Southeast Asia several centuries ago and eventually made its way to the more tropical climates of Florida and the Caribbean islands.

It’s much smaller than other limes and has a thin rind that easily bruises – but its flavor far surpasses any other type of lime.

The distinctive taste of Key lime juice is sweet yet acidic, like a lemon; some even describe it as having floral notes.

Credited with being the star ingredient in classic Key Lime Pie, the juice can also be used to give a refreshing twist to cocktails, salad dressings, and marinades.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Key Lime Juice

If you ever find yourself in a pinch, you may not always have access to key lime juice.

But don’t worry.

There are several great substitutes for key lime juice that can still give your recipes the right flavor.

Here are the five best substitutes for key lime juice:

1 – Persian Lime Juice

Persian lime juice is a great way to add a tart and tangy flavor to any dish.

It has a strong citrus taste, deliciously acidic yet still slightly sweet.

Ideal for refreshing drinks like margaritas or mojitos, Persian lime juice can also be used as an ingredient in many dishes, from salads to fish.

If you need to substitute key lime juice for Persian lime juice, don’t worry – the taste is similar enough that it could work in most recipes, adding just minor differences in flavor.

The tartness of Persian limes may not completely replicate the sweetness of key limes, but you should still get wonderful results.

2 – Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a popular ingredient used in many different recipes.

It has a bright, tart flavor that can help to balance out the sweetness of other components.

In fact, it is often used to replace the more expensive key lime juice in dishes due to their similarities in taste and texture.

To properly substitute lemon for key lime, 1 tablespoon of freshly-squeezed lemon juice is recommended for every 2 tablespoons of key lime juice that are called for in the recipe.

Doing so will deliver the same zesty citrus kick without having to spend extra money on key limes.

3 – Bitter Orange Juice

Bitter orange juice is not for everyone – its flavor is tart, with a pronounced flavor of raw citrus growing increasingly bitter as you drink it.

But if you’ve been searching for something to substitute key lime juice in recipes, look no further.

Bitter orange juice has the acidity and strong undertones needed to bring out the flavors of key lime without overpowering them.

You can also adjust the sweetness level to taste so that you have complete control over the final creation.

So next time your recipe calls for key lime juice, don’t be afraid to try bitter orange as an alternative – you may be surprised how well it works.

4 – Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit juice is a delightfully tart, pink-hued refreshment that can make a great addition to any beverage or dish.

As it tastes a bit on the sour side with just a hint of bitterness and sweetness, you can enjoy its dry albeit tangy flavor either by itself or combined with a sugar-based syrup.

Furthermore, its slightly tarter taste makes it a perfect substitute for key lime juice when making recipes such as daiquiris and margaritas.

So if you’re in search of an exceptional alternative for key lime juice for your next culinary adventure, why not try grapefruit juice to take your dishes up to the next level?

5 – Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a renowned tart and sour liquid made from old-fashioned apples.

It not only boasts an intense flavor but also houses many health benefits that are taking the kitchen world by storm.

The first thing to know about it is that it has quite a strong taste and smell ― think sweet, vinegary, acidic, and pungent all at the same time.

Nevertheless, its subtle sweetness makes for an ideal substitute for key lime juice in your favorite recipes, such as salads and condiments.

All you need to do is use 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for every 4 tablespoons of lime juice called for in the recipe ― providing an easy swap that doesn’t compromise taste or nutritional content.


In conclusion, key lime juice is a delicious ingredient that adds zesty flavor and complexity to dishes.

However, finding key limes can be difficult and expensive ― so if you are ever in need of a good substitute for key lime juice, then there are plenty available.

You can use Persian lime juice, lemon juice, bitter orange juice, grapefruit juice, or even apple cider vinegar, depending on the flavor profile you are aiming to achieve.

With these substitutes in hand, you can experiment with different flavors and textures ― all while keeping your recipes as budget-friendly as possible.

Yield: 1 Serving

The 5 Best Substitutes for Key Lime Juice

The 5 Best Substitutes for Key Lime Juice
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • Persian Lime Juice
  • Lemon Juice
  • Bitter Orange Juice
  • Grapefruit Juice
  • Apple Cider Vinegar


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.

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