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What are limes? Well, they’re not lemons.

What are limes? Well, they’re not lemons.

What is lime fruit? A lime is a small green citrus fruit that grows on trees. Used in a variety of dishes and drinks, lime enhances flavors of all kinds. It’s an acidic sidekick to so many entrees and desserts, drinks and salsas.

The acid in lime balances sweet and salt, is the base for many delicious marinades, and is the most popular ingredient in margaritas, if I do say so myself. 

Key lime pie, cilantro lime grilled salmon, honey lime chicken, pineapple salsa, mojo shrimp, cilantro-lime rice bowls, a favorite cilantro-lime sauce, and Mountain Dew Lime. 

What do these entries have in common? Well, apart from being my favorite foods lately, these, too, have lime in them! (or just taste like lime. Looking at you, Mountain Dew.)

Limes refer to small, round, green citrus fruits, most commonly known as Persian limes. 

The unripe lime that you often see in markets are commonly harvested and sold when they feature a dark green color. 

When these ripen, you’ll see the color turn to light yellow. Sometimes ripe limes are confused with lemons, but they are generally smaller and rounder than lemons. 

Now when limes get to ripen on the tree, these fruits become even juicier. You can expect the juice in a lime to be at its robust peak when they are yellow with just a hint of green, and squeeze easily with hand pressure. 

These same limes would grow typically to two inches in diameter and should feature a rounded, slightly oval shape. Persian limes are also noted for being the seedless variety, ones that feature a flesh that is pale greenish-yellow in color.

What does lime taste like?

The lime flavor features a tart, acidic taste, with a hint of sweetness. It also comes with a zingy, sour pucker, with a bitterness in the pith. 

Lime in some dishes can be substituted with lemon, vinegar, or citric acid.

What is a key lime?

Key lime is known as a Mexican lime or limes that come from the West Indies. They are usually small and round, growing in tropical and subtropical regions.

Key limes are light yellow in color; this is especially true when they are ripened. They also contain more seeds than the regular limes. On the other hand, their skin is quite thin, which indicates that they don’t store that well.

When it comes to substitution, you can use key lime juice in place of regular limes. Key limes are often milder than typical limes, and are very much used for sweetened-up desserts such as key lime pie and cupcakes.

Lime vs lemon

What is the difference between a lime and a lemon? They are pretty interchangeable when asking for a garnished glass of water at a restaurant. 

They are often combined in some desserts and drinks. Although lemons and limes come from the same family of citrus fruits, they are absolutely not the same fruit. This is especially true as they differ in life stages. 

For instance, lemons would turn from green to yellow when the chlorophyll in the rind gets replaced with anthocyanin as they ripen. Meanwhile, limes would turn yellow when they fully ripen. 

However, these are often picked when they are green and under-ripe. This is largely due to the fact that they will last longer in stores if they’re less ripe during the picking and shipping processes.

In terms of taste, lemons are sour while limes may be on the pungent side. To iterate, lime features this tart and acidic taste, albeit sweeter, while lemons tend to be so sour that they could pucker most lips.

How to pick out a lime

As a rule of thumb, a heavier lime indicates that it’s already ripened. It should also contain more juice.
Ah, so, just how can you tell when a lime is already to use? Apart from color changes, there are a few ways to tell if a lime is ripe. 

Since most supermarket limes are sold dark green, they are usually all the same. Choose unbroken, unblemished skin. 

Once home, take a whiff of these limes then scratch their skins lightly. If they smell “lime-ish,” it’s recommended that they are ready to use. 

They just won’t boast much of an odor at all when you first get them from the store because they are sold underripe. 

Alternatively, you can also give these limes that squeeze. If it’s their time to be picked out, the skin should give you this soft yet firm give.

You can also tell if you pick out a lime in terms of weight. As a rule of thumb, a heavier lime indicates that it’s already ripened. It should also contain more juice.

Great article about the magic of yellow limes from Gardening Know How here.

How to store limes

The best way to store limes is in the refrigerator. Specifically in a vegetable drawer, where they are kept from drying out. 

That said, we have a tendency to just keep them on the counter in a bowl, uncovered. 

I would also keep them in a mesh bag, instead of a plastic bag, as the latter might hold too much moisture, causing them to rot or mold faster.

Ways to use lime

There are truly many ways to use lime. For one, limes can add a bold flavor to many recipes. 

A splash of tart lime juice can transform even the most simple of desserts or salads to standouts.

Also at the top of my list: Lime ice cubes! Uber fast and easy to make, these ice cubes are only made with water, sliced limes, lime juice, and voila! You got yourself a refreshing beverage.

Renee’ made up this not-so-sweet Mexican Martini recipe and said I need to share it here. She loves this drink. 

Here are other lime recipes that we find appealing and/or refreshing:

The bottom lime (see what we did there)

What is lime? Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more! (Shout out to the 90s, baby.) 

Now that summer is about to peak, there’s never been a better time to break out of the lime-wedge rut and make use of this aromatic fruit to season and liven up spreads, desserts, and sides!

These recipes aside, lime has always been a staple in our house. We keep RealLime in our fridge (that ubiquitous squeeze bottle) and a few fresh limes in our hanging fruit baskets.

Lime juice is just as great squeezed on cooked fish as it is holding hands with tequila. Check out our lime recipes above, especially our cilantro lime rice. Tell us some of your favorite lime recipes!

Lime Sorbet Recipe

Lime Sorbet Recipe

Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes

This lime sorbet has an intense flavor (it’s all that lime zest!) You don’t need an ice cream machine to make a lovely sorbet at home.


  • 1 ½ c sugar
  • 2 c water
  • 1 ¼ c lime juice (about 10 average ripe limes, or just use bottled lime juice)
  • 4 T lime zest (about 6 average ripe limes)


  1. Wash and dry the limes.
  2. Juice and zest your limes, keeping juice and zest separate. (Remember not to zest too deeply or you’ll reach the bitter pith.)
  3. In a medium-sized saucepan stir together the sugar and water. Heat up and stir often until the sugar is fully dissolved. 
  4. Allow the simple syrup mixture to cool completely.
  5. Stir in the lime juice and lime zest. 
  6. Pour the mixture into a glass casserole dish and cover with cling wrap. 
  7. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the mixture from the freezer and use a fork to stir up the ice crystals and mix them in.
  9. Return to the freezer for another 30 minutes. 
  10. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until the sorbet is firm, and can be spooned up with a large spoon or ice-cream scoop.
  11. Mint and even basil leaves make a nice garnish.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 627Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 15mgCarbohydrates: 165gFiber: 2gSugar: 153gProtein: 1g

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