What Are Finger Limes?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Finger lime

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Finger limes are a citrus fruit native to Australia but are now grown in North America as well. They are small and elongated, almost resembling gherkins, containing tiny spherical vessels filled with tart juice that is sometimes called citrus caviar.

What Are Finger Limes?

Finger limes, sometimes also known as Australian finger limes or caviar limes, are a citrus fruit of the species Citrus australasica, a variety of microcitrus that are believed to have evolved over millions of years in the rainforests of Australia and New Guinea.

Finger limes are small fruits, usually measuring 2 to 3 inches in length and weighing as little as 10 to 15 grams each. Shaped like small pickles or cucumbers with ends that taper to points, finger limes are most commonly a purple or blackish dark green, though they sometimes appear as light green or even brownish-red. The skin of the fruit is rough and pebbled. 

But it is what's inside finger limes that makes them special. When cut open (they can also be snapped in half) they reveal a multitude of tiny spherical vessels, ranging in color from pale yellowish-green to nearly pink. They also have small, cream-colored seeds. Squeezing each half forces these little bubbles out, where they can be eaten or used in cooking. When chewed, they pop in your mouth, releasing their tart, lemony juice. Chefs who use them serve them alongside seafood, sushi, pasta, and other foods that benefit from the crunchy pop of the bubbles and their tart, citrusy flavor.

The downside to this unique fruit is that they're expensive. If you can find them, expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 per pound for them, usually depending on the size of the package. 

How to Use Finger Limes

Because of their fresh, tart citrus flavor, finger limes pair extremely well with fish and seafood, including grilled salmon, fresh oysters, pan-seared sea scallops, along with various types of sushi, sashimi, and ceviche. One interesting feature is that because the tiny bubbles hold in the acidic sauce until they are bitten into, they can be arrayed over fish and seafood without the acid denaturing the proteins.

Finger limes are also a favorite ingredient for making jams and marmalades. They pair well with pasta and sweet fruits, and with their tart flavor and snappy texture, are a welcome addition to salads. Finally, with their caviar-like appearance, they make a visually appealing and flavorful garnish for puddings, cheesecakes, ice cream, and other rich desserts.

To extract the caviar, simply slice the lime in half and then squeeze each half as if you were squeezing a tube of toothpaste. 

Finger limes

Bonchan / Getty Images

Finger limes

Juergen Pfeiffer / Getty Images

Finger limes

Bonchan / Getty Images

Finger limes

Bhofack2 / Getty Images

What Do They Taste Like?

Finger limes taste very similar to conventional limes, with a tart, citrusy flavor, although it also features a rosemary-like herbaceous note along with a somewhat minty flavor as well. 

Nutritional Value

A 100-gram serving of finger limes (around 7 to 10 limes) is about 88 percent water and provides 30 calories and 11 grams of carbs, along with 3 grams of fiber, and negligible protein and fat. It also provides 29 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 32 percent of the USDA daily value, making it an excellent source of this nutrient.

Finger Lime Recipes

Finger limes can be served with seafood, sushi, and ceviche, as well as in salads, and in desserts like cheesecake, fruit curd, and ice cream. Here are a few recipes that finger limes might pair well with.

Where to Buy Finger Limes

Finger limes are grown in California and Florida, and they're available during the autumn and winter months, and into early spring. They're sometimes available at specialty food stores like Whole Foods and Wegman's, as well as at farmers' markets. You can also buy them online, though you should expect to pay up to $10 per ounce for these fruits. 

Storage

Finger limes should be kept in a dry place in cool or cold temperatures. You can keep them at room temperature for a day or two, but to store them for longer than that it's best to keep them in the crisper drawer on the low humidity setting (i.e. with the vent all the way open), where they'll stay fresh for two to three weeks.

Article Sources
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  1. Limes. FoodData Central, U.S. Department of Agriculture