What Are Sweet Limes?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Sweet lime

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Sweet limes are a citrus fruit grown in the Middle East and South Asia, where they are popular as flavoring ingredients and for their juice. They have a sweet lime flavor with little acidity. 

What Are Sweet Limes?

Sweet limes, sometimes also known as Palestinian sweet limes, Persian sweet limes, Indian sweet limes, or lima dulce, are a citrus fruit of the species Citrus limettioides, that are most likely a hybrid of Mexican limes (Citrus aurantifolia) and sweet lemon (Citrus limetta) or sweet citron (Citrus medica).

Sweet limes are small fruits, usually measuring 2 to 3 inches in diameter and weighing about 2 ounces. They're round to slightly flattened. The skin of the fruit is smooth and thin and easy to peel. Sweet limes are green when immature, turning a greenish-yellow to orange-yellow when they ripen. The fruit itself is pale yellow and juicy, consisting of around 10 segments of flesh, along with a small number of oblong, cream-colored seeds. They are available from late fall through winter.

How to Use Sweet Limes

Because of their sweet flavor, sweet limes can be peeled and eaten out of hand as a snack. Additionally, their fruit and juice are commonly used in a variety of recipes in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American cuisines. They're used in marinades, sauces, desserts, as a garnish, and in numerous cocktails, fruit drinks, limeades, and other beverages. They're also pickled, and cooked, and made into chutneys and relishes. They are often paired with meat and poultry, as their bright flavor helps to bring out and complement those richer flavors. The peel can also be grated or zested and used as a seasoning.

The key thing to remember when cooking with or using sweet limes in recipes is that unlike other citruses, such as ordinary limes, lemons, and even oranges, sweet limes contain very little acid, so they won't impart that typical acidic bite that you might expect when adding a squeeze of citrus juice to a dish. What they do add is sweetness along with an intense lime aroma. 

The peel of sweet limes can also be used to make candied peel.

Sweet lime

Varun Singh Bhati / Getty Images

Sweet lime

Aliaksandra Ivanova / Getty Images

Sweet lime

McKay Savage / Getty Images

What Do They Taste Like?

When fully ripe, sweet limes have a sweet flavor, along with an intense lime aroma, plus an almost piney fragrance that makes them extremely palatable, almost like a limeade in a fruit. They're also quite juicy and are commonly enjoyed simply by slicing off one end and sucking out the juice or simply eating them the way one might eat an orange or tangerine.

Nutritional Value

A 100-gram serving of sweet limes provides 30 calories and 10 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.

Sweet Lime Recipes

Sweet limes can be used in many desserts that also call for limes or lime juice, but because they are sweet as opposed to sour, you might have to adjust the sweetness elsewhere in the recipe.

Where to Buy Sweet Limes

Sweet limes aren't widely sold, but look for them during the winter months at specialty food stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, as well as farmers' markets. They might also be available online.

Storage

Sweet 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, 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 three to four weeks.

Sweet Limes vs. Sweet Lemons

Because of their yellow color, sweet limes are sometimes confused with sweet lemons, which are themselves a hybrid of citrons and bitter orange. Adding to the confusion, sweet lemons are also sometimes referred to as sweet limes, although they are in fact a separate species, Citrus limetta. One notable difference is that, similar to navel oranges, sweet lemons contain a compound called limonin, which causes their juice to turn bitter after being exposed to oxygen for a few minutes.

Article Sources
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  1. Morton, J. 1987. Sweet Lime. p. 175–176. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.

  2. Persian Limes. FoodData Central, U.S. Department of Agriculture