The Secret Ingredient (Key Lime): Key Lime Shrimp Tacos Recipe

The Secret Ingredient

Every month we highlight a different ingredient and share weekly recipes that showcase its uses.

The Secret Ingredient (Key Lime): Key Lime Shrimp Tacos Recipe

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

Key limes were brought to the States by Spanish explorers, and the limes continued to entrench themselves in the tropics and subtropics of the New World, including South Florida and its famed Keys—and my backyard, where we had a key lime tree until a citrus blight in the 1990s.

As I wrote last week, key limes are smaller, paler, yellower, and more acidic than the standard lime. Hence, their taste is incomparable. So incomparable, in fact, that according to Wikipedia, in 1965 a state representative proposed a $100 fine on anyone selling key lime pie (the state pie, of course) made using any lime other than key limes. It didn't pass, but I do think that selling key lime anything that does not quickly impart that distinct acidic sweetness—almost a vanilla tinge—is selling under false pretenses!

These light shrimp tacos are key lime and Florida through and through. Thanks to large Hispanic and Caribbean populations, our grocery stores are stocked with really fantastic ingredients like authentic corn taco tortillas, Mexican cheeses, tropical fruits. And, of course, key limes. These tacos begin with large shrimp (use the pink ones harvested from the Florida Keys for an authentic Florida recipe) marinated in key lime juice, and then grilled to a quick char with garlic.

A chunky salsa made from key limes, mango, avocado, and jalapenos adds flavor, heft, and a distinct bite. Crema made from key lime juice and zest and sour cream adds acidity and heat-reduction. Wrap it all together with shredded green cabbage and a small, warm flour tortilla, and the taco is light and fresh, with that distinctive sweet key lime acidity, and a taste of the most southern of States.

  • Yield:4


  • Taco Ingredients
  • 12 jumbo shrimp, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoon key lime juice (from 6 key limes)
  • 4 teaspoons light olive oil
  • 8 small corn tortillas, warmed
  • shredded green cabbage to taste
  • Key Lime, Avocado, and Mango Salsa Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoon key lime juice (6 key limes)
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced
  • 1 avocado, finely diced
  • 1/2 mango, finely diced
  • salt to taste
  • Key Lime Crema Ingredients
  • Juice of 6 key limes (2 tablespoons)
  • Zest of 6 key limes
  • 6 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature


  1. 1.

    For the tacos: Preheat a grill pan on high, and the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. 2.

    Toss the shrimp with the garlic, lime juice, and light olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side. Set aside.

  3. 3.

    Wrap the tortillas in foil, and warm in the oven.

  4. 4.

    Meanwhile, make the salsa and crema (procedures follow). Then, to assemble, lay the cabbage in the center of each small warm corn tortilla. Top with shrimp, then salsa, then crema. Serve with key lime wedges.

  5. 5.

    For the salsa: Combine all the salsa ingredients, and allow to sit for a few minutes while you make the crema.

  6. 6.

    For the key lime crema: Whisk together all the crema ingredients.