Lemon Curd Recipe

Tart and tangy homemade lemon curd that is thick enough to use as a cake filling, tarts or filling pastries. Making your own lemon curd is so easy and a great way to use up extra egg yolks.
↓ Recipe ↓ Video Never Miss A Cake
Total Time: 30 mins
Serves: 2 cups
close up of lemon curd

This is the lemon curd recipe for you if you LOVE lots of true lemon flavor and don’t like your curd too sweet (like me). This thick lemon curd uses a combination of heat and cornstarch so it’s perfect for filling for cakes, tarts, and donuts. Don’t need lemon curd right now? No worries! You can make your curd and freeze it until you need it!

You might be intimidated by the idea of making your own lemon curd from scratch but I promise it’s super easy! If you’re like me, you end up with leftover egg yolks pretty often from making a white cake or macarons. In fact, I think lemon curd might have been invented specifically to use up those leftover egg yolks. 

LEMON CURD INGREDIENTS

I’m not a big fan of super sweet lemon curd. I like mine to be pretty tart. If you do like sweeter lemon curd, you can add one or two more ounces of sugar and adjust the sweetness to your taste. 

lemon curd ingredients

LEMON CURD STEP-BY-STEP

Step 1 – Zest the lemons with a microplane and place them into a bowl to use later. Make sure you avoid the pith (white part) of the lemon. That part is super bitter and will make your curd taste weird.

close up of lemon zest on a microplane

Pro-tip – Roll your lemons before slicing to release the juices better. 

Step 2 – Then slice your lemons in half and juice them into a measuring cup. Use a small colander or a lemon juicer to keep out any seeds.

closeup of lemon juice in a measuring cup

Step 3 – Place your egg yolks, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine and set aside. (You will be adding more to this later, so make sure it’s a large enough bowl.)

Step 4 – Add your lemon juice, granulated sugar, and lemon zest to a saucepan and whisk together to combine.

sugar being added to lemon juice

Step 4 – Stir constantly and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Step 5 – When it has reached a simmer, scoop about 1/2 cup of the hot lemon juice mixture and slowly add it into the egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously. Add about 1 cup of liquid total. This is what we call tempering, meaning we are slowly heating up the cold egg yolk mixture with a hot mixture so that it begins to thicken but we don’t accidentally cook the eggs too much by putting them on direct heat. 

adding hot lemon juice mixture to egg mixture

Step 6 – Now that your egg mixture is warmed up a bit, you can safely add the tempered egg mixture back into the hot lemon mixture while whisking continuously. 

adding tempered egg mixture to hot lemon juice

Since the main ingredient used in lemon curd is egg yolks, we have to be very careful about how quickly we heat the mixture. If you walk away for even a minute, the eggs can curdle and you’ll have lemon scrambled eggs. Yuck. So whisking is important. 

Pro-tip – If you do accidentally get some cooked eggs, you can pass your curd through a strainer after it’s done to remove any bits of cooked egg. 

Step 7 – Whisk constantly and cook over medium heat until desired thickness. I cook mine for about 2 minutes because I like thick lemon curd. 

Test the thickness by dipping the back of a spoon into your lemon curd and drag your finger across it. If it holds the shape without dripping off too quickly, it’s done!

Pro-tip – Removing the curd at 170ºF  will yield a thinner consistency while removing at 180ºF  will be thicker.

Step 8 –  Remove the curd from the heat. Add your butter in chunks and whisk until the butter is melted and everything is combined. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. 

Step 9 – Pour into a heat-proof jar and store in the fridge for up to one week or freeze for up to a year. Cover the curd with plastic wrap so that it is touching the surface of the curd without any air bubbles in between, this will prevent a skin from forming on the top of the curd. 

LEMON CURD FAQ:

WHAT KIND OF POT SHOULD I USE TO MAKE LEMON CURD?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard conflicting information about whether or not lemon curd can be cooked on direct heat. I used to always make it with a bain-marie, but now I just use a large, wide, shallow sauté pan and whisk continuously and it works great.

If you’re nervous about it, you can use a double boiler (or bain-marie). Start by placing about an inch of water in the bottom of a saucepan and bring it to a simmer (gentle bubbles) and place a heatproof bowl over the top of the pan. It’s a way to heat very gently so the chances of burning it are lower.

If you use a bain-marie, you’ll have to cook your curd for about 20 minutes to get it to 170º F. 

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LEMON CURD AND LEMON PIE FILLING?

Yes, there is a difference. Lemon curd is smooth, creamy, and never really “sets” completely. If you fill a tart shell with lemon curd and bite into it, the curd will slowly ooze out.

Lemon pie filling is set with either corn starch or flour and when it’s poured into the shell, it is then baked so when you slice the pie, the filling does not move a bit. This is how lemon meringue pie is made and one of my favorite pies of all time. Now I want pie.

close up of lemon meringue pie slice

LEMON CURD AS A CAKE FILLING

This curd pairs perfectly as a filling with my lemon blueberry buttermilk cake. Make sure you cook your lemon curd to at least 175º F if you’re going to use it as a cake filling. If you don’t, you could end up with runny lemon curd which isn’t going to be very stable in the cake.

Be sure you create a dam (ring of buttercream) around the outside layer of your cake. Then fill the center with no more than 1/8″ of curd. The dam will keep the curd from oozing out the sides of your cake.

slice of lemon cake with lemon curd and lemon buttercream

LEMON CURD IN BUTTERCREAM

Lemon curd works great in buttercream, too. Just whip about 1/2 cup of curd into 6 cups of buttercream. Add in lemon extract if you want a full-on lemon-party!

lemon cake

WHAT KIND OF LEMONS ARE BEST?

When you’re making lemons you want to use regular lemons not meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are smaller, have smoother skin, and are not as tart. A Meyer lemon curd would also probably be delicious, but you’ll want to use regular lemons for this recipe. 

Fresh lemon juice is best to use, but you can use bottled lemon juice if you can’t get fresh lemons.

closeup of lemon  

WHY DOES MY LEMON CURD TASTE LIKE METAL?

Sometimes using a metal pan can give your curd a slight metallic aftertaste. This occurs because the lemons are highly acidic and can break down metal from cheaper pans. If you have this issue, try doing a bain-marie with and use a porcelain or glass bowl. Using a silicone whisk can also help. 

HOW LONG CAN I FREEZE LEMON CURD?

Lemon curd freezes very well! You can freeze it for 6 months and then defrost it when you want to use it. I like to freeze 1 ounce portions in silicone ice cube trays then place them into a ziplock bag so that I can easily portion out my curd for baking recipes. 

HOW TO FIX LEMON CURD

If you curdled your curd (lol) DON’T freak out! Strain it through a colander to remove the lumps. 

RELATED LEMON RECIPES

Lemon Cake

Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

Lemon Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

Lemon Buttercream

Blueberry Muffins

Did You Make This Recipe?Leave a rating and tell me how it went!
close up of lemon curd

Lemon Curd Recipe

Tart and tangy homemade lemon curd that is thick enough to use as a cake filling, tarts or filling pastries. Making your own lemon curd is so easy and a great way to use up extra egg yolks.
4.6 from 10 votes
Print Rate Never Miss A Cake
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Serves: 2 cups
Calories: 787kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (227 g) lemon juice (1 cup) About 6 large fresh lemons
  • 2 Tablespoons (zest 1) lemon zest
  • 6 ounces (170 g) granulated sugar (1 cup) add 2 more ounces if you like sweeter lemon curd.
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1/4 tsp) salt
  • 1 Tablespoon (1 Tbsp) cornstarch
  • 4 ounces (113 g) unsalted butter (1/2 cup)

Instructions

  • Zest the lemons, then slice them in half and juice them into a measuring cup. Use a small colander or a lemon juicer to keep out any seeds.
  • Place the egg yolks, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine and set aside. (You will be adding more to this later, so make sure it's a large enough bowl.)
  • Add your lemon juice, granulated sugar, and lemon zest to a large, shallow sauté pan.
  • Stir constantly with a whisk and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • When it has reached a simmer, scoop about 1 cup of the lemon juice mixture and slowly add it into the egg yolk mixture while whisking. Add about 1 cup of liquid total.
  • Add the tempered egg mixture back into the lemon mixture while whisking constantly. Keep an eye on it and keep whisking, if you walk away for even a minute, the eggs can curdle.
  • Whisk constantly and cook over medium heat until desired thickness. I cook mine for about 2 minutes because I like thick lemon curd. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the lemon curd.
    Removing the curd at 170ºF (76ºC)will yield a thinner consistency while removing at 180ºF (82ºC) will be thicker.
  • Add your butter in chunks to the lemon curd and whisk until the buter is melted and combined. Remove the lemon curd from the heat. It will continue to thicken as it cools. 
  • Pour the finished lemon curd into a heat-proof jar or bowl. Cover the curd with plastic wrap so that it is touching the surface of the curd without any air bubbles in between, this will prevent a skin from forming on the top of the curd.  Store it in the fridge for up to one week or freeze it for up to a year.

Notes

  1. Weigh your ingredients to avoid failure. Using a kitchen scale for baking is super easy and gives you the best results every single time. 
  2. Roll your lemons before slicing to release the juices better. Make sure you avoid the pith (white part) of the lemon. That part is super bitter and will make your curd taste weird.
  3. Adding some of the hot lemon mixture into the egg yolks is called "tempering." This helps the eggs mix in smoothly and not curdle. 
  4. Test the thickness of your curd by dipping the back of a spoon into your lemon curd and drag your finger across it. If it holds the shape without dripping off too quickly, it's done!
  5. If you intend to use this as a cake filling, make sure to cook your lemon curd to at least 175º F. If you don’t, you could end up with runny lemon curd.
  6. If your mixture is lumpy, you can strain it to remove any large pieces of zest, seeds or curdled eggs.
  7. Meyer lemons are not the same as regular lemons. You'll want to use regular lemons for this recipe. You can also use bottled lemon juice if needed, but fresh is best.

Nutrition

Serving: 2ounces | Calories: 787kcal (39%) | Carbohydrates: 98g (33%) | Protein: 1g (2%) | Fat: 47g (72%) | Saturated Fat: 29g (145%) | Cholesterol: 149mg (50%) | Sodium: 301mg (13%) | Potassium: 117mg (3%) | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 88g (98%) | Vitamin A: 1453IU (29%) | Vitamin C: 52mg (63%) | Calcium: 28mg (3%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)
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33 comments on “Lemon Curd

  1. Is this shelf stable in a cake? Or does it need to be refrigerated?

    1. According to SERVsafe practices, no more than 4 hours at room temperature but according to my friend who is a french pastry chef lemon curd is self preserving due to the high acidity and sugar. The warmer it gets the thinner it gets though so you might consider keeping it mostly chilled for stability

      1. 5 stars
        That’s correct about SERVSafe as here in the US we refrigerate our eggs, butter and milk but places like France they don’t. So when they make it, they don’t have to but we should. Now if you do it like you were canning, you’d be fine but once you open the jar you’ve canned then you refrigerate it.

  2. I had a super hard time getting it thick enough. Is the 8 ounces of lemon juice one cup or 8 ounces on the scale? I think maybe I put too much lemon juice. Flavor is great.

    1. 8 oz of lemon juice. Weighing ingredients, especially Liz’s recipes, it is important to weigh them to achieve the flavors, texture and the end results.

  3. 1 star
    I’ve had the same issue with it not congealing. This is the second time that i’ve tried the recipe. I weighed the lemon juice the second time and it didn’t help. ?

    1. Are you using a thermometer? Once the eggs are warm enough it’s done. When it cools it get’s thicker as well as the butter cools.

  4. 5 stars
    So delicious! It took a while for it to get to the correct temp, but once it did and cooled, it set perfectly!

  5. This is the best recipe EVER!!! It goes so well with the lemon cake recipe as it should. It’s so easy to make to which is a plus.

  6. I am looking to make your unicorn cake but my daughter wants a lemon filling between the layers. After reading the lemon curd I’m afraid it wouldn’t be structurely sound to use on this project. Any suggestions?

  7. what type of pan do you use to avoid the metallic taste?
    thanks

  8. 5 stars
    Liz, I made your recipe a couple months ago as I wanted to try canning yours. It is delicious and tart with the zest after 2 months. Canning is fabulous with your recipe. I made sure to fill them right to the top, stored them in my pantry and staring at heaven ❤❤❤❤❤

  9. Is the lemon juice “fresh squeezed” lemon juice or bottled lemon juice?
    Thank you

  10. Can 8 oz of key lime juice be substituted for lemon juice to make key lime curd?
    Thanks!

  11. Liz, you mentioned lemon meringue pie. As a senior in high school I took a home economics class. We were learning how to make lemon meringue pie. I wasn’t so much into baking back then but I made the pie. That night was Open House at school and the home ec teacher said she was bringing in a professional pastry chef to judge everyone’s pies. Guess who won 1st place?? Yep! It was me! I was surprised but it didn’t matter so much at that time. And that was the last time I ever made lemon meringue pie! Now, I think I’ll try my hand at it again!

  12. 5 stars
    Well, now I have a new favorite thing. This is wonderful! My son has been asking for a lemon cake, which i baked this morning following your recipe, and I can’t wait to see his face when he has a slice of it with this filling!
    I also had an issue with it not thickening enough. Once it had cooled completely, and I knew it was as set as it would get, I put it back into the double boiler, added just a pinch more of corn starch and slowly reheated it back to 170. It thickened up perfectly. I think I may have done it all too fast the first time.
    Excuse me know, while I go make curd from all the fruits…………

  13. How do you use lemon curd for a drip cake? Do you add water/oil? Do you heat? Thank you.

  14. Hi Liz,

    Is it 8 fluid OZ or 8 OZ on the scale? I made a batch and seem to have had some issues with a lot of air bubbles in mixture. Any tips or advice?

  15. Hey Liz,
    Do you think it could be possible to make this without a thermometer? Thanks 😊

  16. Can i use lemon curd to our inside lemon flavored Macarons? Can you please share a recipe for lemon Macarons! Thanks so much for everything

  17. 5 stars
    I love lemon curd, have made so many diff recipes thru the years, always wanting to find one just a little bit better. I have finally found the “end all” recipe! This is absolutely the best lemon curd ever. I brot home Fortnum & Mason lemon curd from London for my friends and family last fall. They like my Sugargeek lemon curd better! Ha! 😀

  18. 5 stars
    Very good! Creamy and has the perfect tartness! Thanks for this recipe!!

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