Lemon Curd is one of those recipes that everyone has a spin – and an opinion – on. You should use whole eggs, you must only use egg yolks. You must adhere to x ratios of sugar to juice to make it very sweet, you must keep it tart. Use more butter, use less butter – mix it in before, mix it in at the end. Cook in a saucepan, cook over a double boiler. Strain the juice, strain the cooked curd. And on and on it goes.
The versatility once made is as varied as the list of recipe options. Fill a blind-baked pie shell, cover with meringue and bake, grill [broil] or blowtorch for a quick Lemon Meringue Pie. Use as a topping for a Chiffon Cake in place of icing. Spoon over natural yogurt or ice cream for a tangy twist. Layer between vanilla cake rounds then swirl through buttercream before icing for a sky-high Lemon tower. Or just dollop on toasted bread or scones instead of jam. All before even considering other things – like whipped cream or crushed raspberries – you can combine with it!
Lemon Curd is one of those things that surprised me the first time I made it – it is so simple. So simple in fact that you should never, ever, buy it in a jar. And there is no need to be put off by the reasonably vast number of versions out there because in reality, with a few simple guidelines, it’s easy as pie to make. Lemon Pie to be exact.
Amazingly simply and incredibly versatile, with just a few simple rules you’ll never want to buy lemon curd again.
Makes approx 1 cup
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 c lemon juice and 1 Tbsp zest
- 1/2 to 3/4 c sugar
- 15 to 75 g [1 to 5 Tbsp] unsalted butter
- Pinch of sea salt
In a small saucepan whisk eggs and sugar until combined. Whisk in lemon juice and salt.
Over a low heat bring just to a simmer – whisking all the while for about 5 minutes until mixture begins to thicken. You’ll be convinced nothing is happening then bam out of nowhere there it is. Continue to stir for another 3-5 minutes until thick.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter if using. Pour into pie shells or refrigerate until cool. Curd will thicken further as it cools.
- you can use whole eggs, yolks only or a combination of both.
- for the curd on my Chiffon Cake I used the left over 2 yolks plus an extra whole egg to keep it a bit thinner.
- the darker your egg yolks, the more yellow your Lemon Curd.
- Lemon juice and zest
- to ensure the curd sets properly I wouldn’t use much more than 1/2 c juice to 3 eggs – but you could use less for a more mild flavour.
- some people strain the curd before cooling to remove the zest, it doesn’t bother me so I don’t bother.
- this is where it gets interesting… 3/4 c sugar will create quite a nice flavour but it is a bit sweet for my liking so I only use 1/2 cup which renders a tart-ish curd. I recommend starting with less and adding a bit extra if required, it also depends on what you are pairing it with though – a sweet cake can handle a less sweet curd, and vice-versa.
- I still use white sugar for Lemon Curd… horrors. I haven’t tried Coconut Sugar or Rapadura and both would work well but the curd would be a much darker colour rather than bright yellow. I would imagine that honey or agave would be lovely too but quite different.
- The addition of butter creates an extra layer of richness and makes the curd satiny smooth. You can go without or add a bit of coconut oil if you want to be dairy free.
- Some recipes I’ve seen call for adding the butter at the beginning, I prefer the method that whisks small pieces of the butter through the still warm cooked Lemon Curd at the end – up to you really.
- I only add a small pinch – 1 tsp or so – but go for broke if that is what you like.
- Unless you are only using a tiny bit of butter go with the un-salted version.
- a pinch of sea salt
- Salt simply brings out flavour and intensifies sweet things. Since I add very little butter I tend to use a salted version and skip the pinch. As long as you have a bit of salt it all works out.
Now that you have the basic method and quantities down you can start to experiment…
- Put in an extra egg or egg yolk to make an extra thick curd
- Put in one less egg, or use one whole with two yolks for a thiner pourable topping.
- Use Lime, Orange, Pink Grapefruit or Raspberry to replace the lemon juice and it’s a whole other, very tasty, ballgame.
vegetarian // gluten-free // dairy-free (without butter) // soy-free // nut-free
looooove all your tips. i am the hugest fan of lemon curd and i do occasionally make it, can’t even think right now which recipe i use? but i’ll be back here when i’m making it next, thanks 🙂
Thanks! I realized that I completely left out an option to add cream – probably because I don’t do it 😉
Monica (@gastromony) says
You really can’t beat a nice batch of lemon curd! So versatile and takes anything to the next level 😀 Nice!
Lemon curd is a huge favorite of mine…so much so that I can’t have it in the house beause it never makes it into a recipe. I’ll try this when I know there is company coming (Cathe) so that I don’t eat it all myself. And the photo of the eggs and lemons will be a watercolor soon…stay tuned.
aww thanks Paula – can’t wait to see it!
Thanks a lot for the explication about lemon curd.. it’s typical of anglo-saxon world, while here it’s not known so much.. so thanks!
Lizzy (Good Things) says
Great post JJ, really well researched and informative. I love lemon curd and wish I could eat more of it… but I would need a two-man-tent sized kaftan! Delicious pics too!
I am sooo with you on this – there is no need to ever buy commercial versions of this. It is so easy to make and well worth the small effort it takes.
Katherine Martinelli says
Lemon curd is my absolute favorite! I love all your notes – thanks!
Peter G | Souvlaki ForThe Soul says
Lemon curd is a favourite…and I agree that everyone has an opinion on it! I like to make a passionfruit version and wedge between sponge cake layers!
Right now I am sous viding
2 batches of curd, one is blood orange, and the
other is pink grapefruit.
the options are limitless really as in the past I have
used mango, and lime separatly and togehter
I just made this lemon curd and it is most delicious! I licked my utensils clean and even opted for a second piece of bread just so I can eat more of this deliciousness. Thanks for posting this recipe.
Roberto Leibman says
I just made some hibuscus curd… same recipe but replace lemon juice with some brewed hibiscus tea and a bit of lime juice and zest.
Oh yum! Sounds delicious!
Great topic! You were saying to make an extra thick curd add an egg or yolk only. What’s the difference in the outcome in taste of adding just the egg yolk vs whole egg? And what is it that actually sets a curd? I see some lemon tarts with the curd soft and others are a lot firmer( looks nicer to cut into)? Thanks!
Hi Viv, there is little change in taste between a whole egg and egg yolk but yolks are richer. The eggs are what makes it set so a higher ratio of eggs to liquid will result in a thicker curd, want it thinner then add more juice!
My lemon curd turned out runny can l reheat and add another egg yolk
Hi Lyn, I haven’t tried it before but I don’t see why not. I’d very gently heat the curd until it liquifies slightly then whisk in the egg and cook for 3-4 minutes once it starts to bubble. ~ JJ
Thank you so much for breaking down the process of making curd! Have you experimented with other flavours as well? I’m interested in making a berry curd, but I’m wondering if I need so much lemon juice? Any insight would be greatly appreciated – thanks 🙂
Hi Abby, you can replace the lemon juice with an equal amount of pretty much anything. One of the comments above mentions using hibiscus tea and lime juice! If using a berry puree I’d add a few Tbsp of lemon juice to it to help raise the tartness level but stick with the liquid to egg ratios and it should work just fine 🙂
I am going to make lemon and blueberry curd by blending blueberries with the lemon juice. I use this for my yogurt. What I’m wondering is can this be frozen and then thawed instead of canning?
Sounds like a delicious combo! Not sure about the freezing as I’ve never done it. Perhaps try to freeze a small amount of it (1/4 c or so) then defrosting a day later to see how it goes 🙂
Hi, I made some lemon curd last night (not this recipe) but similar and mine has turned out more orange colour than yellow? Am I doing something wrong? I only used egg yolks as well.
Hi Melissa – I’d guess your egg yolks were a gorgeous orange colour before you started! The colour of any curd using a clear-ish juice will be determine by the shade of the eggs you use (lime curd will look just like the lemon version too). Random tip – adding salt to eggs before they are cooked and letting them sit for a white will turn them more orange as well. 🙂
debi deimling says
Made a white cake and wanted to use my curd between the layers (we also added some lemon zest) The curd, as you know, is kind of thin and I really don’t want to add more egg yolks to thicken it up … has anyone ever used corn starch to thicken it up. As we placed the layer on top of the curd layer, the curd all ran out between layers. 😉 believe you me, it was delicious but not what we intended … then I dropped dots of lemon curd on top of the vanilla icing and everyone loved it … but how do I thicken up the curd so it does not run out? thanks peoples and curd lovers 😉
Hi Debi, just a quick question – did you use the recipe above (no more than 1/2 c juice to 3 eggs) or another one? The one above shouldn’t be too runny. However, yes, you should be able to thicken curd with corn flour (corn starch). Simply dissolve a Tbsp or two of starch in a bit of cold water, add during the last 4 minutes of simmering. As warning corn starch can be neutralised by highly acidic substances (like lemon juice) but it’s worth a try!
Hi, I found your post as I was trying to search for ‘how to thick cooled lemon curd’, I’m a big fan f the lemon curd and I always do it homemade to use inside my cakes, I use Delia smith recipe which calls for whole eggs and this time turned out very runny it’s more pourable than spreadable! I cooled it overnight and it’s still runny. Do you think I can add cornstarch now that is cooked? I think this happened because my lemons where too big!!
Thanks in advance.
Hi Annabelle, I’d try with a small bit of it first but should be fine! Bring the curd to a simmer over low heat, dissolve the cornstarch in a bit of cold water, pour in while whisking then whisk for 4 mins before returning to fridge to cool!
In this recipe (http://84thand3rd.com/2011/12/03/america-land-chocolate-pudding/) I use 2 c milk to 3 Tbsp corn flour (cornstarch) – depending on how much curd you have I’d use half the amount of starch (ie 2 c curd add 1 1/2 T cornstarch) as it’s already a bit thickened. Good luck!
Hi I made some passion fruit curd and ended up adding cornstarch as it was too funny. The only problem is now is has a pasty starchy taste is there anything I can do to remove this? Would cooking it for longer take that away? Thank you
Hi Nic, curd should be cooked 8-10 mins to allow the eggs to set properly, it then thickens further as it cools. If you add cornstarch dissolved in cold water you’ll need to cook the curd for 4 mins after adding – whisking constantly. If it tastes starchy after that you may have added too much but without seeing all your measurements I’m afraid I can’t offer any more advice! ~ JJ
I am looking for a more tart than a sweet lemon curd. I’m told that lemon cheese would fit the bill but I can’t seem to find any recipes. The recipe I have used in the past is far to sweet. Can I reduce the amount of sugar and if so what is the ratio?
Hi Ingrid, I’ve never heard of ‘lemon cheese’ however if you follow this recipe and have a look at the notes under ‘Sugar’ in the COOK’S NOTES section you can adjust the curd to your taste. ~ JJ
Thanks for this great info! I believe the best way to thicken lemon curd, for pie or inside cake layers, is to add gelatin to the recipe, as in Cooks Illustrated’s “Lemon Chiffon Pie”.
Shanon Rowland says
I made this according to the recipe, doubling it and since I wanted it for a pie I went with 8 egg yolks instead of 6. Also since using store lemons instead of meyer, I used roughly 1 1/4 cups of sugar. The curd turned out FABULOUS!!! I only used yolks because I wanted it to be thicker. I also used a double boiler just to be on the safe side, because my electric stove is a little wonky. Well, my version of a double boiler, which is a glass bowl over one of my pots, lol! I’ve put about 2/3 of it in a graham cracker shell, covered it with buttered saran wrap to chill and set up and I’m going to make a mousse topping with the remaining curd folded into sweetened whipped cream. I’ll be lucky to get one piece, my husband loves lemons! Thanks again for a great (and successful) recipe!
Hi Shanon, That’s great to hear! I love when people are able to use the tips to make the recipe work for them. Also, I actually own a proper double boiler and still use a glass bowl over a pan if I need it for something ;D. I hope the pie was a hit. ~ JJ
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Riley Thomas says
I want to add this to a Apple Crumble, I want to put the lemon curd in before I put the breadcrumb mixture and I need to put it in for about 20 – 25 minutes. Will I burn the Lemon Curd?
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randy moore says
I made lemon curd and it slightly cooked some of the white , sad part i got distracted and forgot to strain it ! can i still eat the cake i put the curd on with the little egg white spec in ????
When I came across this, I was looking for a recipe using less eggs and more juice, so I’ll give your tips a try in my next batch. I’m grateful for the freezing tip, I was wondering if I could, to be able to use it straight from frozen is a big bonus! I made mine in an Instant Pot, that made the process even easier thought it does look curdled when you open the lid, you simply whisk it and viola, beautiful thick lemon curd!
j aubrey says
My thanks, and praise! I agree, liquid ratios are key, and substitutions abound so long as the former (egg/sugar/juice) proportions stay first and foremost. I had my gas stove set too slowly, so it wasn’t 5 mins, more like 55 mins before it started to simmer. But, as you rightly say, “Bam!”. Keep writing, pls!
Hi love, love love you post! Just made the lemon curd and read you use used it as a frosting on a cake. I used in on a cookie wafer, and am covering it with chocolate. Then I read somewhere you can’t keep it unrefrigerated. Is this true
siya pant says
I tried your recipe, the curd turned out very smooth and silky- the perfect texture.
But I made it a bit too sweet for my liking. Is there any way to fix it?
Harriet Donnelly says
Can I fold Lemon curd into a yellow cake mix?