This homemade Lemon Curd is deliciously sweet, tangy, creamy, and smooth, with a tart lemon flavor. It's perfect for scones, crepes, pound cake, and so much more. Yes, can buy it in the store, but with this easy lemon curd recipe you'll see how easy it is to make at home with a just few simple ingredients.
Since I started the blog I've made curd using different fruits. So if you don't have lemon and you have some other fruit in the refrigerator check out my recipes for strawberry curd, lime curd, and cranberry curd.
Why This Recipe Works
This is the best homemade lemon curd you'll ever try. You'll especially love it if you're a lemon lover. Fruit curd is an indulgent, luscious, tart, creamy fruit spread that is good as a dessert topping, a creamy spread for toast, or as a filling for tarts and cakes.
This homemade lemon curd recipe works because it uses almost a cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice to create a curd that is tart and lemony. Egg yolks and butter help create a creamy and thick texture. It's a great recipe that's very versatile and perfect for when you want a topping for your ice cream or filling for your cake.
Lemon Curd Ingredients
The basic recipe for this lemon curd consists of six ingredients:
- Fresh Lemons. Definitely use fresh lemon juice for this recipe instead of bottled lemon juice. Fresh lemons have a tart, floral scent that I find is not replicated in bottled juice.
- Lemon Zest. The lemon zest gives a flavor boost from the citrus oil found in the skin
- Whole Eggs and Egg Yolks. The eggs add flavor, thicken the curd and create a creamy texture. They also make a stable emulsion - meaning the curd won't separate or break apart when it cools.
- Granulated Sugar. Sugar adds sweetness, but the main purpose of the sugar is to combine with the eggs to create a creamy custard. The sugar breaks up the protein clumps in the eggs, which results in raising the temperature in which the eggs set. Permitting the egg proteins to set slow and disperse with the other ingredients results in smooth and creamy lemon curd.
- Unsalted Butter. Butter adds richness to the curd and helps make the curd satiny smooth.
- Kosher Salt. Just a little kosher salt elevates all the other flavors.
You can also make lemon curd using Meyer lemons. Please see my recipe for Meyer Lemon Curd and try that if you happen to have Meyer lemons.
How to Make This Recipe
The first time I made lemon curd I made it out of curiosity because I had never had it or heard of it. I was amazed at how easy it was to make and how good it was. Once I made it there was no going back.
The recipe starts with zesting the lemon directly into the sugar. When citrus fruit is zested the oils are released and a lot of the flavor and scent are in the oils. Zesting the fruit directly into the sugar ensures that you are capturing as much flavor as possible.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a 2-quart or 3-quart non-reactive saucepan until the mixture is well blended and the sugar starts to dissolve. Next add the fresh lemon juice, egg yolks, whole eggs, and butter and slowly stir the ingredients together. The butter will remain solid until you start to heat the mixture.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisk it constantly making sure to cover the entire bottom and corners of the pan. When the butter melts, reduce the heat to medium-low heat. Do not walk away from the curd while you are cooking it or it will burn. If you have to walk away for some reason, remove the pan from the heat.
Continue to stir the lemon curd, as it heats up it will start to thicken and turn shiny. Once it has reached the right temperature remove it from the heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer set over a heatproof bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg whites and lemon zest. Place plastic wrap across the top of the curd and gently press it into the surface to keep a skin from forming on the surface of the lemon curd.
Refrigerate the curd immediately to keep bacteria from forming. As the curd chills, it will thicken. Once it is completely chilled store it in an airtight container for up to two weeks. It can also be frozen for up to one year. If you freeze it, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator about 24 hours before you're ready to use it.
The temperature is listed to ensure that you have cooked the curd enough so it will thicken as it cools. As the curd starts to thicken and steam rises from the surface, check
the temperature often. Don't let the curd boil. Boiling curd will cause it to curdle and create a grainy texture.
The directions call for a non-reactive saucepan, which is a pan that will not react with the acid in the lemons. Do not use an aluminum pan, use stainless steel. Using an aluminum pan will produce a metallic aftertaste.
How to Use Lemon Curd
This recipe makes the best lemon curd ever. The curd is very versatile and you can use it for a variety of different desserts:
- Use it as topping for pound cake or angel food cake
- Use it as filling for lemon cupcakes or a lemon cake
- Use it as the main ingredient for a lemon tart
- Combine it with whipped cream to make a delicious pie filling
- Spoon it over your favorite ice cream
Pro Tips for Making Lemon Curd
- Use a non-reactive (stainless steel) saucepan to make the curd. An aluminum pan will react with the acid in this fruit and affect the taste.
- Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the curd to ensure that it cooks long enough without boiling.
- Use unsalted butter for this recipe. Salted butter will create an off taste.
- If using the curd to make a tart, the warm curd can be poured directly into the prepared tart shell
Lemon Curd - Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, the lemon curd can be frozen for up to a year. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before you're ready to use.
Unfortunately, if the curd is allowed to boil it will curdle the eggs and make the curd grainy. You can try straining it twice through a fine-mesh strainer, but that not remove all the grainy bits.
Yes. If you are allergic to dairy you can make the curd without butter. It will be a little less creamy, but still taste delicious.
No, you cannot make lemon curd without eggs. The addition of eggs is what makes this a curd. You can make a lemon filling which consists of lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch. In this case, the cornstarch is the thickener
Other Fruit Curd Recipes
For other delicious fruit curds and recipes using fruit curd, check out these recipes on the blog:
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 (100 grams) whole eggs
- 4 (80 grams) large egg yolks
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 8 tablespoons (114 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place a strainer over a medium-sized bowl near the stove.
- Place the sugar in a small bowl and zest the lemons onto the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the sugar and zest together. Juice the lemons until you have 3/4 cups of juice.
- In a nonreactive 2 quart saucepan, combine the whole eggs, eggs yolks, and sugar and whisk until well blended. Stir in the lemon juice, butter, and salt.
- Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture is thickened. As you cook the mixture the butter will melt. When the mixture has thickened and reached a temperature of 185 degrees F pour it into the strainer. Press the curd through the strainer with a spatula to remove the solids.
- Cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap, gently pressing the plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd. Place the curd in the refrigerator and chill.
- The lemon curd is good in the refrigerator for 2 weeks and can be frozen for up to 1 year. If freezing the curd package it in a freezer container after it has chilled. When ready to use place it in the refrigerator to thaw for 24 hours before intended use.