This homemade Lemon Curd is 1000X better than store-bought and so easy to make at home in 10 minutes without a double boiler!
You need this Lemon Curd recipe in your life! It’s deliciously bright, tart, buttery, and sweet all packaged in a versatile, silky smooth, luxuriously creamy spread. Homemade Lemon Curd is one of the easiest things to make with fresh lemons, sugar, eggs, and butter in less than 10 minutes on the stove without a double boiler! Lemon Curd is a sensational topping for scones, muffins, pancakes, waffles, crepes, angel food cake, etc. and a delicious filling for tarts, pies, cakes and so much more. Once you make this easy recipe, I guarantee you’ll be smothering it on everything! Use my tips and kitchen hacks to help you make this impressive, foolproof recipe for Lemon Curd in minutes!
Sweet and tangy lemon desserts are a celebration of spring and summer and the perfect dessert to bring to gatherings. When you’re in need of a fresh sunshine citrus dessert, look no further than this lemon curd, lemon cheesecake bars, lemon blueberry cake and lemon pound cake.
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how to make lemon curd video
What is Lemon Curd?
Lemon curd is a rich, smooth and creamy, vibrant sweet-tart lemony topping or spread made with eggs, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and butter cooked over the stove. It was originally served as a spread primarily at tea time on foods such scones, toast, biscuits and muffins, or as a filling for cakes, small pastries and tarts, but it’s incredibly versatile. It’s also fabulous for layered cakes, cookies, crepes, yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, – and my personal favorite, swirled into cottage cheese.
Why do they call it lemon curd?
Today, Lemon Curd is not a curd at all – but it used to be! It is believed to have originated in England in the 1800’s. One of its earliest mentions is found in 1844 in The Lady’s Own Cookery Book by Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury. The recipe was made by adding lemon juice to cream to separate the curds from the whey through a cheesecloth – creating actual lemon curd.
Today, Lemon Curd is made over the stove with the addition of eggs and butter which impart a rich flavor and velvety custard-like texture that is not curd-like at all.
Uses for Lemon Curd
This creamy Lemon Curd will instantly brighten and heighten anything it touches! It is extremely versatile and can be used on anything from breakfast foods to yogurt. Here are just a few ways to enjoy this delightful spread:
Baked goods: Use Lemon Curd in place of jam on toast, English muffins, croissants, muffins, biscuits and scones.
Breakfast items: Slather the curd in between a stack of pancakes, inside crepes, on waffles, French toast, stuffed French toast, or French toast casserole.
Cakes and pastries: Layer it in between cake (like Lemon Blueberry Cake), a lemon berry trifle, inside lemon cupcakes, donuts or pastries, or as a topping for pound cake, angel food cake, bread pudding or pavlova.
Pies and tarts: Use it as a filling for tarts and pies then top with whipped cream and berries.
Cheesecake: Spread it on top of lemon cheesecake, lemon cheesecake bars or swirl a cup into unbaked cheesecake.
Cookies: Use it in thumbprint cookies, sandwiched in between cookies or macaroons, or on shortbread, warmed gingerbread, etc.
Ice cream: Spoon it onto ice-cream to create lemon sundaes and pile with your favorite toppings.
Lighter: Stir it into yogurt, cottage cheese (my fav!), oats, or parfaits and top with fresh fruit or stir it into softened cream cheese to create a fruit dip.
Whipped cream: Gently fold lemon curd into homemade whipped cream like I do in my Strawberry Shortcakes recipe. You can also use this Lemon Curd Whipped Cream as a dip for berries – yum!
Why you’ll love this LEMON CURD recipe
This Lemon Curd recipe is one of my favorite foodie pleasures on the planet so I implore you to try it! With just a small saucepan, a whisk, and a few pantry ingredients, you can enjoy this sweet-tart velvety spread in minutes. Don’t miss my full recipe tutorial below that shows you all the ingredients you need including step by step photos and video, and all the tips you need to make the very best homemade lemon curd from scratch!
Here’s why this easy recipe for Lemon Curd is worth all the hype:
- Intensely Flavorful: It’s bursting with an adept balance of bright, zingy citrus notes from the lemon and zest, sweetness from the sugar, and velvety richness from the butter. It’s eyes-roll-back-in-your-head-good straight from the jar.
- SO creamy and never runny: It’s irresistibly soft, smooth and silky creamy but sturdy enough to layer between rounds of cake. The secret? Adding a bit of cornstarch to the eggs and finishing with cold butter at the end.
- Made with a few ingredients: Gather up some fresh lemons, sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla and cornstarch and you’ll be enjoying fresh Lemon Curd in minutes.
- Better than store-bought: Once you make this easy homemade version, you’ll never be tempted to pick up a jar at the store again! This recipe for Lemon Curd is superior in both taste and natural ingredients, instead of difficult to pronounce fillers in a jar that has likely been sitting on the shelf for too long.
- Easy to make: This recipe is one of the easiest things to make! Simply whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch in a saucepan over moderately low heat for about five minutes until thickened, then stir in the butter and vanilla – that’s it!
- Stores beautifully: Homemade Lemon Curd keeps for up to 4 weeks in the fridge or for a year in the freezer so you can always have it at your fingertips.
- Great gifts: Jars of velvety sunshine make delightful gifts all year round.
- It makes everything better: I’ve already shared Lemon Curd on my Lemon Cheesecake Bars and Lemon Blueberry Cake and I’m excited to share it again on my Lemon Cheesecake coming Sunday! That being said, Lemon Curd doesn’t have to go on any fancy desserts, it will add a regal touch of tart sweetness to so many of your favorite breakfast foods like pancakes and waffles, or just swirl it in some yogurt and top with fresh fruit.
What’s in LEMON CURD?
Making homemade Lemon Curd is easy with this recipe! It’s, thick and lusciously creamy, wonderfully buttery with an intense sweet-tart lemon flavor. You will need 7 ingredients for this recipe: eggs, fresh lemons, sugar, butter, cornstarch, vanilla and salt. Each ingredient serves a critical role for thickening and flavoring, so please don’t skip any! Let’s take a closer look at each ingredient (recipe measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post):
- Lemons: For the best zingy and citrusy flavor, Lemon Curd should be made with freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest. We will use a full 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice which is about 3-4 large lemons and 2 teaspoons lemon zest, although you can add additional zest depending on how tart you like your curd.
- Eggs: Eggs help the curd hold together like pudding. You will need 4 large eggs and 2 large egg YOLKS only for a total of 6 eggs in the recipe. Some recipes strictly use egg yolks and I find those curds way too rich. This recipe uses a combination of eggs and egg yolks for the ideal flavor and consistency.
- Butter: Helps to thicken the curd and makes it super creamy, rich and decadent with a velvety mouthfeel and subtle buttery flavor. Use unsalted butter or omit the salt in the recipe.
- Sugar: Provides the balancing sweetness to the tart lemon juice. Please use only granulated sugar. Do not use brown sugar or honey or the flavor and consistency will be ruined.
- Salt: A pinch of salt balances the flavors. Use regular table salt and not anything larger.
- Cornstarch: Set yourself up for lusciously thick and smooth success with this secret weapon. Cornstarch not only ensures the curd thickens properly but more importantly, it binds to the egg proteins and acts to protect them from denaturing, helping to prevent your curd from curdling.
TIPS FOR PICKING LEMONS
Lemons are the star of the show, so let’s pick good ones! Here are some helpful tips for picking the best lemons:
- Appearance: The lemons should have bright yellow, smooth skin without mold, soft spots or wrinkles/shriveling.
- Smell: They should have a pleasant fragrance before cut into them and a clean, sharp, and citrussy fragrance once they’re sliced open. If they smell at all moldy, fermented or vinegary, they are bad.
- Weight: Look for lemons that are heavy for their size which means they are extra juicy.
- Texture: Look for lemons that yield slightly when gently squeezed. You don’t want lemons that are too firm because they won’t yield much juice and you don’t want lemons that are too soft, or they could be on the verge of spoiling.
- Size: Select smaller lemons because they will have thinner skins and are the best for juicing; whereas larger, thicker-skinned lemons are best for zesting.
What if your lemons are not very juicy?
You will need 2/3 cups lemon juice in this Lemon Curd recipe. To yield the most lemon juice out of your lemons, start by breaking down the membranes inside the lemon. The membranes hold all the juicy goodness we want! Here’s how:
- Microwave the lemon for 15-30 seconds or until slightly warm to the touch because warm lemons release more juice than cold lemons
- Vigorously roll the lemon on the counter for a few seconds to loosen and break down some of the citrus membranes which will get the juices flowing
- Use a lemon squeezer or reamer to extract more juice
How to Make Lemon Curd
This recipe is easy to make from scratch on the stove without a double boiler or tempering the eggs. The key here is to work over medium-low heat and to whisk constantly – but that’s also the good part- all you have to do is whisk! Here’s how to make creamy Lemon Curd with step by step photos (full recipe measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post):
- Step 1: Combine the ingredients. Whisk the eggs and egg yolks together in a small saucepan (stainless or enameled). Whisk in the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and cornstarch until the cornstarch dissolves and most of the sugar has dissolved.
- Step 2: Simmer until thickened. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 4-8 minutes.
- Step 3: Add the butter. Once thickened to the consistency of pourable pudding, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cubed butter until melted, followed by the vanilla and salt.
- Step 4: Strain the Lemon Curd. Strain your curd through a fine mesh sieve to remove any cooked eggy bits to ensure it’s perfectly smooth and creamy. It helps to push the curd through with a back of a spatula.
- Step 5: Chill. Cover the lemon curd with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the curd to prevent a film from forming. Chill for at least two hours to thicken. The Lemon Curd will taste even more intensely glorious once chilled.
Tips for Making the Best Lemon Curd
With the right materials and technique, you can make perfect Lemon Curd every time. Here’s what to pay attention to:
Take care when zesting your lemons
Lemon zest is prized for its intense tart lemon flavor, just as long as you don’t remove the white membrane (pith) with it. Pith is the white spongy layer between the fruit and the peel, and it has a very bitter taste. If you zest the white pith, your curd can be tainted with a bitter aftertaste.
Use a heavy-based, nonreactive saucepan
Whenever cooking with highly acidic ingredients, it’s important to use a nonreactive pan otherwise the acid in the food can mix with the metal and results in an unpleasant metallic taste. It also can damage the pan.
Examples of nonreactive saucepans that don’t react with food include stainless steel, anodized aluminum, and enameled. Avoid aluminum, unlined copper and non-enameled iron.
when to use a double boiler
If you don’t have a non-reactive saucepan (but have a heatproof bowl), are extra worried about scrambling the eggs or your stove runs hot, you can use a double boiler. To make a makeshift double boiler, use a heatproof mixing bowl on top of a pot of simmering water, and make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Add at least an 5 extra minutes to the cooking time because the double boiler method cooks more slowly and gently.
Stir constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling
Be patient, and don’t stop stirring until the curd is removed from the heat. Stirring the curd evenly distributes the heat, otherwise the eggs will scramble. Take extra care that you alternate or switch to a rubber spatula to better scrape the sides, bottom, and corners of the pan, where the eggs can hide, cook and scramble.
Cook low and slow
Low and slow is the secret to smooth Lemon Curd. Cook the curd over medium-low heat or low if your stove runs hot. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up to quicken the thickening process unless you’ve been stirring for 10 minutes without any results.
How to know when lemon curd is thickened
You’ll know the Lemon Curd is done when it’s the consistency of pourable pudding and the curd registers 180°F on an instant-read thermometer. I love taking the curd temperature for a foolproof method – just make sure to continue to stir while you’re taking the temperature because the curd as at peak heat and can scramble if you stop stirring.
If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, you’ll know the curd is done when your finger leaves a clear path on the back of a spoon. Note that the curd will continue to thicken and set completely as it cools in the refrigerator.
Should I Strain the Lemon Curd?
Straining your lemon curd will ensure gloriously smooth Lemon Curd every time. It removes the egg chalazae, possible scrambled bits and any lemon pulp. Here’s the deets:
- Removes chalazae: Your whole eggs will often have a white cord-like attachment called a chalazae that hold the yolk in the center of the egg. These chalazae can leave little eggy bits in your curd that may look like scrambled eggs, but they’re not. They simply don’t break down easily and need to be strained out.
- Removes scrambled egg bits: Don’t let a few scrambled egg bits ruin your curd, it will still taste glorious. Just strain out any egg that got away from you and possibly scrambled on the sides or bottom of the pan.
- Removes lemon pulp: When juicing fresh lemons, sometimes a large piece of pulp or seed can make its way into the curd. Straining it will eliminate any of these strays. It will also strain out some zest, which I personally don’t mind but it will make it even silkier.
Why Won’t my Lemon Curd Thicken?
Lemon Curd should thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when it’s hot and should thicken up to pudding-like consistency when it’s chilled. The curd can take up to 10 minutes to thicken to the consistency of pourable pudding, so be patient (remember it will thicken more once it cools). Continue to cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened. It will seem like it’s not thickening at all and then out of nowhere it will thicken right up.
If you’ve been cooking the curd for over 10 minutes, however, and your curd is still thin like heavy cream, then there are a few culprits:
- It’s likely your measurements were off and you either added too much lemon juice or not enough egg.
- You may not have heated the lemon curd to the proper temperature. Using a thermometer is a great way to ensure that you are cooking the egg to the point of thickening – 170 degrees F.
How to fix runny lemon curd
Runny Lemon Curd? No problem! Here are some easy fixes:
- Cook longer: Most Lemon Curds are runny because they don’t get cooked long enough to thicken the egg yolks. Continue to cook for at least 10 minutes, or up to 15 if using a double boiler.
- Increase the temperature: If you’ve cooked the curd for a full 10-15 minutes, and it’s still not thickening, then increase the temperature of the stove slightly – and don’t stop whisking!
- Add an egg yolk: First, ensure your curd is cooked to 170 degrees F and if it still hasn’t thickened, you can whisk an egg yolk in a small bowl then temper it by slowly drizzling in a small amount of the warm liquid curd while whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until smooth then whisk this mixture back into the lemon curd. Continue to cook over medium-low and whisk for an additional 5-10 minutes then repeat if needed.
- Add a cornstarch slurry: First, ensure your curd is cooked to 170 degrees F and if it still hasn’t thickened, whisk 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Slowly whisk the slurry into the liquid curd and whisk over medium-low heat for an additional 5 minutes then repeat if needed.
Ways to Customize This Recipe
Lemon Curd is easy to customize to make it perfect for you. Here are a few suggestions:
- For a sweeter: increase the sugar
- For less sweet: reduce the sugar
- For more tart: stir in an additional 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest after you’ve added the butter
- For less tart: reduce the amount of lemon zest
- For more buttery: add additional butter
- For less rich: reduce the amount of butter
- For thicker: add an additional 1-2 egg yolks
- For richer: add 1 extra egg yolk or additional butter
- For a dairy-free lemon curd: swap the butter for your favorite dairy free butter
- Other fruit curds: In addition to lemon, you can make curd with Meyer lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruit, or passionfruit. Substitute equal amounts of one juice for another but you may need to reduce the sugar as lemon juice is tarter than some of the other fruit juices.
Storing and Freezing Your Lemon Curd
How to store lemon curd?
Transfer the Lemon Curd to a jar or bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the curd as it cools so a skin doesn’t form. Once cool, the plastic wrap can be removed and replaced with a lid. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. It should allow to cool completely, about two hours, before using as a filling or spread on cakes or it won’t be the right consistency.
How long is lemon curd good for?
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Lemon Curd will keep in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to four weeks. Of course, always use your best judgement.
Can you freeze lemon curd?
Lemon Curd freezes well for up to one year without any change in quality. Another bonus is that it doesn’t freeze solid, so you can spoon out exactly what you need without thawing all of it.
How to freeze lemon curd
To freeze Lemon Curd, make sure that the curd has cooled completely. Transfer desired amount to a freezer safe, airtight container or freezer bag. If using a container, make sure there is at least ½ inch air at the top to allow for expansion. If using a freezer bag, squeeze out excess air to prevent freezer burn. Freeze for up to one year. When ready to use, transfer the curd to the refrigerator and let thaw for 24 hours.
Lemon Curd FAQs
Lemon Curd needs to be cooked in a non-reactive pan or double boiler otherwise the high acidity content of the lemon juice can react with the metal, causing it to leach into the lemon curd resulting in a “metallic” flavor. Examples of nonreactive pans include stainless steel, anodized aluminum, and enameled iron. Avoid aluminum, unlined copper and non-enameled iron.
Fresh lemon juice is always best in cooking and baking, especially in Lemon Curd when we also need some of the lemon zest. That being said, you can still make delicious homemade Lemon Curd with bottled lemon juice due to the copious amounts of sugar and butter in the recipe.
No, you don’t have to add lemon zest and you’ll still have a fabulous tasting Lemon Curd. Lemon zest, however, will intensify the lemon flavor.
No, although Lemon Curd is an egg-based sauce, it should taste rich and creamy instead of eggy. If your homemade Lemon Curd tastes eggy, then it may be a sign of overcooked eggs. If that’s not the culprit, then consider swapping one whole egg for two whole egg yolks next time you make it.
The most common reason your Lemon Curd split is because it was cooked at too high of temperature. Lemon Curd is an egg-based sauce so it requires gentle, low heat in order to not scramble the eggs. If you start to see lumps in the curd, then immediately remove it from the heat and transfer it to a bowl and whisk vigorously until it smooths out as much as possible. Next, strain it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any scrambled eggy bits. Finally, transfer it back to the pan and return to lower heat – and don’t stop whisking!
The most common reason Lemon Curds is not set is because it has not been cooked long enough to thicken the egg yolks. Lemon Curd needs to be cooked over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes until the curd reaches 170 degrees F in order for it to thicken. The culprit might also have to do with ingredients such as not having the correct eggs to lemon juice ratio (not enough eggs), not having enough butter or the butter not being cold.
More times than not the, curd just needs to be cooked longer in order for the egg proteins to set. If your curd has been cooked to 170 degrees and it still hasn’t thickened, then make a slurry by whisking 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Slowly whisk the slurry into the liquid curd and whisk over medium-low heat for an additional 5 minutes then repeat if needed.
Lumpy curd can be caused by a few pieces of overcooked eggs – but don’t worry, its’ an easy fix! Simply run the curd through a fine mesh sieve to catch any intruders.
Keep in mind that Lemon Curd will continue to thicken after it has time to chill. While it’s hot on the stove, it should be the consistency of pourable pudding, thick enough to run a clear path along the back of a spoon. Once it’s chilled, it should be the consistency of cold pudding.
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- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into ½ inch cubes (chilled)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Cook over medium-low heat, stirring CONSTANTLY, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan with a rubber spatula. Cook until thickened to the consistency of pourable pudding (it will thicken more as it chills), 4-8 minutes, and the curd registers about 180°F on an instant-read thermometer. (Don’t stop whisking, even while taking the temperature.) If the curd is not thickening, then be patient and cook longer. If the curd is not thickened after 10 minutes, then increase the temperature a little and continue to cook until thickened.
- Once thickened, immediately remove the saucepan from heat and stir in butter until melted, followed by vanilla and salt.
- Strain the Lemon Curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Taste and add additional lemon zest if you'd like it more tart or powdered sugar if you like it less tart/sweeter.
- Cool for 10 minutes then place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to thicken. Once chilled, the plastic wrap can be replaced with a lid.
- Double boiler: If you don’t have a non-reactive saucepan (but have a heatproof bowl), are extra worried about scrambling the eggs or your stove runs hot, you can use a double boiler. To make a makeshift double boiler, use a heatproof mixing bowl on top of a pot of simmering water, and make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Add at least an 5 extra minutes to the cooking time because the double boiler method cooks more slowly and gently.
- Trouble shooting: Most Lemon Curds are runny because they don’t get cooked long enough, to 170 degrees F, to thicken the egg yolks – so cook on! If your curd isn’t thickened after 10 minutes, or up to 15 if using a double boiler, then increase the temperature of the stove slightly – and don’t stop whisking! (See more tips in post.)
Storing and Freezing
- To store: Lemon Curd will keep in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to four weeks. Of course, always use your best judgement.
- To freeze: Transfer desired amount of cooled Lemon Curd to a freezer safe, airtight container or freezer bag. If using a container, make sure there is at least ½ inch air at the top to allow for expansion. If using a freezer bag, squeeze out excess air to prevent freezer burn. Freeze for up to one year. When ready to use, transfer the curd to the refrigerator and let thaw for 24 hours.
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