Lemon Meringue Pie

This Lemon Meringue Pie recipe boasts a cool and creamy sweet-tart lemon filling and a fluffy toasted meringue topping – it’s the showstopping refreshing dessert of spring and summer!

This Lemon Meringue Pie recipe is a taste of bright, zingy, silky smooth sunshine and will have everyone begging for the recipe! It begins by blind baking the buttery, flaky homemade pie crust (no soggy crust here!) or you are welcome to use store-bought.  Next, add the creamy, silky-smooth lemon filling that’s not too tart, not too sweet, but the adept balance of fresh, tangy sweetness that makes you want to lick the plate. Finally, top with light, fluffy toasted meringue that’s foolproof with my tips and tricks.  Let the pie chill (the perfect make ahead dessert!), then bite into the fresh, vibrant, tangy, sweet relief of cool, creamy Lemon Meringue Pie.  

If you love lemon desserts, don’t miss Lemon Curd, Lemon Blueberry Cake, Layered Lemon Cake, Lemon Pound Cake, Lemon Cheesecake or Lemon Cheesecake Bars.

I’ve included detailed instructions, helpful tips and a “How to Make Video” so this Lemon Meringue Pie recipe is a foolproof success – even if you’ve never made it before! OR use the “JUMP TO RECIPE” button at the top of the post to skip directly to the printable recipe card.

How to Make Lemon Meringue Pie Video

a slice of Lemon Meringue Pie on a plate showing how fluffy the meringue is


 
top view of Lemon Meringue Pie showing the beautiful golden meringue top

Lemon Meringue Pie Ingredients 

Lemon Meringue Pie is made up of three parts, 1) the crust, 2) the lemon filling, and 3) the meringue. A full list of measurements has been provided in the recipe card at the end of this post, but let’s review the ingredients and answer any questions you might have:  

For the crust: 

  • Homemade pie crust.:  I highly recommend my favorite homemade pie crust that I use it in all of my pie recipes.  It’s truly a no fail recipe made with both butter and shortening to create the best flavor and texture: it’s gloriously buttery and flaky, holds together when slicing and transferring, yet soft enough so it cuts with barely any effort.  The ingredients list is minimal – just flour, sugar, salt, shortening, butter, and ice water. The crust can be made ahead of time and stashed in the refrigerator or freezer. The only caveat is you’ll need to plan ahead. The dough needs to chill for at least 2 hours before rolling and then 45 minutes before baking, so I like to make it a day ahead of the pie. 
  • Store-bought pie crust:  Follow the instructions on the packaging in regards to thawing. Brush with an egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk) and partially bake before adding the lemon filling.

For the Lemon Pie filling: 

  • Lemons: Meyer lemons are ideal for the best Lemon Meringue Pie, but regular will work just fine. Use fresh lemons for both the juice and 1 tablespoon zest.
  • Eggs: The egg yolks only are used to help thicken and hold the filling together. You’ll use the whites in the meringue.
  • Sugar: This provides the balancing sweetness to the tart lemon juice. Please use only granulated sugar or the flavor and consistency will be off.
  • Cornstarch: This 1) ensures the filling thickens properly, 2) binds to the egg proteins and protects them from denaturing, helping to prevent your filling from curdling while thickening.
  • Butter: This helps thicken the lemon pie filling and makes it super creamy, rich and decadent with a velvety mouthfeel and subtle buttery flavor. Use unsalted butter or reduce the salt in the recipe.
  • Salt: A pinch of salt balances the flavors. Use regular table salt.
up close of best Lemon Meringue Pie recipe showing the creamy lemon filling and fluffy meringue

For the meringue: 

  • Egg whites: Use the separated egg whites from the filling.  Bring the eggs to room temperature before whipping. They’ll whip up more easily to a higher volume than if they were straight from the fridge. 
  • Cream of tartar: This helps to stabilize the meringue and speeds up the whipping process. Do not omit or your meringue will collapse. 
  • Granulated sugar: This sweetens the meringue without affecting the flavor, enables the meringue to whip to a higher volume and makes the air bubbles more stable.
  • Salt: Just a pinch balances out the sweetness of the meringue.

How to Make Lemon Meringue Pie 

Making the best Lemon Meringue Pie is easier than you think! The pie crust is blind baked before being filling with bright lemon filling and topped with billowy meringue. See below for how to make the recipe with step-by-step photos. Detailed instructions with measurements are found in the recipe card at the bottom of the post:

Step 1: Make the Crust

  • Make the pastry dough: Follow these recipe instructions
  • Chill dough: Press the dough into an 8-inch disc, cover in plastic wrap, and let chill for at least 2 hours. 
  • Make the pie shell: Roll the chilled dough out into a 12-inch circle. Gently transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate or quiche pan (as pictured) and press into the plate. Flute the edges as desired.

STEP 2: how to BLIND BAKE THE PIE CRUST

  • Chill your pie crust before blind baking.  The crust should be chilled for 45 minutes (or longer) after it’s transferred to the pan before blind baking. The colder the crust before baking, the crispier and flakier it will be.  You want the fat to be firm going into the oven so it melts in the oven – not on the counter – this creates pockets of steam resulting in flaky layers.  Equally as important, chilling the pie crust lets the strands of gluten relax which helps prevent constricting and shrinking.  
showing how to make Quiche Lorraine by adding quiche dough to quiche pan
  • Use pie weights to prevent the pie crust from shrinking. As the pastry bakes, the fat melts and shrinks, which causes the bottom to shrink and therefore the sides to slide down. Melting fat also creates steam, which causes the dough to puff up if not weighed down with a filling. To remedy both of these problems, you need pie weights, rice, or beans – any oven proof weight – to fill the bottom of the pie shell. Now your center won’t puff up and the sides won’t shrink as much.   
showing how to make Quiche Lorraine by adding pie weights to quiche dough in pan

Step 3: Make the Lemon Filling 

  • Whisk egg yolks: Whisk the egg yolks together in a liquid measuring cup or bowl; set aside. 
showing how to make lemon meringue pie by whisking the egg yolks together in a liquid measuring cup
  • Combine and simmer lemon mixture: Whisk the lemon juice, lemon zest, water, sugar, salt and cornstarch together in a small saucepan until the cornstarch dissolves. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5-7 minutes; turn off heat.
showing how to make Lemon Meringue Pie by whisking lemon juice, water, lemon zest and cornstarch in a saucepan, then simmering until thickened
  • Temper the egg yolks:  Whisking the egg yolks constantly, slowly stream a large ladleful of the thickened lemon mixture into the beaten egg yolks; repeat 2-3 times. This will prevent the eggs from scrambling once they’re added to the warm lemon mixture. Now, while constantly whisking, slowly stream the egg yolk mixture into the lemon mixture in the pan.  
a collage showing how to make best lemon Meringue Pie by tempering the eggs by whisking some of the hot lemon mixture into the egg yolks, then whisking back into the lemon mixture
  • Thicken the filling:  Return the heat to medium, while you continue to whisk. Cook until the mixture is thickened to the consistency of thick pudding, and big bubbles begin bursting at the surface, about 175-180 degrees F an instant-read thermometer..  Watch the video in the recipe card for exact consistency.
showing how to make easy Lemon Meringue Pie by cooking the filling until it is thick
  • Stir in the butter: Once thickened, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cubed butter until melted and the vanilla. 
showing how to make best Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe by stirring butter into the lemon filing
  • Transfer to the pie crust:  Spread the filling into the blind baked pie crust and spread evenly. Immediately start to make the meringue. 
showing how to make Lemon Meringue Pie by transferring lemon filling to a partially baked pie crust

Step 4: Make the Meringue 

  • Beat the eggs to soft peaks: Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (my use a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed for 1 minute. Increase to medium speed for 1 minute, then finally to high speed.  Beat on high until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. (Soft peaks means the peaks flop over as soon as the beaters are lifted.)
a collage showing how to make the meringue for Lemon Meringue Pie by beating egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form

  • Beat to glossy stiff peaks: Slowly add the sugar and continue to beat on high speed until billowy, glossy stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. (Stiff peaks means the egg whites stand straight up when the beaters are removed).
showing how to make meringue for Lemon Meringue Pie by whipping egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar to stiff peaks

Step 5: Bake the Pie 

  • Assemble the pie: Using the back of a large spoon, spread the meringue evenly over the lemon filling. Make sure you spread it all the way to the edges so it attaches to the crust without any gaps. The attachment will help anchor the meringue and prevent it from shrinking and weeping.
  • Bake: Bake pie on the lowest oven rack for 20-25 minutes. Keep a close on the meringue and cover tips that are browning too quickly (or the whole pie if needed).  
showing how to make easy lemon meringue pie recipe by adding the lemon meringue to the lemon filling in the pie shell
showing how to make best Lemon Meringue Pie recipe by spreading the meringue over the lemon filling, then swirling with the back of a spoon

Step 6: Chill the Pie 

  • Cool to room temperature: After you remove the pie from the oven, let it cool on a wire rack for about two hours.
  • Chill in the fridge: Transfer the pie to the fridge. It will need to chill for at least 4 hours before it can be sliced and served. 
Easy Lemon Meringue Pie on a platter showing the beautifully lemon filling and toasted meringue
  • Prep ahead: I suggest making your pie dough a day ahead of time. Or, go one step further, and blind bake the pie shell up to 5 days ahead of time. 
  • Handle the dough as little as possible: After you’ve blitzed the ingredients together in a food processor, try to handle the dough as little as possible. This will prevent the flour from being overworked, and the butter from melting — both of which are key to a flaky pie crust.
  • Chill the crust: After the dough is pressed into the pie plan, chill for at least 45 minutes, otherwise, the crust will shrink and won’t be as flakey. According to Baking Illustrated, as the fat pellets melt during baking, steam is produced which creates pockets in the dough resulting in flaky layers – so we need our fat to not melt before the oven AKA be as cold as possible before entering the oven.
  • Be careful when zesting the lemons: Lemon zest is prized for its intense tart lemon flavor 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 lemon pie filling can be tainted with a bitter aftertaste.
  • Use a non-reactive saucepan: Whenever cooking with highly acidic ingredients (like lemon juice), it’s important to use a nonreactive pan otherwise the acid in the food can mix with the metal and result 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.
  • Simmer until very thick: You’ll know the lemon filling is done when it’s the consistency of thick pudding and registers 175-180°F on an instant-read thermometer.  A thermometer is so helpful for this and eliminates all of the guesswork! 
  • Stir constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs: Stir constantly when whisking the lemon mixture into the egg yolks and whisk constantly while thickening the filling. Whisking evenly distributes the heat, otherwise the eggs will scramble. Take care to whisk the sides, bottom, and corners of the pan, where the eggs can hide, cook and scramble.  
side view of foolproof Lemon Meringue Pie being served on a white platter
a slice of foolproof Lemon Meringue Pie on a plate

Lemon Meringue Pie FAQS

What is the safe temperature for meringue?

Meringue should not be eaten raw because it contains raw egg whites. For safety, a meringue must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 F.

How long should I bake Lemon Meringue Pie?

The meringue is safe to eat when it reaches 160 degrees F, this usually takes 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Continue to bake an additional 5-10 minutes for a total of 20-25 minutes to achieve a toasted meringue top. If the top appears to be browning too quickly, lightly tent with foil to protect the meringue. If just a few tips are browning too quickly, tent just the tips with foil.

How do you brown the tips of the meringue? In the oven or with a torch?

Brown the tips of the meringue in the oven in order to bake the egg whites to a safe temperature of 160 degrees F. A blow torch should only be used after the pie is baked for more dramatic brown tips.

How do you keep lemon meringue pie from getting soggy?

It’s important to blind bake the crust (partially bake the crust without the filling) before adding the lemon filling and meringue, otherwise you’ll have a soggy crust.  The crust requires longer to bake in the oven than the filling, so giving it a head start ensures the crust stays buttery and flaky even on the bottom – no soggy crust here!

Why is my lemon meringue pie watery after baking?

The watery layer between the meringue and the filling (weeping) is usually caused by not adding the meringue to a warm filling, causing it to be undercooked.  When you add it to a warm filling, the warmth of the filling immediately starts cooking the meringue as the steam rises through the meringue. It also helps seal the two layers together to help prevent weeping.

Should you refrigerate a lemon meringue pie?

Yes, lemon meringue pie should be refrigerated after a couple hours to prevent foodborne illness.  However, refrigeration can cause the pie to weep due to the humidity of the refrigerator, so it’s best not to refrigerate more than a few hours before serving.

Should you cover lemon meringue pie?

Lemon Meringue Pie does not need to be covered while it chills in the refrigerator before serving.  If storing overnight, however, cover with a cake caddy or insert toothpicks halfway between the center and edge of the pie, then loosely cover with plastic wrap.

What speed is best for meringue?

Start beating the egg whites for meringue on low speed to form small, stable air bubbles, then increase to medium speed for one minute, then finish on high speed.  Gradually increasing the whipping speed creates a more stable meringue which is less likely to collapse due to large, unstable air bubbles.

Should meringue be put on hot or cold filling?

Always spread the meringue over a hot, or warm pie filling.  If the filling is cold, the meringue will bake on the top, but not on the bottom, trapping in moisture and making the pie weep. 

Why is my lemon meringue pie not setting?

The key to thickening Lemon Meringue Pie so it sets properly is to cook the filling until bubbles start to pop on the surface of the lemon/egg yolk mixture.  It should be the consistency of thick pudding before you remove it from the heat.  If it’s not thick before you add it to the pie, it will never set properly.  Also, take care that the pie is completely cool before slicing into, otherwise, your filling will be runny.

How do you thicken lemon meringue?

If your pie filling is runny, continue to cook until it thickens to the consistency of thick pudding. Be patient and cook on!  You may need to increase the heat if this is taking longer than the prescribed time in the recipe.

Why does my lemon meringue pie taste like metal?

Whenever cooking with highly acidic ingredients (like lemon juice), it’s important to use a nonreactive pan otherwise the acid in the food can mix with the metal and result 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.

Why did my meringue go flat after baking?

Take care to use fresh egg whites because old egg whites don’t hold the air bubbles as well. The most critical key to success, however, is to beat the egg whites slowly to form small and stable bubbles before increasing the speed to high. If the egg whites are beaten too quickly at the beginning, you end up with large, unstable air bubbles which later collapse, causing the meringue to deflate.

Does baked meringue need to be refrigerated?

Lemon Meringue Pie can be kept at room temperature for two hours, then needs to be refrigerated beyond that to prevent foodborne illnesses. 

Can I freeze Lemon Meringue Pie?

Yes, but there is a loss in optimal texture. The egg whites in the meringue can become rubbery and chewy when frozen and thawed.  For the best texture, freeze the pie immediately after it’s finished chilling for 4 hours in the fridge. You want the meringue to be as “fresh” as possible when it goes into the freezer.

Do you whip meringue on high?

Only beat the meringue on high speed after the egg whites have been whipped on low speed for 1 minute, followed by medium speed for 1 minute. This creates stable air bubbles that are strong enough to hold the sugar.  If the egg whites are beaten too quickly on high speed, big unstable air bubbles form, which will later collapse and cause the meringue to deflate.

  • Add other citrus flavors: Experiment with other sour citrus fruits such as grapefruit or lime. Or, mix different citrus zests into the filling to infuse it with complementary flavors. 
  • Make it tangier: You’re welcome to stir additional lemon zest into the filling after it’s finished cooking to make it tangier. Do NOT stir in additional lemon juice, as that will make the filling runny.
  • Make it gluten-free: Use store-bought gluten-free pie dough. 

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a slice of Lemon Meringue Pie on a plate showing how fluffy the meringue is

Lemon Meringue Pie

This Lemon Meringue Pie recipe is a taste of bright, zingy, silky smooth sunshine and will have everyone begging for the recipe! It begins by blind baking the buttery, flaky homemade pie crust (no soggy crust here!) or you are welcome to use store-bought.  Next, add the creamy, silky-smooth lemon filling that’s not too tart, not too sweet, but the adept balance of fresh, tangy sweetness that makes you want to lick the plate. Finally, top with light, fluffy toasted meringue that’s foolproof with my tips and tricks.  Let the pie chill (the perfect make ahead dessert!), then bite into the fresh, vibrant, tangy, sweet relief of cool, creamy Lemon Meringue Pie.  
Servings: 12 slices
Total Time: 7 hours 10 minutes
Prep Time: 6 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

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Ingredients

Pie Crust

Lemon Filling

  • 5 large egg yolks at room temperature (use the whites in the meringue below)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (preferably Meyer)
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Meringue

  • 5 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

PIE CRUST

  • Note: The crust can be baked, cooled, covered and refrigerated up to 5 days ahead of time. At the least, I like to make the pie dough the night before because it needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before rolling out and blind baking.
  • Make the pastry dough: Prepare pie dough according to recipe directions and bake following the BLIND BAKE instructions in the recipe (click HERE for pie crust recipe). The pie shell does not need to be cooled before adding the pie filling.
  • A note on pans: I use a quiche pan with a removable bottom, but a pie pan works great. If using the quiche pan, press the dough all the way up the sides because it will shrink a bit as it bakes.

Lemon Filling

  • Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Prep ingredients: The lemon filling, meringue, and adding the meringue over the lemon filling are all time sensitive. To be successful, prep (i.e. separate the eggs, grate the lemon zest, juice the lemons, etc.) and measure all of your ingredients out for both the lemon filling and the meringue before you begin the recipe so you can grab them the second you need them.
  • Whisk egg yolks: Whisk the egg yolks together in a liquid measuring cup or bowl; set aside.
  • Thicken the lemon filling: Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and water together in a small nonreactive saucepan until the cornstarch dissolves. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5-7 minutes; turn off heat.
  • Temper the egg yolks: Whisking the egg yolks constantly, slowly stream a large ladleful of the thickened lemon mixture into the beaten egg yolks; repeat 2-3 times (never stop whisking!). This will prevent the eggs from scrambling once they’re added to the warm lemon mixture. Now, while constantly whisking, slowly stream the egg yolk mixture into the lemon mixture in the pan.
  • Thicken the filling: Return the heat to medium, while you continue to whisk. Cook until the mixture is thickened to the consistency of thick pudding and big bubbles begin bursting on the surface, about 175-180 degrees F an instant-read thermometer. Watch the video in the recipe card for exact consistency.
  • Stir in the butter: Once thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter until melted.
  • Transfer to the pie crust: Spread the filling into the partially baked pie crust (the crust can still be warm) and spread evenly. Immediately start to make the meringue.

Make the Meringue

  • Beat the eggs to soft peaks: Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (my use a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed for 1 minute. Increase to medium and beat for 1 minute. Finally, increase to high speed and beat until soft peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. (Soft peaks means the peaks flop over as soon as the beaters are lifted.)
  • Beat to glossy stiff peaks: Slowly and gradually add the sugar, followed by the salt and continue to beat on high speed until billowy, glossy stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. (Stiff peaks means the egg whites stand straight up when the beaters are removed).

Bake the Pie

  • Assemble the pie: Immediately spread the meringue evenly over the lemon filling. Make sure you spread it all the way to the edges so it attaches to the crust without any gaps. The attachment will help anchor the meringue and prevent it from shrinking and weeping.
  • Bake: Bake the pie at 350 degrees F on the lowest oven rack for 20-25 minutes (don't overbake or it can weep). Keep a close eye on the meringue and cover tips that are browning too quickly (or the whole pie if needed).

Chill the Pie

  • Cool to room temperature: Let the pie cool on a wire rack for two hours.
  • Chill in the fridge: Transfer the room temperature pie to the fridge (don't cover). Chill for 3-4 hours before slicing and serving. It can be chilled longer, but the fresher, the better (less chance of weeping/deflating).
  • To slice: Run a sharp knife under hot water, or dip in a glass of hot water, then dry. Slowly slice through the meringue before pressing down to slice thorugh the rest of the pie. Clean the knife and repeat.

Video

Notes

  • Don’t make meringue on humid days. The humidity causes the sugar to absorb the extra moisture in the air, making the meringue sticky, chewy and less voluminous. It also can cause tiny beads of syrupy liquid to form on the meringue.
  • Use fresh egg whites. Old egg whites tend to collapse and don’t rise well in the oven because they don’t hold the air bubbles as well.
  • Use a spotless bowl and egg whites! Fat and water are the greatest enemy of making meringue.  If there’s any residual oil or water in the mixing bowl, or a little egg yolk, your meringue will be ruined.   
  • Separate the eggs when cold. Cold eggs hold their shape better and separate more easily – we don’t want a drop of egg yolk in the whites!  Now, let the separated eggs come to room temperature.

Make Ahead

Lemon Meringue Pie is best served the same day it is made.  You can, however, prep the crust ahead of time:
  • Make pie dough: Make the pie dough, shape it into a disc, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 2 days before using.
  • Form pie shell: Transfer dough to the pie plate to make the pie shell, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. It can also be covered in multiple layers of plastic wrap and frozen for 3 months.
  • Bake pie shell: Blind bake and cool the pie shell. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Storage

  • Lemon Meringue Pie is its best showstopping self a few hours after it is made, but leftovers are still delicious and will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Just note that the meringue will deflate and start weeping (releasing moisture) as more time passes (still tasty though!).
  • Lemon Meringue Pie does not need to be covered while it chills in the refrigerator before serving.  If storing overnight, insert toothpicks halfway between the center and edge of the pie, then loosely cover with plastic wrap.

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