Lemon Curd Recipe (How to Make Lemon Curd)
This wonderfully creamy, tangy lemon curd recipe has been in our family for years. It’s great at any time of year, but we especially love it around the holidays. Lemon curd is at home with scones or yogurt for breakfast, spread on toast, spooned into a tart shell, or divided into small jars to give as gifts. It’s also a key ingredient in our pavlova and gingerbread trifle recipes.
Why we love this recipe
Sherry Yard is a James Beard award winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Her book The Secrets of Baking is organized around a series of master recipes with adaptations. Lemon curd is one of the master recipes, and for good reason.
- It’s equally at home at breakfast, for dessert, or as a host or holiday gift.
- It’s simple yet sophisticated, both in terms of culinary technique and final result.
- Kids and adults adore it equally.
How to make lemon curd
To make lemon curd, you’ll need:
- Lemon zest
- Egg yolks
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
You’ll also need a few pieces of equipment:
- An instant-read thermometer
- A double boiler. Since metal can react with the acid in lemon and lime juice and change the taste of the lemon curd, we like to use a heatproof glass bowl set over a pot.
Making lemon curd requires a few fun culinary techniques. If you’re learning them for the first time, you’ll get to use them in all sorts of other great dishes from now on, too.
- Prepare a double boiler, which is as simple as pouring an inch of water into the bottom of a pot and getting ready to set a heatproof glass bowl on top
- Muddle sugar and lemon zest, either with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor
- Separate four eggs
- Juice lemons and limes
- In a heatproof glass bowl, whisk the lemon sugar together with the separated egg yolks and some whole eggs
- Set the bowl onto the pot, keep the water simmering, and whisk until the sugar dissolves
- Pour in the lemon and lime juices and whisk constantly for about 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer says 160°F and the curd is the consistency of sour cream
- Whisk in some diced butter a little bit at a time, creating a rich and delicious emulsion
- Strain the lemon curd through a fine-mesh strainer, and it’s ready to use!
Here’s why this recipe works
- The thing to avoid when making lemon curd is scrambling the eggs. If a recipe calls for too much direct heat, the proteins in the eggs could coagulate too quickly, and the eggs could scramble. Here we use lots of methods to ensure a smooth, creamy lemon curd.
- We use the indirect heat of a double boiler.
- We whisk constantly, so that the heat stays evenly distributed.
- We keep a close eye on the rising temperature of the curd with the help of an instant read thermometer.
- We slowly lower the temperature of the curd by adding cold butter at the end, creating an emulsion.
- And we strain the final result to remove any bits of protein that did coagulate.
Lemon curd uses
Here are some of our favorite ways to use this versatile recipe:
- Spooned over yogurt
- Served with scones
- Spread on a hearty piece of toast
- Spooned into a shortbread tart shell or a party’s worth of mini tart shells for a wonderful dessert or buffet item
- As a filling in a layer cake or cupcakes
- As a fun additional layer in pavlova with berries
- In our epic holiday dessert, gingerbread trifle
Lemon curd FAQ
Q: How long does lemon curd last?
A: Lemon curd will last, tightly sealed, in the fridge for a week. You can freeze it, too. See below for more info.
Q: Can I freeze lemon curd?
A: Yes! Lemon curd will keep in the freezer for three months. If giving as a holiday gift, it’s great to let people know about the freezer potential so they can enjoy when the overindulgent season is a distant memory.
- 2/3 cup (133 grams) sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest (finely grated on a rasp)
- 3 large eggs
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lime juice
- 4 tablespoons(56 grams) (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Fill the pot with one inch of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- In a food processor or mortar and pestle, combine the sugar and lemon zest and pulse or mash until the sugar is yellow and the delicious smell of lemon sugar almost knocks you out, about a minute in the food processor or a few minutes in the mortar.
- Combine the lemon sugar, eggs and egg yolks in the heatproof bowl. Whisk together for one minute to distribute the sugar. Place the bowl over the pot with simmering water and whisk constantly for about 30 seconds, until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the lemon juice and lime juice and cook, whisking constantly for about 10 minutes, until the curd reads 160° F on an instant read thermometer and has the consistency of sour cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
- Whisk in the pieces of cold butter one by one until they are completely incorporated. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
- If you are giving the curd as gifts, divide it among four small jelly jars while it is still warm. Then chill in the refrigerator. The curd lasts in the refrigerator for up to a week and also freezes beautifully. Especially since people can get so overfed around the holidays, it's nice to include a label on the jar that lets recipients know they can freeze it for up to three months.
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