This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more.

Tart lemon curd goes from breakfast to dessert to homemade holiday gifts with ease. Here’s how to make it and how to use it.

tart lemon curd in a small jar with a spoon and half a lemon
Want to save this recipe?
Enter your email below and I’ll send it to your inbox. Plus get great new recipes every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Why we love this recipe

This wonderfully creamy, tart lemon curd recipe has been in our family for years. I adapted it long ago from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard, a James Beard award winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef. It’s:

  • Equally at home at breakfast, for dessert, or as a host or holiday gift
  • Simple yet sophisticated, both in terms of culinary technique and final result
  • Equally adored by kids and adults

Why it 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:

  • The indirect heat of a double boiler
  • Frequent whisking, so that the heat stays evenly distributed
  • An instant-read thermometer, to keep a close eye on the rising temperature
  • Gradual reduction of the temperature by adding cold butter at the end, creating a silky emulsion
  • A quick strain through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any stray bits

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • A combination of whole eggs and egg yolks gives the curd a creamy, versatile structure that spreads well and also holds its own in a tart or as a cake filling. It also contributes a nice dose of protein.
  • A mix of freshly squeezed lemon juice and lime juice creates a nuanced, vibrant citrus flavor profile that still tastes just like lemon.
  • A microplane rasp makes the perfect, finely grated lemon zest. Zesting directly over the bowl lets the citrus oils settle right back into the mixture, contributing tons of great flavor.
  • You can use salted or unsalted butter. I use salted Kerrygold for the excellent flavor.

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, I like to use a heatproof glass bowl set over a pot. 

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a luscious batch of tart lemon curd. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll blitz the sugar and zest together in a food processor or mortar and pestle and then transfer it to a large, heat-proof bowl. Whisk in the whole eggs and yolks.
  2. Set the bowl over a pot with an inch of simmering water. Pour in the lemon and lime juices.
  3. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160°F and has the consistency of sour cream. Remove from heat.
  4. Little by little, whisk in the cold butter. Strain and chill before using.
lemon curd tart with shortbread crust and berries on a cake stand

Lemon curd uses

Here are some of our favorite ways to use this versatile recipe:

At breakfast

  • Spooned over yogurt or oatmeal
  • Served with scones
  • Spread on a hearty piece of toast

For dessert

  • Spooned into a shortbread tart shell or a party’s worth of mini tart shells for a wonderful dessert or buffet item — see below for details
  • 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 (pictured below)

As gifts

I love to give pretty little 4-ounce jars of tart lemon curd as host or even small holiday gifts. Let people know they can keep it in the fridge for a week or freeze it for several months.

How to make an easy lemon curd tart with berries

One of my favorite ways to use lemon curd is to create a gorgeous tart. It looks practically professional but couldn’t be easier.

What you’ll need

  • One shortbread crust (or even a store-bought pie crust)
  • One batch of lemon curd
  • About two cups total fresh berries — I like a combo of strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries
  • A couple of tablespoons of apricot jam
  • A few fresh mint leaves

How to make it

Here’s all you need to do to make a stunning lemon curd tart.

lemon curd tart step by step
  1. Bake the tart shell and let it cool completely.
  2. Spread the lemon curd in an even layer. If you do it while it’s still slightly warm (unlike what you see here!), it will settle in a perfect layer.
  3. When curd is completely cool, arrange the berries however you like. You can see one pretty version in the video below, but the only limit is your creativity.
  4. Brush a little bit of warm apricot jam onto the berries for that gorgeous, professional-level glossy finish. (The pros mix the jam with a touch of water and strain it, but truth be told, I don’t always bother with either of these steps.) Tuck in a few fresh mint leaves. That’s seriously it.

Watch it in action

Expert tips and FAQs

How long does lemon curd last?

Lemon curd will last, tightly sealed, in the fridge for a week. You can freeze it, too. See below for more info.

Can I freeze it?

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.

More favorite sweet spreads

gingerbread trifle with lemon curd in a trifle bowl

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

Lemon Curd Recipe 780 | Umami Girl
4.96 from 22 votes

Tart Lemon Curd

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
Makes about 2 1/2 cups of lemon curd, which is a nice amount for filling a tart shell or 4 5-oz. gift jars.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Want to save this recipe?
Enter your email and I’ll send it to your inbox. Plus get great new recipes every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Ingredients 

  • cup (133 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest, finely grated on a rasp
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup (118 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) fresh lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons (56 grams) butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Instructions 

  • You'll need a large, heatproof glass bowl and a pot in which the bowl can rest without touching the bottom. 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 frequently, 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.
  • Curd is ready to use in recipes or transfer to the refrigerator or freezer.

Step-by-step video

Notes

  1. A microplane rasp makes the perfect, finely grated lemon zest. Zesting directly over the bowl lets the citrus oils settle right back into the mixture, contributing tons of great flavor.
  2. You can use salted or unsalted butter. I use salted Kerrygold for the excellent flavor.
  3. To make a lemon curd tart with berries, here’s what you’ll do. Prepare one shortbread crust or store-bought pie crust. Bake at let cool completely. Spread the lemon curd in an even layer. If you do it while it's still slightly warm, it will settle in a perfect layer. When curd is completely cool, arrange a total of about two cups mixed berries however you like on top. You can see one pretty version in the video above, but the only limit is your creativity. Brush a little bit of warm apricot jam onto the berries for that gorgeous, professional-level glossy finish. (The pros mix the jam with a touch of water and strain it, but truth be told, I don't always bother with either of these steps.) Tuck in a few fresh mint leaves. That's seriously it.
  4. Lemon curd will last, tightly sealed, in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for at least 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tablespoon, Calories: 42kcal, Carbohydrates: 3.8g, Protein: 1.4g, Fat: 2.4g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sweet Spreads
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

Hungry for More?
Subscribe to Umami Girl's email updates, and follow along on Instagram.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

More Recipes

Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.96 from 22 votes (22 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




8 Comments