Buttery and smooth, this lemon curd starts out sweet and then blasts your tastebuds with unmistakable, sharp lemon. This is an easy recipe (no tempering) and is perfect to use as a spread, in cookies, cakes and pies.
Why is this Lemon Curd the Best
- It’s very easy to make: there’s no tempering of eggs involved, no beating sugar and eggs together. Everything is either whisked or stirred.
- It doesn’t taste like eggs! Because it uses whole eggs there’s none of that residual eggy taste in the curd and instead, it’s really just a blast of lemon.
- It’s smooth AND sharp: because it is made with quite a bit of lemon juice this has all the tart, bright sharpness of fresh lemon. But it’s also unbelievably smooth, thanks to the right amount of butter and a unique preparation method.
What is Lemon Curd
It’s creamy like a custard, spreadable like butter. It’s a mixture of eggs, butter and lemon juice & zest. You’ll usually find it near the jams in the store, sealed in a jar. You can spread it on toast, pancakes, french toast, scones, english muffins, etc. – it goes well with most breakfast dishes.
Lots of fruits can be made into a curd, especially those with a sharp or tart taste (lemons, limes, grapefruit, pomegranate) but you can also make a blueberry, raspberry or orange curd and these types usually have some lemon added to them to give it that edge.
Lemon Curd Ingredients
Eggs: I use whole eggs in my curd which isn’t very traditional (usually just the yolks or some combination of whole eggs and yolks) but I’ve found I prefer it this way so there’s no ‘eggy’ taste and I’ll still get a lovely, smooth texture.
Lemon: Since we’re using a lot of zest, either buy organic lemons or give them a good wash before you zest to remove any residual chemicals that might be on the peel. How many lemons you’ll need for the juice will depend on their size and how juicy they are; aim for ones that are a bright yellow. Greenish lemon wont’ juice as easily and soft, golden yellow lemons won’t have that bright zest taste.
Butter: Unsalted butter, this is important! We’re already adding salt to the eggs (where we need it) so we want to avoid there being too much in the curd over all. Don’t worry about softening it, we have a step for that. American or European butter is fine (but European, with it’s slightly higher butterfat content, would be lovely here).
Sugar: Granulated sugar, fine or organic. You might wonder if you can reduce the sugar here but I wouldn’t as sugar contributes to the consistency and texture just as much as taste.
Salt: Just a pinch, salt has a magical quality of allowing other flavors to blossom. It’s also important here to break up the egg whites. I use fine sea salt; don’t use table salt which is very ‘salty’ in taste and will set the flavor balance off.
How to make the Best Lemon Curd
First let’s do a little prep: slice the cold butter and place it into a bowl. Set a sieve over it.
Now, crack all the eggs into a separate bowl – it’s ok if they are cold. Set both of these aside, you’ll use them in a bit. Doing this a bit earlier helps them warm up before they hit the heat.
Into the pot you’ll be cooking the curd, add the sugar. And then zest the lemons right into the sugar.
Note: If you are concerned about it overheating too quickly (or your stove doesn’t have a low setting) consider using a double boiler (a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water – be sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).
One trick I learned years ago is to rub the sugar and zest between your fingers, this helps release the zest’s oils and brings out that lemon flavor even more. Don’t skip this step, since we’re sieving out the zest later on we want to get as much flavor from it as possible. Rub until the mixture is like wet sand.
Juice the lemons, you can do this over a scale right into the pot or measure out a full cup. Then pour it into the sugar and mix.
Now beat the eggs with the salt, I think a fork works better than a whisk here to break up all those little white bits. Beat it like you would eggs for an omelette or scrambled eggs, really well. Pour the eggs into the pot with the sugar and lemon, and whisk well.
Now is the tricky part: cooking! Set the pot over low heat, have a rubber spatula and stir it as it cooks. If you want to be precise (and since you’ve used six eggs and a bag of lemons it would be prudent to be so) use a thermometer for this step.
After about 5 minutes over the heat and while you’re stirring constantly, the curd will begin to thicken on the bottom. Once it reaches 170 F and you note that it covers the spatula without running completely off, it’s done, take it off the heat.
Now pour this mixture over the sieve (use a bigger one than mine, this was too much work!) and work it through into the butter. The goal is to remove the zest and any little bits of white egg that didn’t get broken up. We do this so that we’re left with a very, very smooth, almost translucent curd.
Be sure to scrape the bottom of the sieve for any remaining curd and then stir the curd and butter until the butter is fully melted and incorporated into the curd. Once it’s smooth and no butter bits remain, it’s done.
Pour it into a mason jar for storing in the fridge. When warm the curd is runny but as it cools it will thicken.
What to do with Lemon Curd: Recipes that Use Lemon Curd
Besides the aforementioned breakfast spreads that use lemon curd, there are so many ways to incorporate it into baking and desserts (and I am an enthusiast of doing so as you’re about to see!). Of course, there’s lemon meringue pie but also…
Lemon Curd is also very popular to use on pavlovas (in this recipe you could swap out the pomegranate curd), with cake (one variation I have for this Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake is to make a tunnel of curd) and even as a morning roll filling (think cinnamon rolls but spread lemon curd on the dough).
How to store lemon curd: Can you freeze lemon curd?
Once it’s done cooking, you can go ahead and pour it into a mason jar and seal it. I’ve read that it can last up to two weeks in the fridge but use your judgment (taste and smell) to see if it’s good. It’ll at least last a week.
Alternatively, freeze the curd for months.
Can I halve this recipe?
Yup – half of all the ingredients. It might cook a little quicker so watch it carefully.
How do I bake lemon curd into a pie?
Once its done cooking you can pour it into a par-baked pie shell (that is, a crust that is almost fully baked) and bake it for another 10-12 minutes, until it doesn’t really jiggle when you wiggle the pan. Then chill it, it will firm up nicely after a few hours in the fridge.
Recipe for the Best Lemon Curd
The Best Lemon Curd
- small pot
- mesh sieve
- 6 large eggs
- 235 g freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 cup
- 220 g granulated sugar, 1 cup
- zest of 6-8 lemons
- 113 g butter, 1/2 cup unsalted
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- Slice the butter and set it in a bowl. Place a sieve over it and set aside.
- Place the sugar in a pot, and over it zest the lemons.
- Rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers, this helps release the oils.
- Pour the lemon juice into the pot and gently stir it into the sugar.
- In another bowl, crack all the eggs and add the salt. Using a fork, beat very well (try to break up as many white bits as you can).
- Pour the eggs into the sugar and whisk well. Set the pot over low heat.
- Cook, stirring constantly until the curd thickens and registers 170 F on an instant read thermometer (or until it coats a rubber spatula).
- Pour curd through the sieve into the butter to remove zest and any egg bits.
- Stir until butter is thoroughly melted.
- Pour the curd into an airtight container and store in the fridge. It should keep for about 2 weeks, longer if frozen.