Bright and tangy, with the perfect amount of sweetness. This lemon curd is pure sunshine. Today we’re going to go through how to make lemon curd, along with a few tips on how you can adjust the recipe to your preference! I developed this recipe to be on the tangier side, not crazy sweet, and also on the thicker consistency end of the lemon curd spectrum.
Lemon curd is one of those fillings that truly is a joy to make from scratch, and it’s surprisingly simple, so let’s get started!
1. Zest Lemons and Combine with Sugar
First up, let’s zest some lemons! Prepare for your kitchen to smell AMAZING. Fresh lemon is an instant mood booster in my opinion. This recipe uses the average zest AND juice amount from 3 lemons, reducing food waste.
Measure out your zest and rub it together with the sugar in your medium sized heavy bottom sauce pot to release the zest’s oils and increase the lemony flavor. Taking a few extra seconds to rub the zest in helps kick the flavor up a notch!
This lemon curd is on the less sweet side and only used 2/3 cup granulated sugar. I prefer a tangier curd because I primarily use it with sweeter desserts like macarons and pavlova, and the tartness provides balance. If you want a sweeter curd, you could add a few extra tablespoons of sugar.
Important Tip: Don’t use aluminum or unlined copper pots because the metal can react with the acidity in the lemon curd creating discoloration and a weird metallic taste. No thanks! If you don’t have a non aluminum/unlined copper sauce pot, you can use the double boiler method.
Double Boiler Method: To use a double boiler, cook the curd in a heat safe bowl over top of a pot with an inch or so of simmering water.
2. Whisk in Egg Yolks
Once you’ve combined your zest and sugar, whisk in your egg yolks until thoroughly combined. Save those whites for a batch of macarons, pavlova, or Swiss meringue buttercream! Egg whites can be frozen for up to 1 year.
Lemon curds with egg yolks have a richer taste, darker yellow color, and thicker consistency. For a lighter color and flavor and a softer consistency, you can swap the 6 yolks for 3 whole eggs! Option C would be to do a mix and have 1 whole egg and 4 yolks, or 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks.
I personally felt like this tangy curd with less sugar was balanced out well by the richness of the yolks. I tried it with the whole egg and yolk combo, but felt that it needed more sugar to make the lemon less over the top tart.
3. Whisk in Lemon Juice and Salt
On to the next step, juicing the lemons. I made this recipe several times over and every time, 3 lemons produced almost EXACTLY 2/3 cup of juice. Add it in to the sauce pot with the pinch of salt and whisk it up until thoroughly combined!
4. Cook Until Thickened
Now comes the cooking process. Cook the curd over medium low heat, whisking consistently until the curd thickens. This process usually takes about several minutes, but once it starts cooking it happens fast so make sure to be on guard to avoid accidentally cooking the eggs! My guess is you aren’t going for a lumpy scrambled egg curd so make sure to reach every part of the pot when whisking.
Cook the curd until it reaches 175 degrees and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
5. Stir In Butter Until Melted
Remove the curd from heat, and stir in the cold butter (cut into tablespoon size pieces) until melted.
6. Pour Curd Through Sieve
For the smoothest consistency, pour the curd through a fine mesh sieve at this point to remove any larger pieces of lemon zest or small pieces of accidentally cooked egg.
7. Cover Curd and Allow To Set For 2-3 Hours
Cover the curd in plastic wrap, with the wrap touching the surface of the curd. The reason you want to have the wrap touching the curd is to prevent a skin from forming on the surface while it sets in the fridge. Allow the lemon curd to set and chill for 2-3 hours.
Lemon Curd Uses
Now that you’ve made a delicious batch of home made lemon curd, pat yourself on the back and look through this list of what to eat it with!
- Lemon Bars
- Fold into Whipped Cream or Buttercream
- Crepes, Pancakes, or French Toast
For a Spring suited macaron recipe using lemon curd, be on the lookout for my Chamomile Honey Lemon Macarons coming soon!
To wrap this thing up, let’s talk about ways you can customize this recipe to your own preferences. Below are some notes of different ways to adjust this recipe to fit your own taste, along with frequently asked questions!
Lemon Curd Frequently Asked Questions
What makes lemon curd thicker vs thinner?
There are a few things that affect the thickness of a lemon curd!
- Using yolks vs whole eggs. Yolks create a richer thicker consistency, while whole eggs create a softer curd.
- The amount of juice will also change how thin or thick the curd turns out.
- A crucial step in the preparation process that will help the curd be thick, is to cook it to the proper temperature. Without reaching the 170F-180F range, the curd will not properly thicken even when set.
- Adding additional eggs or yolks will create a thicker curd.
- Some bakers use cornstarch to thicken curds. I would caution not to use much cornstarch because the starchy flavor can linger.
Can I skip running the curd through a sieve to keep the zest in the curd?
Yes you can! However, if you do skip the sieve, you may have tiny bits of egg in the curd along with the zest. A precaution you can take if you’d like to skip the sieve and keep the zest, is to cook the curd in a double boiler instead of directly in the sauce pot. The double boiler method can take a bit longer, but because of the less direct heat, you run a lesser risk of overcooking and having cooked egg bits.
Why does my lemon curd taste metallic and looks discolored?
Using an aluminum or unlined copper pot to cook your lemon curd can cause a reaction with the metal and the acidity creating a lingering metallic taste and a slight discoloration. If you don’t have a non aluminum/copper pot to use, do the double boiler cooking method and cook your curd in a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water.
How do I know when my lemon curd is done cooking?
First and foremost, the curd should reach 175 degrees F! The general rule of thumb is between 170-180. Using a thermometer will give you the best idea of when your curd is done cooking. Another sign to look for is the curd visibly thickening, and being able to coat the back of a spoon.
Can I use whole eggs with this recipe?
Yes you can! Substitute the 6 egg yolks with 3 whole eggs instead. Something to note is that using whole eggs will create a less rich curd, and a softer consistency. My recipe is very lemony and tart, and the yolks help balance that tang without adding extra sugar. With whole eggs, your curd will be VERY lemony and may need a tablespoon or two more granulated sugar.
What causes lemon curd to split?
Lemon curd can split if it’s cooked on too high of a heat. The higher heat can scramble the eggs creating an undesirable texture. Curds are best cooked low and slow!
How long does homemade lemon curd last in the fridge and freezer?
Lemon Curd will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge, and according to Google, 1 year in the freezer.
Is lemon curd shelf stable?
Homemade lemon curd needs to be stored in the fridge and is not shelf stable. Canned lemon curd can be kept at room temperature if unopened.
If my lemon curd is thicker than I wanted after it chills and sets, can I thin it out?
Yes! Whisk in a small amount of lemon juice at a time until your curd has reached your desired consistency.
Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you enjoy the recipe!
- 2 tbsp lemon zest
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- ⅔ cup lemon juice
- 1-2 pinches salt
- 8 tbsp cold salted butter cut into tablespoon sized pieces (if using unsalted, add 1/4 tsp of salt to the recipe and omit the 1-2 pinches)
- Rub together the sugar and lemon zest in a medium sized heavy bottom sauce pan, and then thoroughly whisk in the egg yolks.
- Add the lemon juice and salt, and whisk vigorously to thoroughly combine the ingredients.
- Begin cooking the lemon curd over medium low heat, whisking constantly. (Do not use aluminum or unlined copper pots or whisks. If only aluminum/copper pots are available, see double boiler note below)
- Continue whisking, and keep a close eye on the curd making sure to whisk all sections of the pot evenly. The curd changes quickly once it starts to reach the desired temperature.
- Cook the curd until it's temperature reaches 175℉ and has thickened to the point it can coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove the curd from heat and stir in the cold butter pieces until melted.
- Strain the curd through a sieve, and cover with plastic wrap making sure the plastic wrap is making contact with the surface of the curd to avoid it forming a skin while cooling.
- Allow the curd to chill in the fridge for 2 hours before using.