How to Make Lemon Curd

Here’s how to make lemon curd the simple way– only 5 ingredients needed and it comes together on the stove in 10 minutes!

Here's how to make lemon curd the simple way-- only 5 ingredients needed and it comes together on the stove in 10 minutes!

I know it’s nothing groundbreaking or an “OMG I have to make this now” recipe. I mean, it’s… curd. But, my baking buds, this lemon curd is completely miraculous.

(Keep in mind this is coming from a lemon dessert freak.)

If you love lemon as much as I do– as in, lemon bars are your main squeeze and lemon blueberry cake is your dream come true– then you’re going to flip for this creamy, thick, dense, intensely flavorful, from-scratch lemon curd. A millions times better than store-bought, which is filled with all sorts of sketchy ingredients. Here we have nothing but pure lemon goodness.

Insert 15 heart-eyed emojis.

Here's how to make lemon curd the simple way-- only 5 ingredients needed and it comes together on the stove in 10 minutes!

If you’re not familiar, let me tell you what lemon curd actually is.

Lemon curd is a super rich spread/dessert topping. It’s ridiculously buttery with intense sweet-tart lemon flavor. Like jam, but much creamier. It’s made from simple, staple pantry and refrigerator items, which is why I like making it so often. Nothing complicated or fancy and it comes together on the stove in about 10 minutes.

And it’s so versatile! My favorite ways to enjoy this incredibly rich spread/dessert topping? Let me count the ways:

Spread it onto warm scones (blueberry perhaps?), stuff it into homemade crepes, layer into cakes, beat 1/2 cup it into vanilla frosting (that will be the best frosting you’ll ever have), enjoy it on top of pancakes or toasted english muffins, spoon it on top of angel food cake or pavlovas, swirl it into yogurt, stuff it into pastry pies (instead of the cherry!), EAT IT STRAIGHT UP. You get the idea.

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Here’s how we’re going to make DIY lemon curd. 5 ingredients: egg yolks, fresh lemons, sugar, salt, and butter. Each ingredient serves a crucial purpose in the making, thickening, and flavoring of lemon curd. The egg yolks thicken the curd, much like a custard or pudding. The fresh lemons are obviously for flavor. Whatever you do, do NOT use bottle lemon juice. You need real lemons; we’ll be using both the juice and the zest in my lemon curd recipe. The sugar supplies sweetness and structure, while the salt balances out the flavors. The butter is added after the curd is finished cooking on the stove– it’s stirred in right after you remove the curd from heat.

The Most Important Part

Lemon curd must be constantly whisked in a pot over simmering water. I simply use my double boiler. You can craft a makeshift double boiler by placing a heatproof bowl or small pot on top of a larger pot. Just make sure the bottom of the top pot or bowl does not touch the simmering water. Lemon curd should never be cooked on direct heat. The reason? The egg yolks will cook and curdle. It’s not pleasant.

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Here’s a tip: pour the cooked curd into a jar or bowl and place plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the curd– so it is touching. Otherwise, the curd will develop a skin on top as it chills in the refrigerator. Um, how gross was that sentence?

I don’t strain my lemon curd– you simply don’t have to with this recipe. The zest is so tiny and has been cooked, so you can hardly taste the texture of it. It’s really just there for flavor.

The best part? Gifting your delicious lemon curd! I make a few batches at a time, fill adorable jars, and give them as hostess or holiday gifts– it’s always sincerely appreciated because it’s unique and not a typical jam or something like that.

Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes with Homemade Lemon Curd on sallysbakingaddiction.com

The next best part? On top of warm strawberry buttermilk pancakes.

Let me know if you try it!

Lemon Curd

Here's how to make lemon curd the simple way-- only 5 ingredients needed and it comes together on the stove in 10 minutes!

Ingredients:

  • 4 large Eggland's Best egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup (134g) granulated sugar
  • zest from 3 lemons
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)1
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (86g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature2
Special Equipment
  • Double boiler (I own and love this one)3

Directions:

  1. Fill the bottom pot of your double boiler with 1-2 inches of water. Place on high heat. Once the water begins to boil, reduce heat to low to keep the water at a simmer.
  2. Place egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt into the top pot of your double boiler. Whisk until completely blended-- and continue to whisk as the curd cooks. Constant whisking prevents the egg yolks from curdling. Whisk and cook until the mixture becomes thick, resembling the texture of hollandaise sauce-- about 10 minutes. If your curd isn't thickening fast enough, gently turn up the heat. But remember to constantly whisk.
  3. Remove pan from heat. Cut the butter into 6 separate pieces and stir each piece into the curd 1 at a time. The butter will melt from the heat of the curd. Pour curd into a jar or bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top-- so it is touching the top of the curd. This prevents a skin from forming on top. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools.
  4. Make ahead tip: Refrigerate the curd for up to about 10 days. For longer storage, you can freeze the curd up to 3-6 months. Simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight before enjoying.

Recipe Notes:

  1. Do not use bottled lemon juice. Use fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
  2. You can use salted butter instead of unsalted butter-- simply omit 1/8 teaspoon salt in the recipe.
  3. If you do not own a double boiler, you can simply place a small pot or heatproof bowl over a saucepan-- you will cook the curd in the top pot/bowl.

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

You should try filling my strawberry cupcakes with this lemon curd. Simply cut out a small portion of the baked cupcake and spoon lemon curd inside. Place the spooned-out piece back on top. Frost, eat, blissful!

Strawberry Cupcakes with Creamy Strawberry Frosting

Eggland’s Best provided me with eggs to bring you this recipe. This post contains affiliate links.

Here's how to make lemon curd the simple way-- only 5 ingredients needed and it comes together on the stove in 10 minutes!
Here's how to make lemon curd the simple way-- only 5 ingredients needed and it comes together on the stove in 10 minutes!

91 comments

  1. HI Sally! I’m going to be Making your chocolate chip muffins soon and I know over time you’ve said you sometimes do half granulated sugar and half brown sugar what do you recommend for your chocolate chip muffins? And are there any other tips? These are nice soft, moist muffins right?

  2. Thanks for the simple recipe and for the recommendation re: double boiler that does not cost a fortune and is a quality piece of equipment. I’m going to try this with Meyer lemons! 

  3. Would love to see your fav recipe to use up the egg whites

  4. Wow!,this is so made-easy and wonderful!..thumbs up sally!..more grease to your elbow 😉

  5. Delicious! Made some this morning and put it on my english muffin. I will be freezing it to use next month when I make the Coconut Lemon cake for my hubby’s birthday.  

  6. Hi Sally! I love that you shared a lemon curd recipe. It’s used so often in baking so it’s nice to have a reference on how to do it right! I just made a cheesecake using lime curd and it made it extra creamy. Can’t wait to see what other recipes you use curd in! xx Haley

  7. Whisking this up right now to use as a filling in petit fours and wishing you had a recipe for those!

  8. I made your lemon curd yesterday. SO GOOD! I was making minty macarons yesterday for a St. Patrick’s Day party (unfortunately, not your recipe, but the next ones will be for sure), when I was trying to think of how to use the 4 egg yolks I had leftover. I then remembered getting your email for making lemon curd. So glad I thought of it because now I have lemon curd in my freezer to use in future macarons (hopefully for Easter) using your wonderful tutorial. Thanks for all your hard work!

  9. This recipe was delicious! Hands down, best I’ve had. I doubled the recipe in the same double boiler and it worked very well. 

    Tried over Belgian waffles with chopped fresh mint and the tiniest drizzle of maple syrup and I don’t think I’ve ever had a better breakfast.

    Next time, I may reduce the sugar a bit. I think it would be just as good with less (and maybe I’d treat myself to it a bit more).

  10. Hi Sally,
    made this last week and it was awesome. Instead of melting the butter,i whisked it with sugar till creamy and then added all other ingredients. Turned out really good. Can we store this in freezer for about 2-3months?

  11. made it, and it tasted perfect, except it wasn’t smooth because of the zest… how would you recommend straining it to remove the zest pieces or would it taste as lemony without the zest?

    • I would definitely still prepare it with the lemon zest, but you can strain it out. You can zest the lemons into large strips so they are easier to strain out, too.

  12. I accidentally added the butter into the curd mixture at the beginning ! I’m stirring it and hope it will turn out ok 

  13. Hi Sally,
    Bit of a strange question, but I know in the post you mention mixing this with vanilla frosting to make delicious lemon-y frosting (which I definitely intend to do ASAP!). I am wanting to make your margarita cupcakes this weekend and have been struggling to find any lime oil/extract short of ordering online (which will not come in time), and I was wondering if it might be possible to make this as a lime curd and mix that into the tequlia-lime frosting? If you think it’s better off simply using the lime juice/zest as recommended in the margarita post, I will simply do that! 🙂

    • That should work just fine! And this as lime curd is incredible– I just made some using this recipe last week.

  14. Hi Sally, this looks delicious! I was wondering if it would be possible to swap out the lemons in this recipe and make a lime or key lime curd using the same method, or if there would be any changes. Thanks so much, can’t wait to try it!

    • No other changes at all- in fact, I just made lime curd from this recipe about 2 weeks ago. Just lime juice + zest instead of lemon juice + zest.

  15. I really really really want to make Lemon bars for my fiance… and I think this curd could do a filling (?) and maybe use the shortbread bottom from the Raspberry Bars from here I made… but I am not really more than a complete novice baker and I need to know what temperatures to cook the lemon bars at (the Internet had 1001 answers which means none of them are right).

    Can you give me a guideline?  Please?

  16. Hi Sally, I love this recipe!! I have made it several times for a lemon cake I make. I tried using some of the curd in my icing but it made it too thin. My icing has cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar.  I tried adding more sugar but that takes away from the lemon taste.  I didn’t measure the curd that I put in

    • Hi Cathy, I’m not surprised it got a little thin. I would reduce the amount of butter in the frosting if you try it again.

  17. Hi Sally! I just tried this recipe last week together with your lemon cupcakes… The whole family just LOVE IT! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Just some questions though, mine got a *little* too thick.. what could I have done wrong? Also how long is the shelf life if it’s not refrigerated?

  18. I’m sure someone has already asked this question…but I’m preparing for the State Fair (which you’ve helped me get 3 ribbons), and I am prepping to make your lemon coconut layer cake. To make this curd in advance….can I make lots of it and can it? Or do you think it’ll work better to just freeze it? Thank you for everything that you do!

    • Hi Catherine– I’m NOT a pro on canning, but I suspect this isn’t ideal for canning because of the presence of butter and egg yolks. But you can freeze it up to 3-6 months– simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight before enjoying.

  19. ‘Insert 15 heart-eyed emojis’ – Sally you crack me up every single time, you are hilarious! Thanks for all the laughs and the lovely recipes. Am going to try this one – first time ever making lemon curd!

  20. If I’m wanting to make this as a Christmas gift that has to be mailed, would it work? Or does this really have to be refrigerated right away?

  21. Yummy !! Just made my first ever, batch of lelemon curd. This recipe Is simple and delicious. I highly recommend this.

  22. I found this recipe when searching for lemon cream cheese frosting recipes. I saw another cream cheese frosting recipe that uses lemon curd but I really prefer your cream cheese frosting recipe! Should I reduce the butter and/or cream cheese in your standard recipe if I plan on adding the curd? I’m planning to use it for a strawberry lemonade cake for my little girl’s 4th birthday. I love your recipes and always feel like I am in good hands when testing one out!

    • I would slightly reduce the butter in the cream cheese frosting recipe to make up for the addition of lemon curd. Great question!

  23. Hi Sally!
    I love your site, and I always search here first when seeking a recipe! I want to do a lemon cake this weekend and saw your recipe for lemon curd. I love lemon curd, the trouble is when trying ones at the store I never know if they’ll taste more of a lemon flavored sugar, or a true, tart, bright lemon-which is my preference. No shade for those who love their sweets, but I don’t like too much sweetness. Can you tell me if your curd tastes very sweet when done or if it is more tart? I’m tired of guessing wrong at the store and would love to make my own! Thanks for the help!
    Sara Jayne

  24. This is amazing!! I am a HUGE fan of anything to do with lemon, and I have been looking for a good lemon curd recipe for a while now. This one is better than good! Thank you so much!

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