Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

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!

I know it’s nothing groundbreaking, but, my baking buds, this lemon curd is completely miraculous.

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 explain what lemon curd is.

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

And lemon curd is so versatile! My favorite ways to enjoy this incredibly rich spread/dessert topping? Let me count the ways:

You get the idea!

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You only need 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 the flavor. Whatever you do, do NOT use bottle lemon juice. You need real lemons; we’ll be using both the juice and the zest. 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 after you remove the curd from heat.

The Most Important Part

Lemon curd must be constantly whisked in a pot over simmering water. I 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 so that it’s 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 because I don’t find the need. However, you certainly can!

The best part about homemade lemon curd (besides eating it!) is gifting it. Make a few batches at a time, fill adorable jars, and give them as hostess or holiday gifts. It’s a sincerely appreciated gesture because lemon curd unique and special.

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

Ingredients:

  • 4 large 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.

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. If doing so, 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. Cook the curd in the top pot/bowl.

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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!

123 comments

  1. The first time I made this is was super easy and sooooo delicious. Second attempt didn’t turn out so well for some reason, it was thin and turned green. I ended up remaking several times to finally getting a usable result that tasted great, was bright yellow, but was a little thin. I just attempted again, and it turned green AGAIN! What am I doing wrong?!  It was so perfect the first time and ever since I just can’t get it right!

    • Uhm … green? Maybe the eggs are the problem? Or did you use limes? Limes turn your Curd green (more or less). 🙂

      • Turns out it was the pan I was using and the acid reacting to it. I have made myself a double broiler now so it doesn’t turn green anymore! Now, for some reason I struggle with getting it thick! 

  2. i made and it is delicious, this is just the first part for my lemon coconut cake!. everithing in tour website is delicious!

  3. If your curd is turning green it could be the bowl you use. The acid in the lemons may react to a metal bowl.

  4. So so good! It’s a thick smooth curd. So delicious! Thanks for sharing your recipe. 

  5. I’m trying to get over my failures with lemon meringue pie, so I made this yesterday. Yum! It was really easy and so tasty. I did have to cook it longer than 10 minutes to get the right consistency, which is part of my problem with recipes that list times. I need to trust my gut that it’s not done and keep cooking!

  6. is there any substitution for whole eggs instead of whites? what substitution ratio might you recommend trying?

  7. How long will this keep tightly sealed in the refrigerator? Is it possible to freeze it?

  8. Hi Sally! I’m going to make this curd and would also like to try blood orange—have you ever tried it? I wonder if I could simply substitute the same amounts of blood orange juice and zest, or if I’d need to concentrate the juice first…any thoughts? Thanks 🙂

    • I haven’t personally tried it, but a few readers have subbing the same amount of blood orange zest and juice for lemon. All said it was wonderful!

  9. Just made this lemon curd to accompany the individual pavlovas that I made for a dinner party tonight. The lemon curd turned out spectacular, followed the recipe exactly, except 1.5x the recipe.
    Going to have a pavlova bar for dessert and let the guests create their own dream puff! Thank you for your awesome recipes..

  10. My curd was bitter. I’m assuming I’m getting pith when I zest my lemons… any tips and tricks for zesting properly?

    • Hi Amanda! When you zest the lemon, apply light pressure all over to avoid the pith. You can also reduce the zest down so there’s less in the curd. The lemon curd will have plenty of flavor from the fresh lemon juice.

  11. If I’m adding this curd in between layers of a baked and frosted cake, can the cake stay at room temperature for the day? 

  12. Sally, I’m putting a spoonful of lemon curd inside my lemon muffins.  I had this yummy muffin at a little coffee shop on Amelia island recently and it was so good, I went back later that day for a second muffin. (Insert embarrassed emoji here)
    I’m putting in the curd before baking.  The result should be little pockets of lemony goodness. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

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