Classic Lemon Meringue Pie
I write this as snow falls outside and winds whip around my house at 50 mph. I love how you’re the season of cozy, but winter… I am so over you.
Despite the current weather conditions, the calendar says spring and Easter are on the horizon. And as someone who lives and breathes her daily planner, that means it’s time to prepare for the change of seasons. Close up that fireplace, place some tulips in a vase, open those windows… whoa that wind! Let’s keep them closed!
Let’s welcome a fresh new season with a fresh new pie– the pie I’ve been taunting you with for weeks!! It’s finally here, my friends. The beautiful, the timeless, the Classic Lemon Meringue Pie. ♥
My lemon meringue pie recipe has a billowy and toasty meringue topping, a balanced sweet/tart lemon filling, and an extra thick and flaky pie crust. I worked on this recipe for a long time, making at least a dozen meringue pies in the past few months. Both my kitchen and head were exploding lemons. Whenever we had friends or family stop by, I’d force lemon meringue pie on them. “PLEASE TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS” I begged while barely blinking.
Over the years and especially the past few months, I learned that lemon meringue pie can be a daunting process but it doesn’t have to be. Let me make this recipe easy for you by giving you a tested (and praised!!!) recipe, lots of helpful recipe notes, and a video so you can watch it come to life.
And, by the way, you should totally make this for pi day next week. (3.14) 🙂
LEMON MERINGUE PIE STEPS:
- Blind bake pie crust
- Prepare lemon meringue pie filling
- Whip meringue topping
- Spread meringue on top of filling
- Bake pie until toasty brown on top
Now that you have a general idea of the process, let’s learn why this lemon meringue pie recipe works and what mistakes to avoid.
HERE’S WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
There are 3 main roadblocks when making lemon meringue pie: a soggy pie crust, a watery lemon filling, and/or a weeping meringue. Let’s work through each.
- Let’s avoid a soggy pie crust: Start by properly blind baking the pie crust. You want to partially blind bake the crust because it will continue to bake when you bake the assembled lemon meringue pie. Watch me blind bake the crust I use for this lemon meringue pie in my separate blind baking blog post. Lots of tips and tricks there.
- Let’s avoid a watery lemon filling: This is where I always had the most trouble. Lemon meringue pie filling is basically a thinner version of lemon curd. You’ll temper egg yolks. And before you run away screaming, watch me do this in the video below. Promise it’s not scary. While lemon meringue pie filling should be blissfully creamy, we also want it to be stable enough to slice somewhat neatly. (Think: a slightly firmer version of pudding, but not as firm as jello.) There was a lot of back and forth with the water vs lemon juice vs cornstarch vs sugar amounts. Follow my lemon meringue pie filling below. It’s not too tart, not too sweet, and has the silkiest, yet not-too-watery texture.
- Let’s avoid a weeping meringue: There are many different types of meringue topping, but let’s use a French meringue. Beat egg whites into soft peaks, add sugar, then beat into stiff peaks. Unless you want to waste a bunch of egg whites in failed meringue attempts, read these tips: Make sure you begin with just egg whites. Not even a drip of egg yolks. Make sure the bowl you’re using is completely wiped clean. No oil or water residue. Make sure you add cream of tartar. This will stabilize your meringue. Make sure you add the sugar *after* soft peaks are formed. If added before that, the egg whites could stretch too much which prevents a stiff peak altogether. Make sure you spread the meringue topping so it touches the pie crust. This seals the lemon filling underneath and allows the crust to grip onto the meringue so the two do not separate. And, finally, don’t make lemon meringue pie on a humid day.
Lemon meringue pie, I love ya, but you’re incredibly picky.
MORE ON THE MERINGUE
The meringue toasts in the oven. A lot of recipes call for putting the whole pie under the broiler, but I prefer to bake it so that the egg whites have a chance to cook through. Also, see the end of step 6 in the recipe below. Make sure you spread the meringue topping on while the filling is still warm. The warm filling helps seal the two layers together, preventing separation.
Did you know? (1) Room temperature egg whites whip faster than cold egg whites. And (2) room temperature egg whites whip into a greater volume than cold egg whites. So make sure your egg whites are at room temperature before starting the meringue.
Time saving tip: You need 5 egg yolks for the lemon filling and 5 egg whites for the meringue topping. Separate the 5 eggs while they are cold. (Cold eggs separate easier! Remember NO egg yolks in the meringue, not even a smidge.) Leave the egg whites out on the counter. Blind bake the pie crust and prepare the lemon filling. By the time you’re ready to start the meringue, the egg whites will be room temperature.
Meringue can be tricky, but you’re a baker and you can absolutely handle this.
Want to watch me make the lemon meringue pie filling, topping, and assemble the pie? Here you go!
I promise, as long as you read the recipe before you begin and watch the helpful video above, you’re good to go. Don’t be overwhelmed, I’m very thorough!!
Classic Lemon Meringue Pie
- Homemade Pie Crust*
- 5 large egg yolks (use the whites in the meringue below)
- 1 and 1/3 cups (320ml) water
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (38g) cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (120ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 Tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 5 large egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Pie crust: I like to make sure my pie dough is prepared before I begin making lemon meringue pie. I always make pie dough the night before because it needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before rolling out and blind baking (next step).
- Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Partially blind bake your pie crust. (Follow blind baking instructions through step 9.) Tip: You can get started on the lemon meringue pie filling steps while your crust is blind baking. But making the filling is time sensitive because you will temper the egg yolks, so if multi-tasking isn't your thing, just wait until your crust is done blind baking before beginning the filling.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (177°C).
- Watch the video above to see how I work through each of the following steps.
- Make the filling: Whisk the egg yolks together in a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set aside. Whisk the water, granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. The mixture will be thin and cloudy, then eventually begin thickening and bubbling after about 6 minutes. Once thickened, give it a whisk and reduce heat to low.
- Temper the egg yolks: Very slowly stream a few large spoonfuls of warm lemon mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Then, also in a very slow stream, whisk the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan. Turn heat back up to medium. Cook until the mixture is thick and big bubbles begin bursting at the surface. See my video above as an example. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the butter. Spread filling into the warm partially baked crust. Set aside as you prepare the meringue. (Don't let the filling cool down too much as you want a warm filling when you top with the meringue in step 7. The warm filling helps seal the two layers together, preventing separation.)
- Make the meringue: With a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and salt, then continue beating on high speed until glossy stiff peaks form, about 2 more minutes. Spread meringue on top of filling. (I like to make decorative peaks with the back of a large spoon. See video above.) Make sure you spread the meringue all the way to the edges so that it touches the crust. This helps prevent the meringue from weeping.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the meringue is browned on top. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour before placing in the refrigerator to chill. Chill for 4 hours before slicing and serving.
- Cover any leftovers and store in the refrigerator. Lemon meringue pie tastes best on day 1 because it doesn't keep very well. No matter how hard you try to prevent it, the meringue will wilt and separate over time. Best to enjoy right away.
Make ahead tip: The pie dough can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can also blind bake the crust ahead of time, see how to blind bake pie crust for details. Lemon meringue pie is not the best pie to freeze. The filling and meringue's texture are never quite the same.
*My homemade pie crust recipe makes 2 pie crusts. If you use my "dough strip" method explained in the blind baking tutorial, you will need 1 and 1/2 pie crusts. Or you can skip that little trick and just use 1 pie crust.
Prep all of your ingredients before you begin, including grating the lemon zest and separating the eggs. Don't multitask unless you're confident! The filling is time sensitive and you want to make sure everything is ready when you need to add it. Prep all of the meringue ingredients as well. You want them on hand, especially the sugar and salt, the very moment you need them. Don't walk away from the bowl of egg whites as they whip. Meringue can beat into stiff peaks quite quickly.
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