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How to Make Lemon Curd

| | byKat |3 Comments

Homemade lemon curd is incredibly quick and easy to make, and the results are delicious! This 100% reliable recipe gives a perfectly creamy, rich and silky-smooth lemon curd with the perfect balance between tangy, tart and sweet.

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Golden yellow lemon curd in a glass container with a ceramic spoon.

I love a good lemon dessert. Sure, I might be a devoted chocoholic at heart, but I’d be just as happy with a generous slice of a lemon drizzle cake or a moist lemon poppy seed muffin.

And what better way to add a burst of tangy, lemony goodness than a spoonful of vibrant, sunshine-yellow lemon curd?

If you’re also a lemon fan, then you’ll LOVE this rich, creamy, silky-smooth lemony spread. It comes together in no time on the stovetop and it honestly couldn’t be easier to prepare.

Plus, my slightly unusual method of preparing it guarantees a silky-smooth lemon curd and prevents splitting every single time. I’ve packed this blog post full of all the information you’ll need to make THE BEST homemade lemon curd.

So, let’s get going!

Golden yellow lemon curd in a glass container. A spoonful has just been spooned out.

What is lemon curd?

Lemon curd is a refreshing, tart, rich dessert topping or spread. It has an intense lemon flavour (thanks to both freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest) and it comes together in no time on the stove. If you think shop-bought lemon curd is delicious – just wait until you try the homemade version!

Unlike pastry cream (which is thickened with both egg yolks and cornstarch), lemon curd is thickened only with egg yolks, and they give it a silky-smooth, rich texture.

Ideally, lemon curd should be thick and sturdy enough to easily spread in between cake layers or onto scones, pancakes or waffles. It walks the line between tart and sweet, so that it can be both eaten on its own or as a part of a larger dessert. Basically, think of it as a creamy, rich, lemony equivalent of jam.

Golden yellow lemon curd in a glass container on a stack of small plates.

Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this wonderful lemon curd – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!

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Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.

The ingredients

You need only 5 ingredients to make homemade lemon curd:

  • Lemons (both the juice and the zest). While you could only use the (freshly squeezed!) lemon juice, adding the lemon zest adds a wonderful depth of flavour. If you want your lemon curd to be extra silky-smooth, you can always strain it at the end to remove the lemon zest, after it has imparted all of its flavour during cooking.
  • Sugar (either caster/superfine or granulated will work). The sugar plays two roles here: it balances out the tartness of the lemon juice and also helps prevent the egg yolks from curdling.
  • A pinch of salt. This helps bring out all the wonderful flavours of this lemony spread.
  • Egg yolks. They acts as the thickening agent (they ensure that the lemon curd will thicken during cooking and set into a spoonable consistency) and also give richness.
  • Unsalted butter. The butter makes the lemon curd extra rich and creamy. And after you’ve chilled the lemon curd in the fridge for a while, the butter will firm up and make sure that the curd sets properly.

I like to process my sugar with the lemon zest before starting. This is an optional step, but it encourages the lemon zest to release its essential oils and, at the same time, it increases the surface area of the lemon zest. This, in turn, ensures that the smaller lemon zest pieces impart even more of their delicious flavour to the lemon curd during cooking.

The ingredients required to make homemade lemon curd.

How to make THE BEST lemon curd

Making homemade lemon curd is incredibly easy – it takes about 10 minutes from start to finish and it only needs about 5 minutes on the stove.

My method of making lemon curd is slightly different from many other recipes. You see, most recipes ask you to combine all the ingredients except the butter in a saucepan (or, if you’re being cautious, in a bowl above a pan of simmering water; a bain-marie or a double boiler) and cook until thickened. I’m not a huge fan of this method, as it’s somewhat unreliable – it can easily lead to curdling or splitting, and cooking it above a pan of simmering water can take approximately forever.

Instead, I use a method typically reserved for making pastry cream. And let me tell you: it works like a treat. It gives perfectly silky-smooth lemon curd and prevents curdling/splitting every single time. And it’s super easy!!

Here’s how to make the best lemon curd:

  1. Place the egg yolks into a non-metal bowl and add the lemon sugar (that is, the sugar that you’ve processed together with the lemon zest).
  2. Add the salt.
  3. Then, mix it all together with a rubber spatula or a silicone whisk (don’t use a metal whisk – more on that below),
  4. until the mixture becomes pale and slightly fluffy or frothy.
  5. At the same time, cook the lemon juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it only just comes to a boil. Ideally, you want to use a saucepan coated in a non-metal coating, such as ceramic – more on that below. Then, slowly add the hot lemon juice to the egg yolk-sugar mixture, mixing constantly.
  6. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan,
  7. and cook it over low heat with constant stirring until thickened, so that it thickly coats the back of a spoon or spatula. This should take about 5 minutes. Don’t allow your lemon curd to come to a boil – you shouldn’t see any bubbles forming.
  8. Remove from heat and add the butter.
  9. Stir well until the butter has fully melted and is well incorporated.
  10. Finally, strain the lemon curd (ideally though a non-metal sieve – again, more on that below) to remove the lemon zest. And there you have it, you’ve just made the best homemade lemon curd!

The first 6 steps of the 10-step process of making homemade lemon curd.

The last 4 steps of the 10-step process of making homemade lemon curd.

It’s best to first cool the finished lemon curd to room temperature and then chill in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours before serving or using in a dessert.

How to ensure a silky-smooth lemon curd and prevent splitting

In this recipe, I’ve taken several steps to prevent the lemon curd from curdling or splitting:

  • Firstly, mixing the egg yolks with sugar – this is called ‘blanching’. The sugar protects the egg proteins, preventing lump formation during cooking.
  • Secondly, slowly adding the hot lemon juice to the egg yolk-sugar mixture – this is called ‘tempering’. This prevents the egg yolks from scrambling by gradually increasing their temperature and at the same time diluting them.

These are basically just the principles of making pastry cream (creme patissiere) applied to lemon curd – and it honestly works like a dream.

Lemon curd in a small glass bowl.

Why does my lemon curd taste metallic?

A metallic aftertaste is usually the consequence of the lemon curd coming into contact with a metal (especially while it’s hot). This could be a metal whisk, a metal bowl, a metal (or metal-coated) saucepan, or a metal sieve.

So, to avoid a metallic aftertaste, I recommend you use the following:

Of course, if you don’t have these on hand, you can use whichever utensils you have in your kitchen – just keep in mind that this can cause your lemon curd to have a slight metallic aftertaste.

Why did my lemon curd not set?

If you follow the recipe below to the letter, your lemon curd should definitely have set properly. Make sure that you:

  • Use the correct quantities of the ingredients listed in the recipe below. For example, don’t be tempted to reduce the number of egg yolks. If you use fewer egg yolks, your lemon curd will be much runnier.
  • Cook the lemon curd until thickened – see photos above. Once properly cooked, it should thickly coat the back of a spoon.
  • After you’ve mixed in the butter, allow the lemon curd to cool fully (and ideally also chill it). As it cools down, the butter will firm up and this will help properly set the lemon curd.

Golden yellow lemon curd in a glass container. A spoonful has just been spooned out.

Should I strain my lemon curd?

I actually do prefer to strain my lemon curd. Although this recipe 100% prevents any curdling, splitting or lump formation, I like to remove the pieces of lemon zest from the curd before enjoying it.

This is definitely a personal preference though, so if you want to leave the lemon zest in, you don’t need to strain it.

Ways to use lemon curd

There are pretty much endless uses for lemon curd! Here are a few of my favourites:

And there you have it, friends! This covers just about everything you need to know to make THE BEST homemade lemon curd.

I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

Enjoy!

Signature of the author, Kat.

Golden yellow lemon curd in a glass container on a stack of small plates.

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Easy & Perfectly Creamy Lemon Curd

Homemade lemon curd is incredibly quick and easy to make, and the results are delicious! This 100% reliable recipe gives a perfectly creamy, rich and silky-smooth lemon curd with the perfect balance between tangy, tart and sweet.
Print Rate
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook/Bake Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Servings 1 cup (~260g)

Ingredients

  • 100 g (½ cup) caster/superfine or granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 5 UK medium/US large egg yolks, room temperature
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 80 g (⅓ cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice (you'll need about 3-4 lemons)
  • 65 g (½ stick + ½ tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed

Instructions

  • First, prepare the lemon sugar: combine the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor or blender, and process them together until fine and well combined.
  • In a glass or ceramic bowl, use a rubber spatula or a silicone whisk to whip together the egg yolks, the lemon sugar and the salt. Mix or whip them well until pale and slightly fluffy or frothy.
    Tip: I don't recommend using a metal bowl or any metal utensils (such as a metal whisk) to mix the lemon curd, as contact with a metal can give it a metallic aftertaste.
  • In a non-metal saucepan (such as one with a ceramic coating), cook the lemon juice over medium-high heat until it only just comes to a boil.
    Tip: I don't recommend using a metal or a metal-coated saucepan, as it can also give your lemon curd a metallic aftertaste.
  • Add the hot lemon juice to the egg yolk-sugar mixture in a slow drizzle, mixing constantly until you've added all the juice.
  • Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat with constant stirring until thickened so that it thickly coats the back of a spoon. This should take about 5 minutes. Don't allow the lemon curd to come to a boil – you shouldn't see any bubbles forming.
  • Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in the butter until its fully melted.
  • Optional: if you want to remove the tiny pieces of lemon zest, you can pass the lemon curd though a fine mesh sieve.
    Tip: I don't recommend using a metal sieve, as contact with metal can give your lemon curd a slight metallic aftertaste. If possible, use a sieve with a plastic or silicone mesh.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature with occasional stirring to prevent a skin forming on top (alternatively, you can place a piece of cling film directly on top of the lemon curd to prevent skin formation). Then, transfer to an airtight container and chill in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours before serving or using in a dessert.
  • Storage: The homemade lemon curd keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to about 10 days.
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3 thoughts on “How to Make Lemon Curd”

    • Hi Sascha, unfortunately I haven’t tried freezing it so I really couldn’t say. Maybe try freezing a small amount to see how it behaves?

      Reply