Lemon curd is super easy and quick to make at home with only 4 ingredients that you probably already have on hand! Lemons, butter, eggs, and sugar. Simple and refreshing, it's far superior to the store-bought variety.
My kitchen has seen a lot of lemons this week in my quest for the perfect Lemon Curd. With so many different, yet similar, recipes for Lemon Curd, my mission was to find out which one was really the best. While the ingredients are basically the same, recipes differ as to proportions, method, and which part of the ingredient to use (whole eggs or only yolks). As it turns out, Lemon Curd is very versatile. Tart or sweet, intense or mild, dense or light: the proportion of ingredients can be changed to suit your own taste. There's really no wrong way to make it!
English in origin, Lemon Curd dates back to the 1800's. Smooth and creamy, tart yet sweet, it's a cross between a preserve and a custard. It's used as a dessert spread or topping in cakes, tarts, and pastries. It can be used almost anywhere a jam can be used: spread on a piece of toast or over a scone. Lemon Curd can be used in ice creams and dessert parfaits, stuffed in french toast, or mixed with whipped cream as a filling for cream puffs. One of my favorite ways to use Lemon Curd is in my Luscious Lemon Mascarpone Cream.
To zest or not to zest? Including the zest really adds depth and dimension to the lemony flavor without increasing the tartness. Pulsing the zest in a food processor with the sugar releases the maximum flavor and oils from the skin. The curd will still come out velvety smooth if you strain it after cooking. Or if you prefer, the zest can be omitted for a softer lemon flavor.
Whole eggs or egg yolks? Some recipes call for only egg yolks, while others call for whole eggs or a combination of both. Using whole eggs makes a lighter, fresher curd. Using only yolks makes a denser, eggier curd. A combination of whole eggs plus yolks can also be used. Instead of 3 whole eggs, you can use 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks or 1 whole egg plus 4 egg yolks. More egg yolks used will result in a yellower curd. It's just a matter of personal preference. In this recipe, I've opted for the best of both worlds with 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks.
Intensity of Lemon? This recipe uses ⅓ cup of lemon juice for the equivalent of 3 eggs giving a bright and sunny lemon flavor without being overpowering. If you prefer a more tart, intense flavor, you can increase the lemon juice to ½ cup.
What proportion of butter? Once again, the amount of butter used in curd is a personal preference. Butter makes the curd creamier and adds a rich, buttery flavor. This recipe uses 3 tablespoons but you can add up to 6 tablespoons to suit your own taste. The cold butter is whisked in at the very end so you can taste the curd and add the amount of butter you prefer.
Double boiler or saucepan? The curd can be cooked directly in a saucepan, however to be on the safe side and prevent curdling, I prefer to heat it in a double boiler on top of a pan of simmering water.
Cream and vanilla or pure lemon? A few recipes include cream and vanilla to smooth out the acidity. While this did increase the complexity of the flavor, I prefer the bright, fresh flavor of pure lemon.
This velvety smooth and creamy curd is delightfully bright and refreshing! It's easy to make and full of sunny citrus!
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cold butter
- Whisk the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a nonreactive bowl.
- Set bowl over a pan of simmering water without allowing the bowl to touch the water.
- Whisk constantly until thickened and the temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
- Remove the bowl from the simmering water and whisk in butter.
- Strain the curd into a nonreactive bowl.
- Press plastic wrap over the surface of the curd and refrigerate until chilled.
The bowl you use should be nonreactive such as stainless steel or glass to prevent the curd from taking on a metallic taste.
The water should be simmering, not boiling. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.
Heat the curd until it reaches 160 degrees F. It should coat the back of a spoon. When you run the spoon along the bottom of the bowl, it should leave a path.
The curd can be kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Set in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.
Curd can be made with lime, orange, and pink grapefruit juices or even fruits like raspberry, mango, and passionfruit.
Thank you for providing all the extra information, this is by far the best recipe I came across for this. It answered most of the questions I had.
Thank you, Coco! That's great to hear! So glad I could be helpful!
This recipe looks great and I appreciate all the tips you've included. I do have one question, though, and it is: how do you strain the curd? Through a regular tea strainer?
Hi Sandy! I use a medium size strainer, the kind I rinse rice in, about 7 or so inches in diameter. That way I can push it through with the help of a rubber spatula. Thanks so much for your comment!
This recipe was very insightful into how to personalize a lemon curd. I am going to use your tips and knowledge to adjust my Joy of Cooking recipe that's just never been quite right.
So happy you found it useful, Kevin! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!
What a find! While I was in culinary school, I apprenticed at a little French bistro and was put in charge of making “simple” desserts. White and dark chocolate mousses, Tarte Tatin, and lemon curd in tartlet shells topped with fresh raspberries... those were the staples. I remember thinking ‘I’ll not need to write these recipes down for my own use; I’ve been making them SO often, there’s no way I’ll forget them...’
Welp. I’m an old lady now, and am sure you can all guess what happened. My DIL LOVES lemon curd; I’ve made it before of course, but her first Mother’s Day is coming up and I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe. I honestly didn’t trust any of the ones I found online because they all call for whole eggs and I am positive that the forgotten recipe used yolks only. AND none of them called for making and using lemon sugar with the zest and some caster sugar. IOW, I knew they were inferior to the one I was trying to replicate.
Thank you so much for providing what I can already tell is my perfect lemon curd recipe! With my background, I follow very few food blogs/bloggers, but I am adding you today!
Cindy, you just made my day. Feedback like this makes all the time and effort that goes into recipe testing worth it, and I really appreciate you taking the time to connect with me. I hope you and your daughter-in-law have a wonderful Mother's Day!
A minor faux pas with this recipe. There is no mention of SALTED orUNSALTED chilled butter for the recipe. Since the majority of desserts and baked goods call for UNSALTED, that is how i am going to roll with it when I make this. Until I hear otherwise, unsalted is the way.
Yes, Gregory, I used unsalted butter in this recipe.
Am I missing the instruction for WHEN to add the zest if choosing to use it?
Hi Ellen, Add the zest in with the lemon juice and eggs.
Hi, I want to try making this and you mention adding zest but I’m unsure how much of it to use?
Hi Eryn, I'd use the zest from two lemons, but you can adjust that to your taste.