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Lemon Curd · GF (about 2 cups)

While researching the history of various old timey recipes for my book, I kept coming across these 19th century American recipes for “lemon cheese.” The name sounds a little icky, but the recipe is straight up lemon curd, which I’d always thought of as some quintessentially British thing. American recipes for “lemon cheese” actually predate the first known use of the phrase “lemon curd” (1895) by at least two decades.

I’m not saying we invented it, only that after a hundred and forty odd years I think we should qualify for the culinary equivalent of a common law marriage.

old fashioned lemon curd

You can make lemon curd with a lot of different ingredients and ratios, but I like doing it the 19th century way, using nothing but lemon juice, egg yolks and sugar. With that many yolks, you don’t need cornstarch for thickening or butter for richness. The curd winds up intensely yellow, with a clean lemon flavor.

If you’d rather have a curd free from flecks of zest, whisk the zest into the yolks and sugar so you can strain it out at the end.

Lemon Curd, about 2 cups
8 ounces lemon juice
8 ounces egg yolk (from about 7-10 eggs)
8 ounces sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon zest

Bring the lemon juice to a simmer in a medium (non reactive) pot.

Meanwhile, whisk together the yolks, sugar, and salt. When the lemon juice begins to bubble, being whisking some into the yolk, about 2 ounces at a time. Once the yolks are lemony and warm, pour them into the pot and cook on medium low heat, stirring constantly with a heat resistant spatula, until the curd has a thick, pudding-like consistency (about 185°).

Strain into the bowl of a stand mixer, discarding any bits that remain. Add the lemon zest and, with the paddle attachment, stir on low until the curd has cooled to room temperature.

Pour into jars and refrigerate up to one week.

lemon custard

Reunite the yolks with their whites by pairing the curd with angel food cake, or serve in tart shells with fresh fruit. Alternately, go for a Total Eclipse of the Tart: sprinkle each tart with a Tablespoon of sugar, then brûlée.

You can also make a Cheater’s Lemon Mousse by folding 12 ounces of whipped cream into the chilled curd.


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Any questions?

Dec 14, 2011 · 12:20 AM

Hi, I had a question(s) about the recipe…how much should it make and how long will it last in the Refrigerator?

I can’t wait to make this! Its gonna be great on scones!

 · Olivia  · 

Dec 14, 2011 · 10:50 AM

@Olivia, oh! Just realized the recipe doesn’t give the yield! Sorry, dear! This recipe makes about 2 cups and it will keep in the fridge for about two weeks. You can blend the curd with equal parts cream to make an amazing ice cream with the leftovers! Of just make a half batch for a few scones. Enjoy!


May 04, 2012 ·  1:14 AM

Hello! I saw your comment about making the lemon curd into ice cream and I got really excited! Do you just blend the curd with equal amount of cream then freeze it? Or does it have to be churned?

 · Krysten · 

May 04, 2012 ·  9:50 AM

@Krysten, I’m at home right now, but I’ll go to work and check my notebook for the specific ration. I do think it’s 1:1, though….


May 08, 2012 ·  8:10 AM

Cool! Thanks so much for your time! I can’t wait to try it.

 · Krysten · 

May 09, 2012 · 10:05 AM

@Krysten, let me know how it works out!


May 30, 2012 ·  4:48 AM

Hello Stella! Lemon curd made into ice cream really is delicious! It gives a really different flavor and a nice tang to the creaminess. I mixed the curd into the custard before folding in the whipped cream to make parfait.
Thank you very much for the inspiration and advice!
I’ve posted a photo on Facebook to show you how it worked out.

 · Krysten · 

May 30, 2012 ·  3:26 PM

@Krysten, oh that’s awesome, thanks for sharing! I’m heading over to FB now to check it out!


May 30, 2012 ·  3:51 PM

Stella, have to tell you that I made the lemon curd and it was just lovely. So far, I’ve used it as a filling in a cupcake and even better – stirred it into some plain Balkan yogourt. Was delish!! Thank you

 · Valeriee ·

May 31, 2012 · 10:16 AM

@Valeriee, oooh, that sounds fabulous. Throw some granola on there and call it breakfast!


Jun 22, 2012 · 11:46 PM

Hi! Do you do the first three measurements by weight on a scale or in measuring cups? Can I try using less sugar, and do you think using organic cane sugar makes any difference since its not bright white? Thanks!

 · Molly  · 

Jun 22, 2012 · 11:52 PM

Hi Molly! All of the measurements are by weight. I haven’t experimented with low-sugar variations, but you’d probably be okay to reduce it slightly. You need a decent amount of sugar to insulate the yolks during cooking, but a subtle decrease is probably fine. Organic cane sugar may add a subtle molasses flavor because it’s not as highly refined, but otherwise it should work out. Hope that info helps!


Aug 08, 2012 ·  5:58 PM

Can you use the same amount of any citrus juice in this recipe?

 · kate · 

Aug 09, 2012 ·  1:41 PM

Hi Kate! Absolutely, though you may want to adjust the salt a little as some citrus have a sharper acidity and seem to need less. Just be sure the juice has no sugar added (if you’re not squeezing your own). Happy baking!


Dec 08, 2012 ·  9:23 PM

I made a batch tonight and the consistency was nice and creamy but it had a metallic aftertaste. I thought it was just me being overly taste sensitive but I asked my husband and he agreed. I heated the lemon juice in a nonstick anodized pot and continued to use this pot to thicken the mixture. Then I transferred the mixture into a stainless steel bowl (I tasted the curd before transferring to the bowl and it already had a metallic aftertaste).

So did the lemon juice react with the metal pot? What kind of pot do you use?

If I try making another batch again, should I use the double boiler method and use a glass bowl instead?

I’m hoping that once the lemon curd tartlets are assembled with whipped cream on top, the metallic aftertaste won’t be noticeable.

 · luckylove · 

Dec 09, 2012 ·  6:35 PM

Hi luckylove! My first thought is that there might be some scratches in your pot, which would let the juice react to the pot. But while googling I saw that a pot can, somehow or another, become un-anodized. So there could be some kinda serious weirdness at work. The last thing that I can think of is if you used store bought lemon juice rather than fresh squeezed, it can sometimes have a harsh flavor too.

I always use stainless steel; if you have stainless, go for your double boiler method for the next batch. You might also try a small pinch of baking soda which can neutralize some of that metallic acidity.


Dec 18, 2012 ·  2:35 AM

Hi Stella! This recipe sounds great, but as I was looking around, I noticed that butter is usually incorporated as well. What does butter do in lemon curds? Also, do you think this recipe would work well with macarons?
Much thanks!

 · rc13 · 

Dec 18, 2012 · 10:56 PM

Hi rc13! Butter first and foremost tames the flavor of the lemon. Some people say it makes it more mellow, but I feel like it really just dulls the flavor, which is why I leave it out. Butterless, it has a much brighter flavor. You can absolutely add a little bit in, a tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the taste you like. Since butter is quite solid when it’s cold, it also helps to thicken the curd a bit once it’s refrigerated.

I wouldn’t use it in macarons, though, unless you plan to fill them and eat them right away. Thanks to all that lemon juice it has a high moisture content which will dissolve the macaron shells if they’re left inside for very long.


Mar 07, 2013 ·  2:41 PM

Hi Stella! What should I do if I want strawberry flavor? Also, have you eaten and/or made Japanese cotton cheesecake? If so, can you do a show and tell!? This is what happens when I’m going through your blog: inspiration and of course lots of questions in my mind! Thank you, thank you…

 · Marilyn · 

Mar 07, 2013 ·  5:54 PM

Hi Marilyn! Oh, I will definitely have to tackle cotton cheesecake for a blog post, thanks so much for asking! I’ve never tried making strawberry curd, but I presume you could juice some strawberries and proceed more or less the same way. I’ll give it a shot this spring, but if you get to it first, let me know how it goes.


May 31, 2013 ·  9:28 AM

stella, you are a sweets magician! this looks soooo good!! i’ve never seen such lemony colored lemon curd. i love it! thank you for posting! i love how you suggest different ways to use it up (mousse, tarts, and ice cream), because I live by myself and wouldn’t be able to finish 2 cups straight up on my own. thank you!

 · megan ·

May 31, 2013 · 10:27 AM

I LOVE lemon curd and never get tired of it. I’ve been using up my macaron egg yolks with Rose Levy Beranbaum’s lemon curd recipe. Now I must try yours! BTW – I freeze what I’m not going to use – it holds very well for months in the freezer.

 · Bonnie ·

May 31, 2013 ·  1:50 PM

Great to know that Americans have some culinary inventiveness too. This looks delicious and refreshing!

 · Tiffany ·

May 31, 2013 ·  7:40 PM

I’ve made several lemon curds, but none look as marvelous as this one! I can’t wait to try the next time I need a little lemon curd!

 · Tracy {Pale Yellow} ·

Jun 01, 2013 · 12:00 PM

@megan, I hope you enjoy it! You can easily cut the recipe in half so you don’t wind up with so much.

@Bonnie, thanks for the tip on freezing. I’ve never had an occasion to freeze mine, so I’m glad to hear it turns out okay!!

@Tiffany, haha, we’ve come up with a thing or two.

@Tracy, even if this recipe isn’t “pale yellow”?


Jun 02, 2013 · 11:21 AM

So… as you’re doing research, I’m assuming you know about the Google Books time-limited search thing? It turns up the first instance of “Lemon Curd” (albeit for a totally different creature, which sounds a bit like egg white and lemon ricotta, so I don’t think it should count for these purposes) in 1844, in “The Lady’s Own Cookery Book” by Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury. Anyway, it’s often useful for hunting down early references to things and for hunting down exactly what was referred to by [insert mystery term in recipe]. If you go to Google Books and enter your search term, after you search a list of narrowing-down options appears in a horizontal bar below the search bar and you can make it look only earlier than your earliest reference, etc., although you still have to check that they dated the book correctly. Hope this is useful! (although you’re probably already using it!)

 · KC · 

Jun 02, 2013 · 12:23 PM

HI KC! Yes, I love Google books, but thanks for sharing— it may be useful for people who aren’t familiar. The biggest danger with a book search is that often (though not always) the publishing date can be misrepresented.

For example, a book may have been published in 1972 by “The Whatever Ladies Society of Some City, founded 1814” so Google will list the book as published in 1814. So for first timers, it’s extremely important in these searches to manually scroll through the first several pages of the book to establish an authentic date of publication before drawing any conclusions. Although our homegirl Lady Charlotte is absolutely above reproach.


Jun 02, 2013 · 10:14 PM

When will your book be coming out? Or did it come out already and I’ve been out of the Brave Tart loop?! Either way, I can’t wait to get a copy

 · siobhan ·

Jun 03, 2013 ·  4:20 AM

Hi Stella,
The lemon curd looks amazing. I am looking forward to your book release. Do you have a date yet?

 · Karen ·

Jun 03, 2013 ·  9:49 AM

@siobhan, you’re not out of the loop at all— I’m still writing it.

@Karen, it’s slated for fall 2014, approximately one million years from now it seems like.


Jun 03, 2013 ·  4:21 PM

Fall 2014 is waaay too far away. Hmph, is all I can say to that. (but thank you for writing – and we’ll wait, just perhaps not patiently!)

And will there be footnotes/endnotes citing the sources on this stuff so we can go look things up if additionally curious and/or want to disprove Uncle Hugh’s theory about cupcake origins? ‘Cause that would be just plain awesome.(disclaimer: I do not actually have an Uncle Hugh, with or without opinions on cupcakes. But I have been at parties where there was “but [insert contested baked good] definitely started in [speaker’s home town]!” “no, it started in [this speaker’s home town]!”, and it would be fun to be able to pull a book off the shelf, get down to whatever proofs there are in the case, hand off health and safety records that mention moon pies, etc. to the combatants and see what they can muster as evidence, rather than going solely by local oral tradition)

 · KC · 

Jun 04, 2013 ·  9:16 AM

Hi Stella,
My standard dessert when entertaining is yoghurt mixed with lemon curd (I use the very accurate and scientific method ‘until it tastes nice’ , crumbled pieces of meringue and chopped dark chocolate. I’ll definitely try your recipe – never dared to make lemon curd myself before. Cheers!

 · Hulagirl · 

Jun 04, 2013 ·  6:16 PM

OMG this is the best lemon curd/cheese i have ever made/had. my eggs too were super yellow from my favourite egg farmer at the market. thank you for shring this recipe. it is absolutely delicious and absolutely worth making. won’t last long here.

 · Hilda · 

Jun 05, 2013 ·  9:14 AM

Hi KC! Thanks for waiting (not so patiently) with me. I definitely plan on including a “resources” section so you can go digging through history with me, if you like. I’m really committed to only basing my claims on original/primary sources, rather than repeating things said in food dictionaries/histories/etc. It will definitely run contrary to whatever Uncle Hugh’s been told!

@Hulagirl, I love the idea of crumbled meringue with lemon curd and yogurt, that sounds incredible! I hope you get a chance to make some lemon curd sometime, cos I think that’s the only way a dessert so good could get even better.

@Hilda, hurray!!! I’m so glad to hear that you made some, especially with great eggs. The color is unreal! Thanks for reporting back, I’m sure others will be glad to read a review from someone else.


Jun 06, 2013 ·  8:40 AM

Both my husband and I can taste an icky flavor in lemon curd no matter who or how it was made – even store bought. I have never tried any lemon curd that didn’t have the icky flavor. I have concluded that some people can taste it and some can’t.

 · Sarah ·

Jun 06, 2013 ·  9:08 AM

Hi Sarah! There is a lot going on in both commercial curds and homemade versions that you may find to be icky. I rarely enjoy lemon curd unless— I find most have a metallic flavor, or a soapiness from excess butterfat.

Some people (and most commercial versions) use pre-squeezed lemon juice, which is often pasteurized, which gives it a disappointing flavor and metallic aftertaste. And even if fresh juice is used, it has to be made and cooked with non-reactive materials- which some people don’t realize. There’s also a possibility you don’t like the butter flavor in most curds, it’s culinary nails on a chalkboard to me. Or you may not like the lingering taste of cornstarch, something most recipes use too.

All that said, you may still totally hate my version (it may ultimately be the flavor of cooked lemon that disagrees with you), but there’s also enough different happening here that it might be worth a shot. At least you could find out if it’s a cooked lemon flavor you don’t like, or something else.


Jun 07, 2013 ·  2:16 PM

I will try yours and let you know! I’ve never tried a homemade version that didn’t use cornstarch and butter. I’ve used Rose Levy’s, Cook’s Illustrated’s, “” and cooking light. I can’t taste the flavor when it’s still hot – it’s not until it cools, and then I can even smell it.

 · Sarah ·

Jun 07, 2013 ·  7:36 PM

Hey Sarah, oh man, I’m curious to find out if it’s the cooked-lemon itself or those add ins that are throwing you off. The aroma-thing makes me think it’s either the volatile oil in the lemons, or a reaction between the lemon and the pan (which makes a funky smell), so make sure to grab a stainless steel pot!


Jun 14, 2013 ·  6:03 PM

It’s cooling in my kitchonaid now… I was sure to use my plastic whisk in a glass bowl to whisk the yolks and sugar, and I used my all-clad saucepan and a silicone spatula to stir… let you know in a few hours if it got the tase!

 · Sarah ·

Jun 14, 2013 ·  6:29 PM

On a side note, since lemon curd tastes and smells fine to me while it’s still warm, my favorite application is to add rosemary to the juice while it heats and serve it as a lemon rosemary sauce with roast chicken.

 · Sarah ·

Jun 14, 2013 ·  6:31 PM

WHEEEE I just found your site and I am so excited that I did! (amidst this huge ‘interwebz’ LoL) …with raspberries coming up (soon…I live in Canada, haha) this will be awesome with fresh raspberries and some whipped cream drool Thanks for the awesome site, I can’t wait to look through the other posts

 · Heather · 

Jun 14, 2013 ·  7:44 PM

It’s all chilled – no weird smell, no nasty taste! It is absolutely delicious! You are a genius!

 · Sarah ·

Jun 14, 2013 ·  8:50 PM

i have figured out what causes the bad smell and taste – the presence of egg whites with lemon. I realized this when I got the same flavor and smell when I made royal icing with some lemon juice in it. I went back and looked at the recipes I’d tried in the past, and they use whole eggs.

 · Sarah ·

Jun 18, 2013 ·  9:14 AM

Sarah, I have loved your play by play comments on the lemon curd. I was seriously waiting with baited breath to hear the final verdict. I am practically bouncing up and down that not only have you figured out the part of lemon curd you don’t like (the egg whites! who knew?!), but that my recipe suits your tastes too. I’m so happy you decided to give it a shot, despite your bad experiences with lemon curd in the past. xo!

Hi Heather, thanks for stopping by! I’ve got this curd on the menu right now (as a mousse, lightened with whipped cream), but with blueberries. Raspberries would be so pretty, if we had them right now! Hope you make a batch sometime.


Jun 21, 2013 ·  5:54 PM

I made the curd into lemon blueberry cupcakes, which I posted on your facebook page. I also just finished a cake where I swapped out the lemon for lime, for a friend’s son’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cake!

 · Sarah ·

Jun 23, 2013 · 10:12 PM

This is a terrific post! Thank you for sharing. Have you ever tried to do this with fresh squeezed oranges or key limes?

I bet a key lime version would make a stellar filling for my no-fail macarons!

 · Christopher W ·

Jun 26, 2013 · 12:16 AM

@Sarah, a TMNT birthday cake? Radical, dude.

@Christopher, It tastes a little odd with orange juice (the oranges just don’t have enough pucker), but limes make a fabulous version! I’m not wild about curd as a macaron filling, unless they’re made ala minute, since the curd has a high enough moisture content that it will begin to dissolve the shells if stored together.


Jul 01, 2013 ·  8:07 PM

Hi Stella,

I love this recipe…yummy tangy!! other than the moouse what can I use the curd with? I made a batch of lemon/orange and you’re absolutely right (surprise!) not a good filling for mac’s…too runny and squishes out the sides. Plus, I’m still working out the hollow mac situation…3 batches in and still flat and hollow. Try number 4, coming up!!

 · kreative1 · 

Jul 02, 2013 ·  7:32 AM

Aw, hey kreative1. Yeah, lemon curd and macarons aren’t the best of friends. Over time, it will also totally dissolve them, the moisture/acidity levels are so high. You can add an equal weight of cream and then churn it up like ice cream, or use it as a filling for tarts or cake. I like it served as a “sauce” with Angel Food Cake and fresh fruit too.


Jul 06, 2013 ·  9:53 PM

A little off topic ….do you have a good Italian cream cake recipe? How is the cookbook coming along?…Just made your carrot cake and it was beautiful with great taste….thanks again for sharing your recipes…

 · PJ · 

Jul 07, 2013 ·  1:30 PM

Hi PJ! You know, I don’t have a recipe that I’m in love with, but (speaking of the book and thanks for asking!), it’s one I hope to include. I’ve got about two months left to go, it’s really starting to feel like crunch time.


Aug 02, 2013 ·  9:39 AM

Love this idea! I’ve never thought of making curd without at least butter (definitely could skip corn starch). It sounds so fresh! Definitely need to try this as I love to make curd.

 · Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) ·

Aug 03, 2013 · 12:01 PM

Hey Laura! If you give it a shot you’ll have to let me know what you think. It definitely has a very bright, clean flavor. I think you’ll like it!


Aug 03, 2013 ·  7:50 PM

Whooo, that is tart! I used freshly squeezed juice but still wound up with a slightly metallic aftertaste, so I guess it was my pan. I plan to use it for a filling in a cake, so I am thinking of mellowing it out with the cheater’s mousse suggestion. Thanks for the recipe!

 · asha · 

Aug 07, 2013 ·  1:11 PM

Hey Asha! Thanks for your comment, I updated the recipe to include a bit about using a non-reactive pot; the acidity of the lemon will definitely disagree with aluminum and some other types of metal. The type of metal used in the mesh strainer can make a difference too. Hope the “mellowed” version suits you!


Aug 08, 2013 ·  6:49 PM

Hi, Stella. Thanks for responding on facebook about the ice cream ratio. Here is the picture I took of my lime curd ice cream. The only difference was I couldn’t use the zest because the limes aren’t even close to organic.

 · Danna · 

Aug 09, 2013 · 10:44 AM

Hi Danna! Thanks so much for sharing the link, it looks like it turned out fabulous even without the ice cream machine. I’m afraid I don’t have any good ideas for using up egg whites without some mega whipping action, though. Good luck!


Oct 27, 2013 · 11:26 PM

Hi Stella…My lemon tree is full of lemons and I am wondering if you have ever tried freezing lemon curd? Plan to mix some up with cream and make popsicles….last year I froze lemon juice in ice trays….Lots of BIG lemons to deal with…glad your book is nearly finished…did you find an Italian Cream Cake Recipe to share???

 · pj · 

Oct 28, 2013 · 10:45 PM

Hi pj! Wow, I’m so jealous of your lemon tree. It sounds pretty magical to me, but I’m a Kentucky girl and have never even seen a lemon tree in person. Freezing lemon curd depends on the recipe. You won’t have any trouble freezing mine, I don’t think, because it doesn’t have any cornstarch or thickening agents which might break down with freezing.

I’ve finished writing the book, but am not sure when it will officially be done, we still have to do editing and photography, which is mysterious to me. But there will be an Italian cream cake recipe!


Oct 29, 2013 · 11:21 AM

SWEET!!!!…I am soooo excited….My sister lives in Louisville and the last two times I have been there we have talked of heading your way for dinner…maybe next time I will actually make it…and you can sign my Cookbook…

 · pj · 

Oct 29, 2013 · 11:49 AM

Oh wow, what a great coincidence! Well, dash me an email if you ever decide to make the trek. I’m not at 310 anymore, but I’ll certainly be baking something somewhere! Haha.


Oct 29, 2013 ·  1:30 PM

Hi stella, just wanted to say i made your lemon curd a little while ago and it is the most amazing curd i have ever tasted. Never really liked curd before as i always felt it left an awful after taste but yours is so tart and creamy its lovely. Thanks for a fantastic recipe love courtney x x x

 · Courtney · 

Oct 30, 2013 · 12:26 PM

Have you ever tried making the lemon curd in a Vita Mix? I just did a recipe with butter and it worked very nicely with no scorched pans to wash…I am going to try your recipe and see how it comes out…I am banking on temperature….I just let the Vita Mix run till it gets things hot enough…

 · pj · 

Oct 30, 2013 ·  1:15 PM

I just made the lemon curd in the Vita Mix and it worked GREAT…I made sure the temperature got to 185 and as it cools it is getting thicker….The color is a little lighter than the photo you have and it could be the air incorporated but it has the same great taste and no scorched pan…Now I am trying to figure out which has less calories…a stick of butter in the old recipe or 14 egg yolks…One thing about this recipe…it does not leave the butter coating as an after taste…Which I think I really like…

 · pj · 

Oct 30, 2013 ·  5:08 PM

Hi Courtney! I just saw your other comment, so I’m at least glad the curd turned out nicely for you. Especially knowing you’re in the UK, which seems to have a reputation for lots and lots of curd. Thanks for the kind words!


Oct 30, 2013 ·  5:10 PM

Hi PJ! I’ve never used a Vita Mix, but I’m so glad you had success, and thank you so much for leaving notes on how you accomplished it! I’m sure for those with a Vita Mix that will be very helpful info. Lemon curd is pretty darn rich, but really, you don’t ever eat much of it at once. Just a smear here or there, right?


Nov 03, 2013 ·  4:30 AM

This is a delicious recipe. Regarding the strawberry curd. I haven’t tried it but I did have success using rhubarb.

 · diaint · 

Nov 05, 2013 · 10:10 AM

Hi diaint! I’m so glad you liked the curd, and thanks so much for leaving some info on the rhubarb version, that is great to know!! It also sounds suuuper tasty.



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