Nothing against lemonade, but when we have a few lemons to spare, we're definitely making lemon curd.

By Hannah Klinger
December 14, 2020
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This sharp, sweet, sunshine-yellow spread is so versatile (you'll see it in tarts, cookies, cakes, and more) yet so simple to make at home. Learn how to make perfect lemon curd every time, how to store it, and our favorite ways to use it.

Ingredients

  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Butter

Directions

1. Whisk together eggs, sugar, and lemon juice.

Credit: Meredith

You won't need your stove just yet. Whisk the eggs, sugar, and juice together in a non-reactive bowl or nonstick saucepan off the heat. The lemon juice will break down the egg proteins so they're less likely to scramble, and dissolve the sugar so the curd cooks evenly. Most lemon curd recipes use whole eggs or whole eggs and extra yolks as the whites help to stabilize the curd and add volume. Be sure to use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor. Note: Some recipes use lemon zest either during the cooking or stirred in after cooking.

Q: Is lemon juice the only citrus I can use to make curd?

A: The acidity in the lemon juice emulsifies the curd and balances the sugar. Instead of lemon, you can use another tart citrus like Fresh Lime Curd or Grapefruit Curd. You can also combine lemon juice with other fruits to make a Raspberry Curd or Peach Curd

Microwave Lemon Curd
| Credit: Luchi777

2. Add butter.

Butter gives lemon curd its glossy shine and luscious texture. You want to emulsify it with the lemon mixture, or combine so it doesn't separate. Traditionally, cold butter is whisked in after the juice mixture is on the heat. These days, you'll find recipes that add the butter before cooking and others that fold the butter in afterward. Use any method you like, just remember to start with cold butter and whisk it in little by little.  

3. Cook your lemon curd.

The key to a silky lemon curd (read: no egg scramble) is to cook gently and whisk constantly. The classic way to cook lemon curd is in a bowl over simmering water. The faster — though slightly more dare-devil — approach is to cook it right in the saucepan. For this riskier method, you keep your heat at medium or lower and whisk constantly, shifting the saucepan off the burner if it starts to bubble vigorously. If you're nervous about overcooking, use the safer bowl-over-water method.

Q: How long to cook lemon curd?

A: Lemon curd is done when it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. To test, dip a clean spoon into the lemon curd. Pull it out and run your finger down the back of the spoon. If it leaves a clean line, your curd is done. Note that curd will continue to thicken as it cools.

Want to skip the stove altogether? Our reviewers swear by this Microwave Lemon Curd recipe.

4. Strain, cool, and store your lemon curd.

Once your lemon curd has thickened, pass it through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl using a rubber spatula. This strains out any tiny bits of egg and any larger bits of lemon zest, if you used it in your recipe. Let it cool completely in the bowl or in open jars in the fridge before sealing. Lemon curd will keep in sealed jars in your fridge for about a month or in your freezer for up to a year. 

How to Use Lemon Curd

Credit: Blaine Moates

Fill a tart, swirl into whipped cream, spread on toast or cookies, dollop over cheesecake, spoon over a pavlova…the possibilities for using lemon curd are endless and delicious. Check out our favorites with 19 Ways to Make and Use Lemon Curd