How to Make Lemon Curd

Let’s talk about lemon curd. Do you know what it is? Have you ever made it? Thought about it but never got around to it?

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s time to strike up a friendship, if you’re not a member of The Lemon Curd Fan Club.

Courtesy Ken Haedrich, dean of The Pie Academy

Lemon curd is a nifty item to have in your pie maker’s tool kit, but it’s got a lot more tricks up its sleeve than pie filling. It tastes wonderful smoothed between cake layers. Fold it into whipped cream and top fresh berries with it. And smear it on everything from scones and crumpets – like the Brits do – to English muffins, waffles, pancakes, crackers and more. It’s an all-purpose spread you’ll find dozens of uses for in your kitchen. 

Forget about store-bought lemon curd. It’s not bad; it’s just not the stuff great love affairs are made of, at least not the way homemade lemon curd is. 

Lemon curd is made with fresh eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and butter. There is no cream or milk to soften the flavor, so it packs more of a lemony punch than lemon custard or cream pie filling. It has a consistency something like soft, thick jelly.

by Ken Haedrich, dean of The Pie Academy

Because there is no cornstarch to facilitate the curd’s thickening, I used to cook my lemon curd in a double boiler as a hedge against the eggs scrambling while the curd cooked. I’ve since abandoned that method and now cook it right in a heavy bottomed saucepan. It saves a little time, and so long as you don’t turn up the heat too high and try to rush the process, the eggs won’t curdle. 

Using the method here, I find that there’s really no reason to strain the curd either to remove any little clods of cooked egg. It comes out smooth every time. 

For my money, the best way for pie makers to use lemon curd is in mini pies. I form graham cracker shells, add the curd, and top with mascarpone whipped cream the way you see here.  

by Ken Haedrich, dean of The Pie Academy

Alternatively, you can fold together one part whipped cream or mascarpone whipped cream and one part lemon curd and spoon that into little pie shells, then top with fresh berries.

I also like putting down a layer of lemon curd directly on my pie shell when I make lemon cream pie, then spooning my lemon pastry cream over that. Or you can reverse the layering if you like, putting the lemon pastry cream down first. (If you’re into cream pies, do check out my video course about themGreat American Cream Pies.)

(Any of these ideas can be adapted to full size pies, by the way.) 

But no matter how you layer or spread it, I hope you give lemon curd a try. 

Homemade Lemon Curd

Yield 1 3/4 cups

Make this once, and you'll never be without a jar on hand because you'll want to make it again and again. This has all sorts of uses as a pie filling, and it can be spread on scones, biscuits, waffles, pancakes, toast and more.


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (scant) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Finely grated zest of 1 or 2 lemons


  1. Put the soft butter in a medium bowl. Using a hand held electric mixer, gradually add the sugar, beating for 1 minute on medium speed. Beat in the eggs and yolks, one at a time. Continue to beat, adding the lemon juice in a stream. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan; add the lemon zest. Heat the mixture on medium-low heat, stirring, until it starts to smooth out and no longer looks curdled. Increase the heat to medium and continue to heat, stirring nonstop, until the mixture thickens enough to heavily coat the back of a spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes. It will reach 170° on a candy thermometer. Do not boil. 
  3. Remove from the heat and immediately scrape the curd into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Cool for about an hour at room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours. Spoon the curd into 1 or 2 small jars and seal tightly. Refrigerate for up to 1 month or freeze for up to a year. If you're going to freeze the curd, leave 1 inch of headroom in the jars when you pack them. 


Variations: Experiment with other citrus juices, alone or in combination - including grapefruit, navel oranges, blood oranges, and/or limes - to make a variety of other fruit curds.