Homemade Lemon Curd

Homemade lemon curd is one of the easiest desserts out there!  5 ingredients and 15 minutes are all you need for a sweet-tart, smooth and creamy curd bursting with lemon flavor.  Use it to top all sorts of desserts, from cakes and muffins to pies and ice cream.

a glass mason jar filled with homemade lemon curd surrounded by sliced lemons

If you’ve been reading Bunsen Burner Bakery for any length of time, you know how much I love lemon desserts.  They’re my favorite! 

Which is why it’s kind of surprising that it’s taken me 8 years of food blogging to share my favorite recipe for a lemon classic: lemon curd!

Homemade lemon curd is so easy, and so good.  This time around we happened to have a batch of high-end store bought lemon curd on hand so I did a side-by-side taste test. 

Both my 4 year old and I thought this homemade version was way better!  More lemony flavor and a smoother, slightly thicker consistency.

overhead view of a jar of lemon curd with a spoonful of the curd on a decorative blue dishtowel

What is Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is a smooth, custard-like spread made from citrus juice and zest, eggs, and sugar.  In this version, we’re also going to add butter, which makes the consistency even smoother and creamier. 

Think pie filling — but made with way more juice and zest, for an even fruitier, sweet-tart flavor. 

It’s a little like a cross between a custard and a jam, except that custard uses cornstarch for thickening and jam uses the whole fruit while curd uses the juice.

straining freshly made lemon curd in a mesh sieve to remove any clumps

How to Make Homemade Lemon Curd

 One of the best parts of lemon curd?  It’s so easy to make!  Some people make theirs in a double boiler, but I think it comes out just as well cooked right on the stovetop.  Even easier and fewer dishes?  Win-win!

Whisk together the eggs and sugar, then add in some lemon juice, lemon zest, and a tiny pinch of salt.  Cook over low heat.  Whisk continuously until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.   

This part is important, so I’m going to stress it again: whisk together the eggs and sugar, and THEN add in the lemon juice.  Why can’t we just heat them all together? 

It’s time for my favorite subject to help you become a better cook and baker: kitchen chemistry!

Kitchen Chemistry

Lemon juice is acidic. As soon as it comes in contact with the eggs, it begins to break down — or denature — strands of proteins within the egg yolk, which can cause the eggs to clump together (think scrambled eggs).  When we whisk together the eggs and sugar first, however, the sugar coats the egg proteins and protects them from the lemon juice, preventing the eggs from curdling in low pH.

This part is optional, but I always prefer to strain my lemon curd through a fine mesh sieve.  This will remove the bits of lemon zest for a super smooth texture (or any accidentally overcooked egg bits).

The hardest part of making curd is standing around whisking for 10 minutes.  I highly recommend outsourcing if possible!  (Alternatively titled: making homemade lemon curd is so easy, my 4 year old can do it on his own!)

a 4 year old boy standing at the stove whisking a pot full of lemon curd

How to Store Lemon Curd

Lemon curd should be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed jar, like a glass mason jar.  Kept cold, it will last up to a month.

Lemon curd can also be canned for up to 3 months.  Unfortunately, home canning lemon curd doesn’t preserve it for months and months, the way store bought (i.e., preservative-filled) curd lasts.

Looking for a longer shelf life?  Lemon curd can be frozen!  Fill a jar with lemon curd and freeze for up to a year.  When ready to use, thaw in the fridge overnight and use the thawed curd within 3-4 weeks.

How to Use Lemon Curd

A much better, shorter list would probably be how not to use lemon curd, since I put it on just about anything! 

Waffles, pancakes, muffins, toast.  Scones, stirred into yogurt, or mixed into a batch of fresh berries. 

Fold in some whipped cream for an extra light texture, perfect for topping cheesecakes or pavlovas.  Use it instead of custard for filling pies or as layers in a trifle.

Ooooor just go ahead and eat it with a spoon.  {This may very well be my favorite way to eat this homemade lemon curd!}

a spoon filled with lemon curd resting against a sliced lemon and a jar filled with lemon curd

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Homemade Lemon Curd

  1. Don’t make lemon curd in an aluminum or copper pot!  The acid from the lemon juice will react with the copper or aluminum and turn the curd green. 
  2. Always use freshly squeezed lemon juice for curd.  Bottled lemon juice is great for cooking, but for homemade curd — you want it fresh!
  3. Whisk together the sugar and eggs first, before adding the lemon juice.  See the “kitchen chemistry” section for more information on why this is so important!
  4. For extra silky smooth lemon curd, strain through a fine mesh sieve, pushing the curd through with the back of a spoon.

More Delicious Lemon Desserts:

Homemade Lemon Curd

Homemade Lemon Curd

Yield: 1 pint
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cooling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Homemade lemon curd is one of the easiest desserts out there! 5 ingredients and 15 minutes are all you need for a sweet-tart, smooth and creamy curd bursting with lemon flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (~4 large lemons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • tiny pinch salt

Instructions

  1. In a 2 quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, eggs, and egg yolk. Whisk to thoroughly coat the eggs with sugar. Add in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium-low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, one piece at a time, along with the salt.
  3. Press the curd through a fine mesh sieve into a glass jar or bowl to remove any pieces of lemon zest or cooked egg (optional).
  4. Cover the top of the curd with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

Notes

Homemade lemon curd can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator for 1 month, canned for up to 3 months, or frozen for up to a year. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before opening, then use within a month.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 119 Total Fat: 6.9g Carbohydrates: 13.7g Protein: 1.3g
Homemade Lemon Curd: 5 ingredients and 15 minutes are all you need for a sweet-tart, smooth and creamy curd bursting with lemon flavor!  Use it to top all sorts of desserts, from cakes and muffins to pies and ice cream.  #bunsenburnerbakery lemoncurd #lemondesserts #lemon