Lemon Curd Recipe and Tutorial

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Homemade lemon curd is truly a magical thing.  Bright lemon flavor, with just enough sweetness--it's absolute heaven spread on a fresh scone or a piece of toast.  Or by the spoonfull.  This simple recipe for lemon curd is a magical way to use up some of the lemons that are in season right now.

Collage of homemade lemon curd images optimized for pinterest.

You can buy lemon curd in stores, but it's kind of hard to find, and it's usually kind of expensive, and it's never as awesome as the homemade kind.  If you like lemon anything, do yourself a favor and try this recipe.

Ingredients for Lemon Curd Recipe:

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • several lemons
  • 8 Tablespoons of chilled butter (one stick, cut into 8 parts)

Egg yolks, butter, lemons, and sugar for making lemon curd on a weathered white wooden surface.

Since the recipe just uses egg yolks, this is a fabulous recipe to try if you have some leftover yolks from making meringues or pavlova or macarons.

Zested lemon and microplane zester on a white wooden surface, next to turquoise bowl of lemon zest.

Start by zesting those beautiful lemons with a fine grater.  You'll want a microplane style zester rather than one that peels off large pieces of zest, because you don't want large chunks of peel in your lovely, smooth lemon curd.

I used lemons from my tree, and I know they're organic, because I know I haven't sprayed them with anything (mostly because we're lazy landscapers).  But if you're buying lemons, I'd look for organic, since you'll be using the skin of the fruit.

Lemon Curd Tip:  

  • Alton Brown recommends 4 lemons zested and juiced, but I think he must have been using awfully sad little dry lemons, because I got well over a cup of juice from my four lemons.  And they're not even particularly big this year, thanks to a glitch in the irrigation system during some very hot months.  You only need 1/3 cup of lemon juice for the recipe.

clear pyrex bowl with lemon curd ingredients and whisk, on a weathered white wooden background.

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, and combine until the mixture is smooth and a light yellow color, like this.  If it doesn't look smooth and creamy like this picture, and instead looks lumpy, like you're making a yellow sandcastle, you probably don't have enough egg yolk (eggs too small, perhaps--that's what happened to me).  No worries, just add one extra egg yolk, and you'll get this lovely texture.

Next, whisk in 1/3 cup lemon juice and the lemon zest.

Improvised double boiler made with a saucepan and clear pyrex bowl, with lemon curd and whisk in the bowl on a gas stove.

If you have a double boiler, it's time to pull it out.  I don't use a double boiler often enough to justify storing one in our kitchen, so I just use a regular pot with a few inches of simmering water in the bottom, and a bowl large enough to sit on top of the pot.  You don't want the hot water to touch the bottom of the bowl, so just use a small amount of water, and make sure the bottom of the bowl sits high enough.  

Whisk the lemon mixture in the top bowl as it gently cooks until the lemon curd thickens.  This takes 8-10 minutes.  You should keep whisking the entire time, but trust me, it's worth the time spent standing at the stove!

Remove from the heat after the mixture has thickened, and mix in one pat of butter at a time, whisking until melted and incorporated before adding the next bit of butter.  Continue until all the butter has been incorporated.

Mason jar with lemon curd and a spoon, beside one lemon cut in half and two full lemons on a light blue wooden background.

Keep the finished lemon curd refrigerated, and enjoy on scones, bagels, toast, oatmeal, or whatever!  My friend Stephanie volunteered to bathe in the stuff, she loved it so much.  Yeah, it's that good.

Mason jar of lemon curd with the lid off and a spoon in the har, two lemons and a cut lemon beside it, on a black chalkboard background.

I once saw a recipe for rhubarb curd.  I'll definitely have to try that this spring!

Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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