Homemade Lemon Curd is a classic English custard (also sometimes called Lemon Butter) that’s made with fruit juice, butter, eggs, sugar, and flavorings. After some gentle cooking, the result is a rich, smooth, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth spread that is at home in all kinds of different dessert treats.
When life gives you lemons, make lemon curd!
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But what is Lemon Curd?
Simply put, it’s a nice sweet custard that you can spread or spoon onto many things.
Lemon juice provides a tart, lemony flavor, while sugar balances that out adding sweetness. Eggs and butter thicken the mixture while adding richness. Combining these 4 ingredients, and gently cooking over a double boiler, creates a luscious custard topping or spread that can be used in a variety of desserts.
You can fill cakes like my coconut meringue cake with it. You can top pies like Grandma’s custard pie. Try filling sandwich cookies with lemon curd for a tangy treat.
How long will it keep?
Curd can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Can I freeze curd?
Yes, lemon curd can be frozen for longer storage. You can freeze it for up to 12 months.
Place curd in a freezer-safe container, leaving ¼-inch of space at the top for expansion. Seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid, and place it in the freezer.
To thaw, move the container from the freezer to a refrigerator about 24 hours before you want to use it. After thawing, store in the refrigerator in a covered container and consume defrosted curd within 10 days.
And, if you have lots of lemons, you may want to read How to freeze and save lemons.
Why did my lemon curd turn green?
The acid from the lemons can react to unlined copper or aluminum pans, and can turn your lemon curd green or give it a metallic taste. Make sure to use a lined double boiler, or a glass bowl as your double boiler so you don’t have these reaction issues. Also, I like to use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir.
How to make Lemon Curd
Lemon Curd is actually fairly easy to make. It just takes a few ingredients, and some patience while you stir those ingredients together over gentle heat.
Whisk yolks and eggs in a medium bowl to blend. I like to whisk eggs with a fork, as you see in the picture on the right. I find that a fork is easier to control and doesn’t make as much of a mess as a whisk can.
Combine lemon juice, butter, and sugar in the top of a double boiler or in a glass heatproof bowl. Heat this mixture over a double boiler until the butter has melted.
Gradually whisk 1/3 of hot butter mixture into eggs to temper them. Then whisk the mixture back over the double boiler with remaining butter mixture.
Make sure you are whisking constantly as the mixture thickens, and don’t go off and look at your phone or check Facebook. The eggs can scramble very easily, and if left unattended, they have a tendency to do just that.
Whisk for about about 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon or registers 160°F on a candy thermometer.
Then strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to get out any scrambled eggs. The mixture will thicken as it cools.
Do I need a double boiler?
I strongly recommend cooking the curd in a double boiler because cooking the curd directly over the heat can lead to hot spots and uneven cooking, which can lead to scrambled egg chunks in your curd.
If you don’t have a double boiler, simply place a heatproof glass bowl over a larger pot filled with water. You will cook the curd in the top glass bowl.
Do I need a candy thermometer?
I like the security of having the candy thermometer to tell me for sure when the curd is done cooking, and it reaches 160° F. It helps to make sure that it’s hot enough for the eggs to be safe to eat, but not so hot that it ends up too thick.
If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can eyeball the cooked mixture, and see that it’s done when it coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Do not use bottled lemon juice. Use freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Lemon curd can be made with any kind of lemon, but I’m a big fan of the sweeter Meyer lemons. If you can get some Meyers, I highly recommend them here. And there’s no need to change the recipe with either kind of lemon.
Lemon curd should always be cooked on indirect heat, like in a double boiler, and never be cooked on direct heat, so that the eggs don’t scramble.
For your double boiler, always make sure the bottom of the top pot or bowl does not touch the simmering water.
Use good quality butter; do not use butter substitutes, like margarine or a vegan butter. The butter should be chilled when added to the mixture.
Uses for Lemon Curd
You can enjoy the luscious, silky, tangy custard on so many things! I mean besides just by the spoonful.
Try it at breakfast time or tea time with scones, muffins, or toast. Spoon some on pancakes or waffles. I love to add a spoonful to my yogurt.
It’s delicious in thumbprint cookies.
Top lemon cheesecake or pound cake with it.
Use it as a filling for crepes, cupcakes, or layer cakes.
Make a delicious lemony trifle by adding some curd to my patriotic trifle dessert.
Spoon it on ice cream.
Lemon Curd Recipe
- Candy thermometer
- Double boiler
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup unsalted butter diced
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Whisk yolks and eggs in a medium bowl to blend.
- Combine lemon juice, butter, and sugar in the top of a double boiler or in a glass heatproof bowl. Set the bowl with the butter mixture in it over a double boiler or a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the boiling water; whisk until butter melts and sugar dissolves.
- Gradually whisk 1/3 of hot butter mixture into the beaten eggs, whisk the mixture back into the bowl with remaining butter mixture, and set it over simmering water.
- Whisk constantly until custard thickens and a thermometer inserted into mixture registers 160°F, about 5 minutes (do not boil). (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, wait until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.)
- Pour lemon curd through strainer set over clean medium bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of lemon curd; chill overnight.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations, and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary based on brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes, and more.
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