Quick and Easy

How to Make Lemon Curd

May 15, 2015

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Kelsey Tenney of Appeasing a Food Geek lets us in on how to feel British, one spoonful of lemon curd at a time.

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Before I had ever tasted lemon curd, I was already in love with it—well, the idea of it, at least. I imagined it as a condiment eaten over crumpets by posh Brits alongside a cup of English breakfast tea. In this fantasy, I imagined myself looking out of a window at Buckingham Palace, naturally. In reality, I was in Minnesota, where crumpets are few and far between and lemon curd is even rarer. It seemed so foreign that I had never even thought to search for it.

More: Make some crumpets to go with your lemon curd. Talk about a match made in heaven.

One day, while in college, it found me when I saw it on the shelf of a local health foods store. Despite my pitiful college budget, I splurged and found the nearest spoon—an intense lemon flavor coated my taste buds and blew me away. The jar was empty almost as soon as I had found it. Seeing as how my budget wouldn't allow me to buy more, I had to strike out on my own—and the results were far better than the store-bought version. The lemon bang was there, but this time, it was smooth and tangy rather than slightly bitter and tart. This time, the love was real—and it was here to stay. 

Lemon curd is the result of a beautiful chemical reaction that comes from cooking and whisking egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice. Lemon zest and a pinch of salt bring out the lemon flavor and butter smooths it out. The transformation of the curd, from watery yolks to the thick condiment of my dreams, is fascinating to watch. And, if you squint really hard, you might even be able to see Big Ben from your kitchen window.


Lemon Curd

Makes 1 1/2 cups curd

3 lemons
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pats and chilled


Add the zest from the lemons into a small bowl. Juice the lemons and measure out 1/4 cup of the juice, then add it to the bowl with the zest (save any leftover juice for another recipe). Then, fill a small, high-rimmed saucepan with water approximately 3 inches deep. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar together until smooth. Add the juice and zest mixture, along with the salt. Continue to whisk the mixture until it's well combined.


Once the water is simmering, place the bowl over the pot of water so that the bottom of the bowl is just above the water's surface. Whisk continuously until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. This will take about 8 minutes if using a metal bowl, or up to 20 minutes if using a ceramic or glass bowl. Once the mixture has thickened, take the bowl off of the heat. Add the butter, one pat at a time, whisking each piece until it melts into the mixture.

Cover the lemon curd with plastic wrap so that the wrap lightly touches the top of the curd. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least 12 hours.

The next morning (if you can wait that long), take the curd out of the fridge and strain it through a mesh sieve, using a spoon to force the curd through the strainer. Discard the remaining zest in the strainer.

Store the lemon curd in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy on top of baked goods, in a tart, or by the spoonful.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Kelsey Tenney

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Barbara Lunsford Fleming
    Barbara Lunsford Fleming
  • Jeff Dougan
    Jeff Dougan
  • Matt Libling
    Matt Libling
  • Cathy Douglas
    Cathy Douglas
  • nancy essig
    nancy essig
Food Scientist, blogger, and lover of everything flavorful.


Barbara L. November 9, 2015
So much deliciousness on one site! Will adding a sugar substitute effect the outcome of the curd?
Jeff D. June 3, 2015
How would you tweak this for those of us who don't like lemons but would still like to do a curd - say, raspberry or cranberry? (I think strawberries are likely too sweet and not acidic enough.)
Kelsey T. June 4, 2015
Hey Jeff! That is an interesting idea. I have never investigated a non-citrus option, but there are some great citrus curds that do not use lemon out there. There is a great article from The LA Times in the late 90s that explains what sort of changes you might need to make to a basic curd recipe with other fruits like an orange that has more sugar to create a great product (http://articles.latimes.com/1998/feb/18/food/fo-20186). I think non-citrus fruits would take more work to adjust the basics, but a start could be combining citrus with non-citrus. The acidity is really important to the formation of the predominant texture, so that could be a great start. Cranberries are interesting because of their acidity and astringency. Let me know if it works out and good luck Jeff!
rengahan September 25, 2015
Just measure the same amount of pureed fruit instead of lemon juice. I make peach curd this way all the time.
Matt L. May 21, 2015
I love lemon curd - perfect way of having something for dessert or breakfast that isn't _too_ sweet. The problem is my wife always ends up eating it all and there's none left for me! I tried something else recently though - I'd been making lemon tart (which I love) and decided instead to make a thick lemon custard. Pured into egg shell and served with little "soldiers" of caramel encrusted pain perdu it made the most amazing dessert. Recipe is here if people are interested - www.timedeating.co.uk/dessert-egg-soldiers - in any case, loved the post!
Cathy D. May 16, 2015
Hi folks! As a lemon curd native (I'm in Scotland!) I can tell you that lemon curd is, indeed, the boss. I make mine a bit stiffer too, but the only thing I would insist on is use the best eggs you can find. Vital.
nancy E. May 15, 2015
I have never seen a pourable lemon curd. Even the ones I have made have been spreadable. Why is this one different. Is it considered the same thing?
Kelsey T. May 15, 2015
Hi Nancy! Thanks for the comment! This lemon curd is still rather thick, but it's kind of like ketchup. Once you put some force on it, it will spill out. It's not pourable like you think of a liquid. I like this texture because it makes for a nice mouthfeel, but you can go ahead and cook it longer for a stiffer curd more like a custard. A lot of store-bought curds are thicker because they need to be stable for a longer period of time. Thickeners are added to help with that stability.
nancy E. May 15, 2015
Thank you, I'll be making this for sure.
Diane May 15, 2015
The recipe doesn't state how much water to add to the lemon/lemon zest mixture. Nor does it say exactly what size the pan is that you use. How can we avoid putting too much or too little water into this recipe?
Mj L. May 15, 2015
The water is to make a double boiler- simmering water in pan, put bowl with eggs, etc. over simmering water, yes?
Kelsey T. May 15, 2015
Yep exactly! The water is only used for the cooking in the saucepan, and only a couple of inches deep, a double boiler set-up. Diane, you can really use any small saucepan so long as your bowl rests just above the water!
Diane May 16, 2015
Oh, of course! I guess I should have read the recipe more thoroughly before I asked my kind of "not so smart" question. :)