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Lemon Curd (with Cornstarch)

Treat your taste buds to something special with this Lemon Curd! It is deliciously tangy, creamy, and sweet, made from scratch with just a few ingredients in about 15 minutes. With its fresh and vibrant lemon flavor and perfect balance of sweetness, this easy lemon curd makes the perfect filling for cakes, tarts, or scones.

Don’t forget to try our other sweet sauces like easy Strawberry Jam, Hot Fudge, or Homemade Caramel Sauce.

Top down view of lemon curd in a white bowl.

Lemon curd is an incredibly delicious, yet easy-to-make recipe. It’s made with simple ingredients like fresh lemons, sugar, eggs, and butter. The key to making the best lemon curd is adding cold butter at the end of the cooking process; this gives it a silky texture.

We also add a touch of cornstarch to make sure it thickens nicely.

Our homemade lemon curd recipe takes about 15 minutes to prepare and can be used for many different desserts such as cakes, tarts, mousses, crepes, or simply spread on toast or English muffins for breakfast.

How to Make Lemon Curd with Cornstarch:

This is our foolproof way of making this easy spread, so you get consistent results every time.

Here’s a snapshot of how we make it!

Scroll to the recipe card below for ingredient amounts and full instructions.

  1. Combine the cold water, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Stir vigorously to mix the ingredients then stir occasionally as the mixture cooks.
Top down view of egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar unmixed.
Top down view of egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar mixed in a pan.
  1. After the filling begins to thicken and bubble, whisk in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Let the mixture boil for approximately 1 minute.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Allow the filling to cool to room temperature, then pour through a mesh sieve.
  3. Transfer to a container and cover with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should touch the curd), and place in the refrigerator to cool completely.
Top down view of lemon pastry filling, lemon zest and lemon juice in a pan.
Top down view of butter and lemon filling in a saucepan.

How to Make Lemon Curd without Cornstarch:

The more technical way to make lemon curd is to make it without cornstarch. Here’s a list of instructions showing how to modify our recipe to make it without using cornstarch.

This recipe is not included in the recipe card below.

  1. Start by omitting the water and cornstarch. They aren’t needed in this recipe.
  2. You’ll need to double the number of egg yolks from 2 to 4, increase the butter to 6 tablespoons, and use a pinch of salt instead of 1/4 teaspoon.
  3. In a double boiler over low-medium heat, combine the lemon juice, egg yolks, sugar, zest, and salt. Quickly whisk the mixture until well combined.
  4. Continue whisking until the curd begins to thicken (about 8 to 10 minutes). It needs to reach 170°F to begin to thicken, so don’t worry if it hasn’t gotten there yet. Likely, it’s not quite to temp.
  5. Once the curd thickens, it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and not spread when you pull your finger across it. Remove the curd from heat, and add the butter pieces. Whisk the mixture constantly until the butter melts.
  6. Strain through a mesh sieve, and let the curd cool slightly then transfer to a sealable container. Place plastic wrap over the curd so that it’s touching the top so a skin doesn’t form. Refrigerator until ready to use.

Tips for Success:

  • Use fresh lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice concentrate is a no-go for this recipe!
  • Add cold butter at the end of cooking for a silky smooth texture and thicker curd consistency.
  • If using cornstarch, cook your filling over medium to medium-high heat to ensure it thickens properly without burning or forming lumps.
  • Strain through a mesh sieve for an even smoother consistency. We don’t want any unseen solid pieces slipping through!
  • Use less sugar for a lemon curd that’s tarter and less sweet.
  • Don’t skip the freshly grated lemon zest. It adds a little something extra to this recipe.
White bowl of lemon filling next to fresh, whole lemons.

Storage:

Refrigerator: Store in a sealed container with a layer of plastic wrap touching the top of the curd so it doesn’t form a skin. Remove the plastic wrap after the curd cools completely. It stays fresh for about 1 week.

Freezer: Place in a freezer-safe container, and the curd stays fresh for about 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Do I need to use fresh lemons for this recipe?

Yes without question! Bottled lemon juice doesn’t have the same flavor that fresh lemons offer. Not to mention, the lemon juice from concentrate is more acidic than freshly squeezed juice.

Is it better to use cold or warm butter when making lemon curd?

Use cold butter to give the curd a beautiful gloss and to help it thicken nicely.

Why is cornstarch used when making lemon curd?

Cornstarch is used to help thicken lemon curd if it doesn’t thicken during the cooking process. Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cold water together to make slurry. Pour the slurry into the finished curd a little at a time to thicken it if needed.

Another reason to use cornstarch is to ensure the curd thickens from the beginning, especially if you haven’t had great luck making curd in the past. We mix cornstarch and cold water in right at the start to make sure the recipe works seamlessly.

Spoon dipping lemon pastry filling.

Why does the curd have a metallic taste?

Anytime lemon or lime reacts with metal, there’s a metallic taste. If you used a metal pan or metal double boiler to cook the curd, that’s likely the reason.

Try using a ceramic lined or non-reactive double boiler instead. If you’re confident that the egg yolks won’t scramble, try making it over low heat in a saucepan.

Is lemon curd the same as lemon pastry filling?

No, lemon curd and lemon pastry filling are not the same. Lemon curd is a thick, rich spread made with eggs, lemon juice, butter, and sugar.

It has a soft texture and bright flavor perfect for desserts like tartlets or spreading on toast for breakfast. Lemon pastry filling is typically used in pies or pastries. People sometimes call it lemon filling or lemon pie filling.

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White bowl full of lemon curd.

Lemon Curd (with Cornstarch)

4.4 from 22 votes
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 16 Servings

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Ingredients

  • ¾ cup water cold
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large egg yolks lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter very cold

Instructions 

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cold water, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and egg yolks. Stir vigorously to mix the ingredients and stir occasionally as the filling cooks.
    ¾ cup water
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    1 cup granulated sugar
    ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
    2 large egg yolks
    Top down view of egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar unmixed.
  • After the filling begins to thicken and bubble, stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Let boil for approximately 1 minute.
    1 tablespoon lemon zest
    ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
    Top down view of lemon pastry filling, lemon zest and lemon juice in a pan.
  • Remove from heat and stir in butter. Allow filling to cool to room temperature, then strain to remove any scrambled egg yolks.
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    Top down view of butter and lemon filling in a saucepan.
  • Place in a container and place a piece of plastic wrap over the top touching the lemon curd. Transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely (about 2 hours). Remove the plastic wrap once it cools.
  • Use on your favorite breakfast foods or pastries.
  • Scroll up and see post for tips, FAQs, storage information, and "How to Make Lemon Curd without Cornstarch."

Notes

*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and the total amount of 1 tablespoon of lemon curd. Actual calories will vary.
 
*For more information, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to the post.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tablespoon | Calories: 67kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 0.4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 44mg | Potassium: 9mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 55IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 0.1mg
Recipe Rating




Carol Murray

Thursday 14th of October 2021

Does this recipe make enough for a 9 inch deep dish pie shell

John

Friday 15th of October 2021

Good Morning Carol, to answer your question, no the recipe does not make enough pastry filling to fill a 9-inch deep dish pie shell. The recipe only makes about 1-cup of pastry filling. Thank you for asking and have a lovely day :)

Elsa

Saturday 17th of October 2020

I use lemon pudding mix to make my merengue pie. I add lemon juice while it's cooling. While serving, I see the juice at the bottom. Why?

John

Sunday 18th of October 2020

Good Morning Elsa, that's a good question. It sounds like the meringue is, "weeping." Moisture from the meringue is being drawn out as the pie bakes and cools and the liquid is pooling in the bottom of the pie. Now, that happens sometimes and there are a few things you can try in order to correct the issue. First, only beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, not hard peaks. Second, use cream of tartar in the meringue (if you're not doing so already). Third, try using a different pie filling product. The lemon pudding mix could be causing issues. Last, you could sprinkle a little corn starch or xanthium gum between the meringue and the pie before it bakes. I hope this information helps, have a lovely weekend :)

Cindy Seibert

Wednesday 12th of December 2018

I want to know if this pastry filling is "thicker" than pie filling. I am making a Christmas cookie called a Kiffel and you must use pastry filling (Solo pastry filling). I can never find lemon by Solo, only Apricot and Cherry. Curd is too thin and I must have a "pastry" filling.

John

Wednesday 12th of December 2018

Good Morning Cindy, that's a good question. Unfortunately, no, my recipe is not thicker than a pie filling. However, if you decide to use it, you could incorporate some arrow root or a corn starch slurry during the cooking process. That would thicken it up nicely. I hope this information helps. Have a lovely day :)

Mary Estep

Friday 15th of September 2017

Have you tried this filling in pastries, such as turnovers, or kolaces? I'm curious if it will bubble up and run out of the pastries while they're cooking in the oven.

John

Saturday 16th of September 2017

That's a great question, Mary. Unfortunately, I've never tried this filling in a pastry that needs to be baked with the filling inside. My first instinct would be that the filling would probably bubble up and run out of the pastry as it cooks. This filling is better suited for injection after the pastry has been cooked. Kind of like a cream puff filling. With that being said, you could still try it if you like. If you decide to, would you mind coming back and letting us know if it worked for you? I'm really curious about what would happen. Thank you again for your question and we hope you have a lovely weekend, Mary!

Mary Estep

Friday 15th of September 2017

Have you tried this filling in pastries, such as turnovers, or kolaces? I'm curious if it will bubble up and run out of the pastries while they're cooking in the oven.