This is the easiest recipe for lemon curd. You will never buy lemon curd from the store again after you make this simple homemade one pot recipe with just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes over the stove. My lemon curd recipe is silky smooth, tangy, sweet and delicious spooned over yogurt or ice cream, used as a filling in cakes, pies and cupcakes or served with pancakes, crepes, granola and berries. It's super creamy and made with fresh lemon juice and zest. If you just need a little bit, try my popular Small Batch Lemon Curd recipe too.
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- One pot recipe - this lemon curd is so easy to make because you can mix all of the ingredients in one pot and you don't need a double boiler.
- Bright citrus flavor - if you love lemon, you will love how bright and zesty this one is! It's full of lemon zest and tart and tangy lemon juice with just the right amount of sugar to balance it out.
- Not too sweet - there's just the right amount of sugar to make this recipe work and give a silky texture without being to sweet. It's a nice tart curd!
- No corn starch - this recipe is set naturally by the egg proteins that form gel. You don't need any corn starch to thicken it!
- It's so versatile - you can use this curd as a cake filling or topping, you can use it to fill cupcakes and make my lemon cupcakes, serve it with yogurt or on top of ice cream, serve it with fresh berries and crumbled meringue or how about with pancakes or crepes for a light breakfast or brunch? It is delicious everywhere!
- Eggs - eggs provide majority of the structure for the curd and are absolutely important. They add firmness for a thick, spoonable texture, while the extra yolk adds creaminess and tenderness. Egg proteins set into a protein network to create a soft gel-like texture. This recipe has two options: you can use 2 whole eggs + 1 yolk for a looser set, or you can use 1 whole egg + 2 yolks for a slightly firmer set.
- Egg yolk - egg yolks creates a silky texture, add richness and also helps with that golden yellow color. Some lemon curd recipe are made with all yolks, but I like the soft texture from whole eggs (and it's also less wasteful if you normally throw out the whites). As mentioned above, you can use either 1 or 2 yolks based on your preference for consistency.
- Sugar - sugar is so important here! Sugar sweetens the curd to balance the acidity and also plays a major role in creating a silky texture that prevents the egg proteins from coagulating too firmly.
- Lemon Juice - I only ever make lemon curd with freshly squeezed lemon juice (not bottled). It provides the tangy flavor and the acidity also helps to set the egg proteins. Bottled lemon juice is pasteurized, which means it is heated to destroy the bacteria before bottling. The heat reduces the quality of the taste.
- Lemon zest - most of the lemon flavor really comes from the yellow zest on the outside of the lemon. That is where the flavorful oils live, so I like to zest my lemons before I juice it and rub the zest into the sugar for extra flavor. You can strain the curd at the end to remove the zest.
- Salt - salt enhances the buttery flavor of the crust and also balances the sweetness of the filling.
- Butter - the key to a delicious silky lemon curd is a bit of butter to make it smooth and glossy. It also helps it set up with a thicker texture as the butterfat hardens. The trick to making one-pot lemon curd is to add the butter at the beginning - the fat will protect the egg proteins from curdling.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
This recipe is the easiest you will come by because you literally place everything in a bowl and stir over simmering water until it is thick!
- STEP 1). Blend sugar with zest. Place sugar in a saucepan with lemon zest and rub it together until fragrant.
- STEP 2). Add eggs. Whisk in eggs and egg yolk until smooth.
- STEP 3). Add lemon juice. Whisk in lemon juice.
- STEP 4). Add butter. Cut the butter up into pieces and add it to the saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk gently and constantly until mixture is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- STEP 5). Strain the curd. Pour the curd into a clean bowl through a fine mesh sieve, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface and refrigerate for at least 6 hours until set.
EXPERT TIPS FOR SMALL BATCH LEMON CURD
- Rub the sugar together with the lemon zest. Why? The yellow part of lemon skin contains essential oils (the same ones used to make citrus fragrances in perfumes and lemon-scented soaps) and when you rub sugar against them, it releases these oils. The oils coat the flat surfaces of the sugar crystals and make the curd taste extra lemony - a technique that's know as "plating" in the food industry. Sugar also acts as an abrasive to help break down the zest so that there aren’t large stringy pieces of it that would distract from the silky smooth texture of this curd.
- Cook over gentle heat. Overcooking will cause proteins to bond too tightly, squeezing water out from between them and giving them a rubbery, lumpy texture. For insurance, indirect heat via steam is used to moderate the cooking temperature since boiling water cannot exceed 100°C. This recipe uses whole eggs to add firmness for a thick, spoonable texture, while the extra yolk adds creaminess and tenderness.
- Strain the curd. Pass the hot curd through a sieve for the smoothest texture and to remove any accidental bits of cooked egg (it happens to the best of us).
- Cover with a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface before chilling to prevent a skin from forming. This prevents the proteins on surface of the curd from drying out which is what creates the "skin" or a film on top. It is perfectly find and edible, but it will create some lumps in the curd.
Lemon curd is a type of stirred custard made from a cooked, thickened egg mixture. In the presence of heat and acid, egg proteins begin to bond to one another, transforming the liquid mixture into a smooth thick gel. In order to do this, gentle cooking is necessary to minimize the possibility of curdling.
The acid from lemon juice helps to transform the ultimate structure of proteins (a process called denaturation) which unravels their natural folded structure so that their side chains are exposed to react with the surrounding environment. When this happens, the proteins begin to form bonds with each other, or coagulate, in a gentle way to form a continuous network of proteins with water held between them. This is what creates the thick and silky texture of citrus curd.
Lemon curd is made from eggs, sugar, lemon juice and butter. It's the same concept as a custard, except for lemon curd the proteins set by acid as well, which is why lemon curd does not require a thickener like flour or corn starch.
You can use lemon curd in so many ways! Use it as a filling for cakes and cupcakes, to serve with pancakes or crepes (to make a crepe cake!), you can add it to your yogurt with some berries and granola, swirl it through vanilla ice cream or fill tarts and pastries.
STORING & TROUBLESHOOTING
How do you store lemon curd?
Store lemon curd covered tightly in the fridge.
How long does lemon curd last in the fridge?
Lemon curd will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge, so it is great to make it in advance when you need it to fill cakes and pastries.
What happens if I over-cook lemon curd?
Overcooking will cause proteins to bond too tightly, squeezing water out from between them and giving them a rubbery, lumpy texture. If you over-heat the lemon curd, the egg proteins can coagulate and you will see little bits of cooked egg. You can try to strain the curd to remove the bits of egg, but it will affect the overall consistency. I would recommend trying again!
If you love lemon, check out my other lemon recipes:Easy Creamy Lemon TartCopycat Starbucks Lemon LoafLemon BrowniesLemon Raspberry Sheet CakeLemon Crinkle CookiesLemon Raspberry MuffinsSwirled Lemon Cheesecake BarsLight & Luscious Lemon CakeEasy Small Batch Lemon CurdEasy Almond Raspberry Lemon Bars (gluten free)Lemon Coconut Crumb Tarts
Easy Lemon Curd
- 6 tablespoon 75g granulated sugar
- zest of one lemon
- 2 large eggs (or 1 large egg *see ingredient notes in the post above*)
- 1 large egg yolk (or 2 egg yolks *see ingredient notes in the post above*)
- 6 tablespoon 90ml lemon juice
- 4 tablespoon 56g salted butter, cut into small pieces
- Combine sugar and lemon zest in a saucepan and back of a spoon or your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar. This will coat the sugar crystals with fragrant oils from the lemon peel, adding a whole new dimension of intense lemon flavour to this curd.
- Add the whole egg(s) and extra egg yolk(s) to the saucepan with the lemony sugar and whisk until smooth. Mix in lemon juice.
- *you can use 1 or 2 whole eggs and then 2 or 1 egg yolks depending on your preference for the final thickness for this curd. See ingredient notes in the post above*
- Add butter in pieces and then place the saucepan over medium heat. Whisk gently and continuously for 6-9 minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not walk away because it will transform very quickly. Once you see a bubble emerge from the surface, then this indicates that it is thick enough, however do not let it boil.
- Immediately pour the hot curd through a fine mesh sieve to remove the pieces of lemon zest (this also removes any pesky bits of cooked egg white) and into a clean jar or airtight container.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap directly in contact with the surface and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. If using a mason jar, just screw the cap on tightly. This curd will last for at least a week in the refrigerator.
More lemon please!
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