Lemon Curd with Egg Yolks

Lemon curd is a delicate custard made from lemon juice, eggs, butter, and sugar. It is used as a sauce or filler for pies, tarts, cakes, and pastries, and sometimes even served as ...


5 or fewer | American | English | Quick (up to 30 minutes) | Sour | Sour sweet

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Lemon curd is a delicate custard made from lemon juice, eggs, butter, and sugar. It is used as a sauce or filler for pies, tarts, cakes, and pastries, and sometimes even served as a separate dessert.

To me, lemon curd is one of the most powerful flavor combinations. Everything about it is perfect: a delicate, smooth texture; an acidity that excites the imagination; and a perfectly balanced sweetness that complements the incredible lemon flavor. I guarantee that once you try it, you will never forget the experience.

Lemon curd can be made with different proportions of egg whites and yolks. Some recipes use only yolks, resulting in a creamier and more liquid consistency, while others use whole eggs, creating a denser and thicker cream. The golden mean is to use a couple of eggs and two extra yolks, which I find to be the most versatile method of preparation.

But in this recipe I will tell you how to make curd exclusively from yolks. We’ll look at the other options another time. Why is this the case? I used to make Pavlova with lemon curd, and it is this recipe for curd that allows for waste-free production: yolks go into the curd, whites into the Pavlova, and no leftovers.

By the way, here’s I’ve collected a bunch of recipe ideas where you can use leftover yolks.

Lemon curd vs custard

Lemon curd and custard are both creamy, smooth and decadent dessert toppings, but they are not the same.

Lemon curd is a tangy and zesty spread made from lemon juice, sugar, butter, and egg yolks. It has a bright, acidic flavor and a silky texture that is perfect for spreading on toast or filling cakes and tarts.

On the other hand, custard is a creamy, rich sauce or filling made from milk or cream, eggs, sugar, and often flavored with vanilla. It has a more subtle, sweet flavor that is perfect for serving on its own, as a pudding or used as a base for ice cream or creme brulee.

The texture of custard is thicker than lemon curd, and it can be served either warm or cold.

Lemon Curd with Whole Eggs vs Yolks Only

Using whole eggs versus only the yolks can have a noticeable impact on the texture and flavor of the final product:

  1. Whole Eggs: When you use whole eggs in your lemon curd, you’re using both the egg whites and yolks. The egg whites help to create a lighter, more spreadable curd, but they can also produce a slightly foamy texture if not fully incorporated. The flavor can also be more mild, as the egg whites can dilute the rich flavor from the yolks.
  2. Egg Yolks Only: Egg yolks contain more fat than the whites, so using only yolks will produce a richer, creamier curd with a more intense flavor. However, the curd can be a bit thicker, which might not be ideal for certain applications. If you’re looking for a decadent, rich lemon curd, using only yolks is the way to go.

In general, the choice between whole eggs and egg yolks depends on personal preference and the desired final texture and flavor of the lemon curd. Some recipes may even call for a mix of whole eggs and additional yolks for a balance of texture and richness.

🔪 Ingredients

Ingredients for making lemon curd: lemons, egg yolks, sugar, salt, butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 150 g (5,3 oz) sugar
  • 3-4 medium-sized lemons (2-3 large, you need 85 ml of lemon juice + zest)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 100 g (3,5 oz) butter

🥣 Directions

Take a saucepan dish. Grate the zest of the lemons directly into it.

Most lemon curd recipes suggest using only the zest of one lemon. I don’t see any reason why not to use the maximum available. For a richer flavor.

Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out the juice. You will need approximately 85 ml of juice. You can weigh in a separate container, put the sauté pan on a kitchen scales or use a measuring cup.

It took the juice of three and a half lemons for me to reach this volume.

Super accuracy is not required here, an error of +/-10-15 ml is quite acceptable.

Stop. Don’t throw away any leftover lemons. Cut them into small pieces, put them in a bowl and pour the sugar in a ratio of about 2 to 1 (100 g (3,5 oz) sugar per 200 g of lemon peels). Add to them the juice of 1-1.5 whole lemons, cut them in the same way and add to the total mass. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for 1-2 days. The lemons will give juice, which mixed with the sugar will turn into syrup. Pour some syrup into a glass, add sparkling or still water, taste, add more syrup if necessary. Congratulations, you’ve made lemonade from leftover lemons that you probably would have thrown away. See the perfect lemonade recipe for more details on the process.

Add 150 g (5,3 oz) of sugar, 4 egg yolks and a pinch of salt to a saucepan.

Whisk with a whisk until smooth.

Place a saucepan over medium heat on the stove. Heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk and add 100 g (3,5 oz) of butter.

Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. This will take 7-8 minutes. Do not bring to a boil. A cooking temperature you can aim for is about 75 °C / 170 °F.

You can check readiness by dipping a spoon into the kurd for a second. Run your finger along the back of the spoon, drawing a line from top to bottom. If the sauce holds and doesn’t drip, it’s ready.

Strain the curd through a fine sieve.

Store the curd in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Lemon curd can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Prepared lemon curd in a jar

💭 Cooking Tips

  1. Use fresh, high-quality ingredients. For the best flavor and texture, use fresh, high-quality ingredients, including fresh lemon juice and high-quality butter.
  2. Separate the egg yolks carefully. When separating the egg yolks, be sure to do it carefully to avoid getting any of the egg whites in the mixture. This can affect the texture of the curd.
  3. Whisk constantly. To prevent the curd from curdling or burning, whisk the mixture constantly while cooking over low heat. This helps to ensure a smooth, velvety texture.
  4. Use a double boiler. To prevent the mixture from scorching, cook the curd in a double boiler. This provides gentle, even heat that helps to prevent the mixture from curdling or burning.
  5. Chill thoroughly before using. Once the lemon curd is cooked, be sure to chill it thoroughly before using. This helps to set the curd and make it easier to work with.

How thick should lemon curd be?

Lemon curd should be thick enough to hold its shape well, yet still be spreadable. When you’re cooking it, the curd should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and hold a line drawn through it with your finger.

Upon chilling, lemon curd will thicken even more. Its final consistency should be similar to that of a soft, spreadable custard or a pudding. It’s thick enough to fill a tart shell or be dolloped onto scones or biscuits, but not so thick that it turns into a solid mass.

Remember that the curd will continue to thicken as it cools, so it’s best to remove it from the heat when it’s just slightly thinner than you want the end product to be.

How to make lemon curd thicker?

Lemon curd thickness is generally determined by the cooking process and the ratio of the ingredients used. If your lemon curd is not as thick as you would like, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Increase Cooking Time: One of the simplest ways to thicken lemon curd is to cook it for a bit longer. As it cooks, the eggs in the curd coagulate, causing the mixture to thicken. Be careful not to overcook, though, as this can lead to a grainy or curdled texture.
  2. Add More Egg Yolks: Egg yolks are natural thickeners because of their high protein content. If you want a thicker curd, consider adding an extra yolk to your recipe. This will also make the curd richer.
  3. Use More Sugar: Sugar can also help thicken your lemon curd, as it absorbs water and thickens the mixture. However, adding more sugar will also make your lemon curd sweeter, so be cautious with this method if you don’t want to overly sweeten your curd.
  4. Chilling: Lemon curd will thicken as it cools. Once you’ve cooked your curd, transfer it to a container and let it cool in the refrigerator for a few hours.
  5. Add a Thickening Agent: You could use a small amount of cornstarch or a similar thickening agent to make your curd thicker. Be cautious with this method as it can affect the texture and flavor of the curd. It’s best to dissolve the cornstarch in a bit of lemon juice before adding it to the curd to prevent clumping.

Remember, the key to making great lemon curd is to cook it slowly and gently, stirring constantly, to prevent the eggs from curdling. This will result in a smooth, creamy, and thick lemon curd.

How to thicken lemon curd with cornstarch?

If you want to thicken your lemon curd with cornstarch, here’s how you can do it:

  1. Mix Cornstarch with Lemon Juice: First, take about 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch and mix it with an equal amount of lemon juice. Stir it until it forms a smooth slurry without any lumps. This is important because if you add cornstarch directly to the hot curd, it can form clumps that are hard to dissolve.
  2. Combine with Lemon Curd Mixture: Now, as you are cooking your lemon curd on the stove (after you have combined your eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and zest), slowly pour the cornstarch slurry into the mixture, stirring continuously.
  3. Cook Until Thickened: Continue to cook the mixture over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens to your liking. The cornstarch needs to come to a simmer in order to activate its thickening power.
  4. Cool and Chill: Once your lemon curd has thickened, remove it from the heat. Add butter and stir until it’s completely melted and incorporated. Then transfer the curd into a heatproof container, cover it with plastic wrap (make sure the wrap touches the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming), and refrigerate it. The curd will thicken further as it cools down.

Remember that adding cornstarch will also slightly dilute the flavor of the lemon curd, so it’s a balancing act to get the thickness and flavor you want.

Also, note that overcooking the cornstarch can break down its structure and cause the mixture to thin out again, so keep a close eye on it and stir constantly while it’s cooking.

🌶️ Variations

  1. Vanilla. Add a splash of vanilla extract or the seeds from a vanilla bean to the mixture before cooking for a delicious vanilla lemon curd.
  2. Ginger. Add a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger to the lemon curd mixture for a spicy kick.
  3. Lavender. Infuse the sugar with dried lavender buds overnight, then strain them out before using the sugar in the recipe. This will give the lemon curd a subtle floral flavor.
  4. Meyer Lemon. Use Meyer lemons instead of regular lemons for a sweeter and less tart flavor.
  5. Blood Orange. Replace some or all of the lemon juice with freshly squeezed blood orange juice for a beautiful pink color and a citrusy twist.
  6. Lime. Swap out the lemons for limes to make a tangy lime curd. Add a few drops of green food coloring to enhance the color.
  7. Coconut. Add some shredded coconut to the lemon curd after straining for a tropical flavor and texture.

🥡 How to Store

When storing your homemade yolk lemon curd, it’s important to transfer it to a jar with a tight fitting lid.

This will help prevent air from getting in and potentially spoiling the curd.

How long does Homemade lemon curd last?

Lemon curd typically lasts for up to 1-2 weeks when stored in a refrigerator. It should be kept in an airtight container to prevent it from absorbing odors from other foods and to maintain its freshness.

If you’d like to keep your lemon curd for a longer period, you can freeze it. Frozen lemon curd can last for up to a year. When you’re ready to use it, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Be aware, though, that the texture may change slightly upon thawing.

Always remember to use clean utensils when scooping out lemon curd to avoid introducing bacteria that could spoil it. If your lemon curd develops an off odor, flavor, or appearance, or if mold appears, it should be discarded.

Storage in the Refrigerator

Store the jar in the refrigerator to keep the curd fresh and safe to eat for up to two weeks.

It’s important to note that homemade curd doesn’t have preservatives, so it won’t last as long as store-bought versions.

When it comes time to use the curd, be sure to check for any signs of spoilage, such as a foul smell or unusual color or texture. If in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it.


To freeze lemon curd, allow it to cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container or freezer bag. Be sure to leave some space at the top of the container, as the curd will expand as it freezes. Label the container with the date and freeze for up to 6 months.

When you’re ready to use it, thaw the curd in the refrigerator overnight before using. It’s important to note that the texture of the curd may change slightly after freezing and thawing, but it should still be delicious.

🥗 Where to use?

  1. Lemon curd tart. Spread lemon curd in a pre-baked tart shell and top with fresh berries or whipped cream.
  2. Lemon curd bars. Layer lemon curd between shortbread crust and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  3. Lemon curd cheesecake. Mix lemon curd into cheesecake batter or spread on top of a baked cheesecake.
  4. Trifle. Layer lemon curd with cake, whipped cream, and fruit for a delicious dessert.
  5. Muffins: Swirl lemon curd into muffin batter before baking.
  6. Toast. Spread lemon curd on toasted bread or English muffins for a quick breakfast or snack.
  7. Ice cream. Swirl lemon curd into vanilla ice cream or use as a topping.
  8. Yogurt parfait. Layer lemon curd with yogurt, granola, and fruit for a healthy breakfast or snack.
  9. Thumbprint cookies: Roll cookie dough into balls, make an indentation with your thumb, and fill with lemon curd before baking.
  10. Macarons. Fill macarons with lemon curd for a bright and tangy twist on the classic French pastry.
  11. Meringue. Use the lemon curd as a filling for a meringue pie or Pavlova for a sweet and tart dessert.

🙋‍♂️ FAQ

What is lemon curd?

Lemon curd is a creamy and tangy spread made from lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and butter. It has a smooth texture and bright flavor that can be used in a variety of ways, such as a topping for desserts or filling for cakes and pastries. It is commonly found in British and American cuisine and is often served during afternoon tea or as a dessert component.

What does lemon curd go with?

Lemon curd can be used in a variety of ways, such as a filling for cakes, pies, and tarts, a spread for toast and scones, or a topping for yogurt and ice cream. It can also be used as a flavoring in frosting, mousse, and other desserts. Additionally, lemon curd can be paired with fresh fruit, such as berries or sliced peaches, to create a delicious and refreshing dessert.

How do you thicken lemon curd?

Lemon curd can be thickened by adding a small amount of cornstarch or flour to the mixture while cooking. Another method is to whisk in a small amount of cold butter after the lemon curd has finished cooking and is still warm. This will help thicken and emulsify the curd. It is important to avoid overheating or boiling the curd, as this can cause it to thin out or curdle.

How long does lemon curd keep?

Lemon curd can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It is recommended to consume it within this time frame for optimal quality and freshness.

Can I freeze lemon curd?

Yes, lemon curd can be frozen. To freeze, transfer the lemon curd to a freezer-safe container, leaving some space for expansion, and seal tightly. When ready to use, let it thaw in the fridge overnight and give it a good stir before using. Note that the texture may change slightly after freezing and thawing, but the flavor should remain the same. It’s recommended to consume frozen lemon curd within 2-3 months for best quality.

Lemon Curd with Egg Yolks

5 from 2 votes
Lemon curd is a delicate custard made from lemon juice, eggs, butter, and sugar. It is used as a sauce/filler for pies, tarts, cakes, and pastries. And sometimes even served as a separate dessert.
For me, lemon curd is one of the most powerful flavor combinations. Everything about it is perfect. It has a delicate, smooth texture, acidity that excites the imagination, but is sufficiently balanced by the sweetness of the sugar and an absolutely incredible lemon flavor. I guarantee that once you try it, you will never forget the experience.
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 4 egg yolk
  • 150 g sugars
  • 3-4 Lemon (medium or 2-3 large ones, ~85 ml of lemon juice + zest)
  • 100 g butter
  • pinch salts


  • In a saucepan, grate the zest of four lemons and squeeze out the juice, about 85 ml.
  • Add the sugar, 4 egg yolks and a pinch of salt to the saucepan. Whisk with a whisk until smooth.
  • Place a saucepan over medium heat, heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add 100 g of butter.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 7-8 minutes. Do not bring to a boil.
  • Strain the kurd through a fine sieve.
    Store the kurd in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Lemon curd can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Alex Bayev Photo
About me:

Hi, I'm Alex. I love to cook and bake, and I'm always looking for new recipes to try. I started this blog — to collect and share most delicious and easy recipes in one place. I remember, how many questions recipes raised to me, when I started cooking. To make sure that doesn't happen to you, I take step-by-step photos of the cooking process for every recipe so you can see how all the steps are supposed to go together, even if you're not following my recipes exactly.

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