Love and Olive Oil
Meyer Lemon Curd (Extra Thick!)

Meyer Lemon Curd (Extra Thick!)

This tart and tangy Meyer lemon curd is extra thick (thanks to the extra thickening power of cornstarch), with a smooth and creamy mouthfeel and a perfect balance of tart and sweet.

There are few things more satisfying than a classic lemon curd. Whether you use it as cake filling, ice cream flavoring, or morning yogurt enhancer, this bright lemon curd is as easy to prepare as it is delicious, no double boiler needed! The addition of cornstarch ensures it’ll set up perfectly thick every time.

Glass bowl filled with Meyer Lemon Curd on a marble surface, with a spoonful of lemon curd in the foreground and a few fresh Meyer lemons out of focus in the background.

Lemon curd is absolutely lovely on its own eaten by the spoonful (no judgement here!) but also makes for a divine component of myriad other desserts, from cake to cupcakes to ice cream and more (scroll to the bottom of this post for more ideas!)

My favorite lemon curd is made with Meyer lemons for a bright and tangy flavor that’s sweeter and more complex than typical lemon curd, with notes of vanilla, mandarin and orange blossom. I may be biased, but I think Meyer lemons are far superior to regular lemons in almost all cases.

Extracting as much flavor as possible from the whole lemons means using both the zest and the juice, the zest is massaged into the granulated sugar which draws out the flavorful oils from the peels. This, even more than the juice, is what gives this lemon curd its ultra bright flavor.

Because we’re using the outer zest of the lemon, I highly recommend purchasing organic fruit whenever possible. Either way you should wash and scrub the fruit very well before zesting to remove any waxes or coatings.

But have no fear, the lemon zest offers up all its flavor while the curd cooks, but is strained out at the very end so as not to negatively affect the luxuriously smooth texture.

Overhead, bowl of Meyer Lemon Curd with two spoons, with fresh whole and halved lemons scattered around on the marble surface.

I’ve learned that I am extremely sensitive to metallic flavor in lemon flavored desserts, and lemon curd has been one of the trickiest recipes for me to master because of this. When I was testing my Pistachio Lemon Mousse Cakes, for example, I must have tested a dozen different batches of curd and they all ended up tasting metallic to me, which is why I ended up with an eggless curd for that recipe (solely cornstarch thickened and no eggs whatsoever, so it’s not truly a curd but works well in that recipe specifically).

You’ll notice this curd recipe has quite a bit less lemon juice than many other recipes out there, and that’s why. I based the curd recipe off the base of my Meyer lemon tart, which I had noticed didn’t taste metallic at all to me.

Comparing the test batches of curd that tasted metallic compared to those that didn’t, it seems like lower acid levels is the primary factor: less acid = less chance of a metallic taste.

My current working theory is that there is a reaction that takes place between the acid and the minerals in the egg yolks around 120-130ºF that causes a metallic flavor, even when the curd has not touched anything metallic in the entire process (I even used a plastic cheese knife and bought a nylon mesh sieve to test my theory and still ended up with metallic-tasting curd, so despite what google might tell you, contact with reactive metal is not the only reason why a lemon curd may taste metallic; that said, definitely don’t use any reactive metals such as aluminum or copper. Stainless steel is fine and will not react with the lemon juice.)

Using Meyer lemons instead of regular lemons helps immensely, as the lower acidity of the Meyer lemons will keep this reaction to a minimum. I’ve also heard of folks cutting the lemon juice with a bit of orange or lime juice to decrease the acidity as well.

But don’t worry, even with less lemon juice there is still more than enough bold lemon flavor to go around!

Looking for something to do with the extra egg whites? Why not a double batch of my ever popular soft amaretti cookies or a batch of swiss meringue buttercream (a perfect combination for a triple lemon layer cake!)

Glass bowl with a swirl of Meyer lemon curd on a marble background.

Regular vs Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemons are actually a hybrid between mandarin oranges and a citrons (the ancestor of the common lemon we know today). They have a sweeter, more floral flavor and less acidity than regular lemons, with beautiful golden yellow skins.

Since Meyer lemons are lower in acid, they are also less likely to take on that annoying metallic flavor that often plagues lemon curd (I’m particularly sensitive to this phenomenon, so I rarely make curd with anything but Meyer lemons).

If you don’t have Meyer lemons, you can use 75% regular lemon juice and 25% orange juice to approximate a similar sweetness, flavor and acidity.

You can use all regular lemons in this recipe as well, just know your curd is going to be much more tart (feel free to increase the sugar to 3/4 cup if you want more sweetness; doing so won’t negatively affect the recipe).

Did you know you can actually freeze whole lemons? Indeed, just wash well, then pop into the freezer whole. When you’re ready to use them, zest first while they are still frozen, then let thaw completely and juice as you would a fresh lemon. Frozen lemons work great for things like curd or cakes or anything that calls for zest or juice, though the rinds get a bit soft and mushy once thawed so it wouldn’t work well in, say, marmalade.

No Double Boiler Needed!

Many lemon curd recipes call for cooking the curd over a double boiler, but I find that extra step is not necessary, so long as you have a good heavy-bottomed saucepan (non-reactive please! don’t use aluminum or copper here) and you cook it over the lowest possible heat setting on your stove.

If you have a gas stove that doesn’t go super low, you can periodically take the saucepan off the heat and stir for a bit, then put it back on the heat. Basically, you just want to cook the curd low and slow so that the eggs thicken but do not scramble.

Spoonful of Meyer Lemon Curd being lifted out of a glass bowl, with fresh lemons in the background.

For extra thick curd: use cornstarch.

You’ve probably noticed that some lemon curd recipes call for cornstarch and others don’t.

While cornstarch is not required to make a true lemon curd, I think of cornstarch like extra insurance that the curd will set up properly.

If you’re using the curd for something like a cake filling, for example, the curd needs to be thick and stable enough to hold its position between the layers of cake without oozing out (if you were swirling it into ice cream or layering it in a trifle, the thickness isn’t quite as important).

Can you leave out the cornstarch in this recipe? Sure, but your curd is going to be much looser. It’d be fine for toast or a trifle but I wouldn’t use it for, say, a cake filling where the extra thickness is really necessary.

Glass bowl filled with a swirl of Meyer Lemon Curd and two spoons, with fresh lemons scattered around.

Use it or lose it.

Now that you have a batch of extra thick lemon curd just taunting you, all golden yellow and gorgeously thick, you may be wondering what you should do with it (other than licking it straight off the spoon, of course). The possibilities are endless!

Cake: I originally developed this extra thick lemon curd was as the filling for this triple lemon layer cake, so obviously it’s perfect for a cake filling as it stays put in between layers without oozing or sliding.

Buttercream: A few spoonfuls of lemon curd to any American buttercream or Swiss meringue buttercream to provide a bright lemon flavor without adversely affecting the consistency.

Cheesecake: Dollop lemon curd over the top of a classic New York-style cheesecake (with or without the strawberry sauce, either would be divine!) You could also swirl some lemon curd into the unbaked cheesecake batter like I did with peaches in this cheesecake bar recipe.

Cupcakes: Fill your next batch of lemon cupcakes with a spoonful of lemon curd. Top with a swirl of fluffy buttercream so the curd becomes a hidden treasure buried inside.

Ice Cream: A swirl of lemon curd in a batch of freshly churned ice cream? Sign me up! Or better yet, a swirl of lemon curd AND marshmallow meringue for the perfect lemon meringue ice cream.

Thumbprint Cookies: Lemon curd nestled in a buttery, shortbread-based thumbprint cookie would be absolute perfection (we actually have a recipe for lemon poppyseed thumbprint cookies in Breakfast for Dinner, it’s one of our favorite combos!)

Trifle: Easier than a layer cake, just crumble some bits of lemon cake in a glass dish, alternating with layers of lemon curd and whipped cream or buttercream.

Toast: For those with a morning sweet tooth, spread some lemon curd over your morning toast or English muffin for a sweet morning treat. Even better, dollop it on top of some lemony Belgian waffles!

Meyer Lemon Curd

Meyer Lemon Curd

This tart and tangy lemon curd is extra thick (thanks to the extra thickening power of cornstarch), with a perfect balance of tart lemon and sweetness—no double boiler needed!
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Ingredients

For lemon curd:

  • cup / 133 g granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest
  • 4 teaspoons / 8 g cornstarch
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup / 120 g freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons / 42 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes

Instructions

Make lemon curd:

  • In a bowl, rub lemon zest into granulated sugar to release the flavorful oils. Whisk in cornstarch and salt until evenly incorporated.
  • Transfer to a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over low heat. Whisk in egg and egg yolks until it forms a thick paste, then whisk in lemon juice until smooth.
  • Continue to whisk regularly over low heat until the mixture starts to thicken. You can switch to a spatula at any point if you like. Continue to cook until curd reaches 170ºF and thickens enough that you can swipe your spatula through it and it will not fill in for at least 3-5 seconds.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in butter, one piece at a time, whisking until fully melted and incorporated before adding the next.
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the zest and any bits of cooked egg (this will give you a beautifully smooth texture).
  • Let cool completely, or, if not using right away, press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd and refrigerate overnight or for up to 5 days of freeze for up to a month.
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