Lemon Curd Definition, Uses & Recipes

An image of Pumpkin Scones with raisins, pecans and lemon curd.
Lemon curd is a perfect accompaniment to many scones, cookies, cakes and other baked goods. Lindsey Goodwin

What is Lemon Curd?

Lemon curd is a popular condiment for afternoon tea, and is used in a similar manner to jam or a custard.

It is a sweet, tangy topping with a strong lemon taste (much stronger than, say, a lemon custard).

Lemon curd's texture is smooth and silky, similar to a very smooth, creamy custard, and thick enough to be spread on scones and other foods.

In Britain, lemon curd is also known as "lemon cheese," and other fruit curds are known as "[name of fruit] cheese".

What's in Lemon Curd?

Traditionally, lemon curd is made with the zest and juice of Meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are a crossbreed between regular old lemons and either Mandarin or regular oranges, and they give lemon curd a distinctive flavor.

However, lemon curd can also be made with regular lemons, and other types of fruit curds can be made with citrus fruits like limes (lime curd), tangerines (tangerine curd), oranges (orange curd), or with other fruits, like passion fruit, berries or mango.

Traditionally, lemon curd also includes egg yolks and sugar. Some recipes also include egg whites and / or butter.

Commercial lemon curds may also include thickeners (such as cornstarch; these dilute the flavor and quality of lemon curd), preservatives, colors and flavorings.

How is Lemon Curd Used?

Although it's most often used as a scone topping, lemon curd is surprisingly versatile. It's also used on cakes, cupcakes, breads, muffins, pancakes, crumpets, waffles, cream puffs, tarts and cookies, and is the lemony filling found in lemon meringue pies.

Since lemon curd has such a strong taste, it is not usually eaten on its own.

For more ideas on how to use lemon curd, see "Pair This With Lemon Curd" and "Recipes That Use Lemon Curd" below.

How Long Does Lemon Curd Keep Fresh?

The down side to lemon curd is that it doesn't keep fresh as long as jam does.

When you make a batch, you'll need to use it up quickly--ideally within a week or two.

Luckily, homemade lemon curd is not only versatile, but far better than the store-bought varieties, so it's easy to use up quickly. That said, there are two ways around its short shelf-life.

  1. Freeze it, which can stretch its shelf life for up to a year, and (surprisingly) does not impact its texture.
  2. "Can" it, so it can keep good for three months or so in the fridge (yes, really--not on a shelf).

Both work well, but freezing is easier and it keeps lemon curd fresh longer, so if you have space in the freezer, go for it!

Lemon Curd Recipes

The basic method for making lemon is simple: Zest and juice lemons. Cook with beaten egg yolks and sugar in a double boiler, stirring often, until thick and smooth. Cool and enjoy.

However, the variations on how to make lemon curd are infinite! Here are a few ways you can make great lemon curd at home:

  • British Lemon Curd Recipe
  • Canned Lemon Curd (Preservation helps it keep longer. You can keep sealed jars of lemon curd for up to three months.)
  • Large-Batch, Dairy-Free Lemon Curd Recipe (Yields 4 1/2 cups)
  • Lemon Curd Video Recipe (For those who are audio-visual learners)
  • Lemon Curd With Butter (This recipe gives a creamier texture, thanks to the butter and ample egg yolks.)

Pair This With Lemon Curd

Now you've got your lemon curd. What are you going to do with it? I recommend starting off by using it as a spread on one of these sweets:

Recipes That Use Lemon Curd

Once you've tried your lemon curd  a few different ways, you may want to branch out in how you use it. Here are some wonderful recipes that call for lemon curd. Enjoy it while it lasts!