Lemon Meringue Pie
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This classic lemon meringue pie recipe features a sweet and tart homemade lemon curd filling and a light and fluffy meringue topping. Bake this lemon meringue pie in the oven to insure the filling sets and creates a beautiful and impressive dessert with clear, sturdy, defined layers.
Welcome to #LemonWeek 2022 hosted by Rebecca from Devour Dinner and me! This week is sponsored by Rodelle and La Tourangelle. I may have received product samples from these sponsors to help in the creation of my recipes. All opinions are my own. Come join me and my fellow Lemon Week bloggers as we bring you recipes from appetizers to drinks to entrées and desserts!
Day 2 in Lemon Week 2022 might look intimidating, but hear me out…. I am going to help you make the most perfect lemon meringue pie. Don’t believe me? Well, believe me.
It took me some fails at this to get everything just right for you, so please know this easy lemon meringue pie recipe really is going to give you something you possibly never thought you’d be able to make.
I promise, you can do this!
Oh, and bonus points? We’re getting a two-fer here– this pie is May’s Pie of The Month!
WHAT IS LEMON MERINGUE PIE?
Traditional lemon meringue pie uses a standard buttery, flaky pie crust. It is considered a custard pie, and the lemon meringue pie filling is made completely of lemon curd.
Finally, it’s topped with a fluffy meringue which is one of those things that is simply a masterpiece if you get it just right. And guess what? I’m going to help you through that!
One of the things I love the most about classic pie recipes is how economical they tend to be.
When it comes to traditional pie recipes, typically nothing is wasted– a curd or custard filling that’s made with just yolks is often topped with a meringue made from the leftover egg whites. Those egg whites get combined with a touch of sugar and beat into a light and fluffy meringue that is totally show-stopping.
The idea of minimal waste is even more so true of this bright, refreshing and classic lemon meringue pie with lemon curd than many other pies. It uses basic staple ingredients and avoids waste by using both parts of the egg, as well as both the rind and juice of fresh, ripe lemons.
It’s flavorful, simple, and nostalgic to the core.
All you need to make a delicious and flaky homemade pie crust is just a handful of simple ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, cold butter, and cold shortening. Oh, and of course a little bit of ice water to bring it all together.
I’m pretty sure the popular adage “easy as pie” is based solely on the pie crust aspect, because the rest of the pie doesn’t always seem so easy. But the crust? Once you’ve had a few practice runs, this portion is a total cinch.
And hey, guess what? If you don’t want to go the homemade route, I’m not going to force you to. Feel free to use a premade crust instead!
I just recommend transferring it to a standard pie plate instead of leaving it in the foil pan. Those foil pans are pretty shallow, and won’t hold all of the delicious lemon curd filling and meringue that goes into this pie.
LEMON CURD FILLING
Your lemon curd filling is where that delicious lemony flavor makes its debut. The curd is made from egg yolks (save those whites for the meringue), sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, salt, and some cubes of unsalted butter.
All of this comes together to make an incredibly dense, silky, beautiful layer of lemon curd. In fact, I’m totally drooling over it right now and I might need to sneak off and grab a slice.
An important thing to note is that I want you to promise me you’ll only use fresh lemons. Ok? Pinky promise? Because it makes a difference. A BIG one.
Since we need both lemon zest and lemon juice to give the curd the best flavor possible, it just doesn’t make sense to try and skimp by on bottled lemon juice anyway. So… No excuses!
You’ll need about 3 large lemons to get enough zest and about ½ cup of juice. I always like to zest my lemons first, and then cut them in half and juice them. It’s a lot easier than dealing with a lumpy and wet lemon that has already been squeezed.
Remember those egg whites you saved from the curd? Well, they are used to make a fluffy and delicious meringue topping. I mean, what would a classic lemon pie be without a meringue topping? Come on now!
You’ll also need some cream of tartar, a bit of sugar, and a touch of salt. This will give your meringue a thick, glossy texture that is absolutely perfect for topping a layer of warm lemon curd.
HOW TO MAKE LEMON MERINGUE PIE
A classic lemon meringue pie is made up of three basic components: the crust, the filling, and the meringue topping.
While there is some wiggle room within those components as to what kind of techniques are used to produce different results (Swiss meringue versus standard meringue, for example), all versions of the pie follow the same basic blueprint.
This recipe uses a homemade pie crust made with both butter and shortening, a lemon curd filling, and an airy meringue topping. Everything is baked together to set the layers and brown the meringue perfectly.
This is my take on the classic lemon meringue pie, made completely from scratch, although there are a few shortcuts and make ahead options you can take advantage of along the way.
In the meantime, let’s get started where all good pie recipes start off: the crust.
MAKE PIE CRUST
You have some options when it comes to the pie crust portion of this recipe. You can either buy and blind bake a premade crust, OR you can make a homemade pie crust.
If you’ve been around here for any amount of time, you probably know which one I’m going to advocate for, right? Yes! Homemade always beats store bought, but of course I won’t judge you if you want to take a few shortcuts.
You see, with a totally from scratch recipe like this lemon meringue pie with homemade lemon curd AND homemade meringue, it just seems a bit odd to go with the premade crust. Do you see what I mean?
My homemade pie crust is hands down my favorite all purpose crust recipe. It works equally as well for savory pies (see my double crust chicken pot pie) as it does for sweet pies (like the popular coconut custard pie).
All you need to do is whisk together a few simple ingredients (flour, a little bit of sugar, and salt), cut in some ultra cold butter and shortening, and then add a little bit of ice water until everything comes together.
Once your pie crust comes together in a solid mass, divide it into two and shape each one into a disc. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let chill for at least 2 hours.
Then, when you’re ready to get started roll one half of the dough out, and fit it gently into a pie plate.
If that run down seems entirely too simple, don’t worry! I have an entire post dedicated to showing you exactly how to make a homemade pie crust with lots of pictures to show you all of the step-by-step instructions. So if you’re new to this, that’s totally ok. You’ve got this!
PARTIALLY BLIND BAKE CRUST
Whether you’re using a homemade crust or a premade crust, you’ll have to do what we in the baking world call a blind bake.
A blind bake is when you bake your pie crust for a super short period of time. This browns the crust ever so lightly, but mostly it is to ensure your pie crust bakes evenly after being filled.
It isn’t too uncommon for curd and custard based pies to have a short baking time. When pies have a shorter baking time, the crust runs a risk of not getting baked all the way through and can end up soggy.
To prevent this, we do a blind bake, which prebakes the crust before filling.
Then, we add in the prepared filling and add everything back into the oven for a second time. It sounds fancy, but it’s really quite simple!
To blind bake your pie crust, line it with parchment paper and fill the parchment with pie beads. This helps hold the crust down and prevents it from bubbling up and baking unevenly.
Bake your crust partially in an oven that has been preheated to 375°F (191ºC) for 15 minutes with the rack moved to the lowest position. Then, remove the pie from the oven and remove the parchment paper and weights. Return the crust to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove the partially baked crust from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350°F (171ºC). Set aside while you get started on the lemon curd filling.
MAKE LEMON CURD FILLING
To make the homemade lemon curd, fill the bottom pot of a double boiling with about 3-4″ of water. You can also use a heatproof bowl over a pot of water, so long as the bowl fits in nicely without moving too much.
Be sure to avoid metal bowls, as they can leave a metallic taste when they are used with acidic ingredients like lemon.
Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer.
Add the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in the top portion of your double boiler. Use a silicone whisk to whisk everything together. Like I mentioned with the metal bowl, you want to avoid a metal whisk to prevent a metallic tasting lemon curd.
Whisk the mixture continuously as it cooks, ensuring that you’re always keeping it moving. This prevents the eggs from cooking through or curdling. Whisking frequently keeps the heat even, and helps the lemon curd thicken up nicely.
Continue whisking over the double boiler until it becomes thick and foamy. This should take about 10-15 minutes, but it may vary a little in either direction. Your lemon curd should reach a minimum temperature of 160°F (71ºC), indicating it’s totally safe to eat.
Remove your double boiler from the heat, and add the butter, 2 pieces at a time (approximately 2 Tablespoons), whisking them in until mostly melted. Then, add 2 more pieces and repeat until the butter is fully incorporated.
FILL THE PIE CRUST
Once all of the butter has melted, pour all of your fresh lemon curd into the still warm, partially baked pie crust. Set aside as you prepare to make the fluffy meringue topping.
MAKE MERINGUE TOPPING
Using a handheld mixer OR a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites to a large bowl.
Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Then, increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. This should take about 4 additional minutes, but the most important thing to do is watch for those soft peaks.
Soft peaks is just a fancy way of saying “the egg whites stay mostly standing when you pull the whisk out.” They will likely lean over a bit, or start to shrink back, but they will mostly stay in place. This is the exact point you’ll want to move onto the next step.
Add in your sugar and salt, and then continue to beat on high speed until the mixture turns glossy and stiff peaks form. This should take an additional 3-4 minutes.
Stiff peaks will stand up straight and stay in place when you pull the whisk up, in contrast with the soft peaks we were looking for earlier.
TOP PIE WITH MERINGUE
Spread the meringue directly on top of the still-warm lemon curd filling. Use a large offset or silicone spatula to spread it out evenly, and make some decorative peaks if desired. Those dramatic peaks will be the parts that brown first, so if you love that classic lemon meringue pie aesthetic, this is pretty essential!
One thing to be sure of is to spread the meringue all the way to the edges. You want it to touch the crust, since it will then form a sort of seal and prevent the meringue from shrinking or the lemon curd from browning.
BAKE TO INSURE STURDY AND DEFINED LAYERS
Bake your pie for 20-25 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned, especially at the tops of the large peaks.
Baking the pie in this manner gives sturdy and distinct layers, without slipping and sliding of the meringue on top of the lemon curd filling.
When the pie is done, remove it from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Allow it to cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour before transferring to the refrigerator.
CHILL THE PIE
Once in the fridge, allow your lemon meringue pie to chill for at least 3-4 hours. I know! It’s so hard to wait, but I promise it will be worth it!
After the chilling time is up, you’re all good to go ahead and slice and serve up a slice of this classic and refreshing pie.
HOW DO I STORE LEFTOVERS?
Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. While you can absolutely store your pie for several days, it really is best on the first day. After the first day, the meringue will start to weep, which creates some extra liquid that settles on top of the lemon curd.
This weeping generally starts after 12 hours or so, so if you’re looking to serve guests, I highly recommend making the pie the night before or the morning of.
This should give you plenty of time to get the pie all chilled and ready for slicing (and eating), without the meringue starting to weep.
CAN I MAKE THIS LEMON MERINGUE PIE AHEAD OF TIME?
If you would like to make your pie ahead of time, I would recommend that instead of making the entire pie, that you only prepare the lemon curd ahead of time. This will give you a fresh baked taste, without all of the work the evening before or morning of.
While you’re at it, you can prepare some homemade pie crust and roll it out and blind bake it just before you’re ready to do your final bake and bring everything together.
To prepare the lemon curd ahead of time, follow the instructions in my homemade lemon curd post for storing the fresh curd.
The gist is basically that once you have made the curd, you must cover it gently with some plastic wrap. This involves pressing it down to meet the top layer of the curd, thus sealing it and preventing a film from forming. But there’s a lot more to it than that, so be sure to check out the detailed post for specific instructions.
When you’re ready to assemble your pie, you will need to gently reheat the curd. This will prevent your meringue from sliding around, and ensure that all of your layers are distinct and sturdy.
To warm up your curd, add it to a small saucepan and heat it gently over low-medium heat.
Then, add your warmed curd to the partially baked crust, and follow the rest of the instructions, including topping with meringue and chilling before slicing.
See? Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! See what I did there?
Oh, and while you’re enjoying all of this amazing fresh lemon deliciousness, I’m sure you’ll want to check out a few more recipes for using up that bulk bag of lemons.
One of my favorites is this 5 ingredient recipe for lemon mousse, but I also can’t get enough of these spicy and bright lemon pepper slice and bake cookies. They are so unique and yummy! And if you have a few Meyer lemons available, a batch of my Meyer lemon bars cannot be beat. They are hands down one of the most delicious ways to use lemons, period.
Tuesday #LemonWeek Recipes
- Betty Crocker Lemon Bars by Best Cookie Recipes
- Pink Lemonade Vodka Cocktail by The Fresh Cooky
- Lemon Ice Cream by A Day In The Life On The Farm
- Shaker Style Lemon Pie by Jen Around The World
Lemon Meringue Pie
LEMON CURD FILLING
- ½ recipe homemade pie crust
- 4 large egg yolks save the whites for the meringue (below)
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (40g) cornstarch
- zest of 3 lemons
- ½ cup (120mL) fresh lemon juice1
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature and cut into 8 pieces2
- 4 large egg whites
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ⅓ cup (67g) granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Prepare my homemade pie crust recipe through step 6, or begin with a store-bought pie crust.
- When your pie crust is thoroughly chilled and ready to use, prepare a 9" pie plate with the pie crust. Adjust a rack in the oven to the lowest position, then preheat to 375°F (190°C).
- Partially blind bake your pie crust by fitting it with parchment paper and pie weights for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, remove parchment and pie weights, then bake for another 10 minutes.
- Remove partially blind baked pie crust from the oven, then reduce oven temperature to 350°F (177°C).
LEMON CURD FILLING
- Fill the bottom pot of a double boiler with 3-4" of water and turn heat to high. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. You may also use a pot with a heatproof bowl3 on top instead of a double boiler. Prepare the water the same.
- Combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in the top pot of the double boiler. Use a silicone whisk3 to continuously whisk the mixture as it cooks. It is important to keep the mixture moving so the eggs don't cook or curdle.
- Continue whisking the mixture until it becomes thick and foamy, approximately 10-15 minutes. If you want to check the temperature of the curd with an instant read thermometer to be safe, it should reach 160ºF (71ºC).
- Remove double boiler or top bowl from heat and whisk in butter pieces 2 at a time, adding the next pieces after previous pieces have mostly melted.
- When all of the butter has melted, pour the curd4 into the warm, partially blind baked pie crust. Set aside.
- With a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on medium speed for 1 minute, then increase to high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 more minutes.
- Add the sugar and salt, then continue beating on high speed until the mixture turns glossy and stiff peaks form, about 3-4 more minutes.
- Spread the meringue directly on top of the warm lemon curd filling, using a large spatula or spoon to make decorative peaks. It is imperative that you spread the meringue all the way to the edges so that it touches the crust to prevent the meringue from shrinking.
- Bake lemon meringue pie for 20-25 minutes, until meringue is lightly browned. When the pie is done, remove it from the oven, place it on a wire rack, and allow it to cool at room temperature for about 1 hour before placing it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3-4 hours before slicing and serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, keeping in mind lemon meringue pie is best served on day 1 as the meringue will start to wilt and weep after about 12 hours. See recipe note #4 about making this pie ahead of time. Lemon meringue pie does not freeze well.
- Fresh lemon juice: do not use bottled lemon juice. Use freshly squeezed lemon juice from the lemons that you zest (3 lemons will give you a little more than ½ cup of juice).
- Unsalted butter: you may use salted butter. Do not add additional salt.
- Bowl and whisk: do not use a metal bowl or a metal whisk, or you run the risk of your lemon curd tasting metallic.
- Warm curd: if you want to make your lemon curd ahead of time, see instructions in this post for how to store it until ready to use. You will want to warm up the lemon curd after refrigeration in a small saucepan in order to put warm lemon curd into the pie crust. This is crucial for the lemon curd and meringue to seal together.
All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.
You have out done yourself here! WOW, I feel confident I can make this with your recipe.
Thanks so much, Grace!
Thanks for all the great tips on blind baking, for some reason that always scares me! Making this delicious pie this weekend, reminds me of my Dad, it was his favorite pie!
I love that, Kathleen! Blind baking can get tricky, but that parchment + weights is the real trick!
This pie is lovely. That meringue is perfect.
Thanks so much, Wendy!
That meringue looks fantastic. In Kentucky, we have a restaurant known for its mile-high meringue.