Lemon custard pie is rich and creamy with a vibrant lemony flavor! It’s a cross between lemon meringue pie and vanilla custard, which strikes the perfect balance of tart lemon and rich vanilla.
This easy lemon custard pie is luscious and indulgent- not quite as tart and tangy as lemon meringue but just as creamy as a vanilla custard.
Why You’ll Love It
This pie has it all. A flaky, buttery pie crust. Creamy lemon custard with a subtle lemon flavor. Extra lemony toppings, if you wish.
This creamy lemon pie can be as simple or as involved as you choose to make it, depending on how you’d like to serve it and garnish it. Enjoy it plain or with whipped cream or go an extra step and top it with tangy lemon curd and/or candied lemon slices.
Either way, here’s why you’ll love this lemon custard pie:
- it is delicious and decadent
- it’s easy to make
- this is the perfect pie for any occasion
- you can modify the crust to make it gluten-free
Lemon Custard Pie Ingredients
To make this old-fashioned lemon custard pie, you will need:
- a single pie crust (homemade or store-bought)
- whole milk and heavy cream
- granulated sugar
- eggs (plus extra yolks)
- lemon juice powder. This ingredient is optional but it will give the pie an extra burst of lemon flavor without changing the ratio of liquid in the pie.
- lemon juice, lemon oil, and lemon zest
- vanilla extract
- lemon curd, whipped cream, and candied lemon slices (optional toppings)
Our Lemon Custard Pie Recipe
This creamy citrus custard pie recipe features simple ingredients and easy-to-follow steps.
Be sure to read the full printable recipe card at the bottom of the page and check out the recipe notes, too. Custards are not very difficult but there are some tips and tricks that will ensure the best results!
Here is a summary of the steps involved:
Warm the milk and cream until it is hot, steamy, and just barely simmering. Don’t let it come to a boil.
Stir the sugar and cornstarch together. In a separate bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, then stir in the sugar and cornstarch mixture.
Tip: Combine the sugar and cornstarch before adding them to the liquid ingredients. The cornstarch will get dispersed throughout the sugar and will not clump up when you add it to the liquids.
Add about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture. Whisk constantly while slowly drizzling the hot milk.
Pour the warm egg mixture into the hot milk mixture. Stir constantly and keep the pan over medium heat.
Tip: If you pour all of the egg mixture into the hot milk at once, the eggs will cook quickly and scramble. Adding a bit of hot milk to the egg mixture will temper the eggs so they won’t have such an extreme temperature change when you add them to the hot milk.
Cook the lemon custard until it coats the back of a spoon. If you swipe your finger through it, it should be thick enough to hold a track.
Pour the warm custard into a warm pie shell and place it in the oven to bake.
Tip: Cornstarch needs to get hot enough to activate, but if you cook it too long at a high heat, it will lose its thickening power. Once you see the mixture come to a low boil, turn the heat down.
Let the pie cool on the counter for an hour, then place it in the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. Enjoy when it’s chilled, or finish the pie with your toppings of choice.
Tip: The pie will appear slightly jiggly in the center while it is still warm, but it will firm up after it sits in the fridge for several hours.
Recipe Tips for the Best Results
- The creamy custard filling does not have as vibrant of a lemon punch like a lemon meringue pie. Instead, it is smooth, rich, and subtly “lemony.” We like to top it with lemon curd to enhance the bright lemon flavor, but that’s completely up to you!
- The lemon juice powder is optional, but it’s our preferred ingredient for the perfect lemon flavor. It will enhance the lemon without changing the ratio of liquid in the recipe.
Lemon juice powder also helps reduce the amount of lemon oil and lemon extract, which is another bonus. Too much lemon extract can create an artificial flavor.
- Do not cook the custard mixture on the stovetop too long. If it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. The cornstarch needs to get hot enough to activate, but it will lose its thickening power if you cook it too long.
- Store this creamy lemon pie in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- If you have an instant-read thermometer you can get PERFECT results. You will know the pie is ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 175°F. At 175°F, the custard will be silky smooth and creamy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, definitely. Custards can be challenging, but if you follow the recipe instructions closely, this citrus custard pie will turn out perfect! Make sure to temper the eggs and be careful not to over-bake the pie.
For the best results, this lemon custard pie should chill in the refrigerator for several hours, preferably overnight. The pie will firm up the longer it chills.
We recommend using an instant-read thermometer for this lemon egg custard pie because it will give you perfect results. The custard is ready when the thermometer reads 175°F.
Yes, since there is dairy and eggs in this lemon custard pie, it should be stored in the refrigerator.
Each slice of this creamy baked lemon custard pie is a dreamy slice of lemony indulgence! Whether you’re enjoying it mid-summer or during the winter citrus season, it will definitely brighten up your day.
This recipe was inspired by CooksIllustrated.
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- 1 single crust pie crust (homemade or storebought)
- 1-3/4 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice powder (optional)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil or lemon extract
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Pre Bake the Pie Crust
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Roll the pie crust out and place it in a standard 9-inch pie dish. Fold the edges under and crimp around the edge. Use a fork to make some holes in the bottom of the crust. Place the unbaked pie shell in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Line the bottom of the pie shell with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake the pie crust for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights (or beans) and bake 5 to 10 more minutes.
Make the Custard
- Add the milk and cream to a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until just barely simmering.
- Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl (this will prevent the cornstarch from clumping up when you add it to the liquids). Place the eggs, egg yolks, lemon juice powder, lemon juice, vanilla, lemon oil, lemon zest, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and whisk until well combined.
- Scoop about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture and slowly pour it into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. This will temper the egg mixture and prevent making scrambled eggs.
- Slowly pour the (now warm) egg mixture into the hot milk, whisking constantly.
- Cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring gently but constantly and scraping the bottom of the saucepan. Let the mixture come to a low boil. You will know when the mixture is thick enough by doing a ‘spoon test”. Lift a spoon out of the custard and draw a line across the back of the spoon. If the line remains visible, the custard is thick enough.
- If the pre-baked pie shell is no longer warm, stick it in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes to get it warm. Keep the custard warm over low heat while the pie shell warms up.
- Pour the custard into the warm pie shell and bake for 18 to 25 minutes. The edges should look slightly set but the center should look jiggly. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the center of the pie should be 175°F. The pie will firm up in the center when it is cool.
- Let the pie cool at room temperature for 1 hour then place it in the refrigerator for 6 hours before serving.
- The pie is delicious served “as is” but for an “over the top” lemon cream pie, top it with lemon curd, whipped cream, and candied lemon slices.
- The creamy custard filling is not as vibrantly “lemony” like a lemon meringue pie but it has a rich, smooth, decadent flavor. Topping it with lemon curd will enhance the bright, lemon flavor.
- The lemon juice powder is optional. It gives the pie extra lemon flavor without changing the ratio of liquid in the recipe. It also helps you use less lemon oil or lemon extract because too much lemon extract can create an artificial flavor.
- Do not cook the custard mixture on the stovetop too long. If it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. The cornstarch needs to get hot enough to activate but it will lose its thickening power if you cook it too long.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 580Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 201mgSodium: 353mgCarbohydrates: 60gFiber: 1gSugar: 46gProtein: 17g
Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.