Vegan Lemon Curd

by Ali | updated November 22, 2020

It’s impossible to find vegan lemon curd in stores, but you can easily make it at home with just a handful of ingredients.

Made with fresh lemons, this vegan lemon curd recipe is perfectly sweet, creamy, and tangy. It’s a wonderful base for pies, bars, tarts, and cakes, or eaten with fresh berries.

How to Make Vegan Lemon Curd

As a kid, I used to sneak tiny little spoonfuls of lemon curd straight out of the jar. But I’ve never even seen vegan lemon curd in stores. So I’ve been making my own lemon curd for years, just to satisfy that little kid craving I still get.

Lemon curd is actually quite easy to make, as long as you have the patience to stir for five or ten minutes to prevent it from clumping. I’ve made it with all sorts of vegan milk (they all work!) and with a couple of different fancy thickeners (those….don’t all work).

I’ve finally settled on the best combination, which uses decadent coconut cream as the base, and simple cornstarch to thicken it up. The result is a vegan lemon curd that is perfectly smooth and velvety, and easy to spread on cakes or scones.

Use fresh lemons

This might be a tad obvious, but your lemon curd will taste like the lemons you use. So you absolutely should use fresh lemons to zest and juice. That bottle of lemon juice that’s been sitting in your fridge simply won’t cut it for a lemon-based recipe.

When you pick out lemons, give the peel a quick scratch and make sure they smell wonderful. Choose lemons that are brightly colored and firm (but not hard!).

Remember to zest first, and then juice. Trying to zest lemons that have been juiced is an awkward process! (Though definitely possible.)

In this vegan lemon curd, we add the lemon zest after the curd is cooked, so the delicate essential oils and flavors aren’t damaged by the heat. If you decide to add lemon extract instead, you should add it after the heat as well.

Super creamy vegan lemon curd

The secret to getting this vegan lemon curd super creamy is using full-fat coconut cream. Yup, that’s coconut cream, not coconut milk. It’s very similar, but coconut cream is just a fattier version of coconut milk, with more of that solid creamy goodness per can. Since coconut cream turns solid when cold, it also helps the curd set in the fridge.

There’s no need to chill the can and scoop off the solids. You can use it at room temperature, and even shake it up before measuring. But if your can has solidified and separated, make sure you use as much of the solid cream part as you can.

You can definitely use regular cans of coconut milk, or even any other plant-based milk to make vegan lemon curd. I used to use almond milk for mine, and was hesitant to try it with coconut cream because I thought it would taste too much like coconut.

I finally tried it with coconut cream, and now I can’t go back! It’s way richer, and the lemon flavor dominates, hiding that coconut flavor.

Keep stirring!

To thicken vegan lemon curd, we use cornstarch, a pantry staple that has been used to make custards and puddings for generations. It thickens the curd when cooked, just like egg thickens old-fashioned (non-vegan) lemon curd.

However, similar to egg, when a cornstarch mixture is heated it has a tendency to form clumps at the bottom and sides where it’s the hottest. To prevent this, you must stir. And stir. And stir.

Use a whisk to start to make sure that all of the cornstarch dissolves. I prefer a flat whisk for cooking on the stove because you can really get into the corners of a pot, unlike with a round whisk.

Once the mixture starts bubbling, make sure to scrape the sides and edges with a rubber spatula every minute or so, to make sure the curd isn’t sticking. As the lemon curd thickens, you’ll be able to see the bottom of the pan as you scrape it.

If you do end up with clumps in your lemon curd, don’t worry, you can easily rescue it! Before putting it into the jars, just pour it through a fine-mesh strainer to filter out the lumps.

Final Thoughts

Thank you so much for checking out our vegan lemon curd recipe! I hope you try it out because lemon curd made from scratch is leagues beyond anything store-bought (if you can even find it).

If you like this recipe, or if you have any questions or ideas, please comment down below.

(My favorite way to use lemon curd is in a vegan lemon meringue pie. The rich and velvety lemon curd beneath a fluffy and sweet meringue is a perfect combo.)

Q&A

Can you eat lemon curd straight?

You bet! This lemon curd is definitely delicious and decadent enough to eat straight from the jar!

But it is extremely rich, so I recommend grabbing some berries, scones, or white cake to go with the lemon curd, or you might not be able to finish it all.

Storage guidelines

  • Refrigerator. Store the lemon curd in airtight containers in the fridge for up to ten days. If you pour the lemon curd directly into a sterile jar, it will last 2-3 weeks unopened, in the fridge. Once opened, use within a week.
  • Freezer. Before freezing, let the lemon curd set in the fridge overnight. Make sure to use freezer-safe containers. The lemon curd will last for up to six months in the freezer.

How is lemon curd made vegan?

Easy, just use vegan ingredients! Non-vegan lemon curd usually uses egg and dairy butter. In this recipe, we use cornstarch and coconut cream to replace the egg, and vegan butter (like Earth Balance) for the butter. Trust me, it ends up just as rich as any old-fashioned lemon curd.

Ingredients and substitutions

  • Fresh lemon juice. As I mentioned above, it’s really not worth making this from a bottle of lemon juice that’s been sitting in your fridge. That stuff just doesn’t taste as good.
  • Lemon zest. The lemon zest adds essential lemon oils that boost that lemony flavor. You can leave it out if you don’t have a zester, or if you want a perfectly smooth curd without the zest texture. A wonderful substitute is 1 tsp of lemon extract.
  • Turmeric. A pinch of turmeric is added for that bright color that many people associate with lemon curd. You could add one or two drops of yellow food coloring instead, or skip it entirely for a pale, cream-colored lemon curd instead.
  • Vegan butter. This ingredient is optional, but adding a couple tablespoons of butter at the end helps the lemon curd to be creamy and smooth, and adds a bit of salt to cut through the acidity. If you skip the butter, then add 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt.
  • Coconut Cream. Coconut cream in the can is the best liquid for vegan lemon curd because it is so rich. However, you can sub any plant-based milk and it will still taste delicious.
Yield: 4 cups of lemon curd

Vegan Lemon Curd

Vegan Lemon Curd

My favorite way to use lemon curd is in this vegan lemon meringue pie. The rich and velvety lemon curd beneath a fluffy and sweet meringue is a perfect combo.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch*
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
  • 1 cup coconut cream (room temperature is fine)*
  • optional 2 Tbsp vegan butter, sliced OR 1/8 tsp fine sea salt*
  • optional pinch of turmeric*

Instructions

  1. Add the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and coconut cream to a medium saucepot. Whisk all the ingredients together.
  2. Heat on medium, stirring often, until the mixture begins to bubble.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, and whisk constantly for several minutes until the mixture thickens. Use a rubber spatula to occasionally scrape down the sides and bottom of the pot. When the curd can thickly coat the spatula, it is finished.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and sliced vegan butter, if using. Stir until the butter has melted.
  5. Pour the lemon curd into glass jars and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least four hours until the curd has set, then you can remove the plastic, and cover with an airtight lid.

Notes

If you want to make this lemon curd as a filling for tarts, lemon bars, or lemon meringue pie, add 1-2 extra tablespoons of corn starch, and cook it until it is extra thick. This will make a thicker, more gelatinous curd after it sets in the fridge. You can pour the warm lemon curd directly into pie crusts or tart shells.

You can sub regular coconut milk, or any other plant-based milk, but it won't be quite as rich and creamy.

The turmeric is just for color. You can skip it, or add 1-2 drops of yellow food coloring instead.

The lemon curd will last about ten days in an airtight container in the fridge. If frozen, it will be good for up to 6 months.

Ali

CONTRIBUTOR

Ali is the former editor of Vegan HW and a graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine. She is the author of two cookbooks and her favorite vegetable is, believe it or not, the mighty pea. Check out her website to learn more about Ali!

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