Classic Homemade Lemon Pie Filling

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Simple to make and so much better than storage bought, this homemade lemon pie filling is the perfect blend of sweet and tart. Whether you’re filling doughnuts with it, spreading in between cake layers, or using it as a base of a classic lemon pie, it’s worth making yourself.

Lemon recipes are perfect any time of year, but there’s something special about them in winter or early spring. I hope you enjoy his recipe as a base for all your fresh and bright homemade treats ❤️.

A vibrant, glossy bowl of lemon pie filling, showcasing the final product's texture and color, ready to be used in a pie or for other dessert applications.

Classic Lemon Pie Filling

The perfect blend of sweet and tangy meets in a lusciously smooth filling.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Serving Size 1 nine-inch pie

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • cups water
  • 2 lemons juiced and zested
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 egg yolks beaten

Instructions 

  • Prepare the Lemon Mixture. In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup of granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir in 1 ½ cups of water, the juice, and zest of 2 lemons. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil.
    with sugar for lemon pie filling at an early stage of cooking, with a whisk for stirring, indicating the initial cooking phase.
  • Thicken the Filling. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 1 minute. The mixture should thicken considerably.
    A saucepan with lemon pie filling at an early stage of cooking, with a whisk for stirring, indicating the initial cooking phase.
  • Temper the Egg Yolks. In a small bowl, whisk 4 beaten egg yolks. Gradually whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot sugar mixture to temper the egg yolks. This step prevents the eggs from curdling.
    A bowl of beaten egg yolks beside a whisk and a small dish of butter, indicating the preparation steps for making lemon pie filling.
  • Combine and Cook. Pour the tempered egg yolks back into the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. The filling should be thick and smooth.
    A close-up view inside a saucepan showing lemon pie filling at a smooth, thickened consistency, ready for cooling or pie assembly
  • Finish the Filling. Remove from heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and stir until fully incorporated.
    A saucepan with lemon pie filling being mixed with a whisk, showing the step where butter is incorporated into the thickened lemon mixture
  • Cool and Use. Let the filling cool slightly before pouring it into your prepared pie crust. If you're not using it immediately, cover the filling with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

Notes

Always use fresh lemons for the best flavor.
For a smoother filling, strain the lemon mixture through a fine-mesh sieve before adding the butter.
You can adjust the sugar according to your taste preference. 
Here are some of our favorite recipes with lemon pie filling.
 

Master the art of making the classic lemon pie filling with our simple step-by-step guide.

An overhead shot of lemon pie filling covered with plastic wrap in a saucepan beside a yellow and white checkered cloth, indicating the step to prevent skin formation on the filling.

🥣 important tools and ingredients

  • Lemons: The stars of the show! Fresh lemons are non-negotiable. They give you an irreplaceable flavor with their vibrant zest and juice.
  • Egg yolks: These add richness and help thicken the filling, resulting in a luxurious texture.
  • Cornstarch: A critical ingredient for achieving the perfect consistency in your pie filling. Without it, the filling won’t set.
Ingredients for lemon pie filling neatly arranged on a marble countertop, including sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, egg yolks, butter, and a measuring cup of water, showcasing the mise en place for the recipe

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Save the whites for a meringue if you’re making lemon meringue pie!

  • Zester and Juicer: For extracting maximum flavor from your lemons.
  • Medium Saucepan: Needed for cooking the filling.
  • Whisk: Essential for mixing ingredients smoothly.
  • Fine-Mesh Sieve: For straining the mixture to achieve a smooth texture.

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Lemon recipes often need a little color for garnish, so you might want some fresh mint too!

✨ Tips for the best homemade pie filling

As long as you choose fresh lemons and follow the directions, not much can go wrong.

  • 1. Understanding Lemon Varieties: Not all lemons are created equal. Eureka and Lisbon lemons are commonly found and offer a perfect balance of tartness and juice, ideal for pie fillings. Meyer lemons, on the other hand, are sweeter and less acidic, which might require adjusting the sugar content.
  • 2. Balancing Sweetness and Tartness: Your pie’s flavor hinges on this balance. Taste your lemon juice before starting; if it’s particularly tart, you might want to add a bit more sugar. Conversely, reduce the sugar if you prefer a sharper, more citrus-forward flavor.
  • 3. Egg Yolk Quality: The richness of your filling partly depends on the quality of the egg yolks. Fresh, organic eggs often have richer yolks. This contributes to a better texture and flavor. Ensure they are at room temperature for smoother incorporation.
  • 4. The Art of Tempering Eggs: To prevent scrambling, add the hot lemon mixture to the egg yolks slowly. This gradual increase in temperature is crucial. A good rule of thumb is to add the mixture tablespoon by tablespoon. Constantly whisking, until you’ve added about half of it. Then, you can safely combine the rest.
  • 5. Avoiding a Starchy Taste: Cornstarch is essential for thickening but can leave a raw taste if not cooked properly. Boil the mixture for at least 1 minute after adding the cornstarch. This eliminates this flavor.
  • 6. Achieving the Perfect Consistency: The filling should coat the back of a spoon and hold a line drawn through it with your finger. It will thicken further as it cools, so don’t overcook it in hopes of getting a thicker consistency.
  • 7. Cooling and Storing the Filling: Allow the filling to cool to room temperature before pouring it into the crust to prevent a soggy base. If storing, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling to prevent a skin from forming.
  • 8. Pie Crust Considerations: A well-baked crust is as important as the filling. Blind bake your crust to ensure it’s crispy and golden before adding the lemon filling. This step prevents the dreaded soggy bottom.
  • 9. Chill Time: Patience is key. The filling needs time to set. Chilling it for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight, will yield the best texture and flavor.
  • 10. Serving and Presentation: Serve the pie at a slightly cool room temperature for optimal flavor. Garnish with lemon slices, zest, or a sprinkle of powdered sugar for an extra touch of elegance.

This recipe is simple to make, but every step counts.

🥫 Storage and make ahead instructions

Do not can this recipe! It is not acidic enough, and it’s too thick for the heat to penetrate it properly.

Refrigeration:

  • Short-Term Storage: Place the lemon pie filling in an airtight container. If you don’t have a container large enough, pour the filling into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. This prevents a skin from forming on top. The filling can be refrigerated like this for up to 3 days.
  • Make-Ahead Tip: If you plan to use the filling within a few days, making it ahead can be a real time-saver. Just prepare the filling as per the recipe, let it cool to room temperature, and then store it in the refrigerator as described above.

Freezing:

  • Long-Term Storage: Lemon pie filling can be frozen, although the texture might change slightly upon thawing. To freeze, cool the filling completely, then transfer it to a freezer-safe bag or container. Leave a small space at the top as the filling will expand when frozen. It can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Thawing: Thaw the frozen lemon pie filling in the refrigerator overnight. Before using, stir it well to ensure the consistency is even. If the filling separates slightly, a gentle whisk should bring it back together.
  • Freezing Tip: Consider freezing the filling in pre-measured amounts, enough for one pie each. This way, you only thaw what you need.

Using After Storage:

  • After refrigeration or thawing, the filling might have thickened a bit more. Gently reheat it over low heat while stirring continuously to restore its smooth consistency. If it seems too thick, a small amount of water or lemon juice can be added to adjust the texture.

I usually make the filling in the morning, assemble my pie around lunch time, and serve at dinner.

❤️ More lemony desserts you’ll love

Lemon sweets are our favorite thing around here, and I’ve got lots of them!

  • Imagine biting into a warm, golden Lemon Cobbler. Its zesty lemon filling and crumbly, buttery crust melt in your mouth.
  • These Coconut Lemon Cupcakes are a tropical dream. They combine the tangy sweetness of lemon with the rich, creamy flavor of coconut in a fluffy, moist cake.
  • These Lemon Curd Thumbprint Cookies have a sweet and tangy burst of flavor in every bite. They feature a dollop of smooth lemon curd nestled in a delicate, buttery cookie.
  • Savor the creamy, citrusy goodness of this Creamy Lemon Pie. It’s made with evaporated milk, which gives it a smooth texture. And a refreshing lemon zing in every slice.

I hope this zesty, luscious lemon pie filling becomes a cherished addition to your recipe collection. Happy baking! 🍋

prepared pie filling homemade filling.
Classic Homemade Lemon Pie Filling
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