Lemon Meringue Pie

4.75 from 12 votes
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This elegant lemon meringue pie recipe is the perfect dessert for special occasions. Follow my simple techniques to master the delicious buttery crust, tart citrus curd, and silky whipped topping.

For more sweet desserts, try my chocolate cream pie, apple pie, and peanut butter pie.

Lemon meringue pie in a glass dish with a slice removed.

One of the most jaw-dropping and gorgeous desserts is lemon meringue pie. Its stunning beauty combines flaky pie crust, tart lemon filling, and light egg white topping. I’ll show you how to make the shell from scratch for maximum flavor.

In culinary school, I learned how to make lemon curd and meringue. It was tricky initially but was doable once I understood the techniques. I’ll share tips for properly tempering the egg-based filling to prevent curdling. Plus, you’ll master a classic Italian meringue technique (it sounds fancy but simple) and learn to use a blow torch.

Recipe ingredients

  • Pie Crust: I use a classic pie crust recipe called Pâte Brisée, a simple combination of flour, butter, salt, and water. It makes a sturdy but tender shell perfect for holding heavy filling. Store-bought crust can be used if you are short on time.
  • Lemon Filling: This recipe for lemon meringue pie delivers a robust citrus flavor and tart pucker. Fresh lemon juice and zest, balanced with granulated sugar, provide a bold taste. The mixture is thickened with cornstarch and eggs. The filling is a curd that’s opaque in appearance with a sticky, sliceable jelly-like texture.
  • Meringue Topping: I use a classic Italian meringue recipe, which uses hot sugar syrup whisked together with egg whites, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Make the pie crust

Step 1: Add ice cubes to the water and cut the butter into 1/4-inch cubes. Refrigerate until ready to use. When incorporated into the flour, the water and butter must be cold to ensure a light and flakey texture.

Step 2: Mix the flour and salt, then add the cubed butter. I use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to make the pie crust efficiently. I mix on low speed until the butter resembles coarse crumbles. This process adds fat pockets to the dough for a tender crust.

Step 3: Hydrate the dough gradually with the ice water. Add 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough compresses together when pinched.

Step 4: Form the dough into a disc about 1 inch thick and cover it with plastic wrap. This will make it easier to roll out later. Chilling the dough for at least 4 hours is crucial to give the gluten proteins time to relax.

Make-Ahead Tip: I recommend preparing the pie dough a day or two ahead of time so it’s ready to roll and bake the day of serving.

Form the pie crust

Step 5: Let the chilled dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. This will make it more pliable and easier to roll. Dust the work surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into about a 14-inch circle, just a little less than ¼ inch thick.

Raw dough formed into a fluted pie crust in a pie plate.

Step 6: Shape the crust into a 9-inch pie dish. I prefer glass to see the crust’s color change as it bakes. Ease the dough into the pan, trimming the edges so there is a 1/2-inch overhang. Tuck and crimp the edges to make a pretty design. Freeze for 20 minutes to firm up the dough.

Par-bake the pie crust

Step 7: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Transfer the pie dish to a rimmed baking sheet.

Parchment paper and pie weights set inside of a pie crust during baking.

Step 8: I use a blind-baking technique, which involves baking the crust for 20 minutes with pie weights. This process prevents the bottom from puffing up due to steam release and helps set the shape with minimal shrinking. After removing the weights, the shell bakes again until golden brown and dry, about 30 minutes. Make sure to cool it completely before adding the filling.

Prep the tart lemon filling

Bowl of cornstarch and eggs being whisked.

Egg mixture

Water, lemon juice, and zest simmering in a saucepan.

Lemon mixture

Step 9: Making the lemon pie filling is similar to my banana cream pie but uses an acidic sugar mixture instead of milk. Whisk the egg yolks, water, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl.

Add water, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan, and simmer at 190 to 200ºF (87 to 93ºC). The egg mixture must be correctly cooked by tempering to keep the consistency smooth.

Temper the eggs to prevent curdling

Tempering hot lemon syrup into the egg mixture.

Add some of the hot lemon mixture to the egg mixture.

Pouring the egg mixture into the saucepan of hot lemon syrup.

Then, pour the egg mixture into the hot lemon mixture.

Step 10: Gradually add the hot lemon mixture to the egg mixture and whisk, stirring constantly. With direct heat, the eggs curdle between 149 and 158°F (64 to 70ºC), so it’s essential to add the hot liquid in multiple additions so as not to raise the temperature too fast.

The tempered egg mixture is then whisked into the remaining lemon mixture on the stovetop. I vigorously stir to ensure the cornstarch doesn’t clump and reaches its full thickening capability. Mixing in butter and stirring the lemon curd keeps the texture super smooth.

Fill and chill

Cooked pie crust with lemon custard filling being added.

Step 11: The lemon filling will be hot, so remove it from the heat and strain. Let it cool until warm but spreadable, about 100ºF (37ºC). You want to finish cooling the curd in the pie crust. As the temperature lowers, the cornstarch sets and becomes rigid, holding its shape for slicing.

When cooled, the filling should be opaque with a sticky, sliceable jelly-like texture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it feels cold and stiffens, about 6 hours or overnight.

Prepare the meringue topping

Water and sugar boiling in a saucepan.

Sugar and water

Instant read thermometer checking the temperature of the sugar-water mixture.

Heat to 240°F

Step 12: Heat 1 cup of sugar plus two tablespoons and ½ cup of water. The hot sugar syrup should reach 240°F (115°C).

Whip the egg whites

Whipping egg whites in a stand mixer.

Whip the egg whites with the whisk attachment.

Pouring a hot sugar-water mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add the hot sugar syrup.

Whisk attachment of a mixer filled with whipped meringue cream.

Step 13: Once the syrup is ready, start whipping the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the hot syrup with the mixer running to gently cook the albumin in the whites to set the protein structure. 

Egg whites coagulate, set, and cook between 144 to 149°F (62 to 65ºC). This technique incorporates air to increase the volume. Whisk until the mixture has a thick, smooth texture.

Add the topping

Spreading whipped meringue over lemon custard in a pie crust.

Step 14: Spread the meringue topping on the pie using a spatula. To give the surface a rustic appearance, use a butter knife or an offset spatula to make various stiff peaks. You can also use a piping bag to create an exciting design.

Toast the meringue

Person using a cooking torch on a lemon meringue pie to brown the surface.

Step 15: To finish the pie, I lightly brown the surface with a small handheld torch, similar to making a creme brulee. Hold the flame a few inches away and gently move it around so the sugar doesn’t completely burn. The torched spots add a beautiful contrast in color to the white meringue.

Serving

Serve the pie immediately for the best taste. You can refrigerate it for a few hours but eat it the same day. Make sure to keep it cool, as it does contain eggs. Leftover slices can be stored in the refrigerator for one day.

Frequently asked questions

Does lemon meringue pie need to be refrigerated?

Yes! The filling is egg custard, and the meringue topping is made from egg whites. It’s important to refrigerate it after 2 hours at room temperature and for storing.

Can you freeze lemon meringue pie?

Avoid freezing because the cornstarch in the filling will rupture and release water when defrosting.

Why is my lemon meringue pie watery?

If the filling is watery, the cornstarch is not hot enough to cause the starches to absorb the water and swell to their maximum capacity. If the meringue topping becomes watery or weeps, you may have overbeaten the egg whites, which could make them rigid and prone to weeping.

Can I add cream of tarter for a more stable meringue topping?

In addition to the hot sugar, you can use a small amount of cream of tartar (an acid) as a stabilizer. Use ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar per egg white; ½ teaspoon for this recipe. Add it to the room-temperature egg whites at the beginning of the whipping. It alters the electrical charge of the egg’s proteins, reducing the interactions. Using cream of tartar takes a little more time to foam but ultimately makes it more stable.

What’s the difference between French vs Italian meringue?

French meringue beats the egg whites raw with sugar and then bakes them to cook the eggs. This might seem straightforward, but it’s more prone to weeping later and might not cook to the center of the topping. This would be an excellent time to add cream of tartar. Italian meringue cooks the egg whites with hot sugar syrup while whipping.
I feel safer eating Italian meringue, which thoroughly cooks the egg whites, so there’s no concern that it’s raw.

Close up of a slice of lemon meringue pie on a white plate.

Recipe Science

Making a stable meringue

To avoid weeping, the egg whites must not be under or overbeaten. The latter causes the foam to become too rigid and break. Sugar helps to stabilize the foam because it dissolves into the egg and slows down the released moisture. If added too early, it can inhibit foaming, so incorporate it before the egg reaches soft peaks.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Classic lemon meringue pie with a buttery crust, tart citrus curd, and silky whipped topping. The perfect dessert for special occasions!
4.75 from 12 votes
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time12 hours 50 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients 
 

Pie Crust

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, ¼" cubes, chilled
  • ½ cup ice-cold water, chilled

Lemon Filling

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups water, plus 1 ½ teaspoons, divided
  • 4 large egg yolks, reserve egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • cup lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Meringue Topping

  • 4 large egg whites, from reserved, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • ½ cup water

Instructions 

  • Prepare the Crust Ingredients – Add ice cubes and water to a measuring cup. Cut the butter into ¼" cubes. Place both items in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Break Down the Butter – In a stand mixer bowl, add the flour and salt. Mix using the paddle attachment on the lowest speed (stir) for about 10 seconds. Add the chilled butter to the bowl. On the lowest speed, turn the mixer on and off quickly for a few seconds to prevent the flour from spilling.
    Continue to mix on low speed until the flour and butter have coarse crumbles, about 75 seconds. Use your fingers to break up any large pieces. Do not over-mix. The dough should not bind together before the water is added.
  • Hydrate the Dough – Gradually add 1 tablespoon of ice-cold water to the bowl. After each addition, turn the mixer on for 2 to 3 seconds. Add enough water until the dough looks lumpy and hydrated but not wet or sticky. It should begin to clump together with small crumbles on the bottom of the bowl.
    All of the water may not be needed, about 5 to 7 tablespoons is typical. When the dough is pinched together, it should compress and hold, not be dry or crumbly. Do not over-mix. The dough will be pressed together before resting.
  • Rest the Dough – Press the dough into a 1” thick round disc and wrap it in plastic. Place it in a resealable bag and store it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, overnight, or up to 2 days.
  • Roll the Dough – Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes to make it easier to roll. If it’s still too hard, let it sit at room temperature until more pliable.
    Dust the counter, dough, and rolling pin with flour. Roll into a 14-inch circle, slightly less than 1/4" thick. Rotate and dust as needed to prevent sticking and make it easier to transfer.
  • Form the Crust – Place the rolled-out dough into a 9-inch pie dish and gently press against the sides and bottom. With a paring knife, trim the excess leaving a ½" overhang. Crimp the edge by pinching the pointer and thumb fingers. Place the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the Oven – Place the oven rack in the center position. Preheat to 375°F (190°C). Place the pie dish on a sheet pan.
  • Bake the Crust – Place a piece of parchment paper over the crust and add the pie weights to cover just the bottom and sides, do not overfill. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow the weights to sit in the crust for a few minutes to press down any puffed areas. Carefully remove the parchment paper with weights from the pie dish and set it aside. It will not be used again.
    Continue to bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Use a spoon to gently press the bottom down and sides up, don’t force it too much. Finish baking until golden brown and dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Prep the Lemon Filling – In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ cup sugar and cornstarch. Add ½ cup plus 1 ½ teaspoon water and egg yolks. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
    In a medium saucepan, add 1 ½ cup water, ½ cup sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Stir together and simmer over medium-high heat. Once the mixture reaches 190 to 200ºF (87 to 93ºC), about 3 minutes, turn off the heat.
  • Temper the Eggs – Place the bowl with the egg mixture in a kitchen towel. Slowly ladle ¼ cup (60 ml) of the hot lemon mixture into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Continue this process until 1 ¼ cups of the lemon mixture is added.
    Whisk the tempered egg mixture into the remaining lemon mixture in the saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high, and continuously whisk until the consistency thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter.
  • Add the Filling to the Crust – Immediately strain the lemon filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl using a spatula to press. Cool the filling until it's warm but spreadable, about 100ºF (37ºC). Evenly spread the filling into the fully baked and cooled pie crust.
    Cover the surface with plastic wrap, directly touching the filling to prevent a film from forming. Chill in the refrigerator until the filling sets, about 6 hours, or overnight. Once set, make the meringue topping.
  • Prepare the Meringue Topping – To a stand mixer bowl with a whisk attachment, add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Set aside until the syrup is ready. In a clean medium saucepan, add the sugar and water. Use a wooden spoon to mix them carefully. Make sure the sides of the pot are free of any sugar. If any sugar is left on the sides, it can become hard and crystallize, causing the rest of the sugar to do the same.
    Heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Use a candy thermometer and place it in the pot, or check with an instant-read thermometer. Heat the sugar to 240°F (115°C).
  • Whip the Whites – Immediately start the prepared mixer on speed 6. Whip the whites until foamy and bubbly, but no peaks form, about 1 minute. Do not turn the mixer off, increase the speed to 8. Immediately add the hot sugar in a steady and single stream. This should take about 30 to 45 seconds.
    Once added, increase the speed to 10. Whip until the meringue becomes thick and shiny and can hold a peak, but is not too stiff and/or foamy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Top the Pie – Take the filled pie shell out of the refrigerator. Remove the whipped whites from the mixer. Using a rubber spatula, add the meringue to the pie. Using an offset spatula, gently spread it around, giving it a rustic appearance.
  • Toast the Meringue – Using a hand-held cooking torch, toast parts of the surface until golden brown.

Notes

  • No Yolks in the Whites: When separating the eggs into yolks and whites, ensure that reserved whites have no yolks in them. Otherwise, it will be harder to make light and airy foam.
  • Storing: Refrigerate the pie for up to 1 day. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the cut or exposed pie.
  • Baking the Meringue: Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake at 400ºF (204ºC) until some of the surface turns golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, and serve immediately.
  • Serving: It’s best to serve the pie right away for the best texture. If not eating immediately, store it in the refrigerator, but enjoy it the same day. To slice, run a knife under warm water, then dry it off, and then make a single cut. Repeat the process for making every cut. This makes for clean slices.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 12 servings
Calories 304kcal (15%)Carbohydrates 45g (15%)Protein 3g (6%)Fat 13g (20%)Saturated Fat 8g (40%)Cholesterol 92mg (31%)Sodium 147mg (6%)Potassium 42mg (1%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 34g (38%)Vitamin A 432IU (9%)Vitamin C 4mg (5%)Calcium 14mg (1%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Cynthia says

    If I was to use cream of tartar, how much would I use? I don’t have the confidence to make the meringue correctly. I tried making this a long time ago and the pie was good except for the meringue so I never made it again. Would I use 1/8th of a teaspoon?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I would use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar for 4 large egg whites. Add it at the beginning, it may take a little longer to foam but will make the meringue topping even more stable. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Judy Caywood says

    Lemon Meringue pie is my favorite and the only pie my husband and I have made together as I have been teaching him too cook and he loves your recipes too. We will have to give this a try once we get moved. I can’t rate it yet but everything you do is a 5. That is just a given for me. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Jessica. xo Judy