Lemon Meringue Pie

FROM 1963 UNTIL 1977, my mother made Lemon Meringue Pie each and every December for my birthday. What a luscious treat to dive into! The bright, lemony custard is set between a buttery crust and a sweet, fluffy mountain of egg whites. My recipe for this deliciousness is a little different than most, but I think you’ll find it works a little better than most:

Lemon Meringue Pie
Ingredients for one 9-inch pie, serving 8 people
For the crust:
1 recipe Pate Brisee (follow the directions here)

For the meringue topping:
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling:
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tablespoons butter
2 Teaspoons freshly-grated lemon peel
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Pre-baking the crust – First, set the oven rack in the center position. Preheat to 325 degrees F. Then line a 9-inch pie plate with Pate Brisee, and crimp the edges.

Lay a large piece of aluminum foil over the pastry to cover it completely, as above.

Now, to hopefully keep your pastry from shrinking and collapsing as it bakes, fill the foil-covered shell with two 16-oz bags of dried beans. You could also use pie-weights or uncooked rice to fill the shell.

Bake the crust on the middle rack of the preheated 325F oven for 15 minutes. Then retrieve the shell, remove the foil, and brace yourself  for grave disappointment.

Remember the decorative edge you gave your crust? It’s gone. But don’t worry —  the beaten egg whites will completely cover this pathetic-looking crust.

Return the uncovered shell to the oven, and let it bake until just slightly browned — 10-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Making the meringue – Pour the egg whites into the bowl of your standing mixer…

Add the cream of tartar…

And beat the two at medium speed until foamy.

Then, with the mixer running at high speed, gradually add the 6 Tablespoons of sugar.

I think one of the rubber “feet” has come detached from my Kitchen Aid mixer. The machine now dances on my counter when set at high speed. Sound familiar?

Finally, beat in the vanilla extract.

Stop the machine when the egg whites form stiff, glistening peaks.

Then — and this is mandatory, folks —  swipe the thick, fluffy mass with your finger, and give it a taste.


Oh, baby.

Making the lemon custard – Grate the peel of one lemon. A micro-zester, like the one pictured above, will manage the job in seconds.

Then cut the lemon in half, and squeeze it with all your might.  If you use a nifty citrus-squeezing gadget,  you’ll find that one regular (not jumbo-size) lemon will render about one 1/2 cup of juice.

And I hope you won’t use bottled lemon juice for this recipe. I’m not sure why, but according to my taste buds, the bottled stuff is ghastly.

Now lightly beat three egg yolks in a medium bowl.

In a medium-size saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and water. Boil and stir for one minute. As you can see, the finished product should be very, very thick. If it isn’t very thick, stay tuned. I’ll show you the “cure” in a moment.*

Off heat, stir in the butter…

The grated lemon peel…

And the lemon juice.

Now, whisking all the while, pour half the hot cornstarch mixture into the egg yolks. The goal here is to “temper” the yolks, and keep them from scrambling.

Pour the tempered yolks back into the saucepan…

And return the mixture to a second boil. Boil and stir for exactly 2 minutes. In my experience, this second boil is necessary in order to insure the custard firms up as it cools in the pie shell.

*First aid for a thin sauce: Quickly whisk together 2 Tablespoons cornstarch with 2 Tablespoons cold water. Stir  into the boiling sauce.

Pour (or scrape) the filling into the baked pie shell. This is not an easy job when you are holding a camera with one hand.

Don’t take pictures while pouring hot custard into a pie shell.

And please realize that your pie crust doesn’t look so horrid after all.

Grab a green spatula, scoop up blobs of meringue, and flop them onto the hot filling.

Spread the meringue so that it covers not only the filling, but the pie crust, too. (The meringue will shrink during its brief sojourn in the oven.)

No, I did not lick the spatula.

Bake on the middle rack of the pre-heated, 400 degree until the meringue begins to color — about 10 minutes.

Let the pie cool completely before serving. Otherwise…

If you try to slice the pie while it is still warm (as I did, in my foolish haste to snap a picture), you’ll have a puddly pie on your hands.

Don’t be like me. Let the pie cool completely before serving.  There’s enough cornstarch in this thing to hold up a house.

Update: I couldn’t leave you with the image of a puddly pie. Consequently I made yet another one, and let it cool appropriately. True, I let the meringue brown a little too much. But notice how the interior is very well-set.

It’s uber-delicious, too.

Even Lily the Beagle approves of this pie.

Need a copy-and-paste version of the above recipe? Here goes:

Lemon Meringue Pie
Adapted from a recipe by…my mommy
Ingredients for one 9-inch pie, serving 8 people
For the crust:
1 9-inch Pate Brisee pie crust, pre-baked

For the meringue topping:
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling:
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tablespoons butter
2 Teaspoons freshly-grated lemon peel
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.; set oven rack to the center position

Making the meringue – Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until they begin to foam. Then increase speed to high, gradually add the sugar, and finally the vanilla. Keep beating until the whites form glistening, firm peaks.

Making the lemon filling – In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Over medium heat, and stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Boil and stir for one minute. Off heat, stir in the butter, grated lemon peel and lemon juice. Whisking all the while, pour half the hot cornstarch mixture into the egg yolks. Then pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan, and bring the custard to a second boil. Boil and stir for 2 minutes. The mixture should be very, very thick.

If the mixture seems runny to you, quickly mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water. Stir this solution into the custard and boil for another 2 minutes.

Assembling the pie – Pour the hot filling into the already-baked pie shell. Then scoop the egg whites onto the filling, spreading them out all the way to the edge of the crust. No crust should be visible.

Baking – Bake on the middle rack of the pre-heated 400 degree F. oven until the meringue topping browns slightly — about 10 minutes.

Let cool completely before serving.

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Related Posts:
Cognac Cookies
Autumn Spice Cookies
Cranberry-Orange Bars


  1. OMG my favorite!!!!

  2. Yum, yum. Looks like my mom’s pie and that is a compliment! Oh the wonderful pies she would bake…lemon meringue, tapioca, banana creme, apple, cherry, peach and rhubarb. But the coconut cream was my favorite I think. Miss her so much.

  3. Warm lemon pie sounds good to me!!
    Now, to keep your crust from shrinking next time, when you fix the edge of the crust, make sure to bend it over the edge of the pie pan a bit so the flutey part is on the pie pan rim, that will keep it from sliding down.

  4. sh – May I compliment you on your excellent taste in desserts?

    Marilyn – Isn’t it amazing how we can honor the memory of our loved ones through the food we cook? Well, I think it is!

    Terry – Good tip. As a matter of fact, I just made a second pie…and did just as you said with the rim of the crust. I also stuck the pie in the freezer for about 10 minutes before blind-baking with the foil/beans. Success!

  5. Looks yummy, I haven’t made one in years. Don’t you think it would have been a little better using a BLUE spatula? Gosh!

  6. You have probably always used Eureka lemons. Next time you are in a citrus-growing region, ask around for Meyer lemons and snatch a few to take home. Few people know of the Meyer lemon’s superb taste. They are similar to Eureka when first ripe (light yellow), but will further ripen over several more months, transitioning to a yellowish-orange color, and this is when the indescribable spicy flavor has fully developed. I LUV lemon pie, regardless of the lemon variety…my Meyer’s are almost ready, so I’ll give your recipe a try. Thanks!

  7. My favorite pie. I haven’t had it in eons. i had better remedy that. 😉

  8. My favorite pie and my husband’s too. He has to choose each June whether to have lemon meringue pie or buttermilk chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing. This year he chose the pie. Sinful it was! I’ll have to try this variation next time. And I agree about the Meyer lemons. They are astonishing delicious!

    Have fun in New York!

  9. What a treat to get as a birthday ‘cake’! I love the bright taste of lemons…
    And I’ve never made a meringue! I’ll have to try this once lemons are back in season! [… means I’ll make it probably very soon.]

    Guhgh, I agree about the bottled stuff! I’ve used it in the past for baking… it’s horrid. I still have a bottle in the fridge now that I use only when I make drinks. At least there the flavor is slightly masked by the booze! Hehe…

  10. Kevin,
    I am adding my “comments” to comment place. As a new subscriber/gardener/cook, I look forward to reading your newsletter and learning from a master. All the best for the season. SLoMonico

  11. Our family recipe is a bit different. It came from my paternal grandmother who was wife to the man who planted one of the first Navel orange groves in southern California. One of Grandma’s lemon pies has always been THE birthday treat for our boys who are now grown and gone. Thanks for the lovely morning memory.

  12. I think I love your quips as much as your recipes and your fab photos! What a great aid your photos are! Lemon meringue has always been a favorite of mine but I haven’t had it in years and years cause I can’t do dairy or sugar. But with your recipe I think I can adapt it – with all that corn starch I can probably substitute honey quite well. The meringue might be trickier to use honey. But I know w/o sweetener meringue isn’t worth it’s melodic name, so maybe honey will work. Can’t wait to try it!

  13. Mary M-S – Personally, I think the pie would still be delicious even without sugar in the whipped egg whites.

  14. Brenda Johnson says:

    A slice of sunshine on a bleak winter day! This pie is so yummy- from the buttery crust to the fluffy meringue – the fresh tart lemon filling in between! All so good!!! Thanks for sharing Kevin!

  15. It looks super delicious! Of course I’m going to try this recipe too 🙂 Thanks!

  16. Pre-bakinga the pie crust makes all the difference. Yum!

  17. Ann KirkWil says:

    One of my favorites. Thanks. If you edit recipe, you may want to add the egg yolks to list for filling.

  18. Making it right now for my husband’s birthday (today), it is his favorite pie.. fingers crossed. Kevin, the 3 egg yolks were omitted from the filling ingredient list, but pretty obvious. And isn’t it so helpful to really read through a recipe before starting? So helpful and easier to prepare.

  19. Ann KirkWil & Paula – Thanks for catching the 3-egg-yolks-omission. I’ve now added them to the ingredients list. Phew.

    Paula – There is something about December babies and Lemon Meringue Pie. Hope your husband enjoys his!

  20. OMG, I can’t wait to try this! I have perfected my fruit pies, but have never made a lemon meringue, and it’s one of my favorites.

    I have never greased a pie pan, but probably will start. I think I will not grease the top edge and see if this helps the crust to stay put. Thanks for photos and recipe!

    Happy Birthday!

  21. I wish I had paid more attention when my mom used to make Lemon Meruinge pie and I loved it! I can’t remember what it was that she used, but it was a tablet?? Maybe Ascorbic Acid tabs? Or was it something they used to used called Rennet? It’s been so long ago I don’t remember.

  22. I would try this just because of Lily! I love beagles…and Lily has the same face as my Chloe!
    What a sweet looking girl!! Hey, everyone should have a beagle to clean up kitchen spills!

  23. Dru Pritchard says:

    Oh Kevin, thanks so much for this recipe! My Mom use to make this delicious pie when I was a kid.
    I have been craving it so I will make it for Christmas dinner.

  24. I haven’t made a lemon pie in a long time….will make one very soon. Lily is sooooo cute!!! Happy Birthday and thank you for all the gooood recipes and sharing your love of gardening to us!!

  25. Huge hit Kevin, I wouldn’t change a thing.

  26. The sight of that pie made my mouth water…..literally. I looked thru the pics and the recipe and could not find a recipe for the pate brisee crust. Did I overlook something? When I make it I want to follow and do it just as you did. Was there a recipe for the crust? Is it very different from a regular crust?

    Also, have you ever had a lemon pie made with Eaglebrand sweetened condensed milk. It is a bit different but equally as delicious. I grew up in East Tennessee and we made the Eaglebrand pies. I lived in Florida eventually and those people loved it, too. From there we moved to Atlanta and most of those lovely people were familiar with it already. . Then after 15 years, we were off to Northern Virginia. It was new to them. We are retired almost 17 years now and back in East Tennessee. And I still like a lemon pie no matter how it is made.

    Thanks for the recipe…………..help me with the crust, please.

  27. Dianne Rabchak says:

    Wonderful–thank you for sharing again.

  28. Diane – Here’s my recipe for Pate brisee: http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/11/a-better-pumpkin-pie/ I promise you will love, love, love this tender, flaky crust!

  29. Carol Fitzgerald says:

    Kevin: If you chill the crust– not so cold as to break the pie dish and then bake it, the edges don’t fall in as badly. Carol

  30. Carol – You are right. I made a subsequent crust, lined it with foil, filled it with beans, and then stuck it in the fridge for about an hour before baking it off. The sides fell only a little. I was very proud of that crust!

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