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Billowy clouds of light and fluffy toasted meringue top this sweet & citrusy Lemon Meringue Pie. This old-fashioned, homemade pie uses fresh lemons and zest for the ultimate lemon flavor with just the right amount of cornstarch to thicken it until it’s silky smooth and sliceable.
I grew up with the simplest lemon meringue pie you can imagine, where the lemon pie filling came from a box of cook & serve lemon pudding topped with a homemade meringue. It was easy as, well, pie, and it was always one of my Thanksgiving favorites.
There is nothing wrong with using a shortcut like a pudding mix when you need to! But I’ve come to realize that I much prefer making things from scratch with fresh, real ingredients whenever possible these days.
It’s so rewarding to take a handful of ingredients and make something really incredible and homemade like a lemon meringue pie!
A truly fabulous pie always starts with a fantastic pie crust. Of course, you could cheat and buy a refrigerated pie crust here, and that’s totally understandable! Lots of people are intimidated by making a homemade pie crust. But it’s much easier than you might think and my favorite pie crust recipe is practically foolproof and so much better than store-bought!
And the lemon filling is a cinch to whip up with real lemon juice, fresh lemon zest, some sugar, eggs, cornstarch, and butter. It’s really not all that different from a lemon curd recipe, except it’s thickened up a bit more so that it holds its shape when baked in pie form.
Then the pièce de résistance is the sweet cloud of toasted meringue on top. It’s so light and fluffy and its marshmallowy texture is the ultimate contrast to the flaky, buttery pie crust and smooth lemon filling beneath.
How to make lemon meringue pie
Start by making your pie crust first since it needs to be baked all the way through before filling with the homemade lemon pudding. If you are using a homemade pie crust, roll it out on a floured surface and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate , then trim and crimp the edges.
Blind-bake the pie crust
To blind-bake a pie crust, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Poke the bottom of the pie crust with the tines of a fork. This will help it not to bubble up and shrink as much while it bakes. The other key to blind-baking a pie crust is to place a piece of parchment paper down into the pie crust and fill it with pie weights. If you don’t have ceramic pie weights, you can also use dried beans, rice, or even just granulated sugar. The weights keep the pie crust from shrinking during the first half of the bake.
Partway through baking, pull the pie crust out of the oven and carefully lift the parchment paper out, transfer the pie weights, or whatever you used to hold the crust down, to a heatproof bowl. Then return the now empty pie shell to the oven to finish baking all the way, since we want a fully baked pie crust to fill with homemade lemon pie filling. You might need to cover the edges of the crust with a pie guard or a piece of foil to keep it from getting too dark.
Let the crust cool completely before filling. You can do this step a day in advance. Just wrap the baked pie crust in plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter overnight.
Lemon pie filling
Make the filling by first separating the egg whites and yolks. Set the whites aside in a large mixing bowl for the meringue later, and transfer the yolks to a medium bowl for use in just a bit. Whisk the cornstarch, one cup sugar, and salt together in a medium saucepan. Add water, 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons usually), and lemon zest, whisking to dissolve the cornstarch and sugar and set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, just until this comes to a boil and starts to thicken, then remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then pour about 1/4 cup of the hot lemon filling into the bowl and whisk well to temper the yolks. This prevents them from cooking too quickly and scrambling when you add them to the filling. Add another 1/4 cup and whisk again, then pour the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and stir until combined.
Bring the filling mixture back to a boil and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened, which usually only takes another 2-4 minutes. If your filling isn’t thickening up, increase the heat slightly. Pour into the prepared, fully-baked pie shell.
Make the billowy meringue
To make the meringue, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl using a whisk attachment until foamy and soft peaks start to form. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. A stiff peak is where you can lift the whisk attachment out of the bowl and the meringue holds its shape without melting back in on itself.
Mound the light and fluffy meringue in the center of the hot filling. This helps cook the meringue from underneath and prevent meringue shrinkage and weeping. Use a rubber spatula or a knife to press it all the way into the edges, which helps seal it in place. I like to make decorative swirls and peaks in the meringue with the back of the spatula or knife.
Bake the pie in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, just until the meringue is lightly browned on top. Watch so the meringue doesn’t burn! Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours so the pie can set up. Transfer the pie to the fridge and serve chilled or at room temperature. Leftover lemon meringue pie should be refrigerated and is best eaten within 2-3 days.
Do you refrigerate lemon meringue pie?
Yes, lemon meringue pie should be kept in the refrigerator rather than sitting out all night. Cover it loosely with tented foil so as not to smash the meringue. I don’t recommend covering this pie with plastic wrap, as water tends to condense more with plastic wrap than with foil.
How do you keep lemon meringue pie from weeping?
If you find your meringue often “weeps” there are a couple of things that could be causing this. In my experience, the most common problem is that I got impatient and adding the sugar too quickly so it didn’t dissolve all the way while I was making the meringue. Try adding just a tablespoon of sugar to the egg whites at a time, waiting about 20 seconds between each addition so that the sugar has a chance to completely dissolve.
My other best tips and tricks for a perfect meringue is to make sure to place it on the filling while the filling is still hot and really be sure to press that meringue against the edges of the pie crust so it can seal the filling beneath. If you leave gaps, the meringue doesn’t have anything to cling to and has a tendency to want to shrink in on itself.
Finally, if you are stilling having issues with weeping meringue, it could be that you live in a more humid climate, which I have heard can be the culprit in a lot of other desserts that involve beaten egg whites. Try making this pie on dry days rather than when it’s damp outside.
More lemon recipes
- Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- Homemade Lemon Curd
- Lemon Icebox Cake
- Lemon Sugar Cookies
- Homemade Lemonade
- No-Bake Sour Cream Lemon Pie
- Lemon Cheesecake Bars
- Lemon Sorbet
- 1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 4 large egg yolks, beaten
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out pie crust on a floured surface and use it to line a 9-inch pie plate. Poke it several times with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes, just until the crust starts to brown slightly around the edges. Remove the pie weights and parchment paper from the pie crust and continue to bake for another 14-16 minutes until a light golden brown and cooked through. Cool completely.
- Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the water, lemon juice, and lemon zest and whisk again. Set over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until this mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted.
- Meanwhile, separate eggs and egg yolks into two bowls. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add 1/4 cup of the hot lemon filling and whisk well to temper the yolks. Add another 1/4 cup of the filling and whisk again, then return the egg mixture to the saucepan.
- Return the mixture back to the heat, reducing it slightly to medium heat. Cook and stir until the mixture comes back to a boil and thickens, about another 2-4 minutes. If the filling hasn't thickened, increase the heat slightly, and continue to cook a little longer. Pour into the prepared pie shell.
- While the filling is still hot, make the meringue by beating the reserved egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl using a whisk attachment until foamy and soft peaks start to form. Gradually add the granulated sugar, a little at a time, and continue beating on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
- Mound the meringue in the center of the hot filling. Use a rubber spatula or a knife to press it all the way into the edges, sealing it in place.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, just until the meringue is lightly browned on top. Watch so the meringue doesn't burn! Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours so the pie can set up before slicing.
- Transfer the pie to the fridge and serve chilled or at room temperature.
- This pie is best served fresh the day it is made, but leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, covered in foil.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 209Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 99mgSodium: 150mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 0gSugar: 29gProtein: 5g
This recipe first appeared on Noshing with the Nolands where I am a contributor.