For lemon curd in less than 10 minutes, use your microwave
By Melissa Clark
Recipes for microwave lemon curd have been around since the 1980s. But it took an Instagram post in 2021 to get me to try it.
Actually, it was many posts, most of them from chef David Chang. A committed microwave enthusiast, he didn’t make curd, but he did demonstrate other dishes — like kimchi jjigae, mashed potatoes and chawanmushi — that you wouldn’t expect could be made in a microwave.
“Think of your microwave as an energy efficient steamer,” Chang wrote about cooking rice.
Of the 1.7 million or so times I’ve used a microwave, I’d never thought of it as a steamer. To me, it was a convenient way to reheat leftovers, melt chocolate and cook hot dogs straight from the freezer — my longtime emergency meal for my daughter.
If it could make a glorious chawanmushi, what else was it capable of?
As a lemon lover, I found my answer a few weeks later, in a post by Gail Dosik, cookie-maker extraordinaire: lemon curd, whisked together in 6 1/2 minutes.
This made perfect sense, playing to the microwave’s strength as what New Yorker writer Helen Rosner so astutely described as “a brute-force bain-marie.”
The most fail-safe lemon curd recipes call for cooking the ingredients in a bain-marie (or double boiler) so they can thicken gently, without curdling. The microwave achieves this faster, and you don’t need to stand over the stove, stirring constantly.
There are dozens of similar recipes floating around online (including the one from King Arthur Baking Company that Dosik used), and this one unites elements from the best of them. It’s light and silky, bright and lemony, and just sweet enough.
The method couldn’t be more straightforward: Just whirl the ingredients in a blender, pour into a bowl, and microwave for 5 to 7 minutes, whisking after every minute or so. Using the blender usually eliminates the need for straining at the end, but you can skip it and just whisk everything together in a bowl before cooking.
Be sure to watch the curd carefully. If you notice hot spots (where the curd is simmering rapidly), reduce the microwave’s power so the curd can cook more slowly. Microwaves vary, and some run hotter than others.
Once you nail the technique, you can substitute other citrus, swapping lime or grapefruit for lemon, and flavoring it with makrut lime leaves or Campari.
Curd of all flavors will keep in the fridge for at least five days, if you don’t eat it all first. But even if you do, another batch is just 6 1/2 minutes away.
The easiest lemon curd
Yield: 2 cups
Total time: 15 minutes, plus cooling and at least 3 hours’ chilling
1/2 cup/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
3/4 cup to 1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
1. Put the butter in a large (at least 6 cup) microwave-safe glass bowl or measuring cup. Set your microwave on 50% power and melt the butter, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
2. Pour butter into a blender and add lemon zest, juice, sugar, eggs, egg yolk and salt. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into the same glass bowl you melted the butter in. (You don’t need to wash it.)
3. Microwave the curd mixture, on full power, in 1-minute intervals for 5 minutes. Whisk furiously between intervals, especially around the edges of the bowl. It should start to thicken. (If it looks like it’s starting to thicken before 5 minutes, stop and continue to the next step; microwaves can vary.)
4. Reduce power to 70% and continue to microwave for another 1 to 2 minutes, whisking every 30 seconds, until the curd thickens enough to coat a spoon, and looks slightly puffed and spongy. (It will continue to thicken as it chills.) An instant-read thermometer should register 180 degrees.
5. Whisk well and inspect the curd. If you think there are any coagulated bits of egg, strain curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Or if it looks smooth, you can leave it in its current bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and let the curd cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.
Grapefruit-Campari Curd: Reduce the lemon juice to 2/3 cup, the lemon zest to 1 teaspoon and the sugar to 3/4 cup. Add 3 tablespoons each freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and Campari, and 1 teaspoon finely grated grapefruit zest.
Makrut Lime Curd: Substitute lime juice and zest for lemon juice and zest. Once the ingredients are blended in Step 2, add 1/3 cup finely slivered makrut lime leaves to the glass bowl, along with the blended mixture. (Don’t blend the lime leaves.) Strain the lime leaves out in Step 5.