Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe

Lemon meringue pie is a basically a citrus curd pie save for the fact that the “curd” is made with a mixture of water and juice (instead of all juice), and it’s thickened with cornstarch. The water provides added volume (and frankly also keeps the flavor of the filling from becoming overwhelming) and the cornstarch provides thickening as well as insurance against curdling in the oven. This recipe — which steals tricks from both Rose Levy Beranbaum and Cook’s Illustrated — combines a deep pie with a break-resistant American-style meringue.

For the crust

One recipe crumb or conventional (pre-baked) pie crust

For the Meringue

1 tablespoon cornstarch
2.5 ounces (scant 1/3 cup) water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
4 egg whites

For the Filling

3 ounces cornstarch (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
10.5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 egg yolks
16 ounces water (2 cups)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) butter


Prepare the crumb crust mixture and press it into a 9″ pie pan. Alternately, prepare and pre-bake a conventional pie crust in a 9″ pie pan.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prep for the meringue step at this point. Combine the cornstarch and the water in a small saucepans bring it to a simmer, just at the point it starts to thicken. Remove the pan from the heat and set the mixture aside. Now’s also a good time to put your egg whites in a medium bowl (if you’re using a hand mixer) or in the bowl a mixer fitted with the whip. Also, whisk together the sugar and cream of tartar in a small bowl.

Now prepare the filling. Whisk the yolks together in a medium bowl. Whisk together the sugar, salt and cornstarch in a medium saucepan, then whisk in the water and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat (it will start to thicken). Pour about half the hot mixture over the egg yolks and whisk vigorously to combine, then return everything to the saucepan. Whisk in the zest and the butter, and bring the mixture up to a simmer. Immediately remove it from the heat and set the pan aside, placing plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

Promptly prepare the meringue. Whip the whites until they’re very frothy and have a little body to them, then whip in the sugar mixture. By then the whites will be at soft peaks. Add the cornstarch mixture and keep whipping to stiff peaks.

Lastly, assemble. Take the plastic off the filling and pour it into the prepared shell. Then immediately spread the meringue over the filling, making sure you get some over the crust edges (so it won’t pull away as it bakes). Bake it 20 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned. Cool it completely and serve the same day.

10 thoughts on “Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe”

    1. Hey GL! There’s water in both. Did I mess up something or make it confusing (very likely)?

      – Joe

  1. I tried making a lemon meringue pie with all juice instead of juice and water once. The logic being “I love lemon/sour and the pies are always too sweet so yeah, why add boring water?” Uh, yeah, not something I recommend. We did eat it but it required a liberal spoonful of sugar on every slice before it was edible.

    I love lemon meringue pie so I look forward to trying your version. Maybe I’ll make it for myself for Mother’s day.

  2. Just curious: This seems to have double the egg yolks compared to other recipes. Is there a specific reason for that?

  3. I’m curious – my grandmother’s lemon meringue pie recipe (from a cookbook) is generally similar to the one you have above, but it has modified notes in the margin to sub 1 cup of skim milk for half of the water. We all kind of assume that the milk gives the pie a slightly richer texture, but skim milk seems like an odd choice for that. (Nobody actually asked her why she made the change, because was grandma’s recipe and everyone’s favorite pie.)

    I’ve never done a side-by-side comparison on the recipe (see note about everyone’s favorite pie), to see what the difference might be, but I’m wondering if your expert opinion could weigh in on what the milk actually does there. Does it make this custard easier to handle, more finicky, or have no meaningful effect?

  4. Hi Joe! Why does the lemon juice become so overwhelming in the curd for the pie? Is it because there’s too much contrast with the sweet meringue? I never made lemon meringue pie, but I make lemon curd pretty often. I can (and sometimes do) eat it “straight up” with a spoon. There’s no water in it, and I even add a touch of lime juice to give it an extra kick. I have used it in tarts (unbaked, with berries on top) and it’s been good. Maybe baking it somehow concentrates the lemon flavor too much?

  5. Hi Joe!

    I haven’t carefully tested this yet, but I make two regular adjustments to lemon meringue pie that seem to cause a more liquidy filling. First, I usually use half or 1/3 more filling than the recipe calls for and use a deep dish pie plate. Second, I replace 1/4-1/2 cup of the water with extra lemon juice. Do you have any idea whether either of these changes would cause a more liquidy filling? Or am I just making a mistake while putting the pie together?


    1. Hm. Given the extra depth you might need to add more cornstarch. That’s generally the culprit!


      – Joe

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