Classic Lemon Meringue Pie
If you have been searching for the absolute best lemon meringue pie recipe, look no further! Made with a flaky butter pie crust, a creamy, slightly tart homemade lemon filling, and piled high with sweet, fluffy meringue, this is a pie lover’s dream come true.
If you’re unfamiliar with lemon meringue pie, let me introduce you…
Traditionally, a homemade pie crust is partially baked then filled with a lemon-flavored custard, which is then topped with a fluffy meringue. The entire thing then gets baked for a short amount of time to lightly brown the meringue.
The combination of flavors and textures – buttery, flaky pie crust + creamy, tart lemon filling + fluffy, sweet meringue – makes this traditional dessert a favorite of many!
Let’s walk through exactly how this pie comes together. While many can be intimidated by the multiple steps of the pie, it actually comes together quite easily and is a dessert you can absolutely master!
- Make the Crust – You’ll mix together the pie dough, roll it out and line the pie plate, then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. If you’re looking for a make-ahead option, you can fully prepare the crust, line the pie plate, and crimp the edges, and keep it in the refrigerator overnight before completing the rest of the recipe.
- Blind-Bake the Crust – Also referred to as “par-baking” the crust, we’re going to bake the crust until it’s almost done, but not quite since it’ll go back in the oven for a short stint once the filling and meringue are ready. I’ve tried so many different methods for this, different pie weights, and the method I’ve found that is completely foolproof is the one outlined by Stella Parks. Line the chilled pie plate with aluminum foil then fill it all up with granulated sugar (you can reuse it!) and bake it at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes (for partially-baked crusts) or 55 to 60 minutes (for a fully baked crust). I have never had so much success – no shrinking pie crust, no dough sticking to foil as I try to remove it halfway through baking, and a beautifully browned pie crust.
- Make the Lemon Filling From Scratch – The lemon custard starts by mixing and heating the water, sugar, salt, cornstarch, lemon juice, and lemon zest until it is bubbly and thick. It is then gradually mixed with the beaten egg yolks and the entire mixture is heated through until large bubbles burst on the surface. Butter is whisked in, the filling is transferred to the pie shell, and a piece of plastic wrap is pressed against the surface to keep it warm.
- Make the Meringue – This is a classic meringue recipe that starts with whipping egg whites until frothy, then add the cream of tartar (a key ingredient for keeping the egg whites stable!) and vanilla extract, and continue to beat until soft peaks form. At that point, we gradually add the sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. Pile the meringue on top of the lemon filling, being sure to have the meringue touch and connect with the outer crust – this “seals” the pie and keeps it from weeping.
- Bake the Pie – The pie only needs a short time in the oven to set the filling and cook and brown the meringue.
- Cool and Chill – Once it’s done baking, the pie should cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.
Pie crust recipes you can use
Wondering what type of pie crust you should use?
- All-butter pie crust – This is the version included in the recipe below because I think it’s just absolutely divine. The buttery, flaky crust pairs wonderfully with the cold, creamy, and tart lemon filling.
- “The best pie crust recipe“ – This has been my go-to pie crust recipe for years, using a combination of butter and shortening, along with some vodka in place of water for a perfect crust each and every time.
- Graham cracker crust – If you’re looking for a quick shortcut, a graham cracker crust is a delicious and easy option for lemon meringue pie.
Fresh vs. Bottled
This pie tastes the best with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest from actual lemons. However, I know that fresh citrus isn’t always readily available where some folks live, so you might be wondering if you can make a lemon meringue pie with bottled lemon juice. The answer is YES!
While fresh juice will give you the biggest pop of flavor and you’ll need to omit the zest in the recipe (which can dial down the lemon flavor), you can absolutely use the equivalent amount of bottled lemon juice for the filling.
I absolutely swear by this Microplane citrus zester whenever I need to extract zest from oranges, lemons, or limes. It takes off just the outer zest and leaves the white pith (which is bitter!) behind.
To really amp up the lemon flavor in the filling, use your fingers to run the lemon zest into the granulated sugar until the sugar is completely moistened and has the consistency of wet sand. Then, combine it with the rest of the ingredients in step #11 of the recipe and proceed as usual.
Whenever you need to use lemon just and lemon zest, always zest the outside of the lemon first.
Then, to extract as much juice as possible from a lemon, press and roll the lemon on the counter. This helps to loosen up the membranes of the lemon and makes it easier to squeeze, which means more juice! For this recipe, we need ½ cup of lemon juice; depending on the size and “juiciness” of the lemons, you will likely need anywhere from 2 to 4 lemons.
Troubleshooting lemon meringue pie
- Runny/watery filling – For this pie we want the filling to be firmer than a pudding so that it’s easy to slice, yet not quite as firm as, say, Jello. The biggest culprit when it comes to a runny filling is not letting the cornstarch get going when cooking the filling. You want it to become thick and bubbly before tempering the egg yolks. If it doesn’t get to this point, the filling won’t set and firm up correctly.
- Meringue won’t form stiff peaks – I LOVE making meringue, but a couple of things can trip it up. First, ensure that there is absolutely no fat that comes in contact with the egg whites; the smallest big of egg yolk can keep the egg whites from forming stiff peaks. Ensure that your bowl and beaters have no grease on them, either. In addition, make sure that when you add the sugar, you are adding it gradually (a few tablespoons at a time). I’ve had a meringue break and never get to stiff peaks by adding the sugar all once.
- Weeping meringue – This is when liquid or condensation forms between the meringue and the pie filling. To avoid this, it’s important to do two things: (1) Spread the meringue on a warm filling to create a good “seal” – this is why we press plastic wrap against the filling while we make the meringue (to keep it warm); and (2) When you spread the meringue on top of the filling, ensure that the meringue touches the pie crust the entire way around, with no gaps. This ensures that the filling is sealed underneath and that the meringue won’t separate or pull away from the crust.
Shelf life and storage tips
Lemon meringue pie needs to be kept in the refrigerator and is best eaten within 1 day of baking. The meringue will eventually separate and get a bit watery the longer it sits, so leftovers don’t keep very well for very long.
For this reason, lemon meringue pie does not freeze well and is not recommended.
More meringue desserts
If meringue makes you swoon, you are going to love these other desserts:
- Classic Pavlova Recipe
- Pavlova Layer Cake with Whipped Cream & Berries
- Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone & Raspberries
- Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies
- Sky-High Lemon Meringue Pie Bars
If you make this lemon meringue pie and love it, I would so appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a rating below. Thank you so much! ❤️️
Classic Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe
For the Crust:
- 1¼ cups (150 g) all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons (1½ teaspoons) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon (½ teaspoon) salt
- ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
- 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
For the Filling:
- 5 egg (5 egg yolks) yolks
- 1½ cups (360 ml) water
- 1¼ cups (248 g) granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons cornstarch, beaten
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (120 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the Meringue:
- 5 (5 egg whites) egg whites, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- ½ cup (99 g) granulated sugar
- Make the Pie Crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or two forks, quickly cut it into the flour until large pea-sizes bits remain.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the ice water and use a rubber spatula to stir it into the dough, pressing it together. If it still seems dry, add more water a little at a time until it is cohesive.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and bring it together with your hands, pressing it into a 6-inch round. Lightly flour the top and gently and quickly roll it out to a 13-inch circle, picking it up and doing a quarter turn after every couple of rolls to keep it from sticking.
- Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides. Trim the dough to 1 inch beyond the lip of the pie plate, then tuck it under itself so it is flush with the edge of the pie plate. Flute the edges or press with the tines of a fork, then refrigerate the dough-lined plate for at least 2 hours.
- Partially Bake the Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove the chilled dough-lined pie plate from the refrigerator. Line with a large piece of aluminum foil, pressing it firmly into the edges of the pie dough and over the edges of the crust. Fill the now foil-lined pie plate with granulated sugar (you could also use beans or pie weights, but sugar is the best!). Bake for 45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and sugar (you can pour the sugar into a container to use again).
- Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
- Make the Filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together; set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Set over medium heat and cook, whisking occasionally, until it is bubbly and thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce the temperature to low.
- Very gradually, whisk about half of the hot lemon mixture into the beaten egg yolks, then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan. Increase the heat back to medium and cook until the mixture is thick and large bubbles are breaking on the surface, 1 or 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted.
- Pour the filling into the pie crust and smooth into an even layer. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the filling to keep it warm and prevent a film from forming while you prepare the meringue.
- Make the Meringue: Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy, then add the cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla extract. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat to soft peaks. While continuing to beat the egg whites, gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until glossy and stiff peaks form.
- Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the filling and spread the meringue on top. Be sure that the meringue is touching the crust the entire way around to prevent the meringue from weeping. You can make decorative swirls with the back of a spoon, if you’d like.
- Bake until the meringue is golden brown on top, 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cool for 1 hour, then place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
- Alternate crust options: Butter/shortening crust or graham cracker crust.
- Equipment recommendations: Pie plate / pastry blender / food processor / marble board / rolling pin / citrus zester
- Lemons: You will need 2 to 4 lemons for the juice called for in the recipe.
- Make-Ahead Crust: You can prepare the pie crust and keep it refrigerated up to a day in advance before blind baking.
- Storage: The pie is best eaten within a day of baking. Store leftovers in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap. This pie does not freeze well.
[Photography by Dee of One Sarcastic Baker]