This lemon tart recipe is simply perfect! Delightfully bright, citrusy & refreshing, with a buttery shortbread crust.
Today I’m bringing you a classic recipe that is so nice at this time of year: Lemon Tart!
In late winter/early spring, I always crave lemon! It’s so bright and cheerful, it feels like sunshine.
And this lemon tart recipe went over big at the ladies’ night I hosted last week. We couldn’t stop eating it! It was so tangy and bright, lip-puckeringly good and everyone thought it was so fancy!
Little did they know I whipped it up in less than half an hour!
What is a lemon tart?
This lemon tart consists of 3 main components:
It’s similar to a pie but wider and flatter. And instead of a flaky pie crust, we use a pate sucree which is almost like a sugar cookie or shortbread. So it’s very tender and crumbly.
Lemon tart also sometimes goes by the name “tart au citron.”
This lemon tart slices beautifully and the texture almost melts in your mouth.
What does it taste like?
If you like lemon then you will LOVE this dessert!
It’s so tart it will make you pucker up! But it’s balanced with the perfect amount of sweetness, and the buttery shortbread crust provides a wonderfully mild and tender contrast against the smooth, sharp filling.
Lemon tart ingredients
Tart Crust: This recipe utilizes my favorite tart crust recipe. It’s easy to make with just a few simple ingredients. You can find lots more info on that here: Perfect Tart Crust Recipe.
Sugar: I like white granulated sugar for the lemon filling, but feel free to experiment with another type of sweetener if you like.
Flour: Flour will help to thicken the filling. I prefer all-purpose flour, but if you’re looking for a gluten-free option, see below under the heading “Is this healthy?”.
Cornstarch: Cornstarch is a thickener as well. Make sure you’re using cornstarch, which is white, powdery, and flavorless, as opposed to cornmeal, which is yellow, gritty, and tastes like corn.
Salt: Kosher salt is my favorite salt for baking. It has a pure taste and it’s inexpensive. In this recipe, salt carries and intensifies the flavors.
Eggs: Eggs will enrich the flavor and texture of the filling, as well as helping it to thicken and slice beautifully.
Egg Yolks: Egg yolks provide an even richer taste. Separate the eggs and reserve the whites for another use (such as Swiss meringue buttercream or meringue cookies). Egg whites keep for a long time in the fridge, just keep them in an airtight container.
Lemon Juice: Juice squeezed from fresh lemons will provide the most intensely bright, citrusy flavor. Just cut them in half and use a citrus reamer to work the juice out and into your liquid measuring cup. Strain out any seeds or pulp with a fine-mesh sieve as you’re adding the juice to the mixing bowl. And feel free to swap out lemon for any other kind of citrus juice, such as:
- Meyer Lemon
Garnishes: I like to garnish this dessert with a little softly whipped cream and lemon zest, but these are completely optional.
Recipe method overview
Here’s a quick breakdown of the steps you’ll follow to make this lemon tart recipe:
- Make the tart crust dough and chill it.
- Roll out the dough and place it in the tart pan.
- Whisk the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt together.
- Whisk in the eggs, then the egg yolks.
- Whisk in the lemon juice.
- Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake.
- Cool and garnish.
How to make a lemon tart, step-by-step
Make the tart crust
Lots more info on this crust can be found in my Perfect Tart Crust Recipe post, but I’ll give a quick how-to here as well.
Start by placing flour, powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse these ingredients together a few times, just to get them combined.
Next, add cold butter. This can also be pulsed in, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. A little crumbly, with pieces of butter no bigger than the size of a pea.
An egg yolk and some vanilla extract can be added next.
Then stream in the cream with the food processor running on low speed. As soon as the dough gathers itelf into a ball, pulling cleanly away from the sides of the bowl, you’re done. You can stop adding cream.
Wrap it up tightly in plastic, and chill it in the fridge for about an hour.
Gently place it into the pan, taking care not to stretch it or tear it.
Work it down the sides of the pan, allowing any excess to drape over the sides.
Then trim it. I like to just pass my rolling pin over it to cut away the excess.
Make the lemon filling
Whisk sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
Then work in the eggs, and the egg yolks.
Finally, stir in the lemon juice and pour the filling mixture into the tart shell.
Bake the lemon tart
This tart will bake at a slightly lower temperature until the edges are beginning to turn golden.
The filling should be set around the edges but still just a little wobbly towards the center.
Allow it to cool completely before removing it from the pan, adding any garnishes, and slicing in.
Is this recipe healthy?
I’ve included a nutritional breakdown in the recipe card below, so you can judge that for yourself.
- If you’d like to make a gluten-free lemon tart, omit the flour in the filling and replace it with an additional 1/4 cup of cornstarch. For the crust, substitute a gluten-free flour blend that can swap 1:1 for regular flour.
- For a dairy-free lemon tart, use a plant-based butter substitute that can swap 1:1 for dairy butter. And I think coconut cream (unsweetened) would make an excellent replacement for the cream.
- I’m not sure I’d recommend making this vegan, as the eggs play such a key role. That said, if you have a vegan egg substitute that you know and love, feel free to experiment!
Can this be made ahead?
The tart crust can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge, tightly wrapped.
Same goes for the filling. Just pour it into an airtight container and when you’re ready to bake your tart, roll out the dough, place it in the pan, trim, fill, and bake.
This lemon tart will keep at room temperature for a day or so, or in the fridge for around a week.
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For the Tart Crust:
For the Lemon Filling:
- 1/3 cup (79.33 g) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon (8 g) powdered sugar
- lemon zest
To Make the Tart Crust:
- Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, stand mixer, or in a medium mixing bowl.
- Pulse/stir/cut in the butter with a pastry blender, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Add the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla, and process/mix/stir until the dough gathers itself into a ball and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl.
- Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out until it's about an inch wider than your tart pan.*
- Press the dough gently into the tart pan(s), trimming away any excess.
To Make the Lemon Filling:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Whisk the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt together in a large bowl.
- Whisk in the eggs and egg yolks.
- Stir in the lemon juice and pour the filling to the unbaked tart crust.
- Bake until the edges of the tart are beginning to turn golden and the filling is set around the edges but slightly wobbly towards the center (approximately 30 to 40 minutes).
- Allow the tart to cool completely before garnishing and serving.
To Garnish the Lemon Tart:
- Whip the cream and the powdered sugar together until it holds soft peaks.
- Pipe or dollop the whipped cream onto the tart.
- Sprinkle with lemon zest.