French lemon tart

French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron)

Lemon tart, or tarte au citron in French, is a thing of beauty. A perfectly set, unbelievably light, lemony custard encased in crumbly, sweet pastry is incredible. You might think it’s technically difficult but with just one gadget, you can a make Michelin star worthy dessert (and you don’t even need a stand mixer!).

French lemon tart whole

What is a French Lemon Tart?

A French style lemon tart is a beautifully light, citrus flavoured custard cased in a pastry shell.

The lemon flavoured custard, or lemon curd, is a mixture of egg yolks, cream, sugar and lemon juice and zest. It’s cooked so it just sets resulting in a remarkably light, creamy filling. It’s really melt in the mouth and tastes infinitely more airy than you think! If you get it just right, you can cut perfect slices (like in my photos) and it will just hold its shape.

slice of French lemon tart

On the outside is a pastry casing made with what is similar to a short crust pastry. In French it’s called pâte sucrée and is easy to work with. It’s crumbly but keeps its structure and is relatively easy to work with. This brings us to the next question…

Store Bought or Home Made Pastry?

I’ve made French lemon tart quite a few times over the years and about half of those times I’ve bought shop bought pastry.

French lemon tart pastry ingredients
Ingredients for a home made French lemon tart pastry

Making your own pastry takes around 30 minutes of active work and you can make it without a stand mixer. It is a lot more satisfying but…

Is it worth the extra work to make your own pastry? Yes, you’ll certainly get a much better, tastier and textually better result but for me, a really good French lemon tart is in the lemon curd.

Shop bought pastry tends to be more brittle and crumblier. It’s also harder to work with and is less sweet than a proper pâte sucrée.

French lemon tart pastry home made
Home made French lemon tart pastry

The Perfect Lemon Curd

The key to a perfect lemon curd is temperature. If the custard, or curd, is not hot enough, it won’t set and it’ll collapse. If it gets too hot, it’ll be too dense.

I use the Heston Blumenthal method of cooking the curd in a double boiler (or in a pan on an induction hob) until it hits 62c/144f. I then cook the curd in the pastry, in the oven until it hits 70c/158f.

How do you achieve this? With one simple kitchen gadget: the instant read thermometer. It’s a foolproof way of getting the curd perfect, every time.

I finish off the tart with a bit of sugar and using a culinary blowtorch, I brown the surface giving it an incredible flavour and look.

eating French lemon tart


For the pastry:

  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 4 lemons, zest and juice
  • 225g heavy cream
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp salt

How to Make French Lemon Tart

  1. To start the filling, blitz or whisk the eggs until they’re completely smooth.

  2. Add the blitzed eggs, cream, lemon zest and juice, salt and sugar to a heat proof bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 62c/144f. Remove and reserve.

  4. For the pastry, mix the flour, salt and butter together and with your fingers, combine until you have a mixture that resembles sand.

  5. Mix the egg yolks and icing sugar and to the flour & butter mix and kneed for a few minutes until you have a dough. Form into a ball, cover with plastic film and reserve in the fridge for an hour.

  6. Once the pastry is rested (it’ll make it easier to work with) remove and roll out until it’s 2mm thick.

  7. Place over a tart tin and press the edges into the corner. Using a knife, prick holes into the bottom of the pastry. Place into the fridge for 20 minutes. Don’t trim off excess pastry yet.

  8. Preheat your oven to 180c/356f.

  9. Place baking parchment into the tart tin and cover with baking beans. Cook for 35 minutes.

  10. Remove the baking beans and reduce the oven temperature to 120c/250f. Let the tart casing cool down a bit and trim the excess pastry off.

  11. Place the tart back into the oven and carefully pour the filling mixture into the casing.

  12. Cook until the centre of the filling reaches 70c/158f.
  13. Remove, let it cool and place into the fridge to set.

How Long Does it Keep in the Fridge?

French lemon tart will keep covered in the fridge for 4-5 days.

whole lemon tart

Want more French Bistro Recipes 🇫🇷? Check them out here!

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