Lemon Tart Recipe (Tarte au Citron)

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While most people probably think of crème brulée and macarons when they think of French desserts, I immediately imagine a beautiful French lemon tart, also known as a tarte au citron. The French lemon tart is probably my favorite dessert to order in France.

lemon tart recipe on a plate image

Lemon Tart Recipe

Growing up, I never really had desserts like my lemon ricotta cake, lemon meringue pie, or even lemon curd. It’s ironic because I was born and raised in California, which is home to many, many lemon trees.

It’s a shame I didn’t enjoy delicious lemon desserts like this French lemon tart until my first trip to Paris.

Because une tarte au citron is a very, very beautiful thing.

inside of the lemon tart image

Lemon Curd Filling

There are a few different ways to make a lemon tart. Some are made with a custard-like batter that’s poured into a pre-baked tart shell and baked in the oven, while others are filled with lemon curd and either placed in the fridge to set or briefly baked.

In a way, you could think of this as a lemon curd tart because that’s what this French lemon tart really is.

I love the creamy, almost pudding-like consistency of the lemon filling, but that it’s also stable enough to be cut into neat slices.

Getting those neat slices from a tarte au citron can prove to be a tricky thing, which is mostly due to the lemon curd filling. But when you do get it right, it’s heaven.

This lemon filling is deliciously sweet and tangy. I love that this filling has real lemon flavor and isn’t just pure sugar.

lemon tart overhead image

Easy Lemon Tart Recipe

If you don’t make the lemon tart filling properly, your tarte au citron will fall apart when you try to slice it. It’s very disappointing and can be a waste of perfectly good lemon curd.

This easy lemon tart recipe is one of the simplest I’ve tried and it yields a beautiful tart with a tangy filling that actually sets well enough to get clean slices.

All the lemon filling ingredients are tossed into a saucepan at once, then warmed over low heat until a smooth batter is created. The filling continues to cook over low heat until it thickens into a pudding/custard-like consistency.

The filling is then poured into a pre-baked tart shell (pâte sucrée recipe), which has been prepared in a tart pan with a removable bottom.

This French lemon tart is then baked for about 20 minutes until the filling is mostly set with just a wobble in the center of the tart.

shortcrust pastry image

Lemon Meringue Tart

In France, I’ve seen the most beautiful tarte au citron desserts you could ever see. The creativity that the pastry chefs there execute with their tarts is absolutely stunning.

I particularly enjoy seeing the meringue toppings the chefs design on their lemon tarts.

I’ve had mini lemon tarts with just a simple st. honore piping to more elaborate, modern designs that I don’t know whether I’d be able to replicate.

slice of lemon tart image

I typically dust my lemon tart with powdered sugar for simplicity and stability. A meringue topping needs to be enjoyed soon after it’s made as it begins to break down the longer it sits.

I cool the lemon tart down to room temperature, then I like to set the lemon tart in the fridge too to chill since I like my tarte au citron cold. When I’m ready to serve, I’ll dust it with powdered sugar and serve it as is, or with a side of sweetened whipped cream for guests. 

lemon tart

lemon tart recipe on a plate image

Lemon Tart Recipe

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 44 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 24 minutes

Delectable sweet and tangy lemon curd in a buttery, shortcrust pastry.

Ingredients

for the pâte sucrée (pastry dough)

  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour (175 g)
  • 7 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed (100 g) (plus more for greasing pan if not using baking spray)
  • 4 tbsp + 1 tsp powdered sugar (25 grams)
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 1 egg yolk

for the lemon filling

  • 1 cup lemon juice, (250 ml) typically about 6 large lemons
  • grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 13 tbsp sugar, or 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp, (163 grams)
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, (170 grams) cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • powdered sugar, for dusting the tart with at the end

Instructions

For the tart shell

  1. To a food processor, add the flour, unsalted butter, and icing sugar. Pulse until you get a crumbled mixture similar to bread crumbs. Add the egg yolk and cold water, then pulse until the mixture resembles a dough and pulls away from the sides of the food processor bowl. 
  2. Brush a 9" tart pan (with a removable bottom) with about a tablespoon of softened butter. Grab the pastry dough out of the food processor bowl and use your hands to quickly shape the dough into a compact ball. Transfer the dough to your greased tart pan and use your fingers to press the dough flat against the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Alternatively, you can roll the tart dough out a bit first using a rolling pin, then transfer the dough to your pan and use your fingers to finish molding the dough inside the tart pan. 
  3. Grab a rolling pin and slide it across the top of the tart pan to trim off excess dough from the top edges of the pan. Use a fork to prick the dough all over the bottom of the pan. Place the tart pan in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Once the oven is ready, place a sheet of parchment paper on the inside of the tart pan and pour dried beans or pie weights into the parchment paper. Blind-bake the pastry dough for 12 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and weights, then continue baking for another 12 minutes, until the dough is slightly golden and baked throughout. 
  5. Remove the tart shell from the oven and allow it to rest on the counter while you prepare the lemon filling. Lower the oven heat to 350°F. 

For the lemon filling

  1. Add all of the lemon filling ingredients to a medium saucepan. Whisk over low heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is completely smooth. 
  2. Continue cooking the lemon filling over medium-low heat (closer to the low end than the medium end), patiently whisking the entire time. Cook until the lemon filling has completely thickened and has a pudding like consistency. This can take up to 20 minutes. When you give the filling a stir with a wooden spoon, it should easily coat the spoon and clearly mound up when it falls off the spoon back into the saucepan. --- Please see notes. 
  3. Pour the lemon filling into your prepared tart pan. Bake the tart for approximately 20 minutes. The edges of the lemon tart should be set and the center should have a wobble.
  4. Remove the tart from the oven and let it rest in the pan until room temperature. Place the lemon tart on top of a wide-rimmed cup, removing the fluted edge from the tart. Set the tart in the fridge to chill, then dust with powdered sugar before serving. 

Notes

It's important that your lemon filling cook long enough over the stove. When you give the filling a stir with a wooden spoon and lift the spoon up, the filling should look thick and custard-like. When the filling falls off the spoon back into the saucepan, it should pile up on top of each other in a ribbon-like fashion before slowly blending in with the rest of the filling again. If it doesn't display any mounding or ribboning when it falls back into the saucepan, your filling needs to cook longer.

Also, make sure you whisk the filling the entire time to ensure you don't form any clumps in the filling. Be patient with the filling and don't be tempted to raise the heat as you risk scrambling your eggs!

lemon filling recipe adapted from davidlebovitz.com

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 12 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 321

11 thoughts on “Lemon Tart Recipe (Tarte au Citron)”

  1. Hello Beta, I am in Australia and we have icing sugar mixture and pure icing sugar. Icing sugar mixture is used for general icing of cup cakes etc. But pure icing sugar us used for traditional cake decorating such as wedding cakes. Are either of these what you refer to as powdered sugar

    Reply
    • Hy Lyn! Yes, powdered sugar is also referred to as icing sugar! I’m not sure which one in Australia would be the correct one, but it’s literally sugar that’s been pulverized to powder form and mixed with a small bit of cornstarch. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hi Beeta,

    This look delish, but it’s very difficult for me to measure since I use US measurements (cups & teaspoons) and don’t have a weight scale.

    I looked up 6 ounces of flour and got these choices. Uggggh 🙁

    6 Ounces of All Purpose Flour =

    18.77 Tablespoons
    56.31 Teaspoons
    1.17 U.S. Cups
    0.98 Imperial Cups
    1.11 Metric Cups
    277.54 Milliliters

    Reply
    • Dear Cynthia,

      I urge you to get a scale in metric. I refused for years and used only imperial measurements. When someone gave me a kitchen scale for Christmas it changed our lives. No seriously. The amount of Global recipes out there in Metric is well GLOBAL!! I became so excited, we have now become healthy, lost an additional 25 lbs (sorry not in metric) eat only from scratch lower blood pressure and eat French homemade treats DAILY (and still lost the weight!). A metric scale with change your life, make you more a global thinker, a conscientious thinker, educated, save money, I’m serious it will make you new and evolved. Don’t believe me? Give it a year and tell me how many new international receipes you have made.

      Reply
      • That’s so awesome you’ve become healthier and lost weight! I’m a big advocate of French and Mediterranean recipes. I think everyone has heard of the Mediterranean diet and how it’s healthy, but French recipes can be too! I think with French food, it’s more about the manner in which they eat and the portions. There’s balance and mindfulness in their diet, which I love. Thanks for your feedback, Dan, and congrats on your weight loss journey!

    • Hi Cynthia! Please see the updated recipe card to help you out. It’s best to use a scale to avoid weird measurements, but if you don’t have one, the ones that are posted should help you! 🙂

      Reply
    • Hi Arvah! It would depend on how mini your tarts would be to discuss cook times, but in general, usually the mini version of cakes and tarts requires about 2/3 of the cook time that a larger version would need. So for instance, if the filling for this tart takes about 20 minutes to bake, usually a mini version would be about 12 to 15 minutes. The best advice I can give is to consistently check on your tarts as you bake them the first time for the telltale signs that they’re ready (crust is golden, filling has set, etc.). Hope that helps! 🙂

      Reply

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