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Fool-Proof Lemon Meringue Pie

by on July 28, 2010 · 18 comments

My dad came over last night to see the new house and grill steak. He was a little irritated that I’d thrown out the old charcoal grill and that we had to grill over gas, but he dealt with it and the steak still tasted pretty good (though he’s totally right about charcoal tasting better). For dessert, I served what I thought what I’d hoped would make up for the lack of charcoal — a really good, scratch, lemon meringue pie.

Lemon Meringue Pie Slice

This recipe is adapted from a 1997 Sunset Magazine annual, and it came with a helpful article on how to make Lemon Meringue Pie. I liked the article because it had just enough science not to overwhelm. Basically, the author says making lemon meringue pie is easy if you use the right thickener and add the ingredients in the right order. She says cornstarch is the thickener of choice, but that the trick is to mix it with cold water first, add the other ingredients (including the egg yolks) and add boiling water last. As simple as that was, it worked and the filling was perfectly smooth, translucent and stiff enough to cut nicely. This filling has less butter than some of my other pies so it’s nice and tart.
As for the meringue, it did weep a bit anyway, but it wasn’t a big deal. If weeping were a big deal, I’d have used Shirley Corriher’s meringue which is the only one I’ve made that didn’t weep, but it requires marshmallow crème and I didn’t have any.

Fool-Proof Lemon Meringue Pie
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
An easy, basic recipe for tart lemon meringue pie
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • Baked 9-inch pie crust
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  1. Assemble all the ingredients – especially meringue ingredients.
  2. In a 2- to 3-quart sauce pan that is not yet set over heat, mix 1 1/4 cups sugar with 6 tablespoons cornstarch and salt. Whisk in 1/2 cup cold water, lemon zest, and lemon juice, blending thoroughly. Whisk in the egg yolks. Add the butter and whisk in 1 1/2 cups boiling water.
  3. Set pan over medium or medium high heat (I used medium because the pot was on a larger burner and it was metal) and stir with a flexible heat-proof spatula scraper until mixture boils, about 7 minutes (mine boiled in about 5, but I let it go for 7). Reduce heat to medium (or low, in my case) and stir filling 1 minute more. Pour filling into pie crust and quickly make meringue.
  4. In bowl of a stand mixer using whisk attachment beat egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Continue to beat at high speed and gradually add the sugar and cornstarch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. Then beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Spoon meringue onto hot pie filling. With a spatula, swirl meringue to cover filling completely, touching the rim of the pie shell.
  5. Bake in a 325 degree oven until meringue is browned, about 25 minutes. Set pie on rack until cool, about 3 hours. Serve immediately or store in a cake cover in refrigerator.


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Published on July 28, 2010

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise July 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Good choice. Regardless of what Shirley Corriher says, marshmallow creme does not belong in meringue. :-)

Sue July 28, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Your pie looks good! I’m so impressed that you tried yet another recipe! I figured that chapter was closed. :-)
A little weeping in the meringue doesn’t seem to bother most people. My son actually likes those little drops and is disappointed when they don’t appear.

Maureen July 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm

If my meringue gets a little weepy – I blame it on the weather. My best meringues are made on dry, warm, sunny days. Regardless, no one ever seems to mind.

Janet July 28, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Your lemon meringue pie looks perfect! I know this is not relevant to today’s recipe but…I made your Blondies recipe (the Helms Bakery clones) today. They are so wonderful and wanted to say thanks for the recipe. I plan to make your lemon meringue pie in August and if the weather is humid…I’ll try the marshmallow creme meringue.

Cakelaw July 28, 2010 at 7:48 pm

There’s nothing like a good lemon meringue pie – this one looks scrumptious.

Sue July 28, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I have a silly question. How do you get your meringue on so evenly? I always end up squishing my filling a little. Yours always looks perfect! I know the obvious answer is not to push down so hard while spreading it, but I really do try to have a light hand. There must be another tip I can use!

Anna July 28, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Sue, I don’t know if it’s the “correct” way, but I use my rubber super scraper and scoop little blobs out of the bowl and kind of dot them around, starting with the edges since that’s the part you’re supposed to seal. So I dot blobs around the edges, put more in the middle, then sort of smooth them out and push them together with the back of the scraper.

Katrina July 28, 2010 at 9:09 pm

It sure looks nice. I love how firm ? the lemon curd looks, it sliced perfectly.

Laura L July 29, 2010 at 9:02 am

Is this filling better (or just as good as)the one from the Dessert Bible? I am looking for the perfect lemon meringue pie to bake for an event this weekend.

Tina from PA July 29, 2010 at 9:16 am

Now I have to make this , I’ve only tried Lemon Meringue pie once it was ok . This is one of hubbys favorites.

Barbara July 29, 2010 at 11:09 am

Nothing wrong with a weeping meringue… much better to have the real thing than using marshmallow creme!
My sister loves something called a lemon angel pie. I have made a couple of them…they don’t do well in Florida but it sure is delicious.

Piera August 1, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Hi Anna! I just made this pie and it was wonderful! Everything came out perfectly and it was my very first time making a lemon meringue pie which I’ve been kind of weary of making. I got such great reviews and will definitely be making this again!

Anna August 1, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Hi Piera,
Congratulations on making your first successful lemon meringue pie!

meecee August 9, 2010 at 6:03 am

What is cream of tartar? Can I leave it out, or substitute w/something else? Thanks,

Anna August 9, 2010 at 8:23 am

It’s an acidic powder used as a leavening in most cases, but in the case of meringue, it’s supposed to help add structure to the egg whites so they fluff up better. You can leave it out or you can add a little lemon juice or vinegar — about 1/4 teaspoon for every 2 egg whites. I think in this case you can leave it out.

Lisa September 4, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I just made this pie the other day. It was an absolute success with my family (it was eaten up in less than 24 hours). It really was foolproof. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe and your comparison of it with other lemon meringues so that I could know exactly which one I wanted to make. Thanks also for your tip about making the meringue beforehand. I did as you directed and there was hardly any beading at all.

Pat February 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Thank you! I cannot remember how many times I have tried to make a lemon meringue pie for my husband without success. Your recipe turned out great.

Adare June 18, 2012 at 10:31 am

Thank you for this recipe! I made it this weekend, and it was fabulous. It was quick and easy, and the meringue was so light and fluffy. I like lemon desserts to be on the more-tart-than-sweet side, so I added a little more lemon juice and the zest from 4 lemons, Scrumptious!

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