Fresh Lemon Meringue Pie Like Grandma Made

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This homemade lemon meringue pie recipe might just be the perfect dessert. With a sweet & tangy filling, a flaky pie crust, and a fluffy meringue, it’s no wonder lemon pie is such a  favorite here. Top it with a sprinkle of crystallized ginger for an extra little zing!

My mom’s apple pie is pretty great, too!

lemon meringue pie from above

Making this lemon meringue pie recipe

There are three parts to making this lemon meringue pie recipe. One, the crust. Two, the filling. And three, the light and fluffy meringue. Those three elements, along with a surprise burst of ginger, come together to make what some people (say, my husband) might consider the perfect dessert. While making a lemon pie from scratch may take a few steps and require some planning ahead (to let the crust rest), it’s not particularly difficult.

Make the pie crust first

This recipe is a halved version of my grandma’s famous pie crust. It makes a single crust, perfect for filling with lemon. In the case of this lemon pie, you’ll bake the crust before filling it. This is called blind baking. You can make a fully baked or partially baked pie crust using this method. Since the lemon filling for this pie does not need to be baked, the crust should be fully baked. (You’d use the partial blind baking method for making a recipe such as quiche or even pumpkin pie, if you wanted a really crispy crust.)

Forming the crust and refrigerating it for several hours or overnight is recommended. This helps it to retain its shape during the baking process.

When baking a pie crust sans filling, it can have a tendency to puff up, creating air bubbles. We don’t want that. There are two tactics you can use. The first is called docking, in which you use the tines of a fork to create lots of little air holes in the bottom of the crust. This is the method I’ve always used, and it’s been sufficient.

docked pie crust from above

You can also use weights. Pastry chefs (who are likely much more accomplished bakers than I) use little round ceramic weights to hold down the crust when blind baking it. If you don’t have weights but want to use this method, you can use dry beans. To use pie weights, cut a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the crust. Set it inside the pie crust before baking and add weights. (Two to three cups of beans should do the trick!) Bake as instructed, but lift the weights out of the crust about halfway through the baking time. This allows the bottom to brown.

Make the lemon pie filling

The filling for this lemon meringue pie recipe is cooked on the stovetop. The sugar and lemon mixture will thicken as it cooks, thanks to the cornstarch. The yolks are added once the filling is cooked. Combining the hot filling with the eggs yolks quickly will result in lumps of cooked yolk, though. Don’t do that. Instead, to add the egg yolks to the mix, you’ll temper them. This requires adding some of the hot lemon mixture to the whisked eggs yolks very slowly to bring the temperature of the yolks up.

I like to add ginger juice to the lemon pie filling for a little twist, but this (and the crystallized ginger for garnishing) is entirely optional.

pouring pie filling into a pie crust

Making the meringue recipe for pie

The meringue on a lemon pie is a light and airy layer that is toasted under the broiler (or with a torch) to give it a pretty, browned surface. This can be the most fiddly part of making a lemon meringue pie. For the best results start with the freshest eggs possible. 

To make a meringue, you’ll whisk egg whites until they’re frothy and then add cream of tartar and sugar. The cream of tartar helps to stabilize the eggs whites so you can achieve high peaks with the meringue. Adding sugar in small increments allows the egg whites to absorb it completely. Once the meringue is complete, transfer it to the top of the lemon pie filling and spread it out, making sure that the entire surface of the filling is covered, all the way to the crust. This helps to prevent weeping.

Use a fork or spatula to create swirls and peaks in the meringue, then toast the meringue under a hot broiler. This takes only a minute or two. Maybe three. Do not walk away or you’ll end up with a burned meringue!

slice of lemon meringue pie on a blue plate

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Old-Fashioned Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe

Old-Fashioned Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe

Yield: 8
Chill time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours

This homemade lemon meringue pie recipe might just be the perfect dessert. With a sweet & tangy filling, a flaky pie crust, and a fluffy meringue, it's no wonder lemon pie is such a  favorite!

Ingredients

Pie crust

  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached organic all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 5/8 cup butter , chilled
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • Water

Filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch, I use organic, non-GMO
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest, gently packed
  • 1 tablespoon ginger juice, optional, see notes
  • 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, for garnish

Meringue:

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Make the dough

  1. Measure flour and salt into large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until you have a fine crumble. pastry cutter in a bowl of flour
  2. Crack egg into measuring cup; add vinegar and then enough water to make 1/2 cup, more or less. Use a fork to whisk the egg mixture together.
  3. Pour about half of the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix with the fork, gently gathering the dough from the outside of the bowl. Add the rest of the liquid as necessary to bring the ingredients together just until it forms a loose ball of dough. Do not over mix. lemon meringue pie dough
  4. As soon as the dough comes together, turn it out onto a floured surface. Use your hands to carefully press the dough together---you're not kneading here, just binding the ingredients together in a solid mass.
  5. Roll the dough out on a liberally floured surface. Fold the dough in half for easy lifting, then move into a pie pan.
  6. Tuck the dough edges under and then crimp all around. pie crust in a pan
  7. Use a fork to prick the dough on the bottom all over. This prevents the pie crust from forming air bubbles when it bakes.
  8. Refrigerate pie crust for several hours or overnight if time allows.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400ºF or until golden brown. Let the crust cool to room temperature.
  10. (You can use pie weights or uncooked beans to weight the crust down, but honestly, I’ve never bothered. If you do, remove them halfway through the baking time to allow the crust to brown.)

For the filling:

  1. Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice and water. pouring lemon juice into a pot
  2. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cook sugar mixture over medium heat, whisking until the mixture begins to bubble and becomes extremely thick.
  4. Slowly add half of the hot mixture to the egg yolks whisking constantly. This tempers the eggs, heating them without cooking them. Now add the tempered yolks to the remaining mixture in the saucepan. Return to the heat, bringing the mixture back to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  5. Remove from the heat. Stir in butter, lemon zest, and ginger juice until completely incorporated. Pour the filling into the pie crust. Refrigerate while you make the meringue.

For the meringue:

  1. Beat egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or an electric mixer set on medium speed until frothy.
  2. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until sugar is dissolved and stiff, glossy peaks form.
  3. Transfer the meringue to the top of the filled pie. Make sure the meringue completely covers the filling, meeting the crust all the way around. This helps prevent weeping. Create swirls and peaks in the meringue.
  4. Place pie under the broiler of your oven for 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown. Keep a close eye on the pie to prevent burning. And for the love of everything, set a timer so you don’t forget.
  5. Refrigerate the pie until the filling is completely cool and set, about 4 hours.

Serving the pie

  1. Transfer pie by the slice to dessert plates. Garnish with candied ginger pieces.

Notes

Note: To make ginger juice, finely grate ginger and transfer to a small sieve. Press the ginger firmly, capturing the juice in a small container.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 437Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 13gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 168mgSodium: 438mgCarbohydrates: 57gFiber: 1gSugar: 45gProtein: 5g

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

6 comments… add one
  • Peeyush Dec 26, 2019, 2:10 am

    I tried your recipe of Lemon Meringue Pie. It is wonderful. My son love it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Sharon Storey Jan 7, 2020, 5:47 pm

    Amazing!

  • Lourdes Macias Apr 12, 2020, 11:23 am

    Hi, thank you for sharing your recipe. I make it is wonderful but i don’t know why, I found water betwin merengue and custard.

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 12, 2020, 1:56 pm

      This is a fairly common occurrence. It can happen when meringue is over-baked (maybe your oven isn’t calibrated to match mine), there’s humidity in the air, or undissolved sugar remains in the meringue. Happily, this doesn’t impact the flavor!

  • Rone Apr 29, 2020, 7:56 am

    Kris,
    In making the meringue, is there a step in between #3 and #4? Do you not bake your meringue for some period of time? Side note: I LOVE your recipes.

    • Kris Bordessa May 21, 2020, 11:56 am

      The instructions to bake the meringue are in step number four. It goes onto the pie raw.

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