This highly requested Lemon Cheesecake uses homemade lemon curd for a bright and sunny flavor. My recipe is simple and uses NO water bath with beautiful, smooth results. Watch the how-to video before baking for best results!
Lovely & Oh So Lemony Cheesecake
This lemon cheesecake has a sunny, perfectly tart flavor and a smooth, sweet custard filling set without a water bath (the only way we do cheesecake around here!). It’s accented by a crisp graham cracker crust and lush homemade whipped cream for a beautifully balanced dessert any cheesecake lover will absolutely adore.
I’ve received a lot of requests for a lemon version of my classic cheesecake. I tried many methods to achieve this, like adding lemon juice, zest, and even extract to the batter–but everything yielded flat-tasting, so-so results.
Finally, I had a breakthrough while making my lemon frosting; perhaps the best way to make lemon cheesecake was to build it on a lemon curd base! That method was a clear winner, and it’s the one I’m sharing with you today. It produces a brightly flavored lemon cheesecake with the perfect level of tartness and sweetness–exactly what I was looking for, and hopefully what you’re looking for too!
What You Need
Even with the extra step of making your own lemon curd, there are not many ingredients needed to make this lemon cheesecake; here are a few of the important ones:
- Lemon juice. Fresh squeezed is best. I typically need about three lemons, but you may need more or less depending on the size of yours.
- Egg yolks. You’ll need only the yolks for your lemon curd, so save your egg whites for Oreo cupcakes or confetti cupcakes–both use exactly three egg whites!
- Light brown sugar. I use a blend of granulated and light brown sugar in my crust for a richer flavor. You can use dark-brown sugar in a pinch (or homemade brown sugar), but just know it will impart a stronger flavor.
- Cream cheese. I only recommend using full-fat, brick style cream cheese. Anything else (tub-style, low-fat, etc.) won’t work the same and your cheesecake may not set properly.
One ingredient you’ll notice we’re not using today is vanilla extract. It subdued the lemon flavor of the cheesecake too much, so we’ll leave it out!
SAM’S TIP: You may notice the crust I’m using today has a little bit less butter than usual. This is intentional! The batter for this lemon cheesecake is somewhat wetter than the one for my classic cheesecake, so I reduced the butter in the crust just a tad to prevent a soggy crust and any leaks while in the oven.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Lemon Cheesecake
- Combine all lemon curd ingredients in a pot and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until just beginning to thicken.
- Pour the curd through a fine mesh strainer into a heat-proof bowl and let cool completely.
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugars, then add your melted butter and toss with a fork.
- Press the crumbs into a springform pan, making sure to go up the sides of the pan at least ⅔ of the way.
- Combine the cream cheese and sugar until creamy and smooth.
- Scrape the bowl, then slowly drizzle in the cooled lemon curd with the mixer on low speed.
- Add the eggs one at a time, then scrape the bowl and stir again until smooth.
- Pour the batter into your prepared crust and bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then chill completely before decorating, slicing, and serving.
SAM’S TIPS FOR AVOIDING CRACKS: Since we aren’t using a water bath today, make sure you’re taking precautions to avoid cracks, like not over-beating the batter (incorporating too much air) and not over-beating the eggs (can make the texture of the cheesecake funny). I’ve also learned that if you press the crust up higher than the cheesecake batter will reach, the crust will shrink with the cheesecake as it cools and will keep your cheesecake from cracking.
Frequently Asked Questions
While making your own lemon curd is an extra step, it adds the proper flavor and texture to the cheesecake that can’t be guaranteed with store-bought. I highly suggest you make your own for the best lemon cheesecake!
If you’re persistent and still want to try substituting store-bought, you’ll need about ½ cup.
I never use a water bath when making my cheesecakes and have found it to be unnecessary. As long as you follow my tips to prevent cracks, you should be fine!
If you’d like to garnish your lemon cheesecake with some freshly grated lemon zest or fold it into the batter, that’s totally fine.
Yes! Chill your cheesecake in the fridge as instructed, then thoroughly wrap it in plastic wrap and a final layer of foil before freezing. Your cheesecake will keep in the freezer for several months this way. When you’re ready to enjoy it, simply let it thaw in the fridge overnight.
I know so many of you have been anticipating this one, and I hope it exceeds your expectations. 💛
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
- ½ cup (118 ml) lemon juice fresh-squeezed is best!
- 3 large egg yolks discard egg whites or save for meringues
- ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 4 Tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
- 1 ½ cups (170 g) graham cracker crumbs
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar firmly packed
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 24 oz (680 g) cream cheese softened (use brick-style, full-fat cream cheese)
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- ½ batch homemade whipped cream for topping (optional)
- Small saucepan Use a non-reactive material, such as stainless steel
- Prepare curd first so it has time to cool. In a small stainless steel saucepan, whisk together lemon juice, 3 egg yolks, ¼ cup (50g) sugar, and salt until combined.½ cup (118 ml) lemon juice, 3 large egg yolks, ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon table salt
- Add butter and transfer saucepan to stovetop over medium-low heat. Stir or whisk constantly until butter is completely melted.4 Tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter
- Once butter is melted, continue to stir constantly and watch the mixture until it thickens slightly and becomes more opaque. The mixture will also likely begin to simmer just below the surface once ready. Remove from heat and immediately pour curd through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl.
- Allow curd to cool completely before adding to cheesecake batter (detailed below). To speed up the process, you can place a piece of wax paper against the surface of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate, this typically takes about 30 minutes to cool. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325F (160C) and prepare crust.
- In a medium-sized bowl, use a fork to mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and brown sugar.1 ½ cups (170 g) graham cracker crumbs, 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
- Add melted butter and use your fork to toss everything together until all the crumbs are moistened. Press crumbs evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan (as high as you can, this crust should reach at least ⅔ way up the sides of the pan). I like to use a measuring cup or clean glass to press the crumbs into the pan. Set aside and prepare cheesecake filling.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- (Note that your oven should be preheating to 325F/160C at this point) In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), combine softened cream cheese and ¾ cup (150g) sugar and beat until creamy and smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula.24 oz (680 g) cream cheese, ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- With mixer on low-speed, gradually drizzle in lemon curd and stir until completely combined.
- Add eggs, one at a time, stirring until just-combined after each addition.2 large eggs
- Scrape sides and bottom of bowl again and stir until batter is uniform and smooth and pour cheesecake batter into prepared crust.
- Transfer to center rack of 325F/165C preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. The center of the cheesecake should be almost set but will still slightly jiggle in the center when jostled once the cheesecake is finished baking.
- Allow to cool to room temperature for 30-60 minutes then transfer to refrigerator to chill for at least 5-6 hours before serving (I do not remove the collar from the springform pan until I am ready to serve).
- Serve topped with homemade whipped cream, if desired. I made a half batch of my homemade whipped cream and used an Ateco 848 piping tip to pipe around the edge of the lemon cheesecake.½ batch homemade whipped cream
SaucepanWhen making the curd use a non-reactive saucepan, such as one made of stainless steel, glass, or enameled cast iron. Avoid using aluminum, copper, or iron (such as non-enameled cast iron) pans, which can react with the lemon and cause a metallic taste.
Substituting store bought curdI don’t really recommend substituting store bought lemon curd as it may contain different ingredients or more sugar and the taste and outcome may not be quite the same. However, if you are determined to try you will need about ½ cup of curd.
StoringStore in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I store my cheesecake in the springform pan it was baked in and cover with foil or plastic wrap.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.