French Lemon Tart

French Lemon Tart

This classic French lemon tart has a smooth lemon curd filling that tops a delicious shortbread pastry crust. The two together are a perfect match. Prepare this in any kind of tart pan or put them in a standard baking pan and turn them into fancy lemon bars – both will be a successful hit! 

Tart au citron, or lemon tart, is a traditional dessert you can find at a charming local French patisserie. It has a smooth, tart lemon curd filling on top of a sweet classic shortbread crust. It’s easier than it sounds and has been a huge hit among friends! 

You can dust it with powdered sugar or serve with fresh whipped cream and berries. You can also present as is. Its simplicity is gorgeous and impressive enough!

What to bake it in

You can bake it in a rectangle or round tart pan – this is the one I have – or you can also bake it in a metal baking pan as you would lemon bars. I love the classic look of a tart pan, but both turn out delicious. 

Making in advance

This is an easy dessert to spread out into steps. You can make this the night before serving, but for ultimate freshness I don’t suggest assembling it much before then as you want to keep the curd fresh on the crust without the crust getting soggy. Here are some options if you wish to spread it out:

Dough: can be made and refrigerated in plastic wrap for 3 days or frozen for 1 month. If you freeze it, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. 

Baked crust: can be baked and wrapped in plastic wrap for 2 days before assembling with the curd. This can be kept at room temperature.

Assembled tart: can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Wrap with plastic and store in the refrigerator. If you plan to dust with powdered sugar, do so fresh right before serving. You can keep leftovers fresh for an additional 3 days. I just like to make it as close to its initial serving time as possible to keep the crust in its best, most impressive state. 


French Lemon Tart

Lori Vaughn
This classic French lemon tart has a mouth watering smooth lemon curd filling that tops a delicious shortbread pastry crust. The two together are a perfect match. Prepare this in any kind of tart pan or put them in a standard baking pan and turn them into fancy lemon bars - both will be a successful hit!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Chilling Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 25 minutes
Servings 1 tart (8-12 servings)


Shortbread Crust

  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup (62 g) almond flour (can substitute with all purpose flour if needed; I just love the very subtle flavor it adds)
  • 1 cup (120 g) all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (30 g) powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt

Lemon Curd Filling

  • 1 TB lemon zest (about 1-2 lemons)
  • cup (180 ml) lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons - use from what you zested above)
  • ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 TB (57 g) unsalted butter, softened


Shortbread Crust

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • In a food processor (or by hand) combine all dry ingredients together until fully blended together.
  • Add softened butter in small chunks and blend in 3-5 second pulses for a total of about 20-30 seconds, just until the dry ingredients combine with the butter and it forms into a dough. (If doing by hand, I suggest using a fork to break up the butter with the dry ingredients, then kneading together until it comes together as a dough, similar to pie dough.)
  • Press the dough into a tart pan evenly, dipping your fingers in flour to help press it into the pan if it still feels slightly sticky. You can also wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze it for a month if you want to spread out the process.
  • Put the prepared tart pan in the refrigerator and let it chill for at least 30 minutes. This will help prevent it from shrinking in the oven. Line the bottom of the tart with a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper and add dry beans or pie weights.
    (If you don't do this, the pie crust will just want to rise up from the bottom, in which case you can take out half way through the baking process, press down with the back of a spoon, and return to oven. You may need to press down again when it comes out of the oven for the last time. Both methods work well for me.)
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges start to get lightly golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Once cool, if you're not filling the tart soon, wrap it in plastic wrap to keep it fresh. This will stay perfectly fresh at room temperature if prepared a day in advance.

Lemon Curd Filling

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Add lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, heavy cream, and eggs to a sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken (usually about 8-10 minutes). If you stop whisking, your eggs may begin to curdle.
  • A good test to ensure it's thick enough is if you can dip the back of a spoon in the curd and it will hold without running off. When it's thickened, remove from heat, and add softened butter in pieces, whisking until it's all melted and incorporated into the curd.
  • Pour the curd through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, using a spatula or spoon to assist the curd in getting through. This step is to help remove any remaining zest or potential small curdled pieces. Then pour the strained curd into your baked crust.
  • Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until it's mostly set, with a slight jiggle in the center.
  • Let it cool before serving. I prefer to let mine chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar if desired. Another optional addition is to serve with sliced fruit and/or whipped cream.
  • Keep leftovers wrapped with plastic wrap in the fridge. Stays fresh for up to 3 days.
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1 year ago

5 stars
Made this on the weekend and it was so tart and delicious. So easy to make. Everyone loved it. I did have a bit of a problem with the pastry sticking to my parchment paper for the baking beans so I will probably do the press-down method next time. Also, my lemon curd did not set at all in the oven, it had a lot of jiggle. I took it out and put it in the fridge and it set just fine. The shortbread crust was perfect with the lemon curd!