Lemon lovers rejoice: these lemon curd parfaits will win over even the most stubborn chocoholic! These no bake dessert parfaits are a perfect dessert idea for dinner parties, because they’re individual servings, they look pretty, and you can make everything ahead of time.
The lemon curd has a lusciously creamy texture, with a bright lemony flavor that’s equal parts tart and sweet. And the cream layer is made with a combination of smooth mascarpone cheese and Greek yogurt.
Berry Lemon Parfaits
Lemon curd is a fairly recent discovery for me, but I instantly fell in love with it (and that’s coming from a chocolate fiend!). It’s almost miraculous how well the tartness and sweetness are balanced. It has a lovely bright flavor, and that texture is unreal.
I always appreciate a reason to enjoy fresh berries, and these parfaits are a fabulous way to do just that. The lemon curd, cream, and juicy berries are everything you’d want in a dessert. And the colorful layers almost make it too pretty to eat!
What is lemon curd?
Lemon curd is a sort of fruit spread that originated in England in the 1800’s. It’s made from lemons and lemon zest, eggs, butter, and sugar. It’s cooked on the stovetop (or in a double boiler) until it thickens slightly, and then it thickens more as it cools.
If you’ve ever had lemon meringue pie, the filling is very similar to lemon curd. In fact, lemon curd is super versatile, and is used as a filling in a lot of desserts – like cakes, pavlovas, and tarts. You can also use it as a spread for breakfast dishes, like crepes, pancakes, scones, and even toast.
These lemon curd parfaits are made of multiple layers:
- lemon curd: Sweet and tart lemon curd is the star of the show here! It looks elegant, but it’s actually pretty simple to make. It’s made of eggs, egg yolks, lemon juice and zest, butter, and sugar. Real lemons are essential here (pre-packaged lemon juice just doesn’t have the same flavor)!
- mascarpone yogurt cream: Creamy layers balance the brightness of the lemon curd perfectly. A combination of smooth mascarpone cheese, tangy Greek yogurt, maple syrup, and vanilla extract makes up the cream mixture.
- topping: A swirl of whipped cream and a sprinkling of berries finishes off these parfaits!
You can easily switch up the fruit you use here. I used a mix of summer berries (blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries). But strawberries, cherries, kiwi, or pomegranate should all work, too!
For an even more decadent dessert, feel free to add layers of ladyfingers or pound cake in addition to the cream and lemon curd. I definitely wouldn’t turn my nose up at that! 😉
How to Make Lemon Parfaits
Step 1: Make the Lemon Curd
There are two methods you can use for making your lemon curd.
The first, and simplest, is to continuously whisk all the ingredients (eggs already beaten and butter cut into chunks) in a saucepan directly on the stovetop over low heat, slowly increasing to medium-low heat, until the curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (It should just reach 170 degrees Fahrenheit.)
I’ve used this method multiple times, and never had an issue with burning. I didn’t need to strain my curd, either. But you can definitely strain it through a mesh sieve after cooking if you want to make sure there are no solids!
Place the lemon curd in a jar and allow it to cool, then store it (covered) in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
The second method – using a double boiler – is slightly more complex, but it decreases the risk of the curd overheating.
If you don’t have a double boiler, you can use a heat-safe glass bowl over a pot with a couple inches of simmering water.
Step 2: Make the Mascarpone & Yogurt Cream
While the lemon curd is cooling, make the “cream” layer!
Start by mashing the mascarpone in a bowl with a spoon, until it’s smooth. Add in the Greek yogurt, maple syrup, and vanilla extract and stir until combined.
Step 3: Assemble the Dessert Parfaits
Now, it’s time to put together your lemon curd parfaits! Add a layer of mascarpone/yogurt mixture, a layer of lemon curd, then some berries on top. Then, add another “cream” layer and a final layer of lemon curd. Smooth it out on top with a spoon.
Add whipped cream on top if desired, and top with berries (and optional mint leaves) for garnish! (If you’re not planning to serve these right away, wait to add the garnishes).
How to Store Lemon Curd
Store homemade lemon curd in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator. It should last for 1-2 weeks.
You can also freeze the lemon curd in freezer-safe containers for 3-6 months.
- Why won’t my lemon curd thicken? If your lemon curd hasn’t thickened after 10-15 minutes, you may need to increase the heat a bit. It should be able to coat the back of a spoon (without it all sliding off) before you remove it from the heat. Keep it mind, it should thicken a lot more once it’s cooled. If it doesn’t, add it back to the saucepan and heat it again until it thickens.
- Why is my lemon curd grainy? This can be an issue with undercooking (i.e. the sugar hasn’t dissolved) or with overheating (causing lumps/cooked pieces of egg). If you’re having issues with overheating, you may need to strain the solids from your curd or use a blender to blend the curd smooth. Or, you can try again using the double-boiler method.
- Why does my lemon curd taste metallic? This can happen if you use a metallic saucepan or whisk to make the curd, because the lemon juice can react with certain metals. Use a non-reactive saucepan and a silicone whisk if possible!
These can absolutely be enjoyed for breakfast, too! Eat them as is, or leave out the mascarpone and use all Greek yogurt. Up to you!
If you make these lemon curd parfaits, I’d love if you shared your thoughts with a rating and comment below.
More parfait desserts to try:
Lemon Curd Parfaits with Berries
For the Lemon Curd:
- 3 small to medium lemons (zest of 2 lemons, juice of 3 lemons*)
- 2 large eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ cup sugar (can add more if desired)
- pinch of salt
For the Cream Layers:
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¾ cup mascarpone cheese
- 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup mixed berries
- whipped cream (optional)
Make the Lemon Curd
- Beat eggs in a saucepan without heat. Add sugar, lemon zest and juice, and a pinch of salt. Add butter in chunks. Stir together with a whisk (no heat yet). Set to low heat and whisk constantly until butter melts**. Increase to medium-low heat and continue to whisk until mixture is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon without it all dripping off. (It should just reach 170° Fahrenheit.)
- Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir, place in a jar or container, and let cool completely. Put the lid on and chill in the refrigerator. (If making ahead, store in the refrigerator until ready to use.)
Make the Yogurt Mascarpone Mixture
- Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mash mascarpone cheese with a spoon until smooth. Add in the Greek yogurt, maple syrup, and vanilla extract and stir until combined.
Assemble the Parfaits
- Dollop (or pipe) yogurt mascarpone mixture (about 2-3 tbsp per layer) into each parfait glass. Slowly smooth the layer out with the back of a spoon in a circular motion, starting from the center, to even it out.
- Add a layer of lemon curd with some berries on top. Add another layer of the cream mixture and a final layer of lemon curd. Smooth it out on top with a spoon. Top with whipped cream and berries (as desired), then serve! (If not serving right away, cover and store in the refrigerator).