How to Make Orange Curd
Orange curd is something that's easy to make, tastes great... but is notoriously difficult to get right.
Due to the lower acid level of oranges - as compared to lemons and limes - it has a tendency to not set up right. You need enough acid to react with the proteins in the egg yolks, to ensure a nice, thick product.
In my early days of making curds, that meant supplementing the orange juice with some lemon juice - the traditional method for bolstering the acid content in non-lemon curds.
1. The flavour of the orange is diluted with the flavour from the lemon.
2. The acid that the lemon juice brings is diluted with the orange juice... so it still doesn't set up quite as thick as lemon curd.
A while back, I was working on something completely unrelated, and had a bit of an epiphany: What if I made orange curd with just oranges - no lemon - but brought in additional acid in the form of citric acid?
... and it worked perfectly.
This is still a super easy recipe to make - much like traditional lemon curd. Like lemon curd, it also requires some specifics with regards to ingredients, equipment, and technique... so let's get to it!
Uses for Orange Curd
Beyond a “just eat it with a spoon, straight from the jar”, there are many, many different uses for orange curd!
Here are a few ideas for you:
- On the breakfast table. Spread it on toast, Biscuits, scones, etc. Spoon it over waffles or pancakes (especially good when topped with berries!)
- Orange curd is also a great option for Butterfly Cupcakes, either instead of or in addition to frosting. When “in addition to”, I’ll spoon some curd in the cavity, then pipe frosting over it.
- Use as a topping for Pavlova. I like to do the layer of whipped cream, then the curd, and finally the fruit topping. You can even mix some into the whipped cream to flavour it. Alternately, it’s great as an offering on a Pavlova Dessert Board.
- Spoon it over ice cream, Cheesecake, or crepes.
- We like to drizzle it over yogurt that’s been topped with my Porter’s Yogurt and Ice Cream Topping.
- You can also make layered parfaits with curd and yogurt, or curd and cottage cheese.
* When filling layered cakes with curd, it’s best to pipe a ring of frosting around the outer perimeter of the layer being filled, then fill the inside of that border with the curd.
This gives some stability to the filling layer, and will prevent the curd from oozing out.
Tips for Making Orange Curd
Orange Curd Ingredients
Most of the ingredients are super simple: Orange juice/zest, sugar, eggs, and butter.
Be sure to use an actual orange, not bottled orange juice. It really does not turn out as well when using bottled!
You can use any kind of orange you like for this. I'll usually go with some form of clementine or tangerine, but you can use navel, valencia, even blood oranges.
Use basic white granulated sugar for the best taste.
Also, for the best shelf life, use nice fresh eggs.
One last ingredient, the one that’s key to making a great orange curd?
Citric acid is the “secret” ingredient to providing enough acid for the curd to set up, without diluting the flavour of the curd.
Oh, and as an optional ingredient: Food colouring.
Orange curd can turn out very pale, I like to give the colour a bit of a boost!
Orange Curd Equipment
You don’t need a ton of equipment to make curd, but each piece you do need is important. Here’s the rundown:
First off, you want some way to get the zest off the orange.
When I photographed this, I was using a little zesting plane that I’ve had forever, and it works well. No idea where I got it or what brand it is, though.
Since then, I treated myself to a Kitchenaid Box Grater, and I LOVE it.
If you’re in the place I was - with a 10+ year old basic metal grater that was caving in on itself, didn’t do a great (grate? LOL) job, and was literally being held together with an epoxy job*, seriously... treat yourself to a really good grater.
I had no idea what a difference it would make!
* Ok maybe even if yours isn’t being held together with an ugly epoxy job. Don’t let things get as bad as I did, before deciding it was time to replace. Life is too short!
Next, you need a good way to get the juice out, I prefer using small, citrus-specific juicers for this, rather than the big contraption we have for juicing everything else.
I have a Cuisinart Pulp Control Citrus Juicer, love it, no complaints at all.
Go with whichever you prefer, just get the juice and avoid the seeds!
Mini Food Processor OR Fine Wire Strainer
You’ll want one or the other - more on that in a bit!
Heavy Bottomed Pot OR Double Boiler
Personally, I prefer using a heavy bottomed pot, but a double boiler is the traditional way to do this... more on that in a bit!
A Silicone Whisk
Yes, wire whisks are great in general... but they can react with the acid in your orange curd, and make it taste metallic.
I like to avoid that whole thing, and just use a silicone whisk.
When making curd, I use the smallest whisk in my Set of 3 Silicone Whisks.
I just find that the smaller one is best to keep everything moving, and prevent clumps.
That said, any brand of silicone whisk should do just fine.
For both proper thickening AND food safety reasons, I like to use a thermometer when making fruit curds.
You can use any thermometer that will accurate read a temperature of 165 F.
Personally, I like to use a Infrared Cooking Thermometer. It's quick, easy, and no-mess!
While you’re “supposed” to cook this over a double boiler - and I did in the photos - I’ll be honest... I never do.
I like to cook my orange curd over low, direct heat. I whisk it constantly, and it’s ready in just minutes - so much less fussy.
If you’re not cooking it over higher heat and you keep an eye on it / keep whisking, you’re not going to end up with clumps.
I like to use a heavy bottomed pot, for the best heat distribution.
You’ll find that when you start out, there will be a lot of foaming. As you approach the right temperature, that foaming will subside - that’s when you should really start keeping an eye on the temperature, to avoid overcooking it.
Finally, just know that the curd will thicken more as it cools, so don’t be so worried if it’s not as thick as you’d like.
If you followed the recipe, did the spoon trick (more on that later), and your curd reached 165F, it’ll thicken!
To Strain or Not to Strain
Traditionally, orange zest is used in the cooking process, then strained out afterwards.
Personally, I prefer the method I demonstrate here, as well as in my posts for other citrus curds:
I run the zest through my Mini Food Processor, along with the sugar.
This breaks up the zest to bits that are so fine, they’re basically undetectable in the curd.
Not only is this less fussy, I find it tastes better.
That said, you can always zest the orange and not strain at all - the curd just won’t be quite as smooth. Sometimes this is a fun option - I think it’s got some ~ character ~!
Or, if you want smooth and traditional, just press your cooked curd through a Fine Mesh Wire Strainer, before adding the butter.
How Long Does Orange Curd Last?
Depending on who you ask, homemade orange curd will last up to a month or two in the fridge. (ALWAYS refrigerate your curd!)
Personally, I find it’s best to use it up within 2 weeks, for the best flavour.
Can I Freeze Orange Curd?
Yes! It’ll keep for about 6 months in the freezer, and you can freeze it right in a canning jar.
Freeze your curd as fresh as possible - ie, don’t wait til it’s about to go bad.
When you want to use it, let it defrost in the fridge for a day or two before use.
Once the orange curd is thawed, you’ll want to use it within a week or two.
How to Make Orange Curd
Full recipe follows, but let's start with the pictorial overview!
Zest the oranges.
Add the zest and sugar to your mini food processor, blitz until zest is finely chopped and well incorporated in the sugar. Note: See post for details on skipping this step.
Juice your orange(s), measuring out ⅓ cup of the juice.
In a small pot, whisk together egg yolks, large egg, and orange sugar until well combined.
Add the ⅓ cup of juice and the citric acid, whisk until well combined.
Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture thickens.
It should be able to coat the back of a spoon and retain a clear trail when a finger is dragged across the back of the spoon. Ideally, you want the mixture to reach 165F - I use a surface thermometer for this.
If you want to strain the curd, press it through a metal strainer at this point.
Once the mixture is thick/hot enough, transfer to a bowl. Add the pieces of butter, whisking until well incorporated.
Once all of the butter has melted in and been fully incorporated into the curd, tint orange with food colouring, if desired.
Transfer orange curd to your storage container and chill for at least 1 hour before use.
More Fruit Curd Recipes
Looking for more fun fruit curd recipes to dress up your breakfasts, brunches, or desserts? I've got you covered!
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- 1-2 Oranges Any variety
- ¾ cup Granulated Sugar
- 3 Large Egg Yolks
- 1 Large Egg
- ¾ teaspoon Citric Acid
- 6 tablespoon Salted Butter Chilled and cut into pieces.
- Orange food colouring Optional
- Zest the oranges.
- Add the zest and sugar to your mini food processor, blitz until zest is finely chopped and well incorporated in the sugar. Note: See post for details on skipping this step.
- Juice your orange(s), measuring out ⅓ cup of the juice.
- In a small pot, whisk together egg yolks, large egg, and orange sugar until well combined. Add the ⅓ cup of juice and the citric acid, whisk until well combined.
- Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens. It should be able to coat the back of a spoon and retain a clear trail when a finger is dragged across the back of the spoon. Ideally, you want the mixture to reach 165F - I use a surface thermometer for this.
- Once mixture is thick / hot enough, transfer to a bowl. Add the pieces of butter, whisking until well incorporated.
- If you want to strain the curd, press it through a metal strainer at this point.
- Once all of the butter has melted in and been fully incorporated into the curd, tint orange with food colouring, if desired.
- Transfer orange curd to your storage container and chill for at least 1 hour before use.