Lemon Pie

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My twist on Joanna Gaines’ famous Magnolia Lemon Pie — a thick graham cracker crust with a creamy, rich lemon filling and fresh whipped cream on top. 

Image of a slice of Lemon Pie

Lemon Pie

Yes, I’m one of the millions of fans obsessed with the Gaines family. I’ve loved “Fixer Upper” (their television show) over the years, own way too many dishes from her collection, and have been in love with her famous lemon pie.  There are loads of lemony desserts that have been shared on this site over the years, but when I read about Joanna’s famous lemon pie, I knew I had to try it. And it did not disappoint!

This pie is so delicious that it has joined the arsenal of my favorite lemon recipes. While this recipe is similar to the original pie recipe shared, I’ve tweaked a few aspects over the many times preparing this treat that I thought it was worth sharing my changes!

Below is a quick breakdown of the changes I made to the pie. You can find her original recipe here.

Tweaking Joanna’s Lemon Pie

  • Overall, we found the lemon flavor a bit too faint in the pie. I started with adding extra lemon juice which helped, but left me still wanting more. So I tried adding in some lemon emulsion (which ended a little too strong) and finally ended up adding some lemon extract. The extra lemon juice and a bit of lemon extract take this from being faintly lemon to a more prominent and present flavor without being overwhelming. See “quick tip” below.
  • The original recipe calls for just over 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk which obviously makes this lemon pie super sweet.  The extra lemon juice and extract that I added helped to balance it a bit, and I also reduced the sweetened condensed milk to slightly cut that sweetness and to avoid the waste of a leftover half-filled can of sweetened condensed milk (I was never quite sure how to put it to use quickly enough!) Adding a pinch of salt and some vanilla extract are the final balancing measures to the filling.
  • Besides the filling, I also replaced the graham cracker crust with my personal favorite recipe for graham cracker crust. (You may recognize it from this Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Cake!)
  • And finally, the whipped cream on top (which helps to cut through the sweetness of the lemon pie) gets some vanilla bean paste added. Vanilla bean paste is my favorite addition to whipped creams and frostings! It gives a slightly stronger and more robust vanilla flavor and it looks beautiful! Vanilla bean paste has actual vanilla beans in it so you’ll be able to see tiny flecks of black throughout the cream which elevates the appearance.

QUICK TIP

Not to be confused with lemon juice, lemon extract is a flavor enhancer (just like vanilla extract) that gives this pie a more intense citrusy lemon flavor. We use lemon extract to pack in as much lemon flavor as possible without messing up the consistency of the pie(like too much extra lemon juice would). Lemon extract can usually be found near other baking extracts and spices in the grocery store; I recommend using a pure lemon extract. By the way, here are the differences between emulsions, extracts, and flavoring oils.

Process shots-- images of the crust being prepped and baked and the lemon filling ingredients being added to a bowl

This graham cracker crust is our absolute favorite! It’s thick, sweet, and has a nice prominent butter flavor. Below are a few tips.

Graham Cracker Crust

  • Let the melted butter cool. Once the butter is melted, it needs to cool back to room temperature. If the butter is hot, it will melt the sugar, which will cause a greasy crust. 
  • Measure the crumbs. While it’s easiest to just add graham cracker sheets to the blender, there can be a good amount of variation from cracker to cracker and brand to brand. Measure the crumbs instead of counting out graham cracker sheets. Slightly overfill the measuring cups and then level off the top with the back of a table knife for the perfect measurement.
  • Blend graham crackers thoroughly. To ensure there aren’t large chunks of graham cracker in the crust, which will affect how nicely the lemon pie cuts out, thoroughly blend the graham crackers until they are fine crumbs. Add anything that didn’t blend completely back into the blender and blend again.
  • Press up the sides. Start by pressing the majority of the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and then start working the crumbs up the sides. Ensure the sides have an even amount of crumbs so the side crust doesn’t crumble away once slices are cut.
  • Bake the crust. To ensure the crust doesn’t get too soft, we bake it before adding the lemon filling. While the crust doesn’t need to be cooled completely, we do want it slightly cooled before adding the filling.

Process shots of the lemon pie-- images of the filling being added to the crust and whipped cream being added on top

Lemon Pie Filling Notes

  • Sweetened condensed milk is one of the main ingredients in this pie — it contributes to the gooey delicious texture and sweet flavor (we don’t add sugar in the pie filling because this milk is so sweet!). It’s easy to pick evaporated milk or a similar product by mistake but only sweetened condensed milk works in this Lemon Pie recipe. Be sure to get the full-fat variety and avoid sugar-free cans. I personally use and love Eagle Brand® (not sponsored) sweetened condensed milk.
  • This citrus juicer makes juicing the lemons a breeze! You’ll have 3/4 cup in no time at all!
  • Salt may seem like a strange ingredient in a pie filling, but it emphasizes the flavors and helps balance sweetness. Salt isn’t just for savory foods — you’ll be amazed how much it can do for a sweet treat!
  • The filling calls for egg yolks only — not the whites. Save those whites and use them to make meringue cookies (a beautiful garnish for this pie!) or an egg wrap!

Process shots-- images of the whipped cream being whipped together

Lemon Pie Topping: Fresh Whipped Cream

There is nothing like real, fresh whipped cream and on this Lemon Pie– it is a show-stopper! There is an entire post on how to make whipped cream if you haven’t made your own whipped cream before. Below are a few tips:

  • Use a good heavy whipping cream. The best tasting heavy cream doesn’t have additives; if possible, find a brand that lists only one ingredient: cream.
  • Use cold cream. To whip up beautifully, you want to use the coldest (straight from the fridge) heavy cream.
  • Don’t forget the flavor additions. We add a tiny pinch of salt, vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), and some powdered sugar to the cream to add flavor and vibrancy. As the cream becomes fluffy and thick from beating, it will taste less sweet. Make sure to give your nearly finished cream a taste and add a bit of extra sugar or vanilla as needed.

Overhead image of the Lemon Pie slice

Lemon Pie FAQs

1Why does my Lemon Pie get watery?

Sometimes the acid (from the lemon juice) and the heat from baking can break down the thickening of the pie. This is most often found with pies using cornstarch as the thickener, so it shouldn’t be a big concern with this pie — we’ve never found it to get watery!

2How do you make Lemon Pie?

This pie can be broken down into 3 steps:

  1. Make the graham cracker crust. Bake and let it slightly cool.
  2. Make the filling. Whisk everything together until smooth and then pour into the crust and bake. Let fully cool.
  3. Make the whipped cream. Spread over top of the pie and enjoy!

3Does Lemon Pie need to be refrigerated?

Lemon Pie can stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours, but after that, it needs to be refrigerated. Bacteria grows rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees F, so if the pie is left out for over 2 hours it will need to be discarded.

4Why does my Lemon Pie taste like metal?

The high acidity of the lemon can cause metal to leach into the pie causing a metallic flavor. This is why I highly recommend using a glass pie dish, not metal!

5Is Lemon Pie filling the same as lemon curd?

Both are similar, with vibrant citrus flavors, but curd is typically much more intensely lemon flavored and is thicker — it would be overwhelming to eat a full pie piece of lemon curd.

Lemon pie filling, on the other hand, is less intense as far as flavor goes. The consistency is less thick.

6How many lemons does it take to make 1/4 cup of juice?

There is typically about 2 tablespoons juice in a medium lemon. To get 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons), you’ll need 2 medium juicy lemons.

For this Lemon Pie recipe, you’ll need around 6-8 lemons.

7What does Lemon Pie taste like?

The crust is rich and buttery with a mild crunchy texture. The filling is smooth and creamy with a tart lemon flavor, but just the right amount of sweetness that you’re left with a sweet taste in your mouth. The whipped cream ties everything together nicely and balances the tartness and sweetness of the pie.

QUICK TIP

To get clean slices, run your knife under hot water for a few seconds, wipe to dry, make 1 slice, and repeat.

STORAGE

Lemon Pie can sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours, but after that, it needs to be refrigerated.

To store: Place leftover Lemon Pie in an airtight container or individually wrapped in the fridge for up to 2-4 days (the crust softens every day this pie is stored).

To freeze: Wrap individual slices of lemon pie tightly with plastic wrap and then place all the individually wrapped slices in an airtight container. Freeze for 2-3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and leave it out at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes before serving. Note that there is a loss of texture and flavor from the frozen and thawed pie.

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Lemon Pie

5 from 4 votes
My twist on Joanna Gaines' famous Magnolia Lemon Pie -- a thick graham cracker crust with a creamy, rich lemon filling and fresh whipped cream on top.  
Print Recipe

Lemon Pie

5 from 4 votes
My twist on Joanna Gaines' famous Magnolia Lemon Pie -- a thick graham cracker crust with a creamy, rich lemon filling and fresh whipped cream on top.  
Course Dessert, Snack, Vegetarian
Cuisine American
Keyword lemon pie
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Chilling 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 12 pieces (1, 9-inch pie)
Calories 543kcal
Author Chelsea, adapted from Joanna Gaines
Cost $8.12

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 1-3/4 cups (210g) graham cracker crumbs (~12-13 full graham cracker sheets)
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup (50g) white granulated sugar or light brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

Pie Filling:

  • 2 cans (14 oz.; 396g each) sweetened condensed milk (I use Eagle Brand)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup (170g) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspons lemon extract Note 1
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup (235g) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup (35g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Optional: lemon slices/zest, mint sprigs for garnish

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch pie dish with non-stick spray and set aside.
  • CRUST: Start by melting the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Once melted, set aside to cool for 5 minutes. (Hot butter will cause a greasy crust.) In a blender or food processor, process the graham crackers until they are all fine crumbs (re-blend any large chunks). Measure to get a level 1 and 3/4 cups of crumbs and add to a large bowl. Add in the sugar and salt. Use a spatula to scrape every bit of the cooled, melted butter into the bowl. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and then up the sides. Use the bottom of a flat 1-cup measuring cup to thoroughly compress the graham cracker crumbs into a firm crust. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes and set aside to cool.
  • PIE FILLING: Using a mixer (stand or hand mixer), mix both cans of sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks (reserve whites for another recipe or discard), lemon juice, lemon extract, and salt together. Beat on medium speed for 2-4 minutes or until completely combined and smooth.
  • BAKE: Pour mixture into the baked pie crust and bake for 12-17 minutes. (Little bubbles will start to surface; cover the crust if it starts to brown too much towards the end. You'll know it's done when pie only slightly jiggles in the center.) Remove from oven and cool the pie on a cooling rack at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • CHILL: Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • WHIPPED CREAM: Mix the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, and soft peaks have formed. Add to cooled lemon pie -- either spread it over the entire pie with a spatula (if the pie will be completely consumed that same day) or add it to individual pie servings. Do not add cream to the entire pie if you plan on having leftovers--the whipped cream gets watery when stored.
  • ENJOY: Tightly cover and refrigerate any pie leftovers. If desired, garnish slices with lemon zest, a lemon slice, and/or fresh mint. Enjoy right out of the fridge!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Not to be confused with lemon juice, lemon extract is a flavor enhancer (just like vanilla extract) that gives this pie a more intense citrusy lemon flavor. We use lemon extract to pack in as much lemon flavor as possible without messing up the consistency of the pie (like too much extra lemon juice would). Lemon extract can usually be found near other baking extracts and spices in the grocery store; I recommend using a pure lemon extract. There aren't any substitutes I recommend, but if you can't get lemon extract simply leave it out and note that the lemon flavor won't be as strong.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 543kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 112mg | Sodium: 371mg | Potassium: 343mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 56g | Vitamin A: 713IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 236mg | Iron: 2mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Image of Chelsea and her son making the pie

The ultimate BEST EVER creamy lemon pie! Based off of Joanna Gaine's famous lemon magnolia pie! via chelseasmessyapron.com #lemon #creamy #pie #dessert #summer #treat #cream #joanna #gaine #magnolia
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17 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Your pics are absolutely amazing! I’ve also had Joanna’s Lemon Pie a handful of times, and you’re right, it definitely does not disappoint. I’ve actually made it for Easter both this past Easter and last year as well. It was a huge hit! Thanks for sharing your tweaks. I’ll have to try it this way next time I make this Lemon Pie!

  2. Hi Chelsea,

    I love a lemon dessert — I’m with you though, I don’t want it to just be yellow and called lemon, I definitely want to taste the flavor. Love that this looks like a recipe kids can help with. Whenever I pull out a bowl, my son always shouts, “I’ll get my stool!” Future chef, right there, lol. Can’t wait to try it!

  3. 5 stars
    what a fun dessert, thank yo for sharing and tweaking this since I hadn’t seen the original, I also love lemon, even lemon scented stuff of all kinds, so this is perfect to round out this extended July holiday with some lovely pie

  4. Just made this tonight for Mother’s Day tomorrow (Sans whipped cream)- excited to try it! I’m curious where the dessert plates are from in your photos? They’re so cute! Thanks!

    1. I hope you love it DeAnna! 🙂 I’m pretty certain the plates were from Crate and Barrel 🙂 Happy Mothers Day!

  5. 5 stars
    I used the zest from the lemons and no extract and it was delicious. Also, made it a 2nd time and only had limes and that worked just as well.

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