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paleo dairy-free lemon custard recipe

Dairy-Free Lemon Custard {Paleo}

This creamy, dairy-free lemon custard is a delicious and yet simple dessert that is perfect with fresh berries.  

paleo dairy-free lemon custard recipe

Custards are typically milk-based sauces that are thickened with egg yolks and sometimes a starch, like corn starch.  However, because this is a paleo lemon custard,  full-fat coconut milk is used for the base and egg yolks are the only thickener.

Do not be intimidated by making this stove-top custard sauce!  All you need is a water bath or double boiler to ensure even cooking, a willingness to gently whisk the sauce for about 10 minutes.  Unlike other custard recipes, you do not have to first heat the milk before adding it to the eggs or strain the custard once it is cooked.

Lemon custard or lemon curd?

Traditionally, custards are milk-based and can either be cooked on the stove or in the oven (ie burnt cream).  A citrus curd simply uses juice in place of milk. 

When creating this recipe, I wanted to add the least amount of added sugar possible while still obtaining and creamy and sweet lemon sauce.  Therefore, I needed to use something other than lemon juice as the base.

Simple and easy to make Dairy-free Lemon Custard

Please do not be intimidated by the water bath needed to cook this delicious lemon custard!  It really is a very simple method of cooking the sauce.  It is so worth the *minimal* effort!

Adding a ring made out of aluminum foil to your pot of water is a simple way to stabilize your bowl while cooking the custard.

lemon custard water bath
Make an aluminum foil ring for your water bath

The custard will thicken after about 10 minutes of whisking the mixture over the simmering water.  The custard will coat a spoon when dipped into the hot sauce.

thickened paleo custard after about 10 minutes
After about 10 minutes of whisking, the lemon custard will thicken

Once the lemon custard has thickened, pour the sauce into a clean glass bowl or container.  Be sure to NOT Scrape the sides of the bowl as your pour… you do not want any of the curdled custard in your smooth and creamy dairy-free lemon custard sauce!

why you don't scrape the bowl
For a smooth custard, do not scrape the bowl!

Serving suggestions for Lemon Custard Sauce

This coconut-milk based lemon custard is delicious when served with fresh berries.

Paleo lemon custard sauce with blueberries

Paleo Lemon Custard Recipe

paleo dairy-free lemon custard recipe

Lemon Custard {Dairy-Free}

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

This light and lemony dairy-free custard is delicious served with fresh berries or as a filling for a fresh fruit tart.


  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk *
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp lemon zest, from 4 lemons*
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsps maple syrup


  1. Fill a medium size saucepan half full with water.  Make a ring out of aluminum foil, as pictured, and place in water.  Heat water until simmering gently
  2. Whisk together coconut milk, egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and maple syrup in a medium size bowl 
  3. Place bowl with coconut milk mixture onto aluminum foil ring in the simmering water
  4. Whisk mixture gently until the custard thickens.  This will take approximately 10 minutes, custard will be approximately 160 degrees F
  5. Poor thickened custard into a clean bowl.  Be careful to not scrape sides where custard may have curdled.  This ensures that custard does not need to be poured through a sieve 
  6. Cover custard with parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until completely cold, at least 2 hrs)
  7. Serve cold custard with your favorite fresh berries for a delicious dessert
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 145Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 123mgSodium: 13mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 2gSugar: 6gProtein: 3g

Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix


  1. I try to use coconut milk that does not contain any stabilizers (ie gums or thickeners). The ingredients should simply read coconut milk and water.  Trader Joe’s brand of coconut milk is a good option.
  2. When using the zest in recipes, I prefer to purchase organic citrus. Read more on pesticides and produce.

Other delicious paleo desserts you may enjoy:

recipe for Paleo chocolate coconut haystacks on top of toasted coconut

Apples and honey baked together to make apple roses that are delicious and beautiful

Paleo fruit and nut chocolate bars made with dried strawberries pistachios almonds and raisins

Paleo coconut macaroon recipe

Pin recipe for later:

dairy-free lemon custard pin


  1. June Brinkman

    I am also allergic to coconut. I just made this with millet milk (from Isola Bio) and a little arrowroot powder. I did use 6 yolks as that is what I had left over from making merigues. It turned out really well!
    wondering if it would freeze well?

    • Hi June – thank you for sharing your recipe modifications! I am so happy the lemon custard worked well for you. In general, freezing custard is not possible. They tend to separate when they thaw. All the best, Meredith

  2. How long does it last if kept in fridge? I am making some Genovesi cookies and have to use dairy free products for the judging part. Want to make the custard a few days early but also want it to still be good. TIA

    • Hi Brandy – I have kept this custard in the fridge up to three days after cooking it. Just make sure to have parchment paper or plastic wrap gently pressed on the top of it before packaging it up in an air tight container. This will prevent a crust or skin from forming on the top of the custard while it is stored. Enjoy!

  3. Maria Pappano

    Are you using only the thick cream from a can of full-fat refrigerated coconut milk? I would like to make this but I’m not sure about the type of coconut milk you’re using. Thanks very much!

    • Hi Maria – I use room temperature full fat coconut milk when making this custard, which makes a thin pourable pastry cream that has a sauce-like consistency. If you use the firm part of refrigerated coconut milk, your custard will no doubt be thicker. I hope you enjoy it! Meredith

  4. Susan Mc Feely

    Maybe because its freezing in Ireland, but it took an hour to thicken this custard. I haven’t tasted yet!

  5. Thank you for this recipe – delicious lemony custard. Loved the tin foil ring – new trick I hadn’t seen before. I had to cook mine for around 18 mins for it to thicken but I imagine it all differs for different temperatures and climates. I also added more maple syrup as the family have a bit of a sweet tooth. It’s a definite winner and I will be making it again

    • Mary – I am so happy you and your family enjoyed this lemon custard! And thanks for sharing your experience re: cooking time. You are definitely right, climate, temperatures as well as different types of stove tops can all cause variation in cooking time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Meredith

  6. This custard looks so easy and delicious (which happen to be my favorite combination in a recipe, haha). Pinning this one, as I can’t handle dairy anymore! Thank you!

  7. Jacque Hastert

    This lemon custard is a must make before summer ends. It looks amazing!

  8. We usually have fruit for dessert too. So, I really like the idea of this custard to add a little bit of excitement to our fruit!

    • Thanks Pam – this lemon custard really does make our fruit dessert a little more special! I hope you enjoy it!

      • Hi Meredith
        I am allergic to coconut and all nut products. I was wondering if this recipe would work with rice milk.

        • Hi Marie, I haven’t tried this recipe with anything other than coconut milk, so I honestly can not say. If I had to guess, I think that if you directly substitute rice milk for coconut milk, the custard will be very thin as rice milk contains very little fat. However, you could thicken the sauce by whisking in a little tapioca starch to the rice milk before heating it.

  9. Epic failure. Followed the instructions perfectly. Never thckened at all

    • Mary – I am so sorry to hear the recipe didn’t work for you! The lemon custard is not as thick as a traditional pudding, but should have thickened. Did your sauce thicken at all? The only reason I can think of that may explain why the sauce didn’t thicken is if it wasn’t cooked to a high enough temperature or possibly if you used pasteurized eggs. The pasteurization process may change the ability of the egg yolks to properly thicken the sauce.

  10. This sounds so good (+ I actually have all the ingredients to make it)! Can’t wait to try it out!

  11. This looks heavenly and perfect for Summer!

  12. this looks amazing! My family would LOVE this!

  13. I love finding dairy free recipes that look as delicious as this!! Yum!

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