This vegan lemon custard has nothing to envy to its non vegan counterpart. It's an easy recipe you can whip it up in 5 minutes, it's sweet, light, and doesn't contain any eggs or dairy. It can be eaten as a custard dessert on its own, poured on some fresh fruit, or used for cakes, pastries, pies and fruit tarts.
Custard is a liquid that is thickened by the coagulation of egg protein, generally made by combining the egg yolks with milk and sugar. Our vegan version uses cornstarch as a thickening agent, turmeric for colour, and plant milk to replace dairy milk.
The result is a custard that is super easy to make (it won't curdle) that is a lot healthier (bye bye cholesterol, saturated fats and hormones from dairy milk) with no risk of bacterial contamination from eggs and as delicious as the traditional one.
Depending on the recipe, custard varies in consistency from a thin pouring sauce (crème anglaise - amazing on fresh fruit and apple pies) to a thick pastry cream (crème pâtissière - great for filling donuts or éclairs) to baked custard used for pies fillings (like our vegan fruit tart).
Our recipe can be used for all these preparations. The only thing you need to change is the cooking time. Cook it less for a thinner sauce, cook it more for a thicker one. See our "variations" section for more details.
Plant milk: we recommend using organic unsweetened soy or almond milk for a creamy but still low fat custard. You can replace this with coconut milk to make the custard fatter and even more delicious.
Cornstarch: this is essential to make sure the custard thickens up. Cornstarch is suitable for gluten-free diets as it's made from corn.
Sugar: any type will work, but for best results use regular granulated sugar.
Lemon: you can either use grated lemon zest or thin lemon peel to infuse the lemon flavour. Just make sure you only use yellow part of the lemon because the white flesh is bitter.
Turmeric: used to give the beautiful yellow colour to the custard. We promise you won't taste it at all as the sugar will neutralise its flavour.
Vanilla: this is optional but highly recommended to give amazing extra flavour that goes especially well with fresh fruit. You can use real vanilla seeds, vanilla extract or vanilla sugar.
You'll need a whisk, a wooden or silicon spoon, and a saucepan.
📋 Recipe Card
Vegan lemon custard recipe
- 4 cups unsweetened soy milk (1 L)
- 8 tbsp cornstarch (100 grams)
- 6 tbsp sugar (130 grams)
- 2/8 tsp turmeric (0.40 grams)
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- In a saucepan off of the heat, whisk together the milk, cornstarch, sugar, turmeric until well combined.
- Set the sauce pan over low heat and bring to a simmer while whisking continuously. Let boil gently for at least 1 minute to cook the starch.
- Keep stirring fast and vigorously to avoid any lumps. Stop when you reach your desired consistency.
- Add your flavouring ingredient (lemon zest, vanilla extract, or both). If you use lemon zest make sure to only use the yellow part of the lemon and not the white flesh under the skin. That part is bitter.
- Let the custard cool at room temperature. Whisk occasionally to prevent the formation of skin on the surface. If you want to cool it down faster, you can submerge the pan in cold water while whisking until the custard is cold.
👨🏻🍳 Top tips
Lemon zest vs lemon peel
We made several variations of this custard and we eventually liked the one with the lemon peel better because it yields a smoother custard. If you use lemon peel make sure to add it while the custard is simmering on the heat to release the lemon flavour.
Ditch the white flesh
When using lemon to give aroma to your sauces and creams is important that you don't accidentally use the white flesh under the yellow skin. That part is extremely bitter and it will ruin your dish.
Cooling down while stirring
The best way to cool down the custard is to do submerge half of the saucepan in a large bowl with iced water and keep stirring. This method will chill the crème faster reducing the risk of lumps forming.
Blend if necessary
It is possible that during the cooling process the custard will dry out on the surface and make a thin skin that will result in annoying lumps. If you are annoyed by the lumps then you can always blend the custard with a hand blender. We tried and it works.
Smooth vs thin
Crème anglaise (thin), pastry cream (semi-thick), baked (thick), or pudding are all preparations that can be easily done using our recipe. Have a look at our "variations" section for more detail.
Storage in refrigerator
You can store the custard in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Let it cool down then cover it with plastic wrap and make sure the wrap touches the surface of the custard to prevent a thin crust from forming. You can reheat the custard on low heat by adding a dash of plant milk while stirring.
📖 Questions & answers
The traditional recipe is not vegan as it contains eggs and milk, however our recipe is 100% vegan and delicious.
Yes, our custard recipe is gluten-free as it is made with cornstarch, a thickener derived from corn. Corn is naturally gluten free, however some cheap low quality brands might make their cornflour in a machine that has previously worked wheat flour. So, if you want to be sure check the label.
Cornstarch is the perfect thickener for this recipe.
Yes, it will keep thickening as it is completely chilled. Keep this into account when cooking it.
You can eat custard poured over fresh fruit, apple cake and galettes, you can eat it with a spoon, or as a filling for donuts, éclairs and napoleons. Our favourite way to eat it is in a fruit tart or with strawberries and mint.
Yes, you can, but making your own is a lot more fun and healthier as you control what goes in it. A brand we like is Alpro vegan custard.
Yes, but we do not recommend freezing it. It takes longer to defrost than to make from scratch and the taste won't be the same. You could however turn it into ice cream. To do this, place it in the freezer, then whisk it every 30 minutes until it turns into smooth ice cream. It should take you about 3 hours.
Yes, coconut milk is a good substitute to soy milk if you want a richer custard. Substitute it for half of the soy milk in the recipe. The only downside is that the custard will be fatter and slightly taste of coconut.
Yes, organic almond milk is the perfect substitute to soy milk.
It is definitely healthier than the traditional custard has this one does not contain eggs or dairy. Also, our version is low fat, has no cholesterol and no saturated fat. The only unhealthy ingredient is the sugar.
Believe it or not, it seems that custards have been around since Ancient Rome. I can definitely picture Marcus Aurelius dipping grapes in some freshly made roman custard during his stoic meditations.
One of the greatest advantages of this vegan custard recipe is how simple it is to make variations out of it. By just extending or reducing the cooking time you can make custard sauce, pastry cream, puddings and bake custards.
Vegan crème anglaise
Also known as vanilla custard sauce, is a lightly thickened stirred custard flavoured with vanilla extract and no lemon flavour. Bring to a boil for a minute then while stirring continuously, the keep stirring on low heat until lightly thickened.
Richer crème anglaise: substitute coconut milk for half of the plant milk and flavour with vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract. When you use vanilla bean you need to first cut open the bean, then scrape the small seeds inside it with the tip of a knife.
Chocolate crème anglaise: a super simple yet delicious variation made by melting 3oz or 90 grams of vegan chocolate and stirring it into the cream. If the chocolate is unsweetened you might want to add a couple of extra tablespoons of sugar to the mix.
Vegan pastry cream
Perfect to fill up donuts, éclairs or napoleons. A classic pastry cream is generally flavoured with vanilla and no lemon. To make it just cook the custard for longer. Boil it for about 3 minutes while stirring, then take it on low heat and keep stirring until you reach your desired consistency. To make a richer pastry cream substitute coconut milk for half of the plant milk and flavour with vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract.
Chocolate pastry cream: melt 3oz or 90 grams of chocolate and add it to the mix.
Coffee pastry cream: add one tablespoon of instant coffee powder to the milk or add one espresso to the mix.
Vanilla cream pie filling: you can use the pastry cream preparation for filling pie shells. Make sure the cream is cooled but not completely chilled.
Banana cream pie filling: fill pie shell with half of the vanilla cream pie filling. Then cover with sliced bananas and fill with the remaining cream.
Lemon pie filling: add the grated zest of one lemon to the mix. Then once the cream is ready add the juice of half a lemon and stir it in.
Vegan baked custard
To make a great vegan baked custard we recommend cooking the custard in a saucepan first for about 2 minutes, then using it to fill a pie shell and then bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes. This is how we made our vegan fruit tart.
Puddings are hard to define. In fact different countries and regions have their own different traditional puddings, varying from sweet to salty to even blood puddings (ewww). Our recipe is best defined as a traditional Blancmange English style pudding. You can flavour this with vanilla or almond extract.
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If you have any tips or questions let us know in the comments below!