This lemon meringue cheesecake is rich, creamy and silky smooth, topped with sweet and tangy lemon curd, toasted marshmallow-y meringue and baked on a buttery graham cracker crust. This cheesecake is so, so delicious, and makes an impressive dessert for any occasion.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Buttery, crisp graham cracker crust takes just minutes to make.
- NY style cheesecake has the perfect velvety and creamy texture that melts in your mouth, with a pop of lemon flavor from lemon zest.
- Bright and smooth tangy lemon curd that is simple and no fuss – no tempering necessary.
- Toasted, pillowy marshmallow meringue is light and fluffy.
- Cheesecake can be baked in advance.
Recipe Ingredient Notes
(See recipe card for a full list of ingredients and amounts.)
Graham crackers – You can purchase crumbs or process them in a food processor until finely ground.
Cream cheese – Use blocks of cream cheese as tub cream cheese has fillers for softening and has a different texture. 5 blocks of cream cheese is needed for this recipe. It may seem like alot but this amount is standard of NY style cheesecakes.
Lemon – Both the juice and zest are needed for this recipe, with zest being the best way to pack in loads of lemon flavor.
Heavy cream – Softens the texture of the cheesecake while adding moisture and extra creaminess.
Eggs – Gives the cheesecake structure and aids in the smooth and rich texture. Eggs are also needed for the curd and the meringue. You will need three egg yolks for the curd. Save the whites for the meringue.
Cream of tartar – Provides stability to egg whites when creating a meringue.
(Full recipe instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
- Make the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Press the crust into a 9” springform pan.
- Bake for 12 minutes, let cool, brush the sides of the pan with butter, then wrap with heavy duty foil.
- Beat together the cream cheese, sugar and salt until light and smooth.
- Beat in the cream, lemon juice, zest and vanilla, followed by the eggs and yolks, beating in one at a time.
- Pour the cheesecake into the pan. Place the springform pan in a large pan. I use a 14” cake pan but a roasting pan can also be used. Bake and chill the cheesecake.
- Make the lemon curd. Combine the lemon zest and sugar, rubbing the lemon zest into the sugar until moist and fragrant.
- Whisk in the egg yolks, egg, lemon juice and salt. Add the butter. Cook until thickened.
- Strain the curd into a bowl and let it cool for 15 minutes before transferring to the fridge to cool completely.
- Make the meringue. Cook the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar until 160F on an instant thermometer.
- Beat the egg whites until cooled and stiff peaks form.
- Spread the lemon curd onto the cheesecake and pipe or dollop the meringue on top.
- Torch the meringue until golden brown and toasty.
- Make sure your cheesecake ingredients are room temperature. If they’re too cold, the mixture could end up lumpy or curdled.
- Cooling the cheesecake slowly, partially in the oven, will help prevent cracking. Running a knife around the perimeter of the cheesecake after removing it from the oven, releasing it from the sides of the pan also prevents cracking.
- Once the eggs are added, do not over beat. Eggs trap air and this could cause the cheesecake to puff and deflate. It’s best to do the heaviest beating when mixing the cream cheese and sugar. This ensures your cream cheese is smooth so you won’t feel like you will have to over mix to smooth out lumps when the remaining ingredients are added and mixed.
Cheesecake should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. This cheesecake can be made in advance. Without the curd and meringue, it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If freezing, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and foil. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
Yes. I have made plenty of cheesecakes without a water bath, and truly, I just prefer the texture of NY style cheesecakes with them. NY style cheesecakes can be dense. A water bath helps keep the filling velvety while also acting as an insurance policy and adding more moisture while baking. If you overbake the cheesecake just a bit, this is very helpful. While the texture of overbaked cheesecake is not very good, the extra moisture can keep it from drying out and/or cracking. Setting up a water bath is super simple and foolproof provided you have just two important things – a large pan to hold the cheesecake pan and heavy duty foil.
This cheesecake is fantastic also made with lime in place of lemon, but any citrus works. This cheesecake base is perfect for all sorts of flavors and toppings.
Heavy duty foil is a thicker and sturdier and also comes in a extra wide size. Basic use foil found in stores are typically 12” wide while the heavy duty can be purchased in 18” wide. The 18” is wide enough to cover the springform pan up to the top edge. This is important because it ensures that water can’t get into the foil. At all. No soggy crusts and watery disasters.
More Lemon Recipes to Try
Lemon Meringue Cheesecake
- Roasting pan (or any baking pan that is a few inches wider than the springform pan)
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, about 10 full graham cracker sheets
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 5 cups cream cheese, room temperature (5 blocks)
- 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ cup heavy cream, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 3 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue)
- 1 large eggs
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 large egg whites
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Graham Cracker Crust
- Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper.
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and salt and stir until evenly moistened.1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, about 10 full graham cracker sheets, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.
- Cool the crust completely. Grease the sides of the pan with butter. Cut (2) 18 x18" pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil. Criss-cross the pieces so that they overlap, and tightly wrap the foil around the bottom and up to the edges of the pan. This size of foil is critical to make sure that the pieces aren't too short, which could allow leaking. Set aside.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat for another minute, until smooth.5 cups cream cheese, room temperature (5 blocks)
- Beat in the sugar and salt, stopping to scrape down the bowl a few times while beating. Beat until completely smooth.1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Beat in the cream, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Beat on low until well combined, about a minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula and mix for an additional minute.½ cup heavy cream, room temperature, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Beat in the egg yolks, and eggs. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Beat for an additional minute.5 large eggs, room temperature, 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
- Place the foiled wrapped springform pan into a roasting pan or a large cake pan a few inches larger in diameter than the springform pan.
- Prepare a pitcher of hot water.
- Pour the cheesecake mixture into the springform pan, and use an offset spatula to smooth out the batter.
- Place the roasting pan into the oven. Fill the roasting pan with the hot water, just enough to come halfway up the sides of the foil of the springform pan. Take care to not get water in the cheesecake.
- Bake the cheesecake until the cheesecake jiggles slightly, no longer appears wet and an instant read thermometer reads 150F, about 90 to 120 minutes.
- Once done baking, turn off the oven. Prop the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake slowly cool in the water bath in the oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven. Remove the foil. Place the cheesecake on a wire rack.
- Run a small knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cheesecake and keep it from splitting in the middle. Cool the cheesecake to room temperature, about 2-3 hours, then transfer to the fridge to chill completely, about 6 hours.
- Combine the sugar and lemon zest into a bowl. Rub the mix between your hands to release the oils of the zest. The mixture will be like wet sand and strongly fragrant.½ cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Add the eggs and egg yolks to the sugar mixture and whisk to combine.3 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue), 1 large eggs
- Whisk in the lemon juice.½ cup lemon juice
- Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan, and place over a medium low heat. Add the butter. Stir the mixture constantly as it cooks.2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- Cook the curd until thick and just beginning to bubble around the edges, or until an instant read thermometer reaches 170F. The curd will thicken more as it cools.
- Strain the curd into a bowl, and let it sit for 20 minutes. Place piece of plastic wrap over the surface to prevent the curd from forming a skin. Transfer to the fridge to chill and thicken for at least one hour.
- In a mixing bowl whisk together the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar.3 large egg whites, ½ cup granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Bring a saucepan with a few inches of water to a simmer. Set the mixer bowl over the simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
- Whisk the mixture continuously until the sugar has dissolved, or an instant read thermometer reads 160F. To test this, (carefully!), by dipping a finger into the mixture and rubbing it between your fingers—the mixture should be very warm and no longer have any grains of sugar.
- Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until the mixture is thick, glossy and has stiff peaks.
- Assemble the cheesecake. Top the cheesecake with lemon curd. Use an offset spatula to spread the curd evenly over the cheesecake.
- Top the cheesecake with the meringue. Use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue. Serve and enjoy!