HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Will lemon juice curdle cream?

EarlyBird Jan 14, 2014 01:35 PM

My buddy will be coming to visit my wife and me in another couple of weeks. He's a bachelor and can't make toast. He always rave about a lemon garlic chicken stroganoff dish he had in Hawaii. I want to make my own version of that.

I am planning on roasting lots of garlic and using plenty of my home preserved lemons for intense garlic-lemon flavor, and using that in a chicken stock based sauce with some cream. Question: will the cream curdle from the preserved lemon, and any fresh squeezed lemon I might add?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. 512window RE: EarlyBird Jan 14, 2014 02:09 PM

    It might. If you have the time, why not try a dry run.

    6 Replies
    1. re: 512window
      Springhaze2 RE: 512window Jan 14, 2014 03:32 PM

      I had the same thought... do a dry run. try creating how you think it should be and see how it turns out. (That's what I do.)

      Another option is to see if you can find out what restaurant your friend had the chicken "stroganoff" and see if you can at least get a description off of their menu. Maybe he is calling it stroganoff , but it was a completely different dish. As somebody else noted, stroganoff typically contains sour cream, not just cream. It also often contains mushrooms. So maybe it was a creamy chicken and mushroom dish with lemon and garlic and he just thinks of it as stroganoff?

      Are your home preserved lemons stored in salt?

      1. re: Springhaze2
        EarlyBird RE: Springhaze2 Jan 14, 2014 03:53 PM

        I should point out that "stroganoff" is my own short hand, based on his description of an intensely lemony and garlicly chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce over egg noodles.

        I preserve my lemons in salt.

        1. re: EarlyBird
          Springhaze2 RE: EarlyBird Jan 14, 2014 08:06 PM

          Yeah, I would not use the term "stroganoff" in that sense. It really has a totally different flavor profile.

          Anyway, I make up some dishes with chicken, lemon, mushrooms, garlic, onions in a cream sauce, occasionally. I have never had a problem with the lemon curdling the cream. Here is a basic recipe, which I am linking to show the technique of mixing the chicken stock, lemon juice and cream together, before heating it. Use fresh lemon juice and zest in the first part of the recipe.


          Dishes like this are often finished with capers to enhance the lemony flavor. I suggest slicing a little bit of your preserved lemons instead of using capers. If you want to up the garlic flavor, use fresh garlic in the cooking of the dish and finish the sauce with some chunky smashed roasted garlic. (leaving chunks of roasted garlic.)

          Roasted garlic alone is pretty mild compared to fresh garlic. So I would use both. (I happen to love, love garlic.)

          Also take into consideration using thighs which have more flavor than breasts. And maybe cutting the chicken into cubes or wide strips, since you plan to serve it over noodles.

          If you want to really impress, why not make your own noodles or pasta?

          1. re: Springhaze2
            EarlyBird RE: Springhaze2 Jan 15, 2014 02:50 PM

            Great information, Springhaze. Thanks a million. We're exactly on the same page. I was also going to use capers, but perhaps just the little slices of preserved lemons would be better as you state.


            1. re: EarlyBird
              Springhaze2 RE: EarlyBird Jan 15, 2014 05:41 PM

              Want to send me some preserved lemons? I love them!

              Please report back on how the dish turns out. I'm curious.

              1. re: Springhaze2
                EarlyBird RE: Springhaze2 Jan 16, 2014 03:57 PM

                I most certainly will report back.

    2. Chemicalkinetics RE: EarlyBird Jan 14, 2014 02:22 PM

      Acids can curdle milk products. However, it may take significant amount of lemon before this takes place in your pot. In addition, minor curdle may not show.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
        EarlyBird RE: Chemicalkinetics Jan 14, 2014 04:03 PM

        Yes, and I always chuckle about how I found out the hard way: I was a completely naive 17 year old flying to the South Pacific on Air New Zealand. I drank black coffee and rarely drank tea, and only iced tea.

        The kind airline attendant came by and offered tea. I thought, "Sure, when in Rome..." Then she sweetly asked, "would you like milk in that?" I looked at her as if she had two heads and said, "of COURSE not!" Then the guy next to me said it was common. I added milk. Then added a big squirt of lemon...and produced cottage cheese.


        1. re: EarlyBird
          Chemicalkinetics RE: EarlyBird Jan 14, 2014 04:07 PM

          :) I add milk to my tea. I thought I invented that.

          Ah, I didn't even think about this, but you are right.... whenever I add milk to my tea, I don't add lemon. I only add lemon to my sweet tea which never have milk. I wonder why I develop these habits.

          I honestly think a little bit of lemon won't hurt. You are adding lemon juice to a huge pot, not a small cup.

      2. monavano RE: EarlyBird Jan 14, 2014 02:28 PM

        Stroganoff's creaminess usually comes from sour cream added at the end, so I'm not sure about using cream in this recipe.
        If you use sour cream to finish, add one egg yolk to the sour cream, then temper some hot liquid to it before adding the sour cream mixture to the dish.
        This helps prevent curdling.
        I've used this method, and it works, although I'm not sure with as much acid as might be in your dish. But, perhaps using the preserved lemons vs. lots of fresh lemon juice will mitigate the high acid problem.
        Check out this CI's recipe for Chicken Fricasse- it's where I got the technique from.


        3 Replies
        1. re: monavano
          EarlyBird RE: monavano Jan 14, 2014 03:54 PM

          Thanks very much. I'll check out the link. I appreciate the information.

          As I pointed out above, "stroganoff" may be the wrong description (mine) for what he described as a creamy sauce with lots of garlic and lemon.

          1. re: EarlyBird
            Alan408 RE: EarlyBird Jan 14, 2014 05:52 PM


            1. re: Alan408
              EarlyBird RE: Alan408 Jan 16, 2014 03:59 PM

              I'm not sure if there was cheese in it.

        2. i_am_Lois RE: EarlyBird Jan 15, 2014 01:38 AM

          Maybe you could try getting the lemon flavor from using the zest rather than the juice.

          1. emily RE: EarlyBird Jan 15, 2014 06:43 AM

            Lemon juice doesn't curdle warm cream when added for lemon posset. Not sure if the sugar in the cream is the reason for that, though.

            1 Reply
            1. re: emily
              EarlyBird RE: emily Jan 15, 2014 02:51 PM

              Okay, I just learned was a "posset" is. I had never even heard the term before. Interesting.

            2. babette feasts RE: EarlyBird Jan 15, 2014 07:57 PM

              Probably not. The more fat in the dairy product, the less likely it is to curdle. Use heavy whipping cream and you should be fine. I've made chocolate ganache fillings for chocolates by boiling cream with lemon juice, passion fruit concentrate, raspberry puree, etc, and the heavy cream does not curdle. I've also learned that you can't add too much cream to enrich the milk for home-made ricotta or it won't curdle.

              3 Replies
              1. re: babette feasts
                monavano RE: babette feasts Jan 16, 2014 06:18 AM

                But, is cream resistant to curdling with heat AND acid?
                Different mechanisms.

                1. re: monavano
                  babette feasts RE: monavano Jan 16, 2014 11:00 AM

                  Yes. I boil cream WITH acidic ingredients for ganache, and tried adding acid to hot milk + too much cream for ricotta and it wouldn't separate.

                  1. re: babette feasts
                    monavano RE: babette feasts Jan 16, 2014 02:50 PM

                    Good to know, thank you! I will go forth will confidence!

              2. Bryan Pepperseed RE: EarlyBird Jan 16, 2014 04:26 AM

                Total novice here, but isn't creme fraiche the ingredient of choice for stroganoff type dishes because it won't curdle under heat? Perhaps it will be more resistant to the lemon also.
                I just made a homemade batch of creme fraiche the other day but I gifted it to a friend.
                Here's a chow thread dealing with Lemon creme fraiche ice cream - maybe you could omit the vanilla.

                EDIT - Went back to read the recipe I linked - looks like you'd have to omit more than just the vanilla, but the point was that it contained dairy and lemon.

                1. firecooked RE: EarlyBird Jan 16, 2014 02:15 PM

                  When acid is added to milk, the whey proteins interact with the casein proteins (casein micelle) to form a gel.. curdles. Since cream has virtually no protein, it won't curdle.

                  Show Hidden Posts