Lemon Semifreddo

Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli
Italian Cuisine Expert and Food Blogger
Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli, the mastermind behind Nonna Box, has honed his culinary expertise for decades, inspired by family feasts in Emilia-Romagna. Mentored by his restaurateur nonna, he mastered Italian classics and furthered his skills with professional culinary studies in desserts and gelato making from Mec3. Today, he shares this rich legacy and authentic recipes through Nonna Box.
Expertise: Italian cuisine, Pasta, Pizza, Pastry, Dessert

Vibrant, refreshing, and utterly delicious, Lemon Semifreddo is a frozen Italian dessert.

Made with just a handful of simple ingredients, this beloved classic is like a cross between ice cream and frozen mousse, offering a dreamy texture with a bright, tart twist of lemon.

Every cool and creamy spoonful is a burst of zesty deliciousness.

What does semifreddo in Italian mean?

In Italian, “semifreddo” literally means “half-cold”, which accurately characterizes the dessert’s distinctive texture. A semifreddo is neither fully frozen nor entirely thawed.

So what is the texture of semifreddo? It strikes a harmonious balance between the creaminess of traditional mousse and the slight iciness of regular ice cream, resulting in a half-frozen refreshing dessert that is velvety smooth.

What is the difference between ice cream and semifreddo?

Both semifreddo and ice cream are frozen desserts, but they have distinct differences in texture and preparation. Semifreddo maintains a partially frozen consistency and doesn’t require an ice cream maker for its preparation.

On the other hand, ice cream freezes completely, yielding a firmer, solid texture.

The same holds true when answering, what’s the difference between gelato and semifreddo?

Much like ice cream, gelato is known for its dense, creamy texture with less air incorporated into the mixture.

  • 9″x5″ Loaf Pan: Used to set and shape the semifreddo. 
  • Saucepan: You’ll need a small saucepan to make the lemon curd mixture.
  • Candy Thermometer: While optional, a candy thermometer can help monitor the temperature of the lemon curd mixture to achieve the best results.
  • Fine Mesh Sieve: Essential for straining the lemon curd to remove any lumps or impurities.
  • Electric Mixer: Used to beat the lemon curd until it becomes cooled and fluffy. It’s also helpful to whip the heavy cream.
  • Rubber Spatula: It’s a handy tool for folding the ingredients together gently and thoroughly.
  • Large Bowl: For whipping the heavy cream.


  • 7 Egg Yolks: Contribute richness and act as an emulsifier to create a smooth texture. 
  • ½ cup Fresh Lemon Juice: The primary source of the vibrant citrus flavor that defines the lemon semifreddo. 
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Zest: Provides a robust lemony aroma, enhancing the dessert’s overall flavor.
  • 1 ¼ cup Granulated Sugar: Serves as the primary sweetening agent. 
  • ¼ tsp Salt: Balances the sweetness and enhances the overall flavor profile. 
  • ¼ tsp Vanilla Extract: Adds a hint of depth and aromatic complexity.
  • 1 ¾ cup Heavy Cream: The key ingredient in creating the creamy base. 
  • ¾ cup Sliced Toasted Almonds: Offers both a delightful crunch and a nutty twist that complements the fresh lemon taste.  

How to make this recipe step-by-step

Prep the pan

To begin, prepare a 9×5-inch loaf pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper. Then line the sides of the pan to create an overhang. This step makes removing the lemon semifreddo much easier when it’s time to serve.

Make the lemon curd 

Next, place the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt in a small saucepan (photo 1). Begin whisking constantly and heat the mixture over medium-low heat for about 4 minutes until it begins to thicken (photo 2). You can also use a candy thermometer as your guide. Once the mixture reaches 170 degrees F or 77 degrees C, it’s ready.

Finish and cool the lemon curd

Once you’ve made the curd, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract (photo 3). Then strain the lemon mixture with a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps or impurities (photo 4).

Now, put the lemon curd into a mixing bowl and beat it with an electric mixer (photo 5) until it’s completely cool and very fluffy (photo 6)

Whip the heavy cream

First, pour the cold heavy cream into a large mixing bowl (photo 7). Then whip it using an electric hand mixer or whisk until stiff peaks form. Make sure you whip it long enough to turn it into whipped cream (photo 8). This step is what gives the lemon semifreddo its creamy texture.

Combine the lemon curd and whipped cream

Now, use a rubber spatula to gently fold your cooled lemon curd into the whipped cream (photo 9). Then pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the surface (photo 10)

Complete the dessert

After you’ve poured the semifreddo into the pan, sprinkle the top with toasted sliced almonds and then press them down into the dessert (photo 11). The almonds will form a yummy crunchy crust.

Freeze the semifreddo

Finally, completely wrap the loaf pan with plastic wrap, ensuring it covers the entire pan (photo 12). Then, transfer it to the freezer for a minimum of 8 hours, and if possible, leave it overnight.

Serve and enjoy

When you’re ready, remove your lemon semifreddo from the freezer. Then carefully unwrap it, run a sharp knife around the edges between the parchment and the pan, and flip it onto a serving plate or tray. Now, use an ice cream scoop or slice the dessert to serve!

lemon semifreddo finished product

Expert Tips

  • Use fresh lemons for the best vibrant flavor and aroma. Bottled lemon juice will not produce the same zesty taste.
  • When zesting the lemons, be cautious not to include the bitter white pith. The zest should only be bright yellow lemon peel.
  • If you have one, use a candy thermometer to ensure the lemon curd reaches the ideal temperature. This guarantees that your homemade semifreddo will have the desired consistency.
  • Before whipping the heavy cream, chill the mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for a short time. This helps to achieve stiffer peaks, resulting in a creamier semifreddo.
  • When combining the lemon curd and whipped cream, fold them together gently to preserve the airy, light texture of your lemon semifreddo.
  • For the best results, allow the semifreddo to freeze overnight. This extended freezing time ensures a perfect, velvety consistency.
  • Make sure the parchment paper not only lines the pan’s bottom but also extends over the edges. This ensures easy removal and prevents sticking, maintaining the dessert’s shape.


While lemon semifreddo is a delightful classic on its own, here are some creative variations and ideas to customize the dessert!

  1. Berry Swirl: Swirl fresh berries or a berry compote through the semifreddo mixture before freezing for a sweet-tart twist.
  2. Limoncello Infusion: For an adult twist, add a splash of Limoncello liqueur to the lemon curd mixture. It adds a delightful zing and a touch of elegance.
  3. Chocolate Drizzle: Melt some white or dark chocolate and drizzle it over the semifreddo before serving. The combination of citrus and chocolate is heavenly.
  4. Nut Variations: Experiment with different nuts for texture and flavor. Try pistachios or hazelnuts for a different flavor combination. 
  5. Minty Fresh: Add some fresh mint leaves to the lemon curd for a refreshing, herbaceous note.
  6. Other Citrus: Use the zest and juice from other citrus fruits, such as lime, orange, or grapefruit in place of the lemon.
  7. Mini Semifreddo Cups: Instead of a loaf pan, portion the semifreddo into small cups or ramekins for individual servings.

Try other other Italian desserts recipes:

Enjoy your semifreddo with one of these Italian drinks:


What are the main ingredients in semifreddo?

It typically consists of egg yolks, sugar, heavy cream, and flavorings like fruit juice or purees, chocolate, or nuts. The mixture is whipped and then frozen to create a creamy and semi-frozen dessert.

How to store lemon semifreddo?

It’s best to keep it in an airtight container in the freezer. You can also keep it in the pan and double-wrap it with plastic wrap. If you have leftovers, be sure to store them promptly as it’s important to keep it frozen to preserve its texture and prevent it from melting.

How long can you keep semifreddo in the freezer?

You can store semifreddo in the freezer for several weeks and up to 2 months. However, for the best quality and taste, you should consume it within the first 2 weeks. Over time, the texture and flavor may change, so it’s a good idea to mark the date you prepared it and keep an eye on the storage time.

What is the difference between mousse and semifreddo?

Semifreddo is a semi-frozen dessert that is solid but not completely frozen, with a creamy and mousse-like texture. It’s typically made with egg yolks, sugar, and heavy cream. Mousse, on the other hand, is a light and airy dessert made by folding whipped cream or egg whites into a flavored base like chocolate or fruit puree. While both are creamy, mousse is typically lighter and fluffier, while semifreddo is denser and creamier.

lemon semifreddo recipe

Lemon Semifreddo Recipe

This recipe will enable you to make a perfect lemon semifreddo that tastes as if it came straight from an Italian restaurant.
4.43 from 26 votes
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Course: Dessert
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 282kcal


  • 7 egg yolks
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cup heavy cream chilled or pre-made whipped cream
  • ¾ cup sliced toasted almonds


  • 1 9"x5" Loaf Pan Used to set and shape the semifreddo.
  • 1 Saucepan You'll need a small saucepan to make the lemon curd mixture.
  • 1 Candy Thermometer optional. While optional, a candy thermometer can help monitor the temperature of the lemon curd mixture to achieve the best results.
  • 1 Fine mesh sieve Essential for straining the lemon curd to remove any lumps or impurities.
  • 1 electric mixer Used to beat the lemon curd until it becomes cooled and fluffy. It's also helpful to whip the heavy cream.
  • 1 Rubber Spatula It’s a handy tool for folding the ingredients together gently and thoroughly.
  • 1 Large bowl For whipping the heavy cream.


  • Prepare a 9×5-inch loaf pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper and adding a strip of parchment paper around the edges. Set it aside.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. If you have a candy thermometer, insert it into the mixture and remove it from the heat when it reaches 170 degrees F or 77 degrees C (this should take about 4 minutes).
  • Remove the lemon curd from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Then strain the lemon curd through a fine mesh sieve and put it into the bowl of an electric mixer. Now, beat the curd until it’s cool and becomes very fluffy.
  • In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer or whisk to whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
  • Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the cooled lemon curd into the whipped cream.
  • Pour the lemon cream into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
  • Sprinkle the top with sliced almonds, pressing them gently onto the surface. This will create the semifreddo “crust.”
  • Wrap the loaf pan completely with plastic wrap and freeze the semifreddo for at least 8 hours, or overnight if possible.
  • Once frozen, remove it from the freezer and take off the plastic wrap. Then run a sharp knife around the edges of the loaf pan between the parchment paper and the pan. Now, flip the dessert onto a serving tray or plate.
  • Slice and serve while cold!
Serving: 120g | Calories: 282kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 183mg | Sodium: 76mg | Potassium: 68mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 795IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 0.4mg
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History of Semifreddo

The origins of semifreddo can be traced to Italy, where it became popular in the early to mid-20th century. It was crafted as a way to make a refreshing, frozen treat without the need for an intricate ice cream machine. This innovation allowed Italian households to create a delicious dessert with simple ingredients and minimal equipment.

This also means that while its name and description may sound fancy, homemade semifreddo is actually quite easy to make! So if you’re planning a dinner party or special occasion this lemon semifreddo recipe is your secret weapon. You can prepare it in advance and keep it in the freezer. It’s the ideal make-ahead dessert!

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