Zabaglione is an easy and elegant classic Italian dessert that comes together very quickly and can be eaten warm or cold. This custard is delicious served with berries and is a main component of Limoncello Tiramisu or traditional Tiramisu.
This Italian dessert is light, luscious and the perfect way to wrap up a romantic dinner of Lemon Garlic Pasta, Peposo (Tuscan Black Pepper Red Wine Stew) or Pan Seared Salmon with Orange Ginger Glaze.
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Difference Between Zabaglione, Zabaione, Sabayon and Sambayon
In short, all of these terms boil down to a type of dessert custard (or sauce when cooked for a shorter time) made of egg yolks, sugar and a sweet wine or liqueur. However, Zabaglione is the Italian version and Sabayon is the French version. The other two terms are offshoots of the terms Zabaglione and Sabayon.
The ingredients needed for making Lemon Zabaglione verses Traditional Zabaglione are just slightly different.
Lemon Zabaglione Ingredients
- Large Egg Yolks– When making Lemon Zabaglione, use pasture raised eggs for their deep rich yellow/orange color. These eggs give this Italian custard a beautiful natural yellow color without having to add food coloring.
- Limoncello– Either Homemade Limoncello or store bought can be used.
- Granulated Sugar– Similar to using pasture raised eggs, organic granulated sugar is naturally darker in color, aiding in a natural yellow color.
- Lemon Zest– Enhances the bright citrusy flavor of lemon.
- Pinch of Salt– Balances the sweetness and enhances the flavor of the lemon.
- Lemon Juice– Intensifies the lemon flavor and brings in an acidity that helps to balance the sweetness.
Traditional Zabaglione Ingredients
- Large Egg Yolks– Using only egg yolks and not the whites adds in an irresistible richness that is very much a people pleaser.
- Marsala Wine– This is a sweet white wine that adds in nutty and vanilla flavors along with hints of brown sugar and dried fruits.
- Granulated Sugar– This type of sugar is what is traditionally used when making Zabaglione. However, for varying degrees of flavor substitute honey or brown sugar in equal parts.
- Pinch of Salt– Balances the sweetness and enhances flavors.
How To Make
- Measure and prepare ingredients. Gather a medium saucepan with a tight fitting heatproof bowl. Note: A heat-proof bowl is a bowl that will not melt, burn or warp with heat. Examples of heatproof bowls are glass, stainless steel or ceramic.
- Separate eggs and add yolks to heatproof bowl.
- Add sugar to the yolks. Beat, using an electric mixer, on medium low speed until thick and mixture turns pale yellow.
- To the egg mixture add the salt, zest and lemon juice. Gradually pour in the limoncello while beating on low speed, making sure to stop halfway and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a bowl scrapper.
- To the saucepan add 1-2 inches of water. Place saucepan over medium heat and bring water to a gentle simmer. Once simmering lower to medium/low heat.
- Set the egg yolk mixture on top of saucepan over the simmering water. Beat on low speed until mixture is thickened, about 8-10 minutes. The custard is done when ribbons of custard fall from the beaters when lifted.
- Remove bowl from saucepan and continue beating for an additional 2-3 minutes while the custard cools slightly.
- Spoon the custard mixture into martini glasses. Enjoy warm or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 5-6 hours. (See Serving Suggestions below.)
Note: The longer cooking time of 8-10 minutes creates a creamy custard. Cooking for a lesser time of 5-6 minutes will create a sauce that is wonderful over pound cake.
One of the easiest ways to change the flavor of Zabaglione is to use different types of either dessert wines or liqueur. Listed below are a few different flavor variations and how to achieve them.
- Light and Summery– Use Prosecco or Champagne as the alcohol and serve with fresh sliced peaches. (Use the Traditional Zabaglione ingredients and use Champagne or Prosecco instead of marsala.)
- Almond Flavored– Amaretto will give this Italian custard a delicious almond flavor. Serve with fresh or frozen cherries. (Use the Traditional Zabaglione ingredients and use Amaretto instead of Marsala.)
- Orange Flavored– To make a delicious orange version follow the Lemon Zabaglione instructions. However, use Grand Mariner instead of Limoncello and orange zest instead of lemon zest. Eliminate the lemon juice.
- Coconut Flavored– Coconut flavored rum with the addittion of 2 teaspoons coconut extract creates a delicious tropical dessert. (Use the Traditional Zabaglione ingredients. However, replace the Marsala with coconut rum and add in the 2 teaspoons coconut extract.)
- Raspberry Flavored– Chambord liqueur will create a delicious raspberry flavored dessert. (Use the Traditional Zabaglione ingredients and use Chambord instead of Marsala. Also, one teaspoon of raspberry extract may be added to intensify the raspberry flavor.)
- Chocolate Version
Note: Other types of alcohol that may be used for a fun twist include red wine, Vin Santo, sparking wine and/or sweet whiskey such as Screwball.
This simple Italian dessert is absolutely delicious on its own. However, there are multiple ways to serve this custard that makes the taste and presentation absolutely irresistible. Listed below are just a few serving suggestions.
- Fresh Berries– Adding a layer of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries is a way to brighten both the taste and appearance of this dessert.
- Stone Fruit– Apricots, peaches, plums and cherries are all a delicious companion to Zabaglione.
- Fresh Fruit– Figs and pears are a fun and delicious alternative to the fruits listed above.
- Garnishes– Shaved white chocolate, fresh mint leaves, lemon zest, amaretti cookies and lady fingers are not only delicious, they make a beautiful addittion to the presentation of this dessert.
Zabaglione for Tiramisu
Zabaglione is a companion to mascarpone cheese when making the filling for Tiramisu. Traditional Tiramisu uses Zabaglione made of 5 egg yolks, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/4- 1/3 cup Marsala wine. Limoncello Tiramisu uses the recipe as written below. Additionally, other Tiramisu flavors can be made with a few small changes in ingredients (see Variations section above).
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know when this custard is done?
The custard is done when thickened and falls like ribbons from the whisk or beater when lifted. (See video for visual.)
I do not have a double broiler. Can I still make this dessert?
Absolutely! Place a heat proof bowl over a saucepan. As long as the bowl fits tightly on the pan, you have a make-shift double broiler.
Does the alcohol cook out of Zabaglione?
There is quite a bit of debate as to whether the alcohol fully cooks off when making this dessert. Therefore, it is best to replace the alcohol when serving children.
Can this dessert be made without alcohol?
Zabaglione can definitely be made without alcohol.
- For the Lemon Zabaglione replace the limoncello with half sparkling apple cider and half lemon juice.
- With traditional Zabaglione replace the marsala wine with with cooled coffee.
How long will this Zabaglione keep in the refrigerator?
This Italian dessert is best when eaten the same day. However, we have enjoyed Zabaglione the next day. It is just not as fresh and the texture deflates slightly. It is not recommended to eat past day 2.
For best results prepare just before eating for a warm dessert. For chilled Zabaglione prepare 6 hours before serving.
Can Zabaglione be frozen?
Unfortunately freezing Zabaglione dramatically changes its texture. (However, it can be successfully frozen when added to Tiramisu.)
More Popular Lemon Desserts
- 5 large egg yolks *from room temperature eggs, See Note #1 below
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest *from about 3 medium sized lemons
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup limoncello *either homemade or store bought may be used successfully
- Gather a medium size sauce pan and a heatproof bowl that fits tightly on the top of the pan. See Note #2 below. Separate the eggs and place the yolks into the heatproof bowl. See Note #3 below.
- Add the sugar to the egg yolks. Using a hand mixer beat on medium low speed until eggs mixture turns a pale yellow color and thickens, about 3 minutes.
- To the egg mixture add the salt, zest and lemon juice. Gradually pour in the limoncello while beating on low speed. Make sure to stop halfway through and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a bowl scrapper.
- To the saucepan add 1-2 inches of water. Place over medium heat until the water is barely simmering and then lower the heat to medium/low. Set the egg yolk mixture bowl over the sauce pan. Beat on low speed until the mixture is thickened, about 8-10 minutes. The custard is done when thick slow ribbons fall from the beaters when lifted. See Note #4 below.
- Carefully remove the bowl from the pan. Continue beating (or whisking) for an additional 2-3 minutes while the custard cools slightly and then transfer to serving dishes. Enjoy warm or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. Zabaglione can be eaten either warm or cold. See Note #5 below.
- Fresh Berries- Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries.
- Stone Fruit- Apricots, peaches, plums or cherries.
- Other Fruit- Figs or pears.
- Garnishes- Shaved white chocolate, fresh mint leaves, lemon zest, amaretti cookies or lady fingers.