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Meringue is a magical ingredient in baking. It more than doubles in size as it’s whipped, and it serves many roles—from turning into light-as-air cookies when baked to adding a marshmallow-like topping to cakes, pies, and puddings.
The best part? It requires only three ingredients and is simple to make! Read on to find out what meringue is, the different types of meringue, and how to make it.
Meringue is a mixture of whipped egg whites and sugar. It can be baked and enjoyed on its own, layered into cakes, or used as a topping for a variety of desserts.
Different Types of Meringue
French meringue is the one most people are familiar with. White sugar is gradually beaten into egg whites until stiff peaks are formed (instructions and recipe below). The eggs in this meringue are still uncooked, so it can’t be consumed raw. Instead, it is baked slowly at a low temperature, resulting in a dry, light, and crispy confection.
French meringue can be baked on its own to create meringue cookies or cake decorations. It can also be used to create Pavlova—a cake made almost entirely of meringue—or added as a crunchy layer into other cakes.
Italian meringue is made in a similar way, but the sugar is boiled with water before it’s added to the egg whites. The heat from the sweet syrup cooks the egg whites as they’re beaten, so there’s no need to bake the meringue. The result is a more stable meringue that remains soft and fluffy.
With Swiss meringue, the egg whites are also cooked in the process, so there’s no need for additional baking. However, unlike Italian meringue, there’s no water involved. Instead, the egg whites and sugar are heated in a double-boiler until the sugar is dissolved, then whipped until stiff peaks are formed.
Italian and Swiss meringue are both used as a whipped topping on pies, cakes, puddings, and other desserts. Either one can be used in a lemon meringue pie recipe—it’s often torched to give it a golden color and the illusion of being baked.
If you’d like to learn how to make lemon meringue pie, be sure to check out this class from Thomas Charles Mathiassen, where he’ll show you the exact steps, including how to make Italian meringue.
Can Meringue Be Vegan?
Yes! A vegan version of French meringue can be made by replacing the egg whites with aquafaba—the thick liquid that comes from canned chickpeas.
What is Meringue Powder?
Meringue powder consists of pasteurized dried egg whites and can be mixed with water to replace egg whites in any recipe that calls for them, such as meringue, icing, and frosting. Many bakers like the convenience of meringue powder because it doesn’t involve separating eggs and doesn’t leave you with yolks you don’t need.
Lemon Meringue Pie
A classic dessert made with a shortcrust pastry, tart lemon curd, and topped with a generous layer of Italian or Swiss meringue.
French meringue is shaped into cookies with a piping bag and baked under low heat to create light, crispy confections.
A thick layer of French meringue is baked until crisp, then topped with whipped cream and berries.
An ice cream cake hidden underneath a thick layer of Italian or Swiss meringue. The meringue can be torched or browned for a few minutes in the oven without melting the ice cream.
Macarons start with a French meringue, then a mixture of almond flour and sugar is added to create the macaron batter. The cookies are baked and sandwiched in pairs with buttercream frosting.
Italian for “Meringue cake”, this Italian dessert consists of a thick layer of whipped cream sandwiched between two rounds of baked French meringue.
Here’s how to make French meringue. Once you’ve mastered these steps, you’ll know how to make meringue cookies, decorations for cakes, the base of Pavlova, and all kinds of other desserts.
Step 1: Prepare a Bowl
Thoroughly clean and dry a bowl—any oil or water in the bowl will prevent the meringue from forming properly.
Step 2: Prepare Egg Whites
Separate egg whites from egg yolks, making sure there are absolutely no yolks accidentally falling in. If you’re not using room-temperature eggs, let the egg whites sit on the counter until they reach room temperature. This will help them whip faster and reach a greater volume.
Step 3: Whip the Egg Whites
Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they turn foamy. Add the cream of tartar—this will help stabilize the egg whites—and continue beating until the egg whites turn opaque and soft peaks start to form.
Step 4: Add the Sugar
If possible, use superfine white sugar to help it dissolve quickly. Continue beating the egg whites and start adding sugar one tablespoon at a time. Let the sugar dissolve completely before adding the next tablespoon. Continue beating until the mixture is thick, glossy, and can hold stiff peaks.
Step 5: Add Flavors or Colors (Optional)
If using, add in flavoring or food coloring at this point and beat until incorporated.
Step 6: Bake
At this point, you can shape the meringue into cookies, decorations, or layers for a cake, and bake it. The baking temperature and time will depend on what you’re using the meringue for, but the general rule of thumb is to use a low temperature—no higher than 225℉—and bake for at least an hour. Once the hour is up, turn off the oven and, without opening the oven door, leave the meringue in there to cool for an additional hour or so.
French Meringue Recipe
- 5 egg whites (at room temperature)
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ cup superfine white sugar
- In a clean bowl, using a stand or hand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they turn foamy.
- Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until the mixture turns opaque and soft peaks start to form.
- Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, letting it dissolve completely before adding more.
- Continue beating until the mixture is thick, glossy, and firm—it shouldn’t fall off the whisk when lifted.
- Use a piping bag to create cookies or decorations, or spread the meringue into a single layer if making Pavlova or other cakes.
- Bake at 225F for 60-90 minutes and leave to cool in the oven for an additional 1-2 hours.
Learn How to Make Italian Meringue and Lemon Meringue Pie
Basic Baking for Beginners (Make a Lemon Meringue Pie)