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Meringue Cookies – billowy, light and airy, delicate and dainty, perfectly crisp and deliciously sweet. These whimsical cookies are a breeze to make when following these simple steps and guidelines. A great nostalgic recipe to add to the recipe book and a perfect holiday treat!
Meringue Cookie Recipe
My kids love meringue cookies, I mean who wouldn’t? They taste like candy and they pretty much melt in your mouth.
You’ll love that they keep really well and they’re a fun change from the typical cookie. Plus they’re fun to customize with other flavors, decorate with festive sprinkles, or dip in dark chocolate after baking and cooling.
Plus the plain meringues are naturally low in calories, not that we’re really counting this time of year anyway though right?
And really the mixer does most of the work here. The cookie mixture can be ready in under 10 minutes and only requires a few pantry staples you likely already have on hand. Don’t you just love recipes like this?
Meringue Cookie Ingredients:
You only need 5 ingredients to make meringue cookies!
- Large egg whites
- Cream of tartar
- Vanilla extract
- Granulated sugar
What is Cream of Tartar?
It’s a dry and powdery, acidic byproduct of fermenting grapes into wine. It’s also known as potassium bitartrate, potassium hydrogen tartrate or tartaric acid.
It is commonly used when whipping egg whites because it speeds up the creation of air bubbles and helps stabalize those tiny air bubbles so they don’t deflate. This in turn equals taller, sturdier baked goods.
The general rule when using cream of tartar with egg whites is to use 1/8 tsp per egg white.
How to Make Meringue Cookies:
- Move racks, preheat oven and prepare baking sheets: Set oven racks in upper and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line two rimmed 18 by 13-inch baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Add whites, cream of tartar and vanilla to stand mixer bowl: Add egg whites to very clean metal or glass mixing bowl of electric stand mixer if you haven’t already. Add cream of tartar and vanilla extract.
- Whip to soft peaks with whisk attachment: Set mixer with a whisk attachment and whip mixture on medium speed to soft foamy peaks, about 1 minute. Then while mixing on medium speed over the course of about 1 minute, slowly sprinkle in granulated sugar and add salt.
- Whip to stiff glossy peaks: Increase mixer speed to high and whip until thick glossy peaks form, this will take several minutes.
- Transfer mixture to piping bag: Transfer half of the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (I like to use Ateco 826 through 829 which are just smaller to larger sizes. I use the larger ones for the teardrop shape. You can buy a set of 820’s HERE – affiliate link).
What are Stiff Peaks?
Wondering what a stiff peak actually is? There are about four main stages of whipping egg whites to achieve stiff peaks.
- First stage: the yellowish toned egg whites start to create little bubbles and start to get foamy and the color stars to turn to a more whitish tone.
- Second stage: the bubbles start to tighten and get gentle ribbons of soft peaks which fold right away and back into the mixture.
- Third stage: it attains medium firm peaks which hold a little better but the peaks curls over (when you lift the whisk from meringue) this stage won’t pipe as well and hold a defined shape, so keep mixing.
- Fourth stage: there’s finally stiff peaks (as pictured above). Mixture is thick and glossy and holds an upright pointed tip. Perfect for piping and what you want to look for here.
How to Bake Meringue Cookies:
- Pipe onto prepared baking sheets: Pipe meringue into rounds or tear drop shapes (similar to styles pictured above, though they can be more shallow if desired) about 1 1/4-inches wide, and spacing each about 1-inch apart. Repeat with remaining mixture.
- Bake, switching pans halfway: Transfer baking sheets to racks in preheated oven. Bake 30 minutes then switch and rotate baking sheets and continue to bake 30 minutes.
- Rest in warm oven: Turn oven off and leave meringues in warm oven to rest 1 hour (or 2 hours on humid day) to dry through.
- Remove and let cool: Remove from oven and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
What About Using an Electric Hand Mixer?
I’ve also made this recipe many times using an electric hand mixer. While it works great it just takes about twice as long whipping on high speed to get to stiff peaks.
Can I Make Them with Other Flavor Variations?
Yes, a good option is to use almond extract, peppermint extract or lemon extract here in place of vanilla if desired (if using one of these add near the end since they have a hint of oil). Or add seeds of 1 vanilla bean in addition to the vanilla extract.
Then you can also try adding powders but meringues are more temperamental. I tried cocoa powder for a chocolate meringues (4 Tbsp dutch cocoa then also 4 Tbsp regular), which I folded into the meringue mixture at the end. Meringue peaks weren’t as stiff (probably due to the fat of the cocoa) and cookies took longer to bake and dry.
Then I tried 1 oz. freeze dried strawberries (which I crushed to fine powder and also added some beet powder for color) and I ran into a similar thing. The meringues were actually stiffer (the very dry strawberries made for very stiff peaks) however the peaks didn’t hold as well during baking and it took longer to cook through. Both variations tasted great and looked pretty, they were just more troublesome.
What About Mix-Ins?
You can add things like finely chopped pecans or mini chocolate chips to the meringue batter but keep in mind you won’t be able to pipe the mixture, instead just dollop tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto prepared baking sheets.
Can I Tint Them with Food Coloring?
Yes. These can also be tinted with a drop of two of gel food coloring, or a few teaspoons of beet powder for a natural pink.
How Should They Be Stored?
Store meringues in an airtight container free from humidity and in a cool place. Avoid storing with other foods with moisture.
How Long do They Keep?
Meringues should keep well if properly stored for about 2 weeks. They can also be frozen for 2 months.
Tips for Meringue Cookies:
- Use room temperature egg whites. They’ll whip up to higher peaks than vs. cold whites.
- Egg whites are easier to separate from yolks when cold so separate first then rest at room temperature.
- Make sure there is no yolk in the whites or they won’t whip to stiff peaks. I like to work with one egg at a time cracking into a smaller bowl first then adding to mixing bowl if it didn’t get any yolk. Watch out for those jagged shell edges when separating white and yolk as they always tend to break the yolk.
- Wait to add sugar until partway through. Added too soon and whites don’t whip up as well, added too late and sugar won’t dissolve.
- Don’t skip the cream of tartar. This is crucial as it stabilizes the whites so they’ll retain their stiff peaks. I’ve heard about double the amount of vinegar can work too but cream of tartar has always just worked the best for me so I stick with it.
- I recommend using a glass or metal bowl as these don’t tend to have residual oil clinging to them the same as plastic may.
- Avoid very humid days as peaks won’t hold as well. If it’s a fairly humid day you may want to consider adding 2 tsp cornstarch in (mixed with sugar first) as this can also help stabilize the egg whites in addition to cream of tartar.
- Also on humid days be sure to rest meringues in oven for the greater amount of time listed so it thoroughly dries them through.
More Classic Cookie Recipes to Try:
- Butter Cookies
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
- Frosted Sugar Cookies
- Linzer Cookies
- No Bake Cookies
Follow Cooking Classy
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature (see notes)
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Set oven racks in upper and lower third of oven*. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line two rimmed 18 by 13-inch baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Add egg whites to metal or glass mixing bowl of electric stand mixer** if you haven't already. Add cream of tartar and vanilla extract.
- Set mixer with a whisk attachment and whip mixture on medium speed to soft foamy peaks, about 1 minute. Then while mixing on medium speed over the course of about 1 minute, slowly dust in granulated sugar and add salt.
- Increase mixer speed to high and whip until very thick glossy peaks form, this will take several minutes.
- Transfer half of the mixture to a piping bag fitter with a large star tip*** (I like to use Ateco 826 - 829 tips depending on desired shape).
- Pipe meringue into rounds or tear drop shapes about 1 1/4-inches wide, and spacing each about 1-inch apart. Repeat with remaining mixture.
- Transfer baking sheets to racks in preheated oven. Bake 30 minutes then switch and rotate baking sheets and continue to bake 30 minutes. Turn oven off and leave meringues in warm oven to rest 1 hour (or 2 hours on humid day).
- Remove from oven and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, free from moisture.
- To bring egg whites to room temperature working with one egg at a time, divide egg white and yolk, transfer to separate bowls. Be sure there is not drop of yolk or this can tiny amount of fat can prevent whites from whipping to stiff peaks.
- Pour the one egg white (entirely yolk free) at a time into very clean glass or metal mixing bowl (plastic is not recommend as it can retain residual grease). If one of the egg yolks breaks when separating white and yolk then just reserve in fridge for another use.
- Let whites rest until they come to room temperature about 60 minutes.
- *Note that every oven is different, my oven tends to brown on top more than is standard so I usually try to put one rack near center and one in lower third but not right on bottom rack.
- **I've also made this recipe many times using an electric hand mixer. While it works great it just takes about twice as long whipping on high speed to get to stiff peaks.
- ***Don't have a piping bag and tip? Mixture can also just be dropped by the tablespoonful onto prepared baking sheets using two spoons or a cookie scoop.
- Use almond extract, lemon extract or peppermint extract (only 1/2 tsp of this one) in place of the vanilla. Mix in closer to the end since it has a hint of oil in it.
- Fold in finely chopped pecans or mini chocolate chips, dollop by tablespoon full onto baking sheets instead of piping.
- Sprinkle meringues with nonpareil or sugar crystal sprinkles before baking.
- Dip cooled meringues in melted chocolate and let set.