French meringue cookies rely on a strong meringue to create a light and airy texture. There are several different ways of making a meringue: Swiss, Italian, and French. Here is more information about each of the different types of meringues:
- Swiss meringue is made my warming up the egg whites and sugar together before whipping the mixture to stiff peaks. Adding in the sugar at the beginning results in an denser meringue that is great for topping cakes with.
- An Italian meringue is made by first whipping the egg whites before streaming in a hot sugar syrup. This results in a glossy and very stable meringue that is often used in frostings and mousses.
- An French meringue is made by whipping the egg white and gradually adding in sugar until the mixture reaches firm peaks. Out of the different meringue types it is the lightest, but also most unstable.
Making French meringue cookies may sound daunting, but it is easy to achieve with the right steps. Furthermore, this technique makes for meringue cookies that are so incredibly light and crisp.
How to Make A French Meringue
One of the common tips to making a French meringue is cleaning out your mixing bowl with vinegar to remove any fat. While vinegar can help to keep your bowl clean for whipping the egg whites, I have never used this tip once and have still made meringues successfully! Here are the steps I take to make sure that egg white whip up quickly and correctly:
Beware of Egg Yolk
The one thing that will prevent your egg whites from whipping properly is even if the smallest amount of egg yolk gets into your egg whites. To prevent this, I use clean hands to gently separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
Use an Acid
Using a small amount of acid stabilizes the meringue and makes it whip up more quickly. In this recipe, I use cream of tartar. However, an equal amount of lemon juice or vinegar can work as well. I prefer using cream of tartar because it doesn’t add any additional liquid that may make it easier for the meringue to collapse.
Gradually Add Sugar
Start adding the sugar after the egg whites have become foamy (or there is no more visible egg white liquid). This technique helps the egg white proteins to form a strong network. You can read more about this process here from this Cook’s Illustrated article.
Keep whipping the egg white until it reaches a very stiff peak. This will help to prevent your cookies from losing their shape while piping or baking. To test this, swirl your beaters/whisk in the egg whites, and lift them out. Then, when you vertically rotate the beaters 180 degrees, the egg white mixture should be stiff and hold strong peaks.
Also, when adding the vanilla extract near the end, the egg white can appear to get watery. Do not worry and keep on whipping; the egg whites will eventually get stiffer again.
Making French Meringue Cookies
Now that you know the essential steps to making a French meringue, here are some tips for transforming it into French meringue cookies!
Bake the Cookies Low and Slow
Baking the cookies at a low temperature helps them to dry out while maintaining their shape. Leaving the cookies inside the oven 1 hour after baking ensures that no moisture is left in the cookies. The absence of moisture will allow the cookies to stay fresh for weeks instead of dissolving or melting away.
Making Festive French Meringue Cookies
If you want to dye the entire cookie, I recommend using a gel food color. Gel food colorings are more pigmented and thicker than liquid food coloring, so there is less risk of making the egg whites too runny to whip. However, either type is okay to use.
You can still make the cookies more decorative by using a small paintbrush to paint vertical stripes of food coloring along the inside of your piping bag.
Why did my cookies crack?
You might have baked the cookies at a higher temperature. Check the temperature of your oven.
Why are my cookies flat?
You need to whip up your cookies to stiff peaks to make sure that they hold their shape.
Why are my cookies grainy?
The sugar did not completely dissolve before you baked the cookies. You can check to see if the sugar has fully incorporated by rubbing a little bit of the whipped egg white between your fingers. It should feel smooth. If not, keep beating the egg whites.
Want to try other cookies?
Try my easy (and healthy) breakfast oatmeal cookies that come together in one-bowl!
Simple French Meringue Cookies
- 4 egg whites
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- gel food coloring optional
- Carefully separate four eggs, making sure that no egg yolks gets into the egg whites.
- In a bowl, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt together on low speed until foamy
- Increase the speed to high and gradually add in the sugar. Beat until the mixture becomes thick and shiny.
- Whip in vanilla extract (and food coloring, if using). Continue whipping until the mixture has stiff peaks and sugar is completely dissolved.
- Transfer meringue to a piping bag. Pipe cookies onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for 1 hour at 200F then turn the oven off and keep closed for an additional 1-2 hours.
- Techniques to make sure that your meringues are fool-proof are written above this recipe card.
- There are also some variations to change up the appearance of the meringue cookies listed above as well (ex: not having gel food coloring).
- These cookies use less vanilla extract than most recipes because I find that 1 tsp of vanilla extract can make the vanilla a little too strong. If you are worried about your cookies tasting like egg whites, you can increase the vanilla to a teaspoon. If you want an even lighter flavor, you can also reduce the sugar by two tablespoons.