Culinary Arts

How to Make Perfect French Meringue, Plus a Recipe for Meringue Cookies

Written by MasterClass

Apr 30, 2019 • 5 min read

A meringue is a foam of air bubbles enclosed in egg white and stabilized by sugar, first developed in the 17th century by cooks who used bundles of straw as whisks. Nowadays we tend to whip our whites in a stand mixer, but there’s still a bit of technique involved in making meringue.

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What Is French Meringue?

The easiest way to make meringue is in the soft French, or uncooked, style. It’s made by beating egg whites to stiff peaks while slowly incorporating sugar—that’s it!

3 Ways to Use French Meringue

French meringue is pretty unstable in this state, so it’s usually manipulated further.

  • Uncooked French meringue can then be folded into batters for soufflés, ladyfingers, and mousse. It’s a key ingredient in the French-style cake called biscuit. Learn how to make biscuit with Chef Dominique Ansel here.
  • Piped into shells and baked in a low oven, the French meringue becomes a shatteringly crisp base for whipped cream and fruit for French vacherins, Australian pavlova, and English Eton mess.
  • French meringues can also be lightly poached, such as in îles flottantes, where poached meringues top a bowl of crème anglaise.

What is the Difference Between French, Italian, and Swiss Meringues?

Although they’re made with the same basic ingredients—egg whites and sugar beaten to a stiff consistency—Italian and Swiss meringues differ from the French kind in that they both introduce heat during the whipping of the egg whites (in the form of hot sugar syrup for Italian and by whisking above hot water for Swiss) to develop structure in the meringue without baking or poaching.

  • Italian meringue is the most stable of the three because it requires hot sugar syrup to be drizzled into whipped egg whites so you get beautiful, fluffy peaks. It’ll be satiny in texture and will give you tall, proud peaks when you frost your cakes or pipe onto a cake or tart. Learn how to make Italian meringues here.
  • The French style is the easiest way to make meringue, since it simply involves whisking egg whites with sugar. French meringue is made by mixing sugar with raw egg whites and is the least stable type of meringue. As such, it will usually need to be baked, so it’s best used when folded into other batters to give them lift and lightness or baked for crunchy meringue cookies.
  • The Swiss style, aka meringue cuite, is smoother and more dense than French meringue but less stable than Italian. Marshmallow-y Swiss meringue is made by beating egg whites and sugar together in a double boiler (a pan or bowl set above boiling water) until sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch. It’s then removed from heat and further beaten until doubled in volume. Swiss meringue tends to achieve less volume than the other varieties, because the sugar is added early on in the whipping process, interfering with the ability of the egg proteins to unfold and bond with each other to form the walls that support the little bubbles of air. Find Chef Dominique Ansel’s recipe for Swiss meringues here.

9 Tips for Making French Meringue

Although French meringues are pretty simple to make, there’s a lot that can go wrong when trying to force liquid egg whites into a solid-like foam. Set yourself up for success:

  • Use a large bowl, at least eight times bigger than the starting amount of egg white.
  • Use a copper or silver-plated mixing bowl, or add a pinch of powdered copper supplements.
  • Make sure your egg whites are free of any traces of yolk and that your mixing bowl and whisk are clean and dry.
  • Don’t skimp on the sugar—it’s not there just for flavor. Sugar bonds to water and slows its evaporation, so if there’s not enough sugar in your mixture during baking, the water in the egg whites will evaporate before the egg proteins have time to form a stable structure around the air bubbles. You can also use cornstarch to mimic the effects of sugar. (Powdered sugar already contains about 10 percent cornstarch.)
  • Although not strictly necessary, there are a few stabilizing agents you can use to prevent “weeping,” or separation of the water, which happens when the proteins in the egg whites bond too tightly to each other.
  • The more powerful your whisking, the more quickly the egg whites will aerate. Do yourself a favor and use a large, balloon-style whisk or, even better, an electric mixer.
  • Once the egg whites just start to develop some structure, add an acid in the form of ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar or ½ teaspoon lemon juice per egg white.
  • If baking meringues in an electric oven, leave the door slightly ajar.
  • Always store baked meringues in an airtight container: Since sugar attracts moisture from the air, meringues left exposed to humid air will form beads of sweat.

Flavor and Topping Ideas

French meringue is often baked into simple, gluten-free cookies, and their mild flavor is a great base for adding flavorings once the egg whites have reached stiff peaks. Just make sure not to overload the delicate meringue with too much liquid—about 1 teaspoon of liquid flavoring per 10 eggs should be fine. Try folding in:

  • Chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • Vanilla, almond, or peppermint extract
  • Freeze-dried raspberries, or other freeze-dried fruit
  • Sifted cocoa powder or instant espresso powder
  • Finely ground hazelnuts (to form layers for dacquoise) or finely ground almonds (to make Parisian macarons)
  • Shredded coconut (to make coconut macaroons)
  • Gel food coloring

French Meringue Recipe (Plus a Recipe for Baked Meringue Cookies)

Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
3 hr
  • 10 large egg whites (300g)
  • 1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
  • 2 ½ (300g) powdered sugar
  1. In the bowl of a clean stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on high speed until bubbles start to form. While continuing to mix, slowly add sugar. Continue to whisk until shiny, stiff peaks form.
  2. Remove bowl from the mixer and use a clean rubber spatula to gently fold in powdered sugar until fully incorporated, taking care not to overmix or deflate the meringue.
  3. Now you can use the meringue to pipe and bake as needed for your desired recipe.

To make your French meringue into baked meringue kisses, move the oven rack to a lower position and preheat oven to 200°F. Dab a little bit of meringue onto the corners of a baking sheet, and line with parchment paper. (Alternatively, line a baking sheet with a silicon mat.) Using a star tip fitted in a pastry bag, pipe meringue onto baking sheet into cookies. Bake until meringues are dry and can be removed from parchment, about 2–3 hours. Turn off the oven and cool meringues inside, at least one hour and up to overnight.

Learn more about the fundamentals of pastry making with Chef Dominique Ansel here.