Meringue cookies are a staple in Christmas baking! These cookies are crispy but melt in your mouth! Find out how to make meringue cookies without cream of tartar and traditional meringue cookies with cream of tartar below. This post also includes detailed tips for how to avoid some common problems while working with meringue.
Who knew you could make outrageously delicious cookies with just sugar, egg whites, and some sort of acid (usually cream of tartar)? I think the absolute beauty with these cookies is in their simplicity.
But meringue cookies can be a bit tricky, which is why this post goes over some common problems that can pop up while making these cookies. Watching out for the tips below are key to getting perfect meringue cookies.
The results are so amazing and so worth the extra effort! I can’t stop munching on these!
And I think these cookies are as close as I’ll get to a healthy dessert during the holidays. I mean, they are technically low carb …
What are meringue cookies?
Before trying these cookies myself, I went on a googling spree. I was wondering – what do meringue cookies taste like??? And it’s honestly a bit hard to explain. It’s more of a “try it to know” kind of dessert.
But the way I would best describe meringue cookies is kind of like a mix between nougat, cotton candy, marshmallows! The texture of the cookie itself is very crispy and crunchy (a lot like shortbread cookies).
Tips for making the best meringue cookies:
• avoid overly humid days: The reason these cookies make such a great Christmas cookie is the fact that it’s also more practical to make during the colder months: there’s less humidity during winter time! It gets seriously cold and dry in my town during the wintertime, so it’s definitely friendly for these cookies (maybe not so much for my fingers though…)
I know a lot of regions have much more humid Novembers and Decembers, so I also have a tip for making these cookies if you can’t avoid humidity: whisk cornstarch into your sugar before adding it to the egg whites! 3 teaspoons is enough for this recipe to avoid weeping meringues. It also helps to cook the meringue for a bit longer so they dry out more thoroughly
• make sure the bowl and tools are spick and span: Any fat, oil, or water residue on the bowl or utensils can mess with the meringue whipping up nicely! Quickly wiping everything down with some vinegar or lemon juice is a surefire way to get rid of any possible residue
• use metal or glass bowls to beat: Metal and glass bowls are the easiest to clean (for the tip above)!
• if possible, use a stand mixer: These cookies are going to take some serious mixing action, and I would NOT recommend doing it by hand! Even handheld mixers can be a bit straining on the hand, so stand mixers would be the easiest option
• start with room temperature egg whites: Room temperature will just whip up faster and save a bit more time and effort
• no egg yolks! This is probably the most important tip! Egg yolks not only ruin the color of your cookies, but the meringue simply won’t whip up properly if even a drop of egg yolk gets into the mixture.
The best way to avoid egg yolks in your meringue is to crack each individual egg in a separate, small bowl. Once separated, transfer the egg yolk to your mixing bowl. Repeat the cracking, separating, and transferring process with all the eggs. That way, if you get egg yolk in your egg, only one egg white will be ruined (as opposed to the whole bowl!)
• use acid: If this is your first time making meringues, I do suggest using acid. Some recipes call for just egg whites and sugar, but acid helps make the meringue more stable, less prone to deflating, and all around easier to work with
• add sugar slowly! Like seriously slow! So slow that you should almost get bored. Add about 1 tablespoon of sugar every 30 seconds. Any undissolved sugar in your meringue will melt as it bakes, and can lead to weeping! It’s not the end of the world if a bit too much sugar gets in at once, but it will take longer to whip and dissolve.
• make sure the sugar is fully dissolved before baking: Like I hinted in the tip above, undissolved sugar can cause consistency problems for your meringues as they bake. The best way to check if the sugar is dissolved is to rub some of the batter (from the bottom of the bowl) between your fingers. You should be able to feel if there’s any grainy, undissolved sugar. If there is, keep mixing and it will all dissolve eventually!
• make the cookies right away: While the meringue cookie batter sits, it starts to deflate. So you ought to portion out and bake your cookies within 10 to 20 minutes of making the batter. The quicker, the better!
• bake in a low temperature oven: low temperature is a must so the meringue can dry out and crisp up inside and out! This is especially important if it’s a humid day
Flavoring and coloring meringue cookies:
For my cookies, I went classic with some vanilla extract. When it comes to vanilla, if you like a pure white finish to your cookies, use clear vanilla. But regular extract works fine if you’re not too concerned about the color.
You can also flavor meringue cookies in a lot of different ways! Some options include:
• almond extract (a little goes a long way!)
• peppermint extract (again, less is best)
• chocolate extract
• citrus extract
• caramel flavor extract (yes, it’s a thing!!)
If coloring your cookies, I really recommend using a gel based food coloring. Gel food coloring not only colors much more nicely, it helps avoid the addition of any excess liquid in the cookies.
Scale up and scale down this recipe:
This recipe makes a lot of little cookies! If you want to scale this recipe up or down, there’s a formula to break down how much or how little of the ingredients you’ll need.
As a general rule of thumb, for every egg white you have, you need 1/8 of a teaspoon cream of tartar (or 1/4 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice), a small pinch of salt, a 1/4 cup sugar, and a 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.
So the cream of tartar version will look like this:
1 egg white + 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar + pinch of salt + 1/4 cup sugar + 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional) = delicious cookies!
If you’re making your meringue cookies without cream of tartar, it’ll look like this:
1 egg white + 1/4 teaspoon vinegar/lemon juice + pinch of salt + 1/4 cup sugar + 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional) = delicious cookies!
How to store meringue cookies:
Keep meringue cookies in an airtight container stored at room temperature, in a dry location. The cookies will last up to 2 weeks.
If you find your meringue cookies have gotten soft or chewy, just pop them in a 200°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes to crisp up again.
If you liked these meringue cookies, check out some of these other holiday cookie recipes!
Meringue Cookies Recipe (with & without cream of tartar)
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 200°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, and set aside.
- In a grease free bowl, combine egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar or vinegar/lemon juice. Using a stand mixer (recommended!), electric beaters, or a handheld whisk (don't recommend … ouch!), beat the egg white mix on medium high speed until it turns an opaque white color and just starts to froth.
- Gradually add your sugar to the egg white mixture (about 1 tablespoon every 30 seconds) beating well after each addition until all of the sugar is used up.
- Continue beating the mixture until it turns thick and glossy and you no longer feel any dry granules of sugar. You can test this by rubbing a bit of batter from the bottom of the bowl between your fingers, and it shouldn't feel grainy. The egg whites should be at a stiff peak as well. * (see notes) If using, add your vanilla extract and food coloring, and whisk into the mixture.
- Transfer the meringue batter to a piping bag fitted with your choice of a large piping tip. Pipe cookies (about 1 inch tall and 1 inch wide) onto your prepared baking sheets, leaving just a small space between each cookie for air to circulate.
- Bake in the center of your preheated 200°F oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the cookies easily slide off the parchment paper and sound hollow if gently taped on the bottom. Turn the oven off, and leave the cookies in the warm oven with the door shut for another hour to dry out.