How to Make Meringue: The Ultimate Guide

All of my best tips for how to make the perfect meringue, with a basic recipe, step-by-step instructions, a video, and tons of advice and troubleshooting tips to ensure your meringue whips up glossy, stiff, and beautiful each and every time!

Meringue topping on a lemon meringue pie.

If you’ve ever wondered, what is meringue? And how in the world can I make it?! You’ve come to the right place!

Meringue intimidates many home cooks, but I’m here to unravel the mystery and give you the confidence to grab your egg whites and start whipping the next time you see it in a recipe. You will be making it like a pro in no time!

You’ve undoubtedly heard of lemon meringue pie, but what else is meringue used for? So many things! It can top other pies and puddings, be baked to create cookies or pavlova, or mixed with butter to create some of the most luscious, silky smooth frostings you’ve ever tasted.

A whisk attachment with meringue on it, standing up on its own.

Meringue begins with egg whites and sugar and is transformed into billowy white clouds of pure deliciousness.

Let’s tackle it together!

Ingredients for meringue prepped in bowls.

Ingredients for meringue

  • Eggs – Fresh eggs are best for making meringue. Using boxed or carton egg whites is not recommended, as they are usually pasteurized, and that processing can sometimes keep the meringue from getting completely glossy and stiff.
  • Sugar – Can’t have a meringue without the sweetness of sugar!
  • Cream of tartar – Meringue’s secret ingredient! It creates a strong, stable meringue.
  • Salt + Vanilla – Flavor, flavor, flavor!

Vanilla added to frothy egg whites.

The importance of cream of tartar

This little ingredient is so important, it deserves its own section here.

Cream of tartar is an acid that stabilizes the egg whites and is what gives you those big, beautiful, billowy pillows of fluffy white meringue. To get science-y on you, it keeps the proteins from the egg whites from sticking together, which ensures a super-smooth meringue that will not wilt or deflate on itself.

How much? The general rule of thumb is to use ⅛ teaspoon for every egg white in the recipe.

Substitute: If you are out of cream of tartar and don’t have time to get to the store, you can substitute ½ teaspoon lemon juice (another acid!) for every egg white in the recipe.

Egg whites whipped to soft peaks.

Step-by-step instructions

Meringue is a fairly simple process; by following the directions and using the tips outlined below, you will be a meringue master! Here’s how we make it:

  1. Beat the egg whites using a mixer on medium speed (or by hand) until they are broken up and frothy.
  2. Add the cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla extract.
  3. Beat to soft peaks on medium-high speed.
  4. Gradually add the sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until it has all been incorporated.
  5. Continue beating until glossy, stiff peaks form. At this point, you can’t overbeat the meringue, so keep beating until you’ve got those glossy, firm peaks!

Adding sugar to egg whites whipped to soft peaks.

Whipped meringue in a mixing bowl.

Different types of meringue

There are three main types of meringue; while they all combine egg whites and sugar in some way, the techniques used are different, as are the applications. Let’s discuss:

French Meringue – This is the type we’re talking about today! Also known as “uncooked” meringue, it’s simply the whipping together of egg whites and sugar until peaks form; it is typically used to top pies and make meringue cookies and pavlovas and is always baked in some way after preparing.

Pavlova on a glass cake plate, with whipped cream and berries.

Swiss Meringue – To make this meringue, the egg whites and sugar are heated together to a specific temperature (I always heat to 160 degrees F so it is safe to eat), ensuring the sugar has dissolved, and then mixed until room temperature, and whipped until stiff peaks form. To turn this into Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, once you have stiff peaks and the mixture is no longer warm, add butter a piece at a time, and whip until it is light, fluffy, and silky smooth. A perfect topping for cakes and cupcakes!

Italian Meringue – Italian meringue is made with hot sugar syrup. Egg whites are whipped to soft peaks in a mixer, then the sugar syrup that has been boiled to “soft ball” stage is gradually poured in while the mixer is running, then the mixture whipped until it has cooled to room temperature. Since the sugar is cooked and added to the egg whites, it is safe to eat without baking, so is perfect for recipes that use meringue toppings that are not baked, or merely torched. It is the most stable of all the meringues, holds its shape very well, and can also be turned into Italian meringue buttercream frosting with the addition of butter!

Recipe tips and troubleshooting

Follow these tips for amazing, picture-perfect meringue every single time:

  • Use room temperature eggs – Separating eggs is easiest when they are cold, but then let the egg whites come to room temperature (about 30 minutes) before making the meringue; this ensures they whip up with maximum volume.
  • Use a clean bowl and utensils – Even the slightest hint of fat (egg yolk, residual oil on a bowl or beaters, etc.) can prevent the egg whites from reaching stiff peaks. Ensure that everything is completely clean and dry before beginning.
  • Gradually add the sugar – It’s important to add the sugar only a little bit at a time (a couple of tablespoons); adding it slowly ensures that the sugar gets absorbed into the egg whites and eliminates a gritty texture, and also reduces the chances of the meringue collapsing and failing to reach stiff peaks (this can happen if a lot of sugar is added all at once).
  • You can’t overbeat meringue – It’s true! You can’t ruin it by mixing too much, so once all of the sugar is added, be sure that it is glossy and that you have super firm, stiff peaks when you remove the beater from the mixer. Don’t be afraid to mix a little longer if it appears too soft.
  • Adding colors/flavors – If you want to add different flavors, you should do so when the vanilla extract is added. To make a colored meringue, add food coloring (I recommend gel food coloring to eliminate extra liquid being introduced into the recipe) once the meringue has reached stiff peaks, and beat until the color is completely incorporated.
  • Recommended equipment: The easiest way to make meringue is with a stand mixer (hands-free!), but I routinely make it with my trusty hand mixer. You can also make it by hand, just use a large wire whisk and some elbow grease! It will take a little longer, but it can be done!
  • Check the weather: Meringue is notoriously sticky and difficult to whip into stiff peaks on humid days. While central heating and cooling eliminate most problems, I do notice a difference when I work with it or bread dough (my grandma used to say the same about her pizzelles!) on a dry winter day vs a warm summer day, even with central air. To keep issues at bay, opt for a day with low humidity.

What to make with meringue:

A plate full of Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies.

If you make this recipe and love it, I would so appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a rating below. Thank you so much! ❤️️

Basic Meringue Recipe

Servings 8
Prep 15 minutes
Total 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

All of my best tips for how to make the perfect meringue, with step-by-step instructions, a video, and tons of advice and troubleshooting tips to ensure your meringue whips up glossy, stiff, and beautiful each and every time!

Ingredients:

  • 5
    egg whites
  • ½
    teaspoon
    cream of tartar
  • ½
    teaspoon
    vanilla extract
  • Pinch
    salt
  • ½
    cup
    granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy, then add the cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla extract.

  2. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat to soft peaks. While continuing to beat the egg whites, gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until glossy and stiff peaks form.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes:

  • Eggs - Use room temperature eggs. Egg whites from a box or carton are not recommended.
  • Clean bowl and utensils - Even the slightest hint of fat (egg yolk, residual oil on a bowl or beaters, etc.) can prevent the egg whites from reaching stiff peaks. Ensure that everything is completely clean and dry before beginning.
  • Gradually add the sugar - It's important to add the sugar only a little bit at a time (a couple of tablespoons); adding it slowly ensures that the sugar gets absorbed into the egg whites and eliminates a gritty texture, and also reduces the chances of the meringue collapsing and failing to reach stiff peaks (this can happen if a lot of sugar is added all at once).
  • You can't overbeat meringue - It's true! You can't ruin it by mixing too much, so once all of the sugar is added, be sure that your meringue is glossy and that you have super firm, stiff peaks when you remove the beater from the mixer. Don't be afraid to mix a little longer if it appears too soft.
  • Adding colors/flavors - If you want to add different flavors, you should do so when the vanilla extract is added. To make a colored meringue, add food coloring (I recommend gel food coloring to eliminate extra liquid being introduced into the meringue) once the meringue has reached stiff peaks, and beat until the color is completely incorporated.
  • Equipment: The easiest way to make meringue is with a stand mixer (hands-free!), but I routinely make it with my trusty hand mixer. You can also make it by hand, just use a large wire whisk and some elbow grease! It will take a little longer, but it can be done!
  • Weather: Meringue is notoriously sticky and difficult to whip into stiff peaks on humid days. While central heating and cooling eliminate most problems, I do notice a difference when I work with meringue or bread dough on a dry winter day vs a warm summer day, even with central air. To keep issues at bay, opt for a day with low humidity.
  • Recipes using meringue: For tons of ideas, see the links in the post above.

Nutrition:

Calories: 59kcal
Fat: 1g
Sodium: 31mg
Potassium: 62mg
Carbohydrates: 13g
Sugar: 13g
Protein: 2g
Calcium: 1%

Did you make this recipe?

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[Photography by Dee of One Sarcastic Baker]