See how to make the best meringue cookies without cream of tartar! This easy meringue recipe makes cookies that are crispy around the edges, yet soft and light in the middle. The instructions include plenty of helpful tips to bake perfect meringue kisses every time.
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Simon, my hubby, and Patrick, my brother-in-law, LOVE meringue cookies and always request them for our holiday cookie platter. I’m fine with that because meringue is easy to make.
The only catch? Most meringue cookie recipes call for cream of tartar, an ingredient that is hard to find in our area. A shame really because the other ingredients are pretty pantry-friendly.
The solution? An easy meringue cookie recipe without cream of tartar!
I’ve been working hard to develop this recipe and testing different techniques. The result is a crispy and airy meringue kiss that looks adorable and tastes even better.
And the best part? Absolutely no cream of tartar is needed! Let’s get baking!
I share lots of tips and tricks to make the best meringue cookies. But if you just want the recipe, click here to jump to the recipe instructions.
For more easy cookie recipes, try our Danish wedding cookies, lemon chocolate chip cookies, and these chocolate chip cookies without brown sugar.
Meringue cookies are simple cookies made from egg whites whipped with sugar. They have the most amazing, light, and airy texture with a crisp exterior and soft, melt-in-your-mouth center that makes them pretty much irresistible.
They bake at a low temperature and can be piped into different designs and shapes. Small meringue cookies are also called meringue kisses.
Meringue can be enjoyed plain, dipped in chocolate glaze, or filled with pastry cream, ganache, lemon curd, or fruit jam.
To make meringue cookies, all you need are egg whites and sugar. From there, you can add flavoring, color and, mix-ins. Here’s a rundown of the basic ingredients (for the amounts, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post):
- Egg whites: Meringue turns out best with fresh, cold whites. Use large eggs, not medium or jumbo (US, CAN, AUS & NZ). If you live in the UK or Europe, use medium eggs.
- Superfine sugar (caster sugar) provides sweetness and helps to stabilize the egg whites. Superfine sugar is ground into finer crystals than granulated sugar. Tip: If you can’t find superfine sugar, run regular granulated sugar in the food processor or blender for 1 to 2 minutes.
- A pinch of salt balances the sweetness from the sugar.
- Vanilla extract (optional) adds a lovely vanilla aroma. You can use other flavor extracts if you like, such as lemon, orange, or almond.
Tools + Equipment
- Measuring cups or digital scale
- Stand mixer or hand-held mixer
- Silicone spatula
- Parchment paper (baking paper)
- Aluminum cookie sheet (baking tray)
- Oven mitts
- Piping bag and piping tip
Cream of tartar in meringues
Before we continue with the recipe, let’s talk about cream of tartar and what it does in meringue.
What is cream of tartar?
Cream of tartar is the powdered form of tartaric acid, a byproduct of fermenting grapes into wine.
What does cream of tartar do in meringue cookies?
Cream of tartar helps to form stiff peaks and stabilize the egg whites.
Egg white consists of 90% water and 10% protein. The protein is curled up. As you beat the whites, the protein stretches, creating volume and turning the mixture white.
Cream of tartar slides between the protein molecules and prevents them from curling up again.
Can you make meringue cookies without cream of tartar?
Yes, you can absolutely make perfect meringue cookies without cream of tartar! Meringue recipes usually call for cream of tartar, but it’s okay to omit it from the recipe without dire consequences.
Can I let you in on a secret? The French meringue kisses you see in the photos are made without cream of tartar, and I didn’t even use a substitute.
The key is using superfine sugar. Besides creating a smooth texture, superfine sugar helps to stabilize the meringue structure and ensures it holds its shape. As the mixture is beaten, the sugar crystals dissolve and prevent the protein in the egg white from coagulating.
Granulated sugar doesn’t dissolve as well and creates a grainy texture. Larger sugar crystals will brown in the oven and discolor the meringue.
Cream of tartar substitute for meringue
If you don’t have cream of tartar, try replacing it with another acidic ingredient. Here’s a list of possible cream of tartar substitutions.
- Citric acid powder can be used as a 1-to-1 substitute for cream of tartar. Citric acid is my preferred substitute in meringue cookies because it doesn’t change the texture and has no flavor. You’ll need 1/2 tsp.
- Lemon juice is another swap-in for cream of tartar. If using freshly squeezed juice, make sure to remove any bits of pulp and flesh. Add 1 tsp to the recipe.
- White vinegar: You could also use white vinegar, but I don’t recommend it due to the pungent taste.
But as I mentioned earlier, you can simply omit cream of tartar altogether instead of substituting it.
This a cream of tartar-free meringue cookie recipe is pretty straightforward and can be made in less than 30 minutes. It helps to have your equipment ready, so you can start piping when the meringue is stiff and fluffy.
Step 1: Prep work
- Position a baking rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200°F / 100°C.
- Line 2 cookie sheets (baking trays) with parchment paper (baking paper). Set aside.
Step 2: Separate the eggs
- Separate the egg whites from yolks by shuffling the yolk between the shells.
Step 3: Beat egg whites
- Add the egg whites into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Using medium-high speed, mix until frothy and foamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the salt and whip to incorporate.
Step 4: Incorporate sugar gradually
- Turn the mixer to high and add the superfine sugar in 6 to 8 additions, allowing 20 seconds after each addition.
- Occasionally, stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Once all sugar has been incorporated, beat the meringue mixture on high speed until glossy and stiff peaks form, for 5 minutes.
Step 5: Check texture
- Before continuing with the next steps, take a moment to check the texture of the meringue. Dip the wish attachment or spatula into the mixture and pull it out.
- If the mixture looks glossy, breaks easily, and has a pointy end, it is perfect. Continue beating the meringue if it seems too soft.
Step 6: Add vanilla extract
- Add the vanilla extract (or another flavor extract) and food coloring (if using).
- Whip for 30 seconds until everything is well combined.
Step 7: Pipe cookies
- Transfer the meringue mixture into a pastry bag (piping bag) with a piping tip (nozzle).
- Pipe the cookies onto the prepared baking sheet (cookie tray).
- Meringue cookies don’t spread, so you can line them up closely together.
Step 8: Bake meringue
- Bake the meringue in the preheated oven for 1 hour.
Step 9: Let cookies rest
- After an hour, turn the heat off and let the cookies dry in the oven for 1 additional hour. Keep the oven door closed as this may cause the meringue to collapse.
Step 10: Remove meringue
- Gently remove the cookies from the parchment paper.
Before you get work, hang on just a sec! Let me share my top tips for making fool-proof meringue cookies.
- Clean equipment. Make sure your mixing bowl and other utensils are clean and dry. Even trace amounts of moisture or fat will prevent the meringue from forming.
- Use a glass or metal mixing bowl but avoid plastic bowls. Fat tends to cling to the plastic no matter how carefully you clean it.
- Mixer: A stand mixer is the easiest way to whip up meringue, but a hand-held mixer will work too.
- Use parchment paper. Meringue cookies readily release from parchment paper (baking paper) but stick to silicone baking mats.
- Use cold eggs. Some recipes suggest using room-temperature egg whites, but I found that cold eggs straight from the fridge hold up much better.
- Separate egg whites individually into a cup or small bowl before adding them to the mixing bowl. If a yolk breaks, you don’t have to repurpose the whole batch.
- Ensure no egg yolk gets into the whites when you separate the eggs. Yolks contain fat, and even a little yolk will hinder the meringue from properly whipping up.
- Save the egg yolks for frittata, omelet, or make this yummy condensed milk eggnog.
- Whip the egg whites until frothy and foamy. You don’t want peaks at this point.
- Add the sugar slowly. Adding it gradually ensures that the sugar crystals dissolve and absorb into the whites properly, and you achieve firm peaks. You risk the meringue deflating if you dump in the sugar all at once.
- You can’t overbeat meringue once the sugar is added. Keep mixing until you see glossy, stiff peaks.
- Pipe the cookies as soon as the meringue is done. Meringue will soften after awhile if left to sit around.
- To pipe beautiful meringue, hold the piping tip 1/2 in / 1 cm above the baking tray. Squeeze out mixture, stop squeezing and then lift the piping bag. Don’t pipe while you lift the piping bag.
- Try different piping tips. Vary the look of your meringue by trying different piping tips. Round, star, French, and flower icing tips all work well. You can also use 2 spoons to shape dollops of meringue.
- Avoid making meringue on humid days. Sugar absorbs moisture from the air, and this extra moisture will prevent high, stiff peaks.
- Flavor: Swap out vanilla extract for another flavor such as almond, peppermint, or lemon extract.
- Food color : Add food color to tint the meringue cookies in any color you desire. Use concentrated gel paste food colors, not liquid.
- Sprinkles: Sprinkle your cookies with sugar sprinkles before baking for a cute and easy decoration.
- Add-Ins: For extra flavor and crunch, carefully fold 1 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts into the meringue before piping and baking.
FAQ & troubleshooting
How do you know when meringue cookies are done?
Meringue cookies are ready when the outside feels dry to the touch, and you can lift them off easily.
Why are my meringues chewy?
Meringue cookies are chewy because they are either underbaked or have picked up moisture from the air.
Can you fix chewy meringue?
Yes, you have serval options to make meringues crispy again. Try one of these following methods:
- Re-bake the meringue for an extra 10 minutes in a 200°F / 100°C oven.
- Putting the cookies in an airtight container overnight also helps to crisp them up.
Why are my meringues brown?
Browning indicates that the baking temperature was too high. Remember to bake them at a low temperature for a long time.
Try reducing the temperature by 25°F / 5°C. An oven thermometer is helpful to determine your oven’s exact temperatures.
Why do meringues crack?
Cracks usually appear if the oven temp is too high. Cracked meringue still tastes delicious tough. To prevent cracks, monitor the temperature and don’t overbake your cookies.
Can I use pasteurized egg white to make meringue cookies?
No, because pasteurized whites don’t whip up well.
Can I use powdered sugar instead of superfine sugar?
No. I don’t recommend powdered sugar because it often contains cornstarch, making the meringue chewy.
How do you store meringue cookies?
Store French meringue cookies without cream of tartar in an airtight food container. To prevent sticking, stack the meringue between layers of parchment paper (baking paper).
Don’t leave meringue kisses out on the counter. The cookies absorb moisture from the air and become sticky.
How long do meringue cookies last?
At room temperature, homemade meringue cookies will stray fresh for up to 2 weeks in a dry environment or 5 days in a humid place.
Can you freeze meringue cookies?
Yes, meringue can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Let thaw at room temperature.
Can you refrigerate meringue cookies?
No. Refrigerators are pretty humid, and storing meringue in the fridge will make them very sticky and soft.
Are the meringues supposed to come out taffy-like on the inside? I made them according to the recipe, but I thought they were supposed to be crunchy throughout.
Hi Ariel! Your texture sounds perfect. Homemade meringue are crunchy on the outside but slightly chewy on the inside. Seems to me you did it perfectly!
Hello, Is getting a chunky texture the only downside of using granulated sugar? Does it still whip up well? What about brown sugar? Can I use Swiss Meringue batter for meringue cookies?
Hi there! We recommend whipping the sugar and egg white until the sugar has dissolved. This will make the texture smooth and soft.
Yes, you can use brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar.
If you can make meringue cookies from Swiss meringue will depend on the recipe.
I hope this helps you out!
I used crushed strawberry candy canes for color and flavor. I piped them into heart shapes for my granddaughters first birthday. Thank you for the inspiration. They were perfect!
Thank you for trying this recipe, Jessica! Adding strawberry candy canes and piping heart shapes sounds wonderful.