A three-ingredient cookie with a fun story to boot! This almond cookie recipe hails from medieval times and is the forebear of the popular French macaron. Crunchy, sweet, and perfect with tea or your favorite cuppa, old-fashioned macaron cookies take less than thirty minutes to whip up from start to melt-in-your-mouth finish.
Creating a by-the-book batch of French macarons can prove any home baker's Everest. But while modern-day macarons are quite a feat, old-fashioned macarons are the opposite.
Based on one of the first recorded cookies from medieval times, the almond cookie recipe here is the original macaron. And the recipe is incredibly approachable.
A thick mixture of ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites, it's basically how ancient Sicilians used to make macarons before the French got involved.
The dough is essentially a bare-bones, thick, sweet almond paste or marzipan. Which when baked, creates a warm soft cookie that turns crunchy after cooling. Similar to an Italian amaretti cookie, old-fashioned almond macarons are brimming with subtle, delicious almond flavor and a satisfying crunch.
So simple! You truly could buy almond paste and thin it out with raw egg whites, but I find starting from scratch a bit easier and more affordable.
- ground, blanched almonds or almond flour
- granulated sugar
- egg whites
In my line of work, I tend to always have a container of egg whites in the back of the refrigerator. If you enjoy making homemade ice cream or custard, this is a great use of the leftover egg whites.
The ratios for almond cookie recipes - the ingredients by weight in relation to one another - will vary. Here is a basic formula for classic, old-fashioned macarons. It's a great starting point for experimentation!
Almond Cookie Ratio
1 part egg whites + 2 parts granulated sugar + 3 parts almond flour
*Ratio for measurements by weight
On Eggs. In the recipe below, one part equals four ounces. So two egg whites are needed, as one large egg white is slightly more than one ounce. If you are baking with extra-large eggs, you will need a little less than two egg whites.
On Sugar. Old-time recipes called for equal parts almonds and sugar. But if you want to lighten up on the guilt, you can certainly cut back on the sugar a bit. Just be aware doing so will create thicker, chewier cookies (less spread in the oven).
At the risk of approaching redundancy, I'll elaborate a little on how to make this almond cookie recipe. But truly, a kindergartener could do it if you solely gave him the measured ingredients.
- If working with whole or slivered blanched almonds, grind them in a food processor with the granulated sugar. If you're using purchased almond flour, simply whisk the almond flour with the granulated sugar in a large bowl.
- Add the egg whites and almond extract, if using. Mix with a flat spatula or wooden spoon until the ingredients become a thick paste.
- Scoop or pipe the dough onto a parchment-lined baking pan. Be sure to keep the dough mounds about the same. If they look the same, they'll bake the same!
- With wet fingertips or a pastry brush dipped in water, slightly smooth down the tops of the piped batter to even out the heights.
- Bake the cookies at 325° F for 10 to 15 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown. If the bottoms of your cookies are browning faster than the tops, add another baking pan underneath the first one.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them halfway before removing them from the parchment paper.
If you own a food processor, you can certainly whip this almond cookie dough up in a matter of seconds. First pulse the almonds or almond flour briefly with the sugar, then add the egg whites and pulse until the mixture comes together. Then proceed from Step 3 above.
These cookies are naturally gluten-free and contain no dairy. If an almond allergy is at hand, you can certainly swap out the almond flour for other ground nuts such as pistachios, cashews, walnuts, or pecans.
Paleo. Since the recipe is naturally void of processed starch and dairy, the only villain here is the granulated sugar. Swap it out for coconut sugar, raw honey, or maple syrup and you've got yourself an old-fashioned macaron for a Paleo diet. Honey and maple syrup are much sweeter than sugar by volume and weight, so start with half the amount listed in the recipe for either. The texture of the final cookie will vary and depend on how much alternative sweetener you use.
GAPS Diet Cookies. For patients on the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome), the granulated sugar here is off the table. Replace the sugar with half the amount in raw honey, so about a third of a cup. The texture will be slightly different, but the honey also lends a richer flavor than conventional white sugar.
Low(er)-Carb Almond Cookies. For less of a sugar high, replace the granulated sugar with coconut sugar and use half the amount. Again, the texture will be denser but serves up less guilt.
The formula for this recipe doesn't work great with artificial sweeteners like monk fruit. Monk fruit and its artificial friends are way sweeter than sugar, so you need much less. Since sugar is the bulk of any macaron recipe (shhh!), you'll be left with chewy, albeit sweet, almond rocks. Here is a recipe for chocolate keto clusters that can satisfy a sweet tooth, and without artificial sugar!
Most almond cookie recipes that are derived from this ancient formula are soft right out of the oven, then crunchy once cooled. Depending on your climate and storage choice, the cookies may soften over the next couple of days, or get crunchier.
To keep almond cookies crunchy, store them in an air-tight container. For cookies that become chewy in the center after several days, allow a bit of air to enter the storage container by leaving one corner or side cracked. Or store the cookies uncovered or loosely wrapped in plastic wrap.
Frequently Asked Questions
Almond flour lends texture, color, and flavor to cookies and baked goods. Due to the protein and fat content of almonds, baking with almond flour can also aid in tenderness and longer-lasting freshness.
Depending on the brand almond meal can be ground almonds with or without the skins. Coarseness will vary with almond meals, and the color will be darker if the meal is from skin-on almonds.
Almond flour is a finer, lighter grind of blanched almonds. Blanched almonds are briefly boiled to remove the thin, brown skins. For the smoothest flour, look for almond flours labeled "finely-ground" or "superfine."
Almond cookies are known by different names around the world. In Europe and the United States, almond cookies can be called macaroons, macarons, and amaretti. Ricciarelli is a crackly, Italian almond cookie with dried cherries and honey. Traditional Chinese almond cookies are akin to sugar cookies baked with a portion of almond flour.
Chinese almond cookies are sugar cookies where almond flour is substituted for a portion of the all-purpose flour. Traditionally, many bakers placed a sliced almond in the center of each cookie before baking. The main ingredients for Chinese sugar cookies are butter, sugar, all-purpose flour, almond flour, eggs, and often baking powder or baking soda for a little lift and lighter texture.
If you'd like to experiment with your own Chinese cookie recipe, it can help to first understand the basic 1-2-3 cookie dough formula. Replace half the flour in the recipe with fine-ground almond flour.
Old-fashioned almond macarons are best enjoyed within the first few minutes (or days) of baking. Nice and crisp, the macarons are perfect for dipping in coffee or your afternoon Earl Grey. The testing of this almond cookie recipe was, after all, simply an excuse for a sweet afternoon snack.
Chewy, crunchy, crackly, almond cookie goodness! These original almond macarons are a sweet, gluten-free, dairy-free treat that comes together in two simple steps. Even faster if you happen to have a food processor.
Save yourself the frustration of attempting to bake 21st-century French macarons by mixing up their predecessor, instead. These almond macaron cookies date back to the middle ages and are a fun baking project kids can even do with little help.
The baked almond cookies are perfect for dipping in coffee or tea. Or crushing up as topping for an ice cream sundae.
If it's homemade French macaron infamy you're after, here's how to make French macarons.
- 4 ounces or 110 grams or about 1 heaping cup of almond flour
- 7 ounces or 200 grams or ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
- 2 raw egg whites (about 2.4 ounces or 68 grams, from two large eggs)
- pinch of salt
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract, optional
Measure out all of your ingredients before beginning, gather your equipment and preheat your oven. Mise en place, my people! Everything in place!
- Line two baking pans with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (or bake in batches). Preheat your oven to 325° F.
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk together (or stir well) the almond flour and sugar.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add the egg white and almond extact to the bowl. Mix with a spatula until the ingredients come together as a thick, smooth paste.
- Transfer the paste to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Or use a large plastic food baggie, cutting a half-inch wide opening at one of the corners. If you don't have either, you can use your hands or a couple small spoons.
- Pipe or drop and shape round 1-inch dollops of the almond paste onto the parchment-lined baking pans. For uniform cookies, trace same-size circles onto your paper with a round object about an inch or so in diameter. Or print a free macaron template to place underneath the parchment paper.
- With a wet fingertip or pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the piped batter down. Don't press the mounds flat, just smooth the tops.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the cookies are completely golden brown, rotating the pan(s) halfway through baking or as necessary to allow for even cooking. The longer you bake, the crispier they will be. If the finished cookies are only golden brown around the edges, the centers will remain chewy.
- Store covered (or not entirely sealed for a crispier cookie over time) at room temperature. Freeze well-sealed for a couple of months.
The dough for these cookies is essentially a very sweet almond paste. Commercial versions of almond paste and marzipan will vary in sweetness, thickness, and the ratio of egg white to the dry ingredients.
Using a Food Processor
You can also bring the paste together in a food processor. by first pulsing the almond flour and sugar together, then adding the egg white and pulsing until the mixture appears thick and cohesive.
These old-fashioned macarons will be soft right out of the oven and crisp as they cool. If stored covered, the cookies will soften over time.
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