French macarons are delightful little pastries filled with enchanting creams, curds, and custards. And you don't need to scroll and search for the "perfect macaron recipe" to make them at home. French macaron recipe success is achieved by mastering two simple techniques and measuring your ingredients according to the proper ratio.
The Standard Formula
Shh... don't tell the other bloggers and food media outlets.
Every classic French macaron shell recipe is the same.
One may call for a little less sugar in the meringue (like mine), or others may add a bit more almond flour. But there simply isn't a "best French macaron recipe".
Any classic macaron recipe that will provide the baker success will be based on the following ratio of the four main ingredients.
French Macaron Formula
1 part egg whites + ½-2 parts granulated sugar + 2 parts confectioner's sugar + ⅔ part fine-ground almond flour
The above formula is based on what's called a baker's percentage, which starts with one ingredient at 100%, then weighs all others around that one ingredient.
In any French macaron recipe, the egg whites are the "100%" ingredient.
Many baker's and professional chefs use up to two parts granulated sugar (double the weight of the egg whites) to whip the meringue.
I find this to be too sweet, and too much sugar for more than one reason, so I use less. But the amount I use is really the smallest amount of granulated sugar that will give you a nice, silky meringue.
Pinches of salt, extracts, and food colorings all vary depending on the flavor desired and the personal preference of the recipe writer.
There are not many options for adding flavor to the actual shells, as an excess of liquid from extracts or additional dry ingredients will compromise the batter and look of the macaron.
For any liquid extract, a teaspoon is the most I add per every three egg whites in the recipe.
I like to use a very small amount of citrus zest for orange or lemon macarons. And for chocolate macarons, a small percentage of the almond flour is replaced with cocoa powder.
But really most of the flavor in a French macaron is in the filling! For reasons why macarons fail and filling flavor ideas, check this out.
The Two Techniques
More important than the recipe in the art of French macarons are the two techniques:
- what the French call macaronage (we American bakers might just call this folding or mixing).
Pay attention to these two crucial elements of making macarons, and you will succeed sooner than later.
Types of Meringue
The three different approaches to meringue are common (French), Swiss and Italian.
I recommend mastering the common meringue technique before experimenting with the others.
French meringue. I personally prefer a common meringue, as it is the least fussy, the fewest amount of dishes, and the easiest to whip up.
French (common) meringue is simply beating raw egg whites with granulated sugar until it becomes opaque and glossy and reaches firm/stiff peaks.
Italian meringue. Some bakers and chefs swear by an Italian meringue, where a hot sugar syrup (sugar boiled with a little water) is beaten into the egg whites. This may prove more stable for professional purposes, but I find it overkill at home. The amount of granulated sugar in the macaron recipe is increased, and the confectioner's sugar decreased to even out the total sugar.
To make Italian meringue, measure an amount of granulated sugar equal to the weight of the egg whites. Then mix it with about half the amount of water in a small pot. Boil until the temperature reaches about 240° F on a candy or kitchen thermometer.
While the syrup boils, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then continue beating, and slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the whites. Beat on medium-high speed until the meringue cools to room temperature. Proceed as you would with a common meringue.
Swiss meringue. The Swiss method falls in between the extremes of the other two. To make a Swiss meringue, you beat the egg whites with the sugar over a double boiler until the mixture reaches about 130° F. Then continue beating off the heat until it cools to room temperature and reaches the desired peak.
The French have a way of making certains things sound much harder or glamorous than they really are. Macaronage is one of them.
We're mixing people. That's all.
The art of macaronage is simply the folding of the dry ingredients into the whipped meringue. And mastering the technique isn't so much about the style of stroke you use, as it as about knowing when to stop.
Use a classic folding motion of scraping around the bowl, the up from under the batter and over the top. Stop once the batter is cohesive, and ribbons off the spatula.
For simple French macaron shells you only need four ingredients.
- egg whites
- granulated sugar
- powdered (confectioner's) sugar
- almond flour
A pinch of salt, a little extract or citrus zest or few drops of lemon juice can go in once the meringue reaches medium-stiff peaks. But they're not essential.
And while you will see cream of tartar in many macaron recipes, you don't need it. Learn more about cream of tartar here.
The Five Steps
Step 1. Sift the confectioner's sugar and fine-ground almond flour to remove any large pieces of almond. If using blanched, whole, or slivered almonds, grind the nuts in a food processor or blender with the confectioner's sugar until finely ground, then sift.
Step 2. Whisk vigorously or beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Slowly sprinkle in granulated sugar while continuing to beat. Whisk quickly or beat whites on medium-high speed until they resemble shaving cream: smooth, glossy, and opaque.
Step 3. Add all the sifted dry ingredients to the meringue, folding up from the bottom of the bowl and around the sides until a thick batter forms. Turn the bowl with one hand while you fold with the other. The batter should be thick, shiny, and ribbon off the spatula.
Step 4. Transfer the batter to a plastic baggie or piping bag, a small round pastry tip is very helpful. Pipe circles (or other shapes!) of batter onto parchment paper-lined baking pans without rims. Lightly tap underneath the pans to help the batter settle. Rest piped batter for 10-20 minutes, if desired.
Step 5. Bake at 290-300° F/150° C for 14-18 minutes, depending on the size of the shells.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most popular questions about French macarons, and my answers from more than ten years of experience baking macarons in restaurants, for clients, and at home.
Why are macarons so expensive?
Macarons take more skill than traditional bakery offerings. And while most of the ingredients for the shells are inexpensive, bakeries often source premium ingredients for the fillings (since that's where the flavor is).
If you want to enjoy French macarons, but don't want to shell out the dough, this is a basic recipe for wonderfully vanilla macarons. Forego a pricey vanilla bean, and they're no more expensive than a homemade birthday cake. Perhaps a touch less.
Do you have to use almond flour?
Not at all! Pistachio macarons, a popular flavor in France, include ground pistachios in the shells.
A successful macaron in both flavor and appearance depends on the structure almond flour provides without disrupting or adding to the moisture content. So different nut flours can work. But be sure the nuts you choose are unroasted and free of any added ingredients. If you ever find success experimenting with different nut flours, let us know in the comments!
Why do you need cream of tartar in macarons?
Actually, you don't. Cream of tartar, or tartaric acid, is (obviously) an acidic ingredient. Acids help the egg white proteins denature and form bonds during the meringue stage. So adding cream of tartar can help stabilize and dry out your meringue, but it's not essential.
I find when I do add cream of tartar my whites are a little too stiff and sturdy, and this can cause hollow shells as the batter doesn't settle on the pan as it should.
If you are a new macaron maverick, a few drops of lemon juice can help the whites whip up nice peaks, but won't create too dry or thick a meringue.
Are French macarons really that hard to make?
Nope. Especially if you choose a simple French meringue. As with anything new worth learning, your meringue and macaronage techniques will improve every time. And so will the beauty of your shells!
I have a friend who used this recipe and found success (and beautiful lemon macarons) the first time out! Not a testament to my recipe, but to an avid home baker's confidence and attention to detail.
Do I need special equipment?
Yes, but also no. Do you need an expensive stand mixer? Absolutely not. I've seen French chefs make wonderful macarons with only a large bowl, a whisk, and a lot of elbow grease. A hand mixer also gets the job done.
Do I need to buy a kitchen scale? If the budget allows and the shoe fits, I say do it. Measuring ingredients by weight is the best approach to baking. Baking is a science, and this ensures the ingredients are in the proper ratio(s) to one another. But measuring by volume can certainly give you great results. I've included volume measurements in the recipe card below.
Tips on measuring ingredients by volume
Whenever you are measuring by volume, avoid scooping the cup into the bag of ingredients. Spoon the flour or sugar into the cup instead. This will prevent large empty pockets in the measuring cups or densely-packed ingredients.
Please don't buy a macaron pan. All you need is parchment paper, or perhaps a silicone baking mat if you like. Save your money, and instead buy some coffee liqueur to make your macarons a little bit Irish!
But seriously half the time I eat the shells warm, straight off the baking pan. Quality control, as usual, you see, and a good excuse to whip up another batch.
Yours in macaron madness,
Wonderfully delicate, melt-in-your-mouth pastries! Here's a reliable, small-batch French macaron recipe with both weight and volume measurements. Add a teaspoon of any flavor extract you like to the shells, and check this out for macaron filling ideas.
Or for a classic French buttercream, use the recipe from my first article on French macaron troubleshooting.
- 60 grams/2 ounces egg whites (from about two large eggs)
- 30 grams/3 tablespoons/1½ ounces granulated sugar
- 120 grams/4.5 ounces/1 cup + 1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
- 90 grams/2.75 ounces/¾ cup almond flour
- pinch of salt
- few drops of lemon juice, white vinegar, or small pinch of cream of tartar, optional
- 1 teaspoon extract of choice, optional
- gel or powdered food coloring, optional*
- Line two baking pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- If working with whole or slivered almonds: Grind almonds or almond flour with confectioner's sugar in a food processor for a couple of minutes. Stop the processor once or twice to redistribute the mixture.
- Place the egg whites and granulated sugar in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium speed until foamy.
- Turn the speed up to medium-high (or high on a hand mixer). Beat the whites to a stiff meringue. The meringue will be shiny and create pointy peaks that curve over ever so slightly. The meringue will also stick to the bottom of the bowl if you flip it upside-down.
- Sift all the dry ingredients directly into the bowl with stiff meringue.
- Fold until the batter flows slowly and ribbons off the spatula. Mix slightly vigorous at first, then use classic folding strokes; scraping around the sides of the bowl, the up from underneath the mixture, and over through the top.
- Transfer to a piping bag (or large plastic bag) fitted with a small round tip.
- Pipe 1- to 2-inch rounds of batter onto a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Hold the piping bag vertical, and about a quarter-inch above the pan.
- To help the tops of piped batter settle, very lightly tap underneath the pan.
- Optional: Let the piped macarons rest on the counter for 10-20 minutes.
- Bake at 300° F/150° C for 14-16 minutes, rotating the pan(s) once halfway through baking.
- Cool a few minutes before removing from baking mat or parchment.
- Fill and enjoy!
Adding Food Coloring to Macaron Shells
If you want to make the deeply-hued color macarons that line bakery cases, use gel food coloring, not liquid. The amount of liquid food coloring you need to get a deep color will ruin the nice, dry meringue you spent almost ten minutes making.
I also like commercial food color powders, like from Nature's Flavors. If you do choose a powder (I like them because many are plant-based), be sure it is designed for heat-exposure. Many of the plant-based powders available will brown in the oven.
Keywords: French macaron recipe, types of meringue
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