The Perfect French Macarons are crispy, chewy meringue shells paired with your choice of sweet fillings. They can be flavored and colored as you like, and are a gluten-free treat. Learn how to make macarons from scratch successfully, step by step!
[June, 2021: I've reworked the recipe and updated this post with all new pictures. Enjoy!]
Why this recipe works
- Using almond flour (not almond meal) ensures that the batter will be smooth, not gritty
- Allowing the macaron batter to dry before going into the oven forces them to rise up (that's what creates the feet)
- You get to choose the flavorings, colorings, and fillings to suit your preferences
French Macarons are dainty little confections with crisp outer shells and chewy seductive centers. At their base, the cookie shells feature little ridges called “feet” that are the mark of a well-made macaron.
And their reputation as a finicky cookie are well noted, but don't worry. I'm going to show you how to make a French macarons recipe successfully, step by step.
(Side note: if you just say Macaroons, people think you mean the treats made with coconut flakes. These are definitely not those!).
What you need
The ingredients that go into macaron recipe are simple, at least. One item that may not be a pantry standard is almond flour. The other might be cream of tartar.
There are two types of almond flour available, blanched and unblanched, the difference being whether or not the almonds are ground up with their skins. If the color of the macaron is going to be light, use the lighter-shaded blanched almond flour.
Note, almond flour is not the same as almond meal. You want the finer grind of the almond flour for macarons so the resulting cookie won't be gritty.
Cream of tartar (not pictured) is an acidic dry powder that's a byproduct of winemaking. It's used to stabilize the egg whites as they're being whipped, so you get a fluffier finished meringue. It's optional, but recommended.
How to make French Macarons
The steps to making a French macaron recipe from scratch are, in and of themselves, simple. Make a French meringue, stir in sweetened almond flour, then bake.
Ok, there's a little more to it than that.
Step 1: Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar
Step 2: Make the meringue
Wet a paper towel with white vinegar or lemon juice and wipe the bowl of a stand mixer. Any bit of residual fat in the bowl can keep the meringue from forming. The acid ensures that the bowl is absolutely free of fat.
Beat egg whites until foamy, then add the granulated sugar, cream of tartar, and salt (photo 2). Whip until the meringue can form a peak that stands upright (a stiff peak), about 8 to 10 minutes.
Now is the time to add any food coloring if you'd like (photo 3). Gel food coloring works best. The color does fade as it bakes, so do a shade or two darker than you want them to be.
Double check that the meringue is whipped to stiff peaks (photo 4).
Step 3: Fold in the almond flour mixture
Folding in the almond flour mixture into the meringue is the trickiest part to making macarons (photo 5). About 65 to 75 turns of your spatula is the magic number.
Under-mix, and your macarons will be lumpy and cracked when they bake and won't have feet. Over-mix and your macarons will be flat and still won't have feet.
More on that later.
Transfer the macaron batter to a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch round pastry tip. If you're using parchment paper, place a little of the macaron batter on the underside of each corner to hold it flat to the baking pan.
Pipe out 1½-inch rounds onto the baking pan, spacing them about 1-inch apart (photo 6). Use a wet finger to gently flatten the points from the batter.
Tap the pan hard at least 2 to 3 times to release the air bubbles. This will prevent the tops of the macarons from cracking.
Step 4: Dry the macarons before baking
Allowing the macaron batter to dry before going into the oven is a very important step. When they dry out they can't spread out in the oven, and are forced to rise up. That's what creates the distinctive feet you want!
Let the macarons sit out for 30 to 60 minutes, allowing them time to dry out a bit before hitting the hot oven. The batter should be tacky, but not stick to your fingertips.
Step 5: Bake the macarons
Bake the macarons at 300°F for 20 minutes (photo 7). Warning: do not underbake, even if they look done. Otherwise they will stick to your tray. Just bake for the prescribed time and have faith.
Turn off the oven once the macarons are done without opening the oven door to let them cool completely in the oven (about 1 to 2 hours) before removing the pan. This will keep them from cracking due to thermal shock.
Voilà, perfectly puffed macarons with their distinctive feet!
What can go wrong
The first time my daughter and I made a macaron recipe, we felt like we knew what to do and dived right in…and failed.
[insert tires screeching sound here]
These French Macarons tasted good, but the look and texture were all off.
Here are some of the lessons we learned that day:
- Sifting the almond flour and the powdered sugar can take time, and since I had already made the meringue, it sat for quite a while. Maybe enough to deflate a bit? Lesson learned...sift the almond flour and powdered sugar together first.
- It was a humid day. Meringue batter needs to dry out before baking to increase the surface tension of the batter as it expands, thereby allowing it to puff up properly. Humidity definitely has an effect. Lesson learned...make sure you pick a non-humid day to make macarons.
- We over-mixed the almond flour mixture into the meringue, thus deflating the meringue. You want to keep as much air in the meringue as possible because that's what causes the macarons to rise in the oven. Over-mixing is a well-noted stumbling block, and probably was the main reason for our failure. Lesson learned...count the strokes when folding in the almond flour mixture, and stop when it's just combined.
Tips for French Macaron success
Here are some more expert tips for making French macarons:
- Be patient when you sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together. This step can be tedious (especially if you don't have a sifter), but it's important to make the powder as smooth as possible and remove any larger almond pieces that would make the shells look less than ideal.
- Allow the meringue shells to dry before going into the oven. When they dry out, the shells can't spread out in the oven, and are forced to rise up (that's what creates the feet).
- For a more stable meringue, think about making Italian Meringue Macarons instead. The cooked Italian meringue is more forgiving when folding in the almond flour mixture, thus giving better results.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions that you might have...
Fresh out of the oven, macaron shells will be quite crisp and delicate. If you fill them and eat them immediately, the shells will still have that extra-crisp texture. However, macarons are best enjoyed the next day as the meringue shells have a chance to soften to a crispy chewiness. Yummm...
To store French macarons, place them in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to a week, unless you have a filling that must be refrigerated.
The difference is in how the meringue is made. French meringue is just egg whites beaten until fluffy and sweetened with sugar. In Italian Meringue Macarons, the sugar is boiled into a syrup before adding it to the whipped egg whites. As it's slowly added to the bowl, the egg whites cook, giving the resulting meringue a sturdier structure that's less brittle than French meringue.
The fillings are up to you
You’ll notice I didn’t include the filling recipes because there you can get creative. Use classic buttercream frosting, an Italian meringue frosting, chocolate ganache, caramel sauce, butterscotch sauce, jam, peanut butter...the list goes on.
The macarons pictured below are filled with purple buttercream frosting and lemon curd thickened with powdered sugar.
My daughter crushed up Oreo cookies with their filling for a cookies & cream filling, and used crushed graham crackers, melted marshmallow, and chocolate ganache for a S’mores variety. Be creative!
Also, you can flavor the meringue before folding in the almond flour mixture (think mint, fruit puree, coffee, cocoa…).
The possibilities are endless!
French macarons are finicky, and they deserve that reputation. But with a bit of patience and attention to detail, you can achieve macaron success.
Yes, you can make perfect French macarons. Just take it step by step!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
If a recipe uses egg whites, what do you do with the egg yolks? I've got you covered! From custards to sauces, you'll be able to use up those yolks.
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Perfect French Macarons step by step
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ¾ cup almond flour, see Recipe Notes
- 1 tsp white vinegar, or lemon juice, optional, see Recipe Notes
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- pinch kosher salt
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract, see Recipe Notes
- food coloring, optional, see Recipe Notes
- fillings, see Recipe Notes
- Line a half sheet baking pan with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
- Sift together the powdered sugar and the almond flour. Discard the larger lumps of almond pieces left behind.
- Wet a paper towel with white vinegar or lemon juice and wipe the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the egg whites in the bowl and fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.
- Beat egg whites until foamy, then add the granulated sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Whip until the meringue can form a peak that stands upright, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the vanilla and the food coloring (if using).
- Gently fold the almond flour mixture into the meringue, counting about 65 to 75 turns of your spatula. Folding in the almond flour mixture into the meringue is the trickiest part. Under-mix, and your macarons will be lumpy and cracked when they bake and won't have feet. Over-mix and your macarons will be flat and still won't have feet.
- Transfer the batter to a pastry bag. If you’re using parchment paper, place a little of the batter on the underside of each corner to hold it flat to the baking pan. Pipe out 1½-inch rounds onto the baking pan. Use a wet finger to gently flatten the points from the batter.
- Tap the pan hard on the counter at least 2 to 3 times to release the air bubbles. This will prevent the tops of the meringue shells from cracking.
- Let the meringue shells sit out for 30 to 60 minutes, allowing them time to dry out a bit before hitting the hot oven. They should be tacky, but not stick to your fingertips. Allowing the macaron batter to dry before going into the oven is a very important step. When they dry out they can't spread out in the oven, and are forced to rise up (that's what creates the feet).
- While the macarons are drying, preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Bake the meringue shells for 20 minutes. Do not underbake, even if they look done (otherwise they will stick to your tray).
- Turn off the oven once the shells are done without opening the oven door to let them cool completely in the oven (about 1 to 2 hours) before removing the pan. This will keep them from cracking due to thermal shock.
- Macarons are best enjoyed the next day as the meringue shells have a chance to soften to a crispy chewiness.
- To store French macarons, place them in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to a week, unless you have a filling that must be refrigerated.