When I hear the word meringue I immediately think of my childhood birthday parties. Then I think of lemon meringue pie, Eton Mess, macarons, pavlova & hundreds of other sweet desserts. At their simplest, meringues are whisked egg whites & sugar. Simple. However there are different methods (eg. French, Swiss & Italian) for combining the two main ingredients & the resulting meringue is used for different desserts. 

So in a meringue shell;

  • French - Egg whites are whisked then sugar is gradually added. 
  • Swiss - Egg whites & sugar combined, heated to 60 C while whisking.
  • Italian - Egg whites are partially whisked then a hot sugar syrup is added while whisking.

Both the Swiss & Italian methods cook the egg whites while whisking, these methods are good if you are using the meringue as a topping (lemon meringue pie, fluffy white icing). The French method can produce a light meringue but it should be baked prior to consumption.

Regardless of the method used we want the sugar to dissolve. If the sugar doesn't dissolve (French method) then the resulting baked meringues will have an uneven appearance. The photo below is an assortment of meringues made with different sugars & different sugar quantities. The sugar in two of the plain sugar meringues (bottom right & middle of left hand side) was not completely dissolved, resulting in a harder meringue with an uneven appearance.  

What sugar can be used?

If the solid sugar can dissolve in egg white then meringues can be made with it. Will they be as light & fluffy as meringues made with caster sugar? Maybe not, but they still taste good. 


If the sugar used has a strong taste & colour (molasses sugar) this will be reflected in the finished meringue. The mixture for the molasses sugar meringues (pictured below) was piped in the same bag as some of the muscovado meringues resulting in a lighter stripe on the edges.

Using a liquid sugar will result in lighter meringues. A solid sugar may need to be added to make a more robust meringue, this will depend on the reason you are using the liquid sugar. If maple syrup is used for flavour the meringues would probably benefit with added caster sugar. However if rice malt syrup is used due to its lack of fructose, caster sugar wouldn't be an option but powdered glucose might be one. I have used black strap molasses as a liquid sweetener - the meringues had a very light texture but the flavour was very strong & surprisingly salty. 

Adding Flavours & Colours

Being able to use a liquid sugar means that it is possible to add other liquids (flavours or colours) provided they don't deflate the egg whites. Fruit purees, particularly from berries, are great for adding flavour & a little colour. The colour is usually more intense on the inside of the meringue.

The colour of the raspberry meringues (pictured above - French method) is a faint mauve if the raspberry puree has not been cooked prior to making the meringues. The colour is more of a pink when making Razzle Dazzle Icing (raspberry meringue) using the Italian method & the puree becomes part of the sugar syrup (photo below). The strength of the colour will depend on the amount of raspberry puree used. 


Egg whites




How much sugar?

The amount of sugar can vary depending on whether you want a hard meringue (more) or a light meringue (less) but it depends on the amount of egg white used. A lot of meringue recipes state the number of egg whites however I am given eggs from my mother-in-law & the size varies greatly. Old hens can lay huge eggs while hens starting to lay deliver an egg the size of a big marble. To keep the variation to a minimum between batches of my meringues I do the following: 

Egg whites: Weigh the egg whites

Sugar: Use 1.5 x the weight of the whites

Weighing the egg whites helps; if you freeze your egg whites & you can't remember how many you put in there, some of the egg white has spilt. 


Apparently the freshness of the eggs affects the quality of the meringue and there are a lot of sites on the web that address this issue. I haven't worried about it too much because if I am making meringues for a party; I use the eggs that are in the fridge, I have never heard a child or an adult say "If you had used fresher eggs you may have achieved a greater lightness in your meringue", I am not going to the supermarket to ask them for eggs that are 3-5 days old. If I did have eggs that were specifically 3 days old I would be making a sponge & not meringues.


Egg whites whip better when they are warmer. As I store my eggs in the fridge they need to be warmed up before they are used. I simply fill a container with hot tap water & put the eggs in there. The eggs won't cook but bad eggs are quickly identified & any stuff adhering to the shell can be easily dislodged.

Separate the egg whites from the yolk. Try to avoid breaking the yolk. Egg whites whip exceedingly well when there is no yolk. But don't despair if you do break the yolk. I can't remember the number of times that I have broken the yolk & a little bit has gone into the whites. Do I throw it out - NO! The whites don't achieve the same volume & it takes longer to whisk in the sugar & the bases of the meringues may crack a little but they still taste good. The cries from children remain the same "Look, meringues".

Weigh the egg whites & transfer them to a clean bowl (preferably not plastic - although I have used a plastic bowl with hand held beaters).

Measure out the sugar required.

Whisk egg whites. Use the whisk attachment if using a stand mixer. Whisk the egg whites until they have at least trebled in volume.

I add the fruit puree now if flavouring or colouring the meringues. For the mauve raspberries meringues pictured above I used 40 g raspberry puree (~50 g frozen raspberries) for ~72 g egg white (2 egg whites).   

Add sugar slowly. While the egg whites are still being whisked slowly add the sugar. When all the sugar has been added scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Continue whisking until the sugar has dissolved. There are two simple ways to test whether the sugar has dissolved. 1) Rub a little of the meringue between your fingers if it feels gritty the sugar hasn't dissolved. 2) Put a little in your mouth if it is gritty the sugar hasn't dissolved - the tongue is very sensitive. The latter method involves ingesting raw egg white & is therefore not recommended if you are uncertain of the quality of the egg. I can remember "helping" Mum in the kitchen by carefully licking the beaters after she had made meringue. It was a job I took very seriously!

A couple of times I have accidently put too much sugar in & I only realised that after everything had been added & the sugar was not dissolving. The last time that happened I put in another egg white to the whisked mix. The result - the sugar dissolved & the meringues were fine. 

Turn the oven on to 100 C. Some people have the oven higher but you run the risk of browning the outside of the meringue before the middle has dried out.  

Line 1 or 2 tray(s) with baking paper. 

Transfer meringue mix to tray. How you transfer the mix will depend on what you want the meringues to look like. Using two spoons works well as does a piping bag with fitted nozzle. I have a variety of nozzles for my piping bag; a size 5 star nozzle makes great fairy sized meringues (make little pink meringues for a fairy party) I also routinely use the size 7 & 9.

Transfer the tray to the oven. When the meringues reach ~70 C the egg white will be cooked but the meringues won't be dry. I usually dry them out for ~2 hours & leave them in the oven to cool down.

Storing meringues. Meringues need to be stored in an airtight container if you want to keep them crisp. If they have lost their crispness put them back in the oven for a little while.