Italian macarons (macarons with Italian meringue) are the daintiest, perfectly pretty sweet treats but many people are daunted by the idea of making macarons from scratch. Whenever I'm private cheffing I often make them as little gifts or petit fours and the number one feedback I get is "I'd love to try making these, but they seem too hard!".
So I decided to put together an ultimate guide to making homemade Italian macarons. A step-by-step Italian macaron recipe with a detailed FAQ, troubleshooting section to solve your past failed macarons and really break down the method and give you all my tips and tricks to create the perfect macaron every time.
Macarons with Italian meringue are made by whisking hot sugar syrup into the whipped egg whites before combining it with an almond paste mixture. I was taught how to make Italian macarons at culinary school when training as a chef, and I personally prefer it to the French or Swiss method. Italian meringue has more stability because the egg whites are cooked, and this helps with the 'macaronage' and makes it less likely that you will overmix it.
- Essential equipment to make Italian macarons
- Preparation before you begin
- Ingredients for macaron shells
- Ingredients for basic macaron cream filling
- Best food colouring to use in macarons
- How to make Italian meringue
- Macaronage - mixing macaron batter
- How to pipe macarons
- How to fill macarons
- Macaron filling ideas
- How to store macarons
- Top tip
- Recipe Card
- Food safety
Making homemade Italian macarons from scratch can seem daunting, especially when it comes to dealing with boiling sugar so it's important to prepare correctly. I'm going to take you through the essential equipment for making macarons, what key steps to perform before you begin and then a detailed breakdown of the Italian meringue method for making Italian macarons. And then, in the FAQ section, I go through all the things that can go wrong and troubleshoot so you can avoid making mistakes.
Essential equipment to make Italian macarons
- Weighing scales. Digital is best. Baking is a science, after all, so we need precision! I do not recommend using the cup system to make macarons. I use these ones.
- A sieve to ensure that the powdered sugar and almond flour is as fine as possible.
- A blender/food processor to thoroughly combine the almond flour and powdered sugar. This ensures a completely smooth finish on your macaron shells.
- A small saucepan to make your sugar syrup
- A jam or sugar thermometer to measure the temperature of the hot sugar syrup. The sugar syrup needs to be at a particular temperature to make Italian meringue and it is impossible to judge without a thermometer. The best thermometers for sugar syrup do not allow the bulb to touch the bottom or sides of the saucepan, thus ensuring you are measuring the temperature of the sugar, and not the pan.
- An electric whisk or stand mixer to whisk your egg whites into soft peaks before slowly adding the hot sugar syrup.
- Two large bowls, preferably glass. Try to avoid using a metal mixing bowl for the Italian meringue as it will conduct heat and prevent the mixture from cooling.
- A metal mixing spoon for combining ingredients more vigorously.
- A silicon mixing spoon or spatula for further, more gentle mixing.
- Baking sheets/trays - not high-sided ones as this builds up too much steam
- Silicon mat or baking parchment paper (but the silicon mats are better and allow for lower waste as they are not single-use)
- Piping bags - to pipe your macarons onto a baking tray, and then also to pipe your fillings.
Preparation before you begin
Clean all your bowls and utensils thoroughly. Having residue or oil on any bowls, spatulas, spoons or thermometres can have a knock-on effect in this Italian macaron recipe so don't skip this step.
Assemble and weigh out all your ingredients and utensils.
Separate the ingredients for each part of the recipe (Italian meringue, almond paste, filling) and group them together.
Get your piping bags and baking sheets lined and ready to go and the oven preheated.
The great thing about macarons is you can create any flavour filling you want, and make them pretty colours too. They make a great elegant dessert or petit four, perfect for parties or special occasions. I'll show you exactly when to add food colouring to macaron batter, and how to pipe and fill them perfectly every time.
Ingredients for macaron shells
- Almond flour (also known as almond meal or ground almonds)
- Powdered sugar (also known as confectioners sugar or icing sugar)
- White granulated sugar (also known as caster sugar)
- Egg whites
- Powdered food colouring (optional)
Ingredients for basic macaron cream filling
- Lemon zest
- Plain yoghurt
- Double cream
- Mascarpone cream
See the recipe card for quantities.
Best food colouring to use in macarons
Powdered food colouring is the best to make macarons. Using liquid or gel colouring affects the consistency and can cause your macarons to split or crack. Adding liquid to the macaron mixture can have the same effect as overmixing when the feet/base of the macaron spreads and curls up and they flatten.
Preheat the oven to 145 degrees Celsius / 295 Fahrenheit.
Weigh out all your ingredients.
Sieve the ground almonds and powdered sugar and then blend together until they are a very fine consistency and completely combined. Add to a large mixing bowl.
How to make Italian meringue
Place the water into a saucepan and pour in the granulated sugar. Begin to gently warm the water and stir so that the sugar dissolves into the water. Once it has dissolved, turn up the heat, stop stirring and place the sugar thermometer into the mixture.
You will notice the thermometer reach 100 degrees Celsius/212 degrees Fahrenheit and stay there for a while, before gradually beginning to rise as the water evaporates and the sugar starts to reach its own boiling point. Be patient.
Once the temperature does start to rise, whisk your egg whites until they go white and form soft peaks. Stop the whisk and return to your sugar syrup, which should now be reaching the soft boil point.
Some thermometres have 'soft boil' and 'firm boil' written on them, which is helpful. We need our sugar to reach a hard boil of 120 degrees Celsius/250 degrees Fahrenheit. I generally remove my sugar from the heat when it reaches and starts to creep up from a soft boil of 115 degrees Celsius/240 Fahrenheit as the residual heat in the pan will keep the temperature going up from here whilst you carefully take the saucepan over to your egg whites.
Start whisking the egg whites again whilst very slowly pouring the hot sugar syrup into it. Avoid pouring the sugar syrup onto the whisk attachment itself. Otherwise, you'll end up with very a sticky attachment covered in spun sugar!
Add the sugar syrup a little at a time, or in a very slow constant trickle. We don't want to add too much at once as it is very hot and it will cook and scramble the egg white. Feel the side of the glass bowl, it will be hot.
The Italian meringue will turn a smooth, glossy and opaque white. Continue to whisk once all of the sugar syrup has been added to bring down the heat until you can touch the side of the bowl and it feels warm but not hot. This is so we don't cook and scramble the rest of the raw egg white that is in the almond paste mixture.
Mix the remaining egg white with the almond/powdered sugar mixture. It will form a stiff almond paste. Use a metal spoon to stir it together firmly and fully incorporate. Add your powdered food colouring at this point. A half teaspoon should be sufficient depending on how intense you want the colour.
We now combine the two mixtures in three stages to form the Italian macaron batter and this part is very important to get right.
Macaronage - mixing macaron batter
The Italian meringue is mixed into the almond paste, not the other way around.
Mix the Italian meringue into the almond paste in thirds, not all at once.
The first third needs to be mixed vigorously with a metal spoon to slacken/loosen the almond paste and ensure there are no streaks or lumps.
The next third needs to be folded in more gently, and I prefer to use a silicone spatula for this stage and the final stage. Using light movements, scoop the mixture up and turn it over to combine whilst keeping the air in. This is where using Italian meringue to make macarons becomes worthwhile, as it has more stability and keeps its lightness without collapsing.
Mix in the final third of the meringue with extreme care, gently folding it together with the spatula by scooping it around the edge of the bowl and then into the middle.
We don't want a sloppy consistency, it needs to be medium loose but not runny.
How to pipe macarons
Using a spatula, add the macaron batter to the bag. Tie a knot in the end and relax the mixture slightly in the bag with your hands for a few seconds. Cut half a centimetre from the tip of the piping bag.
To pipe perfect macarons, position the piping bag perpendicular to the tray with the nozzle a few millimetres above the surface. Squeeze the bag without lifting it up for two or three seconds (until the desired size macaron). Stop squeezing and make a little circle to twist it off. You will be left with a small peak, but don't worry about that now. Continue to fill the tray with macarons using the 'squeeze, stop, twist off' motion. Leave a 2cm gap in between each macaron as they will expand slightly as they bake.
When the tray is filled, pick it up and firmly smack it down onto the work surface twice to settle the Italian macaron batter and get rid of any air bubbles. This will also help settle the peak left by the piping bag.
Bake straight away for 17 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow the macarons to cool on the tray. This is a no-rest macaron recipe, but if you cannot fit all of your macarons in the oven at once, it won't harm the remaining macarons to be out on the worktop for 17 minutes.
How to fill macarons
Now you can fill your Italian macarons. I find it helps to pair the macaron shells up first to make sure each macaron shell has its perfect partner in size and colour.
Fill another piping bag with your filling of choice, for this recipe I use my favourite lemon mascarpone.
Mix the yoghurt and mascarpone together and grate in the lemon zest.
Whip the cream until thickened and then fold in the other mixture. Add to a piping bag.
Cut the end off the piping bag and start with a blob in the middle of the flat side of the macaron shell. Then pipe a circle around it. Remember we want the filling to slightly bulge out the sides when we sandwich the macaron shells together so pipe right to the edge.
Place another macaron shell on top and voila! A perfect Italian macaron.
Macaron filling ideas
- Chocolate ganache - melt some good quality chocolate into hot double cream to make a glossy and smooth chocolate ganache filling.
- Jam - grab a jar of your favourite jam out of the cupboard and spread thinly onto the shells.
- Fruity cream - Mix fruit coulis with whipped double cream.
How to store macarons
Macaron shells can be frozen or stored in an airtight container. Filled macarons should be kept chilled.
Older eggs make better meringue than really fresh eggs because the proteins have been broken down more. And if you can, separate your eggs 24 hours in advance and keep the egg whites in the fridge until ready to make your Italian meringue, as this improves the way they bake even further.
Your mixture was overmixed, so when combining the meringue with the egg white/almond paste you possibly stirred too hard or for too long.
The mixture was slightly undermixed. This is where it is useful to relax it slightly whilst in the piping bag with your hands.
Yes, Italian macaron shells freeze really well. Just freeze before they are filled. Place in layers in an airtight container separated by sheets of greaseproof paper.
Personally, I have never made a successful meringue using cartons of pre-packaged egg white. I don't know what it is, there must be some preservative or chemical used that prevents it from whipping up properly. So you're welcome to try, but I personally do not recommend it.
This is often to do with air bubbles in your macaron batter, and that is why we smack the tray down on the countertop before baking as it pops the air bubbles. I have also found macarons can split when using gel or liquid food colouring and that's why I avoid it.
The powdered sugar and almond flour mixture was not fine enough. To get a smooth and glossy macaron shell, the mixture needs to be very finely milled. This is why we blend the two ingredients together in a food processor and then sieve it as well.
Without food colouring, macarons are a very pale cream/white colour. It is a pretty and neutral colour that can then be jazzed up with colourful fillings.
Without being filled, macarons can last for up to 5 days in an airtight container before going stale. Once filled, it will depend on the nature of the filling. A macaron with cream filling will last 3-4 days.
The 'to rest, or not to rest' question in the art of making macarons is divisive. Those in the 'rest' camp believe that doing so allows them to form a crust on top, reducing the chance of them cracking and forming better 'feet' because escaping air is forced to go out of the bottom rather than the top of the macaron. With this Italian macaron recipe I have tried both resting, and not resting, and saw no difference. It may in part be due to using Italian meringue which is more dense and stable. But without a lab to do proper scientific tests (which is something I would LOVE to do) I can't say for sure!
Almond flour is the best flour for macarons, it's oil content works so well. Other flours used in macarons include hazelnut and even sesame.
Italian Macarons (with Italian meringue)
- 1 Sieve Blender/food processor
- 1 Small saucepan
- 1 electric whisk or stand mixer
- 1 Metal or wooden mixing spoon
- 1 Silicon mixing spoon or spatula
- 3 Large baking sheets/trays
- 3 Silicon baking mat or baking parchment paper
- 2 piping bags
- 185 grams Powdered sugar (icing sugar or confectioners sugar)
- 185 grams Ground almonds
- 63 grams Egg whites
- 185 grams Granulated sugar
- 100 ml Water
- 63 grams Egg whites
Basic lemon cream filling
- 2 tablespoon Mascarpone cheese
- 2 tablespoon Plain yoghurt
- 200 ml Double cream (heavy cream)
- 1 teaspoon Lemon zest
- Preheat the oven to 145 degrees Celsius / 295 Fahrenheit.
- Prepare and weigh out the ingredients, separating the egg whites from egg yolks if necessary.
- Sieve the ground almonds and powdered sugar and then blend together until they are a very fine consistency and completely combined.
- Place the water and granulated sugar into a saucepan. Gently warm the water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once it has dissolved, turn up the heat, stop stirring and place the sugar thermometer into the mixture.
- Once the thermometer starts to climb above 105 degrees Celsius/220 degrees Fahrenheit, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
- When the sugar syrup reaches a soft boil temperature of 115 degrees Celsius/240 degrees, start whisking the egg whites again and pour in the sugar syrup a little at a time.
- The Italian meringue will turn a smooth, glossy and opaque white. Continue to whisk once all of the sugar syrup has been added to bring down the heat until you can touch the side of the bowl and it feels warm but not hot.
- Make the almond paste by mixing the remaining egg white with the ground almond/powdered sugar mixture until it is fully incorporated. If using food colouring, add it at this point. A half teaspoon should be sufficient depending on how intense you want the colour.
- Now mix the Italian meringue into the almond paste in three stages.
- Firmly mix in the first third of the Italian meringue with a metal or wooden spoon to loosen the almond paste and fully combine the two mixtures.
- Fold in the remaining two thirds one at a time using the softer spoon or spatula, being very gentle with the final third to not overmix the batter and make it too slack.
- Move the macaron batter to a piping bag. Tie a knot in the end and relax the mixture slightly in the bag with your hands for a few seconds. Cut half a centimetre from the tip of the piping bag.
- Position the piping bag perpendicular to the tray with the nozzle a few millimetres above the surface. Squeeze the bag without lifting it up for two or three seconds, then stop squeezing and make a little circle to twist it off. Fill the trays leaving a 2cm gap in between each macaron.
- Firmly smack it down onto the work surface twice to settle the Italian macaron batter and get rid of any air bubbles.
- Bake straight away for 17 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow the macarons to cool on the tray. This is a no-rest macaron recipe, but if you cannot fit all of your macarons in the oven at once, it won't harm the remaining macarons to be out on the worktop for 17 minutes.
Lemon cream filling
- Mix the yoghurt and mascarpone together and grate in the lemon zest.
- Whip the cream until thickened and then fold in the lemon mascarpone yoghurt mixture.
- Put the filling into a piping bag and pipe a circle in the centre of each macaron shell. Then pipe a circle around it before sandwiching with another macaron shell.
- Boiling sugar can be dangerous, so do not leave it unattended and keep pets/children out of the room.
- Clean surfaces and utensils thoroughly after handling raw eggs.