French macarons are a delicate cookie made from a meringue and almond flour base. This tutorial will walk you step-by-step through the process of making them at home.
- Skill Level: Advanced
- Techniques Used: French Meringue
French macarons are one of those things in the pastry world that can be a little intimidating to tackle. To be honest, I avoided even trying them for many years. They have this reputation of being notoriously finicky and very difficult to master.
I have to say, they aren’t as scary as you might think. With some attention to a few details, you can master these beautiful cookies fairly quickly.
A macaron (not to be confused with a macaroon) is a classic French cookie that is meringue based and uses almond flour and powdered sugar as the structure of the cookie. This makes the cookies slightly crisp on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. This also means they are naturally gluten free.
How to Make French Macarons
There are two main methods for making macarons: the French meringue method and the Italian meringue method. The French meringue method utilizes the technique of making French meringue, and obviously, the Italian meringue method uses the technique of making Italian meringue.
I find the French meringue method to be the best place to start for your first attempt as it is overall a less intimidating process, so that is what we’re going with today. I will also say that I don’t know a single person who has achieved perfect macarons on their very first attempt. There is some technique that takes some practice, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t go well the first time!
Step 1: Pulse Almond Flour & Powdered Sugar
All almond flour is not created equally. Some is ground more fine than others. In order to ensure that you get smooth macarons, we are going to pulse it in a food processor with the powdered sugar. I pulse about 10 times.
Note: if you don’t have a food processor, you can skip this step, but your macarons won’t be quite as smooth on top.
Step 2: Sift the Almond flour Mixture
After you pulse your mixture in the food processor, you do still want to sift it. This will aerate the powdered sugar/almond flour mixture and also catch any large clumps that didn’t get pulsed out.
Step 3: Make the French Meringue
The main structure for these cookies is a french meringue. To start you want to put just the room temperature egg whites in your stand mixer and start mixing on medium speed. You want the whites to start holding really soft peaks before you start adding the sugar.
While continuing to whip on medium speed, add the sugar very slowly. You don’t want to rush this part or the meringue won’t be as stable.
Step 4: Add Flavoring and Color if Desired
Once the egg whites are almost at stiff peaks, you can add your flavor extract and color if desired. I usually stick with vanilla extract or vanilla paste for the shells and save more bold flavors for the filling.
If you want to color the shells, use a gel food coloring instead of liquid food coloring. This will prevent the liquid ratio from being thrown off. You also want to color the egg whites a darker color than you want your final color to be because once you fold in the dry ingredients it will lighten in color.
Step 5: Fold the Dry Ingredients into the Meringue (Macronage)
Macarons are known to be so finicky that they even have their own word for folding the batter called macronage. One of the biggest keys to making successful macarons is folding the batter to the exact right consistency. You want to get some air out of the egg whites, but not all the air out.
Step 6: Pipe the Batter
Transfer the batter into a piping bag fit with an open tip. I like to use an open tip that’s about 1/4 inch wide. It is also helpful if you print a macaron template and place it under your pachment paper to help you pipe the shells consistently.
Hold the bag straight up and down over the baking sheet and give even pressure and let go of the pressure before your pull up. It can also help to give a little flick of the wrist when you pull up (watch the video attached in the recipe card to see it) so that you don’t have a large peak on top of each shell.
Step 7: Tap the Tray
As soon as the shells are piped, pick up the tray and tap it firmly on the counter 5-6 times. This helps release the air bubbles that are trapped in the batter.
Step 7: Rest the Cookies before Baking
Before baking, you need to rest the shells to let them dry out a bit. This usually takes about 30-45 minutes. When they are ready to bake, you can run your finger over the top of the them without them being sticky.
Step 7: Bake
You want to bake the shells at a low temperature to allow them to develop feet without getting too dark. I highly suggest using an oven thermometer to check if your oven is heating properly before baking macarons.
Keep the oven door shut until the last few minutes of baking time. To check if they are finished baking, gently nudge the top of the shell and if it separates from the feet then you need to bake them a little longer. Allow them to cool on the baking sheets.
Step 8: Fill
What You’re Looking For
The perfect macarons have a smooth top, is not hallow, and has the iconic “feet”. The feet are the little ruffles on the bottom of the macaron.
- If you macarons crack on top: this can be a sign that you didn’t mix quite enough, that your macarons didn’t form enough of a skin, or that your oven temperature is too high. Set an oven thermometer in your oven to check that it is heating to the proper temperature.
- If your macarons spread out while baking: This can be because you didn’t let them rest long enough before baking, because of over-mixing the batter, or because your oven temperature is not hot enough. Again, use an oven thermometer to check that your oven is getting hot enough.
- If your macarons don’t develop “feet”: This can be because you had too much egg whites in your batter (measure them by weight), or because you over-mixed the batter.
- Do I need to age my egg whites?: A lot of macaron recipes call for “aging” the egg whites which means separating the whites from the yolks and letting them rest for 24-48 hours. If you plan ahead well enough you can do this, but I haven’t found it to be absolutely necessary.
- Can I freeze my macarons?: Yes! Macarons actually hold up in the freezer very well. Put them in an airtight container and let them stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. You can store them for up to 3 months.
- Do I need to refrigerate my macarons? It depends on the filling you use. Certain fillings like lemon curd should be refrigerated, but the shells themselves and buttercream frostings do not need to be refrigerate. However, many say that letting them the finished macarons sit in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours before serving helps them have the best texture.
For the Macaron Shells
- 140 gr (1 cup + 2 TBSP) powdered sugar
- 60 gr (2/3 cup) almond flour
- 3 gr (1/2 tsp) fine sea salt or kosher salt
- 80 gr (about 2-3 large) egg whites, room temperature
- 45 (3 TBSP) granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- a few drops of gel food coloring if desired
For the Buttercream Frosting
- 113 gr (1 stick, 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 200 gr (1 2/3 cup) powdered, icing, or confectioners sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract (*optional)
- 1-2 tbsp milk or heavy cream (if needed)
Note: I highly recommend watching the corresponding video if you have never made macarons before. I also highly recommend using the weight measurements for the recipe to give yourself the best chance at success.
- Prep two sheet pans with parchment paper. You can also print and place two macaron templates per sheet pan under the parchment to help you pipe more accurately.
- Place the powdered sugar and almond flour in a food processor and pulse about 10 times to ensure the mixture is very fine. If you don't have a food processor, you can skip this step, but your macarons won't be as smooth.
- Sift the almond flour mixture into a medium mixing bowl. Any large bits left in the sifter can be thrown out. Whisk in the salt and set the dry ingredients aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy and starting hold soft peaks, slowly start adding the sugar while continuing to mix, about 1/2 tbsp at a time, waiting a few seconds between each addition.
- After all of the sugar is added continue beating on medium speed, checking the firmness of the peaks frequently. Once the whites are almost holding stiff peaks, add the vanilla extract and a few drops of gel food coloring if desired. It is not recommended to use liquid food coloring for these as it can ruin the consistency of the batter. Continue beating until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
- Add about 1/3 of the sifted almond flour mixture into the egg whites and stir it in completely with a rubber spatula. Don't be too rough with it, but you do want to stir some of the air out of the egg whites.
- Add another 1/3rd of the almond flour mixture and this time gently fold it with a rubber spatula until it is all combined. Continue with the last of the almond flour mixture. Continue folding until the mixture slowly flows freely off your spatula into the mixing bowl and you holds its shape for a few seconds before dissolving back into the mixture (watch the video to see what this looks like)
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fit with a round open tip. To pipe, hold the pastry bag straight over the parchment lined baking sheet and squeezing from the top give even pressure to pipe about 1" circles. Release the pressure to release before pulling the bag up. Leave about 1" between each macaron to allow for some spreading.
- Take the sheet pan and firmly tap it on the counter 5-6 times, to help release any air bubbles that may have formed in the macarons.
- Let the piped macarons sit for 30-60 minutes until a skin forms over the top. You should be able to rub your finger over the top and it won't be sticky at all. This usually takes about 45 minutes for me, but depending on where you live it could take more or less time.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 285 F (140 C).
- When the macarons have a skin on the top and you can run your finger over it and it isn't sticky, you can go ahead and bake them. Bake at 285 F (140 C) for 13-15 minutes. To check if they are done, gently nudge the top of one with a finger and if the top separates from the bottom they need a bit more time.
- Allow to cool completely on the baking sheets before filling
For Classic Buttercream Filling
- Place your room temperature butter in your mixing bowl fit with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, and beat on high for about 1 minute, until fluffy. Scrap down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the powdered sugar into the mixing bowl and start mixing on low until the sugar starts to combine with the butter. Turn the mixing speed up to high and beat for about 3 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the salt, vanilla extract, and almond extract if using.
- Add a bit of milk or cream if needed to thin out the mixture.