What is Meringue?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Meringue is whipped egg whites often combined with sugar that can be either baked, as a topping on pies, or as cookies or shells for specific desserts. Unbaked meringue is used to fluff up popular dessert favorites like chocolate mousse.

To make meringue the york and white of eggs must be carefully separated.
To make meringue the york and white of eggs must be carefully separated.

Making unbaked meringue is a simple process when one has an electric or stand mixer. When whipping egg whites by hand, the process is more labor intensive and may require both arm strength and patience. Many cooking experts recommend using a copper bowl for hand whipping, as copper ions tend to migrate into the mix and form a stiffer meringue that is more difficult to deflate.

Meringue is often used as a topper on pies.
Meringue is often used as a topper on pies.

Depending upon the recipe, meringue may be beaten into soft peaks, or into hard peaks. Generally the stiffer whites are used for recipes requiring them to be baked. When it is baked to hardness, this also requires time in a low temperature oven.

Unbaked merginue can be used to fluff up a dessert mousse.
Unbaked merginue can be used to fluff up a dessert mousse.

When baked on pies, meringue is supposed to maintain some of its softness. For cookies, it is usually baked for an hour or half or more in a 250°F (121°C) oven to thoroughly dry out the inside so the cookie or tart shell will be crunchy.

Meringue is also susceptible to softening quickly in humid conditions. The outside may remain hard but the inside becomes chewy. Some people enjoy cookies of this type, but hard cookies tend to require preparation in dry conditions or weather.

Cookies can be flavored and are a popular choice as a low fat treat. Since they contain no flour, they are relatively low carb, and since they have only egg whites they are significantly low in fat. However, the amount of sugar added tends to offset the benefits. They are a better choice for the occasional treat for dieters than a traditional cookie with a shortening or butter base.

Italian meringue cookies often have the addition of almonds or hazelnuts and frequently are made in chocolate, vanilla, or lemon flavors. These can be found in the US in Italian American bakeries. They are less sweet than those one might find at a typical bakery, or at grocery stores. They also tend to be harder and store better.

Sometimes a meringue shell may be baked and filled with ice cream. This is typically called meringue glacée. Most cooking experts recommend that shells be filled at the last minute, when possible, as this will keep them crunchy. A tart filled with Italian Cream or custard can also be tantalizing, but also should be filled just prior to serving.

Some are concerned about using meringue in uncooked form, as this may expose one to salmonella. One can whip the egg whites in a bowl set in a bath of hot water, which heats them and tends to cut down on this risk. As well, additions like hot melted chocolate will cook the egg whites and eliminate risk of accidental food poisoning.

When you buy cakes from a specialized bakery, the buttercream you will find frosting them is most often Swiss Meringue.
When you buy cakes from a specialized bakery, the buttercream you will find frosting them is most often Swiss Meringue.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


If you're ever in need of a fail proof chocolate meringue cookie recipe, here's an oldie but a goodie that's worked well for me in the past. It's really easy too. All you do is take

3 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

and 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips.

Start by mixing your first three ingredients together until you get those characteristic meringue peaks. Then slowly mix in your sugar, and beat the mixture until it becomes smooth and glossy. After that, all you have to do is fold in your cocoa powder and chocolate chips, and voila! Perfect chocolate meringue cookies.


Does anybody have a good recipe for making a chocolate meringue? I have tried making various types of fruit meringue before, including lemon meringue and raspberry meringue, but something about making the chocolate one just eludes me.

It all goes well until I get to the part where I add the chocolate in, and then I start getting these really odd lumps in the melted chocolate. I had considered the thought that the meringue was somehow causing the chocolate to seize, but how likely is that in actuality?

It's not seizing on the stove when I make it, so I was kind of thinking that there could be something else going on. Do you have any idea?


Very interesting article! I have recently started to get into making my own meringue filling after a long term love affair with the Miss Meringue products, but I still haven't quite gotten it down yet.

I know that meringue is supposed to get really stiff at the end, but every time I make it, my meringue will get stiff for about five minutes, and then go completely melty. Do you have any idea what I could be doing wrong that would cause it to go all weird like that?

I'm using one of those "easy meringue" recipes off the internet, so I would think that there couldn't be too much that I could be doing wrong, but I just don't know how to fix it!

Do you have any advice for me? It's a coconut meringue, by the way, if that makes a difference.



This is very informative. In the tropics, meringue does tend to break down faster, and pastries prepared with it should be kept refrigerated.

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