Different types of macaroons or macarons in a box.
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By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
Macarons and macaroons have similar-sounding names, yet the two cookies look and taste quite different from one another. Moreover, they're steeped in different cultural traditions. Read on to learn about the differences.
Macarons vs. Macaroons
If you compare a macaron recipe with that of a macaroon, you might notice that their ingredients are actually pretty similar. Both cookies are made with egg whites, sugar, a few drops of vanilla and a pinch of salt. However, macarons are typically made with finely ground blanched almonds, while macaroons are made with sweetened flaked coconut.
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Cavan Images/Getty Images
What Is a Macaron?
A macaron (pronounced mac-ah-ron, where ron rhymes with gone) is a French cookie that’s made of finely ground blanched (peeled) almonds suspended in a meringue. Each macaron is tinted with vibrant food coloring that signifies its flavor: green for lime, pink for raspberry, you get the idea. Once baked, two cookies are sandwiched together with a filling: jam or fruit curd, chocolate ganache or buttercream. When perfectly baked, macarons have smooth tops and a little ruffled area around the bottom.
Their texture is light and a bit cakey-chewy with a tiny bit of crunch on top from an imperceptibly thin crust.
There isn’t a definite consensus on the history of the macaron, but most people think Catherine di Medici brought them to France from Italy when she married Henri II in the 1500’s. They were probably more like Italian Pignoli, a soft almond paste and egg white cookie covered in pine nuts. French pastry chefs changed them over the years until they became what they are today: an elegant, colorful treat available everywhere.
Coconut macaroons on blue background
Photo by: Luiza S/Getty Images
Luiza S/Getty Images
What Is a Macaroon?
A macaroon (pronounced mac-uh-roon, where roon rhymes with moon) is a cookie that’s typically made of shredded coconut stirred into whipped egg whites and sugar - an iteration of meringue that's not as light as a macaron. There are some recipes that are made with ground, blanched almonds, but the almonds tend to be coarser than the almonds used in macarons.
Macaroons are larger, denser and chewier that macarons, and definitely easier to make. Coconut macaroons are flavored with sugar and vanilla, but their main flavor is the coconut itself. The denseness of the coconut macaroon makes it stable, so it’s easy to add chopped dried fruit or chocolate to the mix, and those are common add-ins. Some macaroons are also drizzled, glazed or dipped in chocolate.
Like macarons, macaroons initially came from Italy, where the word for paste, maccherone, became macaroon. While the almond variety is now in the minority of what you’ll find at a bakery, in the beginning it was the norm. Italian Jews adopted macaroons as a Passover treat because it is a flourless cookie - no flour can be used in any food served at Passover. In today's day and age, macaroons are a traditional Passover treat in many Jewish households outside of Italy. Coconut gained popularity in the last 200 years as it spread to Europe with improved transportation, solidifying the popularity of macaroons.
- Whip egg whites and superfine sugar into stiff peaks, then gently fold in the dry ingredients - almond flour and confectioners' sugar.
- Add food coloring, extracts and flavors of your choice (our recipe linked above gives you many different options; part of the fun of making macarons is that you can customize them).
- Pipe the mixture onto silicone baking matts. In order to create the dry, crispy skin on the top of the cookie and to form the little ruffle on the bottom (called the "foot)", leave the sheet pans on the counter to dry before baking, 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on the humidity.
- Bake them until they are shiny and rise to form that "foot," about 20 minutes.
- While they bake and cool, you'll make a filling of your choice which you'll then use to sandwich two cookies together.
- Whisk together egg whites, sugar, salt and vanilla in a large bowl until combined. Then fold in sweetened shredded coconut.
- Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of the coconut mixture onto baking sheets.
- Bake until golden brown around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.
Amaretti sardi - delicious soft Italian almond cookies typical of Sardinia (Sardegna)
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Vegan Macaroons and Macarons
Aquafaba, the liquid that comes in cans of chickpeas, can be whipped to a stable foam that can be used in place of egg whites in many recipes, and macaroons and macarons are no exception.
Macaron and Macaroon Recipes
These light macarons are a good place to start when making your first batch because the almond flour is ready to go straight from the package.
Photo by: Armando Rafael
Look for peeled hazelnuts for this recipe; be sure to toast them to fully develop their flavor.
Jam-Filled Almond Macarons
This macaron recipe has you make the almond flour from blanched almonds. Seems like more work than buying it, but the extra effort pays off and makes for the most fragrant, nutty macarons you've ever tasted.
A coconut macaroon shaped like a pyramid against a white background
©Hearst Communications Inc., 2009 Karl Juengel/Studio D Food Styling: Stephana
Hearst Communications Inc., 2009 Karl Juengel/Studio D Food Styling: Stephana
There’s nothing like a classic, and Coconut Macaroons are just that. We think you’ll agree that they’re so easy you won’t need to buy a packaged macaroon again.
Photo by: Con Poulos
These macaroons are studded with dried currants and lemon zest, then dipped in glossy chocolate glaze after baking.
Photo by: Travis Rathbone
Cocoa and cinnamon are always are a classic, tasty combination in this macaroon recipe. The cookies look like little haystacks, making for a beautiful macaroon platter.
Photo by: Tara Donne
Sweet coconut and merengue complement tart-ish chopped dried apricots in these easier-than-easy macaroons. We go the extra mile and dip the bottoms in melted chocolate to make them extra-fancy.
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Which is better macaron or macaroon? ›
Compared to macarons, macaroons (pronounced “mack-uh-roon”) are denser, chewier, and certainly easier to make. These mounded cookies are most often made with sweetened shredded coconut and, if you're lucky, they're dipped in chocolate.Why are macaroons now called macarons? ›
The first recorded use of macaroon was in 1605–15, and it originated from the Middle French word macaron via the dialectal Italian maccarone (“cake or biscuit made of ground almonds”). So the macaroon comes from the French version of a cookie that originated from an Italian treat. Hungry yet?!Why are there two different types of macaroons? ›
There are actually 2 main methods of making macarons - the Italian method and the French method (the third method is the Swiss which is not as popular). Both methods yield essentially the same yummy and gorgeous looking concoction that most people will recognize as a macaron.Why are macarons so pricey? ›
Macarons are more expensive than the average sweet treat because of the costly ingredients and the time and expertise involved in making it. Almond flour and egg whites are the two main ingredients that make up a macaron. In relation to other flours, almond flour is several times more expensive.Do macarons need to be refrigerated? ›
Macarons last for 7 days at ambient temperature and for up to 7 weeks in the fridge, so they do have quite a good shelf life. However, when storing them at ambient temperature, it is probably best to keep them in an airtight plastic container, to keep as much air out as possible so that they don't dry out.