Macarons vs. Macaroons: What's the Difference?
Plus, how to pronounce each name.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Look for peeled hazelnuts for this recipe; be sure to toast them to fully develop their flavor.
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.
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.
These macaroons are studded with dried currants and lemon zest, then dipped in glossy chocolate glaze after baking.
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.
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.