How to Make Macarons at Home
These cookies are a French classic, but you don't need to rush to a patisserie. Learn how to make macarons at home and get all the tips from our pastry pros.
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These days, no fancy bakery display is complete without an array of French macarons. And who can resist picking up a few of these airy cookies filled with rich buttercream? Now, you can certainly buy dozens to take home, but you can also learn how to make macarons yourself so you can enjoy them anytime.
What Are French Macarons?
Even if you’ve enjoyed these cookies before, you may still be asking what macarons are exactly. These cookies are an enigma: chewy yet crisp, airy but rich.
Macarons (which are not the same as macaroons) are meringue-like cookies made with almond flour. These light cookies are baked until crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Then the cookies are filled with buttercream, though you may see some versions that are filled with jam, ganache or citrus curd. Find out why macarons are so expensive.
How to Make French Macarons at Home
We won’t mislead you: Learning how to make macarons is challenging. However, it’s one of those skills so many bakers want to check off their baking bucket list. With a little patience and plenty of tips from Josh Rink in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen, we’re confident you’ll enjoy macaron success.
The first step from our Test Kitchen is this: Use a kitchen scale to measure out the ingredients. Macarons require precise measurements, and a scale ensures you’ll get all the right proportions. We’ve included the weights here to make it easy.
- 1-1/3 cups almond flour (125 grams)
- 2-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (225 grams), divided
- 3 extra large egg whites (100 grams), room temperature
- 2 tablespoons superfine sugar (25 grams)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the buttercream:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Tools You’ll Need
- Flexible spatula: To fold the egg whites and almond flour together, make sure you have a large, flexible spatula on hand. This one that’s covered in mini macarons is perfect for the job.
- Piping bags: To get that just-right macaron shape, a piping bag and basic piping tip are essential.
- Baking mat: This silicone baking mat comes with guides printed right on top. You want your macaron shells to be identical in size, and these lines help.
Step 1: Pulse the almond flour
Before you break out your stand mixer, pull out the food processor. Pulse the almond flour and 3 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar together until very fine. Then pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and get rid of any large pieces that remain.
This may seem like overkill, but a fine texture is essential. “Even fine almond flour will have large bits in it,” says Josh. “Pulsing in the food processor and sifting will lighten the mix and remove any chunks.”
Test Kitchen Tip: Make sure you’re opting for almond flour that’s processed without the almond skins. These skins can cause the flour to have an imperfect consistency.
Step 2: Whisk egg whites
Next, break out your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure the bowl and the whisk are squeaky clean for success with this step.
Add the egg whites and salt to the bowl and whisk on medium-low speed until frothy. Then slowly add the superfine sugar. “Use the superfine stuff,” says Josh. “It dissolves better in the meringue.” Take your time; this process will take about 2 minutes.
Then add in the remaining confectioners’ sugar and bump up the speed to high. Whisk until the meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form—about another 2 to 3 minutes more.
Step 3: Fold
This is the first major hurdle when learning how to make macarons: getting the folding just right. If you’re not familiar, folding is a gentle way of incorporating one mixture into a light, airy mixture.
When you’re ready to start, add your meringue into a large, wide-mouthed bowl. Josh recommends these large metal mixing bowls that you’ll often see in restaurants and in our Test Kitchen. “You’ll need the space,” he explains.
Then add in about a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold lightly. Start at the outside, scrape along the bottom of the bowl towards you with a flexible spatula, continue up the side and scoop the mixture over the top. When that first bit of almond flour is well incorporated, add in the next third of the flour mixture and then the last third.
As you work, turn the bowl and just continue to work slowly and carefully starting along the outside of the bowl. You do not want to deflate the egg whites. Egg whites give these cookies their signature texture.
In the end, you don’t want to see any large bits of egg whites. Undermixed batter can cause the cookies to crack. Your finished macaron batter should be uniform and have the texture of “slow lava,” in Josh’s words. “When you pull your spatula through the batter, you’ll see the bottom of the bowl before the batter flows back together.”
Step 4: Pipe the macaron shells
Next, transfer your macaron batter into a piping bag fitted with a basic round piping tip; something like this #1A tip works well.
Then take your cookie sheet outfitted with a pastry mat or parchment paper and start piping. Be mindful of keeping the bag and the tip perpendicular to the cookie sheet. Keeping this posture is critical for evenly shaped macarons, according to Josh.
When it comes to the silicone pastry mat or parchment, “I like to use a template; even after all these years,” says Josh. This ensures that your cookies are exactly the right size and shape for sandwiching together later.
If you don’t have a pastry mat with the outlines already marked, you can draw your own template onto a sheet of parchment. Macarons are generally about 1-1/2 to 2 inches across, so break out that kitchen ruler and get tracing. If you need a guide, trace around the lip of a shot glass; it’s the perfect size.
Test Kitchen Tip: Use a cookie sheet (that’s a baking sheet without a lip) as compared to a rimmed baking sheet. “A rim can cause the cookies not to rise properly later,” explains Josh.
Step 5: Tap and rest
With your cookies perfectly piped, give the cookie sheet a tap on the counter to release any air bubbles inside the batter. If you notice any remaining large air bubbles, you can pop them carefully with a toothpick.
Then walk away. That’s right. Josh says, “Once they’re piped it’s important to let them sit so they can form a shell.”
On a dry day, this will take about 15 minutes; but if humidity is high, it may take over an hour. The macarons are ready to bake when you tap the top of a shell and it’s no longer tacky.
Step 6: Bake
Before you pop your cookie sheet of macaron shells in the oven, Josh recommends checking your oven’s temperature. Because these cookies are a bit more temperamental than your standard chocolate chipper, precise temperature is key.
You can use an affordable oven thermometer to verify the temp is correct, and when you have time, learn how to calibrate your oven.
Once you’re sure that your oven is truly at 300ºF, bake the cookies one tray at a time for 14 to 16 minutes.
Remove them from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet—no need to move them to a wire rack. “They won’t overbake,” says Josh. These cookies are fragile, though, so handling them as little as possible is for the best.
How do you know if your macarons are fully baked? Josh says, “You’ll know when they’re properly baked when they’re slightly crispy and they release easily from the parchment paper.” Macarons that have been baked correctly will also have a shiny top without cracks and a lip around the bottom edge of the cookie that pastry chefs refer to as feet.
Step 7: Make the filling
Once your shells are done baking, you can move on to making a lush buttercream filling. After baking the macaron shells, this part is a breeze!
Start by beating softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (your hand mixer will also work here). Slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar until well incorporated. Then add in the cream, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. If you’re looking to add color, this is the time to add your food coloring as well. Beat the mixture until the buttercream is velvety smooth.
Add the buttercream to a pastry bag fitted with a basic round tip.
Test Kitchen Tip: Vanilla extract is the go-to for flavoring frosting, but feel free to use other extracts as well. Peppermint, lemon or almond extract are all great substitutions.
Step 8: Put it all together
All that’s left is to pipe a bit of buttercream onto half of the macaron shells. Sandwich the cookies together to make perfect macarons. You can enjoy them right away or cover and refrigerate them until you’re ready to indulge.
After all that work, we don’t blame you if you want to enjoy a few with a glass of Champagne!
Macaron Tips from Our Test Kitchen
We know that making your first batch of these French cookies is just the beginning. Our Test Kitchen answers your most frequently asked macaron questions.
Can you make macarons without almond flour?
Almond flour is traditional for this type of cookie, but you can use alternatives! According to Josh, you can swap out the almond flour for another type of nut flour like hazelnut, pistachio or pecan flour. Follow the exact same steps as you would for a traditional macaron (pulsing in a food processor and sifting).
If you don’t have nut flour on hand, you won’t be able to make macarons. Nut flour is essential for making these cookies. Fortunately, though, finding almond flour is easier than ever. Many big box stores carry it and you can always find it online.
How long does it take to make macarons?
Macarons are one of those all-day baking projects, so don’t attempt to make these after dinner one evening! Set aside a good three hours to make these cookies. There will be some downtime with allowing shells to rest and bake, though.
Can you dye macarons?
Yes, you can add food coloring to macaron batter. But before you rummage in your baking supplies, take this bit of advice from Josh to heart: “Always use gel food coloring, never liquid.”
Liquid dye will alter the consistency of the batter which you do not want with a fussier recipe like this. Gel coloring, on the other hand, will add plenty of potent color without compromising the consistency.
What if your macarons don’t have “feet?”
The foot of a macaron is that ruffled ridge along the outside edge. If your macarons don’t have that edge and lift, it’s because they didn’t rest long enough before going into the oven, according to Josh.
Humidity has a major effect on how the shells dry. On a cool, dry day in February, the shells can dry in 15 minutes; on a humid July day, it could take an hour or more. Make sure to test the dryness of the shells by tapping the top with your finger. They are dry enough to bake when the top is no longer tacky.
Without this feature, your macarons will not have the right texture. You’ll want to start again.
What if the macaron shells are hollow?
Hollow shells are also a common macaron mistake. Hollow shells (versus ones that are crisp outside and chewy inside) are the result of overmixed batter. Be very mindful as you fold.
How do you store macarons?
Because of the buttercream filling, macarons are best stored in the refrigerator. Store them in an airtight container, placing layers of parchment between layers if stacking.
These cookies are best enjoyed at room temperature. When you’re starting to crave these cookies, let them sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before diving in.