Royal icing is the glaze that makes sugar cookies look beautiful for holidays. They’re what allows you to transform basic sugar cookies into iced pumpkins, snowflakes, Easter eggs, and Christmas trees. Making royal icing is simple and calls for only a few ingredients, but one of those ingredients is a bit unusual, especially if you’re not a regular home baker—it’s meringue powder! Meringue powder can easily be found in craft stores, big box retailers, and many grocery stores, but if you decide to bake a batch of sugar cookies on a whim in the middle of a blizzard, you may peer in your pantry and find that you’re out of meringue powder (or maybe you never had it in the first place). There are several ways to go about replacing meringue powder, all without having to put your snow boots on. Here are our go-to meringue powder substitutes.
But First, What Is Meringue Powder?
Real quick: meringue powder is made up of a combination of cornstarch, egg whites, and sugar. There are some gums, preservatives, and artificial flavors added to most store-bought versions, but at its core, that’s all meringue powder is.
Why Do We Use It?
Meringue powder is what transforms a mixture of powdered sugar and milk (or water) into a shiny, glossy icing that hardens once it is piped or “flooded” onto the surface of a cookie. It allows you to have picture-perfect precision when decorating sugar cookies or other baked goods in a way that regular icing or buttercream can’t.
WE'RE TAKING YOUR QUESTIONS TO THE AIRWAVES
Our Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell doesn’t call for any meringue powder at all in her recipe for Royal Icing. All it takes is six cups of confectioners’ sugar and five ounces of fresh egg whites, which is the equivalent of approximately five egg whites. If you’re wondering what to do with all of those leftover egg yolks, we’ve got answers. Unlike many recipes that call for egg whites, you don’t actually want to whip them to stiff peaks. Swap the paddle attachment for a whisk in your stand mixer and combine pasteurized egg whites and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and beat until it ribbons off the whisk (Erin goes into more detail about what this should look like in her recipe).
Egg White Powder
Egg white powder is dried egg whites aka powdered egg whites. No matter what you call it, this is one of our community’s favorite substitutes for meringue powder. “I’ve used powdered egg whites for royal icing (that calls for meringue powder) just fine. Meringue powder has sugar in it. Since you use powdered sugar in royal icing, it's fine,” said community member Lynnht. You can reconstitute this powder with water as a substitute for egg whites (the label on the package should tell you the right ratio of powder to water for your recipe).
Home bakers have found success substituting meringue powder with a mixture of powdered gelatin—use three tablespoons of warm water combined with one tablespoon of gelatin powder to replace two teaspoons of meringue powder.
It sounds like a high-tech pool cleaner, but really, it’s one of our favorite replacements for meringue powder. And it’s totally vegan too! Aquafaba is the starchy liquid that comes in a can of chickpeas. America’s Test Kitchen says “We think aquafaba’s most magical quality is its ability to whip to a stiff, fluffy foam.” As a rule of thumb, for every tablespoon of meringue powder that is called for, you should substitute one and a half tablespoons of aquafaba.
Vegan Meringue Powder
Vegan bakers love using Vör Vegan Meringue Powder as a dairy-free substitute for the original version. It’s made with just four ingredients—sugar, aquafaba powder, cornstarch, and cream of tartar—and can be swapped in place of meringue powder and no one will be any wiser.