A simple mix of egg whites and sugar, meringue is easy to make and super versatile. It’s delicious as a pavlova; in a baked Alaska, Eton mess or lemon meringue pie; or as a cake layer. Meringue also makes a great individual dessert served with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
For more delicious recipes, see our dessert section.
Types of meringue
There are three basic techniques for making meringue: each differs depending on how and when the sugar is added.
French meringue is the most familiar type. Egg whites are beaten until they form stiff peaks, sugar is then gradually beaten in until the mixture is glossy and thick. This light meringue is perfect for soufflés, cake layers and crisply baked shapes.
Swiss meringue has a fine texture that makes it suitable for cake layers or pie toppings. It is made by whisking together egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. When the sugar has melted and the mixture is hot, it is then beaten vigorously to increase volume.
Italian meringue is the most stable type of meringue and is used to decorate cakes, top pies, or lighten ice creams, sorbets and mousses. It is made by gradually beating a hot sugar syrup into the egg whites while at soft peak stage to form stiff glossy meringue.
Eating raw egg whites in uncooked meringue may pose a health risk. If concerned, use pasteurized egg whites instead. You can buy these in liquid form in a carton or as a powder from most supermarkets. They will, however, have less volume than fresh egg whites when whisked.
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature OR the equivalent amount of pasteurized eggs whites
- 100g caster sugar
How to make French meringues
1. Preheat your oven to 150°C /130°C fan/gas mark 2.
2. Put the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl free. Using an electric handwhisk or food mixer, whisk the egg whites on a low speed for a couple of minutes until they’re foamy. Increase the speed to medium and whisk for 2 to 3 minutes until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
The egg whites should stand up in firm peaks when the whisk is lifted and not move if you turn the bowl upside down.
3. Turn the speed to high and begin to slowly add the sugar – a tablespoon at a time. Whisk for a few seconds between each spoonful. Once all the sugar has been added, the mixture should be stiff and glossy.
4. Line two baking trays with baking paper: put a tiny blob of the meringue mixture in each corner to secure the paper. Place spoonfuls of the meringue onto the trays – space them evenly apart.
Use the back of the spoon to hollow out the middle of each mound to make meringue nests. Alternatively, make one large meringue shape or use a piping bag to neatly pipe your meringue onto the trays.
5. Place the trays in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 140°C /120°C /gas mark 1. Bake for 30 minutes. If cooking one large meringue, bake for 50 minutes.
6. Once cooked, turn off the oven and leave the meringues to cool and dry out for several hours until the oven is completely cold. Serve filled with fresh whipped cream and your choice of fruit.
Try making your own gooseberry Eton mess with crumbled meringue.
Unfilled meringues can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month.
It’s really important that your bowl is clean when making meringue so that the egg whites can reach their full volume when beaten. To ensure it’s free from grease, rub half a lemon around the inside of the bowl and then wipe it dry with kitchen paper.
Try our classic lemon meringue pie recipe.