When you need to make a meringue, you probably prepare to crack open a few eggs. But there are times when meringue powder might be a good — or even better — substitution for the real thing. Have you tried it? If not, here's what you need to know!
Meringue powder is an egg white substitute that's frequently used in baking and cake decorating.
The powder is primarily made of dehydrated egg whites, though it can also have stabilizers, sweeteners and flavoring added to make it a little bit easier to use straight out of the container. These additional ingredients are added because flavorings and sweeteners are usually included in meringue recipes, so their inclusion makes meringue powder even easier to use.
Why do recipes use meringue powder instead of egg whites?
Recipes call for meringue powder because it's incredibly convenient — simple as that! It's a dry, shelf-stable product, making it handy to keep around and easy to measure out.
Unlike fresh eggs, which need to be separated and brought to room temperature before use, meringue powder doesn't require any additional preparation before it can be incorporated into your recipe.
Since it's a dehydrated product, meringue powder has an exceptionally long shelf life, which makes it a worthwhile purchase, even if you don't use it that often. One container of meringue powder can be kept for at least two years in a cool, dry place (like the back of your pantry)!
How to use meringue powder
Meringue powder can be used in a wide variety of ways.
At its simplest, it can be reconstituted with water and substituted into a recipe in place of a fresh egg white.
All meringue powders will have guidelines for reconstituting the powder on the packaging, but generally 2 teaspoons of meringue powder + 2 tablespoons water = 1 large egg white.
While it's most frequently used in recipes that call for a small quantity of egg, such as cookie dough , meringue powder can even be used in angel food cakes and other recipes that use a lot of egg whites. The small amount of flavoring (often vanilla) and stabilizers have a minimal impact on the finished products, so don't worry about it when using meringue powder in a cake recipe.
If you don't have meringue powder and your recipe calls for it, you can always reverse the formula above and substitute in fresh egg whites. The egg whites should be brought to room temperature before use ( here's why ).
Cake and cookie decorating is where meringue powder really shines.
Meringue powder can be used to make both buttercream and royal icing. Buttercream is easy to make with meringue powder because it whips up even more quickly than fresh egg whites do.
More frequently than buttercream, you'll see the powder used to make royal icing , a versatile icing that can be used for everything from decorating cookies to making elaborate flowers for cakes. While royal icing can be prepared with fresh egg whites, meringue powder is actually more common because it dodges any concerns about using raw, fresh egg whites in the icing.