Did you know that there are different types of meringue and even different ways you make them? This naturally causes a lot of confusion on what meringue tastes like — or at least should taste like!
There are three main types of meringues (Italian, Swiss, and French) that are usually used in recipes as an ingredient. Different meringues have different flavors and textures, which can affect the outcome of your recipe.
So, if you pair a meringue that is extremely sweet with a recipe that already has a ton of sugar, your flavors won’t be balanced and you may as well be eating straight sugar!
So, what does meringue taste like? Italian meringue is very sweet, as it is made with sugar syrup. Swiss meringue is medium-sweet with a buttery undertone. French meringue is the least sweet with a prominent egg flavor. Meringue cookies are often sweet and sugary — like eating candied air!
Wondering when to use these different meringues? We’ll break down their exact characteristics for you — that includes their flavor, texture, consistency, and how they’re best used!
Meringue As An Ingredient
First off, let’s start with meringue as an ingredient. There are three main types of meringues out there: Italian meringue, Swiss meringue, and French meringue.
These all have different flavors, structures, and production methods, but they all have relatively the same functions and consistencies!
Meringue is made by using a combination of whipped egg whites and sugar. That creates an uber fluffy, voluminous, sweetened candy.
Sometimes a stabilizer is added to the meringue recipe that helps the ingredient keep its fluff-like consistency. Simultaneously, it helps balance an often overly sweet flavor.
Functions Of Meringue
Meringues are often used for their fluffy texture to make macarons, pavlovas, souffles, frosting, and cake batters. As an ingredient, it has a couple of basic functions in recipes.
First, it is used to add texture. The fluffy ingredient has been heavily aerated. Thus, it acts as a leavening agent, which in turn, directly changes the consistency of the final dish.
Then, it also naturally adds structure. When the dissolved sugar in the mixture is dried out (through baking or cooking), it hardens again and creates a stable structure. That helps support the volume it adds, too!
And finally, meringues add a sweeter flavor. In recipes that use meringue, you rarely add more sweetener.
Different Kinds Of Meringue
Now, as we have mentioned, there are a few different types of meringue! Each is made differently and has different pros and cons. Naturally, they also have a different flavor, consistency, and final texture.
The way the egg whites and sugar are combined (and the type of sugar that is used) is what makes these have very different outcomes. So, let’s have a look at the three main types of meringues!
Italian meringue is arguably one of the most used meringues out there — we’ll get to why in a second!
This meringue is made with boiling sugar syrups. While the egg whites are being beaten, the hot syrup is slowly poured into the mixture. That helps carefully incorporate it while cooking the egg whites.
The reason this technique is popular is that it helps eliminate the potential salmonella or other bacteria in the eggs (especially unpasteurized eggs). The heat from the syrup cooks the eggs, killing any harmful elements inside.
Want to try making your own? Check out this video from iCanCook by Soledad Liendo on YouTube:
Characteristics Of Italian Meringue
Italian meringue is uber creamy, fluffy, and voluminous. It has a relatively stiff consistency and should have stiff peaks. However, the meringue is still pliable and can be worked into many different recipes.
This meringue is exceptionally sweet. That is because it is made using melted sugar. Essentially, the liquid you pour in is much more concentrated in sweetness than an equal amount of granulated sugar is.
It can be flavored with extracts or essences, but generally, it is just sweet. If a stabilizer is added (like lemon juice or citric acid), the flavor of Italian meringue will have a slight tartness to it — but not much! The sweetness overpowers it.
Benefits Of Using Italian Meringue
- This meringue is extremely stable. It has a cooked structure, so holds up well when used in other recipes.
- It creates lusciously fluffy textures because of its thick, stable consistency.
- Can be eaten as-is without any risk of ingesting harmful bacteria. This is a useful option to have if you are using the meringue as a topping or in an uncooked recipe.
Swiss meringue combines both the French and Italian cooking techniques. It uses granulated sugar (like French meringue does), but is still cooked (like Italian meringue is).
To make this meringue, eggs are beaten in a large, heatproof bowl. Then, it is placed over a medium heat while the fine granulated sugar is slowly added.
As the egg and sugar mixture is heated, the sugar melts and helps create a stable structure.
Once all of the sugar is incorporated, the mixture is slowly and continuously whisked to create a fluffy consistency.
And naturally, as with Italian meringue, the eggs are cooked. This means Swiss meringue can be used as-is without having to be cooked further in any recipe.
Want to give it a shot? Here’s a quick tutorial from Serious Eats on YouTube:
Characteristics Of Swiss Meringue
Swiss meringue is an incredibly smooth and silky product. It is also very dense because of how it has been made.
By whisking and cooking eggs over a bain-marie, they are never aerated a lot. This means that its structure is tighter and therefore, denser.
The way the eggs are cooked does make the meringue less stable. It won’t provide an as solid structure to recipes.
Swiss meringue is also not extremely sweet. A lot of times, more sugar is added to the recipe to make up for this. But other than that, the flavor mainly depends on the additional flavoring ingredients!
Last, and not least, we have French meringue. This is a basic meringue that is quick to make and relatively easy. However, it isn’t cooked at all!
To make this meringue, fine caster sugar is poured into beating eggs until the mixture is fluffy and the sugar has dissolved. No heat is applied during any step.
This technique of making meringue restricts you in the way you can (or at least should) use it. If eaten raw (uncooked), you risk ingesting a lot of harmful bacteria that could have some serious effects on your health.
Ready to make it? Here’s a quick how-to video from Martha Stewart on YouTube:
Characteristics Of French Meringue
French meringue has a super delicate structure. It isn’t very dense and falls flat very easily. Essentially, it is sweetened, whipped egg whites. But, it is still fluffy and very aerated.
These meringues should be completely smooth, but often the granulated sugar hasn’t completely dissolved, leaving the meringue with a gritty consistency.
The flavor of French meringue on its own is very egg-like and not exceptionally sweet. This is why it is almost always used in other baked recipes with additional sweeteners.
Key Differences Between Meringues
When it comes to consistency, Italian meringue is far superior to the rest, followed by Swiss meringue and then French meringue.
Italian meringue has a very thick, fluffy, and creamy consistency. It is the most stable meringue of them all and can be used raw or in a recipe.
Swiss meringue tends to be the densest of them all because of how the sugar and eggs are creamed. The final product is still fluffy and aerated, but it is a creamier and smoother meringue than the rest.
And finally, French meringue is extremely light in texture and doesn’t have a ton of structure. It is voluminous and fluffy, but cannot be used uncooked.
When it comes to the flavor of these meringues, they all share a similar flavor profile — the biggest difference is the level of sweetness.
Italian meringue is the sweetest, then Swiss, and lastly, French. Swiss meringue is also said to have a buttery undertone, while French meringue is noticeably egg-like in flavor.
What Do Meringue Cookies Taste Like?
Meringue cookies are essentially just dried-out versions of the meringue ingredients. The fluffy product is piped into bite-sized dollops onto a baking sheet. Then, it is dehydrated with low heat until it is crisp and crunchy.
One way the meringue cookies do differ (when looking specifically at their flavor) is that they are sweeter.
When items are dehydrated, their flavor becomes a lot more concentrated.
So, one small meringue cookie made from Italian meringue will be a lot sweeter than a teaspoon of plain Italian meringue.
However, that being said, most meringue cookie recipes include flavoring. These will dominate over any minor differences in the flavor of different types of meringue cookies.
Generally, meringue cookies are much sweeter than plain meringue and they have a noticeably sugary taste.
The texture of these cookies should be crisp, fluffy, light, and creamy.