Macaron Vs. Macaroon: What's The Difference?

They're both cookies, and that's nearly where the similarities end.

Separated by more than just one O, macarons and macaroons may have similar sounding names, but these two cookies couldn’t be more different when it comes to taste and technique.

A macaron is a sandwich-like cookie that’s filled with jam, ganache, or buttercream. A macaroon is a drop cookie made using shredded coconut. 

The preparation for each of these cookies is incredibly different, even though they start out with many of the same ingredients. Both of these naturally gluten-free cookies are made using whipped egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and sometimes a bit of salt—but that’s really where the similarities end.

macaron vs macaroon - southern living

Left: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox | Right: Jen Causey; Food Stylist: Margaret Dickey; Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

Macaron Vs. Macaroons

Here’s everything you need to know about what really sets these two cookies apart and why if you confuse the two, a baker (or your dinner host) may be a bit offended.

What is a macaron?

Macarons (pronounced "mack-ah-ROHN") are most often found in French bakeries in a wide variety of colors and flavors. These intricate little cookies require a lot of patience and multiple steps to make.

Macarons - Southern Living

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

First, egg whites are whisked carefully to make a stiff-peaked meringue. Next almond flour, powdered sugar, and whatever flavorings needed are slowly folded in, creating a light and fluffy batter that is piped into perfectly symmetrical flat round circles.

Once these cookies are baked, they will come out with smooth tops and ruffled bottoms that when cooled will be sandwiched together with the desired filling.

No one is quite clear about the exact origins of the macaron, but many think that Catherine di Medici brought them to France from Italy when she married Henri II in the 1500s and that they were derived from something similar to the soft almond paste and egg white cookie covered in pine nuts known as an Italian Pignoli. 

What are the most common macaron flavors?

There are dozens of flavor combinations for French macarons, but most often you’ll find classics like vanilla, coffee, chocolate, raspberry, lavender, pistachio, and caramel beautifully displayed in bakery cases or placed ever so neatly in beautiful boxes in French bakeries.

What is a macaroon?

A macaroon (pronounced mack-ah-ROON) is a drop cookie that’s made by adding shredded coconut to whipped egg white and sugar. Unlike a macaron, these cookies are dense and very simple to make.

Coconut Macaroons - Southern Living

Jen Causey, Food Stylist: Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

You start off with egg whites that get whipped until stiff peaks form. Then, sweetened condensed milk, salt, vanilla extract, and almond extract are softly folded in.

Once mixed, heaping spoonfuls are shaped into small pyramids or domes (and unlike macarons, it’s not nearly as precise) and placed on baking sheets. Then, they are baked until golden brown. Sometimes bakers may add nuts or dried fruit to macaroons or often drizzle or dip them in chocolate.

You’ll find macaroons enjoyed as a treat during Passover because it’s flourless, and no flour or leavening is to be served during the spring Jewish holiday.

Similar to macarons, it’s said that macaroons initially came from Italy, where the word for paste, maccherone, became macaroon. In the late 1800s, shredded coconut was invented as a way to preserve the fruit and allow for less spoilage while it was being shipped. Thanks to this new abundance of shredded coconut, bakers began to incorporate it into various desserts.

Macaroons likely began as almond paste cookies, but were replaced with coconut around this time to make them easier to transport. Within a few decades, Jewish food companies like Manischewitz and Streit's began to include coconut macaroons in their manufacturing of kosher items for Passover.

Both delicious bite-sized cookies, the macaron and macaroon are beloved around the world.

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