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My family loves meringue cookies.  What’s not to love?  They are light and so very delicious.  Meringue is also easy to make, which means that I can easily satisfy my family’s sweet tooth by whipping up some cookies on demand!

However, the other day as I was gathering the ingredients to make a yummy afternoon treat, I realized that I had forgotten to purchase some new cream of tartar.  I had already promised everyone that there would be cookies soon, and running to the grocery store with two toddlers wasn’t really an option.  It got me thinking about whether you can make meringue without cream of tartar.

After a little research and some experimentation, I discovered that you most certainly can make meringue without cream of tartar.  I’d love to share some of my findings and helpful tips with you.  This way, if you’re ever in a predicament like I was, or just want to try a different, yet equally tasty, meringue recipe, you can!

What is a meringue cookie?

Delicious.  That’s what a meringue cookie is.

But, seriously, meringue cookies are such an easy cookie to make.  You only need a few ingredients to make meringue cookies:  egg whites, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and cream of tartar.

Then, just beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until they become foamy.  Then, slowly add the sugar, while still beating well between each addition.  Continue whipping the eggs until the sugar has dissolved completely, and transfer the mixture to a piping bag.  

Pipe the mixture onto baking sheets, and bake it for about an hour in a very low oven (225 °F).  After an hour, turn off the oven, crack the door open, and let the cookies cool completely while still inside the oven.

how to make meringue without tartar

What is cream of tartar?

Despite its name and what you may be picturing in your head right now, cream of tartar doesn’t resemble cream.  Rather, it is a dry, pantry-stable product that you can find with the spices and seasonings at your local grocery store.

Cream of tartar is the byproduct left behind when grapes are fermented into wine.  It has a very powdery consistency and is acidic.  Cream of tartar is white and has a slight metallic taste.

Why is cream of tartar used when making meringue?

So, why is cream of tartar traditionally used when making meringues?  Cream of tartar works as a stabilizer for the egg whites.  It allows them to whip up more quickly, helps them form stiff peaks, and helps the meringue hold its shape during and after cooking.

The reason cream of tartar is so effective is because of its ability to stop the protein molecules in egg whites from re-curling up.  

Egg whites are 10% protein and 90% water.  The protein portion of the egg white is all curled up when they are freshly cracked.  Beating the egg whites causes the protein to stretch.

It is this process that gives the eggs more volume and causes the beaten egg whites to become white in color.  

Without cream of tartar, the protein molecules may re-curl, causing the stiff peaks in the meringue to collapse.  But, when you add cream of tartar, it prevents this from happening and stabilizes the meringue mixture.

meringue no cream of tartar

Can you make meringue without cream of tartar?

Just as you may wonder whether you can make banana bread without baking soda, you may also be curious as to whether cream of tartar is really necessary when making meringue.

Good news!

You can make meringue without cream of tartar.  Whether you don’t have any cream of tartar and hand and don’t want to make a separate trip to the grocery store or want to omit the ingredient for any other reason, it is definitely possible to make meringue without using cream of tartar.

If the meringue recipe you want to make calls for cream of tartar, you can skip it.  However, there are a few key things to consider before doing so.

First, rather than using standard granulated sugar, you’ll want to use superfine sugar.  Superfine sugar can also work as a stabilizer for the egg whites, much like the cream of tartar.  Therefore, it can help your meringue to hold its shape quite nicely.

If you choose to use granulated sugar, on the other hand, it won’t fully dissolve within your egg whites mixture.  This can lead to negative consequences, such as a meringue with a very grainy texture.  Additionally, if the sugar crystals are larger, they can also brown during the cooking process, which can change the color of your meringue.

Cream of Tartar Substitutes

While you can leave the cream of tartar out of a meringue recipe, you might want to replace it with another ingredient that will deliver the same benefits.  As I mentioned above, cream of tartar is acidic.  You’ll want to choose another acidic ingredient to take its place in your recipe.  

Here are a few possible cream of tartar alternatives to use when making meringue:

  • Lemon juice
  • Citric acid powder
  • White vinegar

Let’s take a look at how to use each of these substitutes.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is very acidic and can serve as a good substitute for cream of tartar.  Use about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice when making a meringue recipe.  If you are squeezing lemons at home to make lemon juice, strain the juice to remove any seeds, flesh, or pulp before adding it to your recipe.

Citric Acid Powder

Citric acid works well as a substitute for cream of tartar.  It is easy to add to a recipe, and you don’t have to remember any weird ratios.  Just use the same amount of citric acid to match the amount of meringue powder that is called for.  Citric acid also doesn’t have the same metallic taste that cream of tartar has, so it won’t negatively impact the flavor of your meringue.

White Vinegar

White vinegar also works well to stabilize egg whites.  However, it has a pretty strong taste and can throw off your meringue recipe, so it is probably better not to use it in place of cream of tartar.

How to Make Meringue without Cream of Tartar 

If you want to make meringue no cream of tartar, you’re in the right place.  I’ve shared my fool-proof recipe below that will help you whip up a batch of meringue cookies without cream of tartar.

This recipe was a huge hit with my family, and I bet your loved ones will enjoy it too.

meringue without cream of tartar recipes

Meringue Recipe without Cream of Tartar

While cream of tartar is traditionally used when making meringue, there are also many meringue without cream of tartar recipes to choose from.  Below is one of my favorite meringue cookie recipes without cream of tartar that you may want to try.  When I tried this recipe, my family couldn’t even tell the difference, and everyone very happily ate their meringue cookies.  

Check out this recipe to learn how to make meringue without tartar today!

Prep Time:  30 minutes

Cook Time:  1 hour (plus 1 additional hour of rest time)

Ingredients

  • 4 room-temperature egg whites
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Equipment and Tools

  • Metal or glass mixing bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • Stand or hand-held mixer
  • 2 baking sheets
  • Parchment paper
  • Piping bag

Directions

  1. Before you begin to mix any ingredients, prepare the oven and cookie sheets.  The baking rack of the oven should be placed in the center slot.  Preheat the oven to 225 °F.
  2. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Separate the egg whites.  Take care not to get any yoke in the bowl, as the presence of even a little yoke can prevent the meringue from forming properly.
  4. Beat the egg white using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer or hand-held mixer on a medium-high setting.  Continue beating for approximately 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture begins to look foamy.
  5. Beat in the lemon juice and salt.
  6. While beating the mixture using a high speed, gradually incorporate the superfine sugar.  It is important to only add a few tablespoons at a time and beat well (for about 25 seconds) before adding any more.  As needed, pause the mixer to scrape any of the egg white mixture off of the side of the bowl.
  7. After adding all of the sugar to the bowl, continue beating the mixture using a high speed setting until the egg whites begin to form stiff peaks.  You want to check to confirm that the texture is right before moving on.  When you dip a spatula into the bowl and remove it, the egg white mixture should have a pointy tip, break apart rather easily, and have a glossy/shiny appearance.  If your mixture doesn’t meet these criteria, continue beating for a few additional minutes.
  8. Add the vanilla extract to the bowl and use the mixer to continue beating for 20 to 40 seconds to ensure that all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  9. Put the mixture into a piping bag and attach the nozzle/tip of your choice.
  10. Pipe the cookies onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  You can pipe them close to one another as meringue cookies don’t spread like most other types of cookies.
  11. Place the baking sheets on the center rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour.
  12. Do not open the door to check on the cookies.  Leave it closed so your meringue doesn’t fall.
  13. Turn off the oven after the cookies have baked.  Leave the baking sheets in the oven for an additional hour with the door closed.  This will help the meringue cool and set.
  14. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and take the cookies off the sheets.
  15. Enjoy!

Tips for Making Meringue Cookies without Cream of Tartar

Meringue cookies are, as I’ve shared before, pretty simple to make.  However, there are a few handy tips that will help ensure that your cookies turn out perfectly every time.

  1. Avoid using new eggs to make meringue.  Eggs that are around three or four days old will work best because the whites will have thinned out some.  With thinner egg whites comes a fluffier meringue. 
  2. Use room temperature egg whites when making meringue, but separate the eggs while they’re still cold.  When the eggs are colder, it will be easier to separate the egg whites from the yolks.  However, room temperature egg whites are best when making meringue, so allow the egg whites to sit out on the counter for about 25 minutes before whipping them.
  3. Always use a metal or glass mixing bowl when making meringue cookies.  Even a clean plastic bowl will likely have some fat residue on the sides.  Any presence of fat or grease can prevent the egg whites from whipping up properly.
  4. Likewise, ensure that all of the tools you’re using to make your meringue cookies are completely clean and dry.  You want to avoid the possibility of introducing any grease or moisture into the mixture and ruining your meringue.
  5. Always add the superfine sugar to the mixture very slowly and mix well before adding any more.  Doing so will help the sugar to dissolve properly and will keep your meringue from deflating.
  6. Whip the eggs until the peaks are stiff and glossy.  If you don’t whip them enough, your meringue can end up too runny.
  7. Don’t make meringue if it is too humid.  The additional moisture in the air on a humid day can be absorbed by the sugar and interfere with the egg whites being able to form the necessary stiff peaks.
meringue without cream of tartar

Storing Meringue Cookies

After you’ve whipped up your batch of meringue cookies and they’ve cooled completely, you’ll want to store them properly to keep them fresh.

Use an airtight container to prevent moisture or humidity from ruining your cookies.  Place a layer of meringue cookies on the bottom of the container, then add a layer of parchment paper before adding any more cookies.  This will help keep the cookies from sticking together.  Continue the pattern of cookies, parchment paper, cookies, parchment paper, etc., until all the cookies are stored or the container becomes full.

When stored properly, your meringue cookies will last for up to 14 days if you live in an area without humidity and about 5 days if your location is very humid.

You can also freeze meringue cookies if you want them to last longer.  Place the cookies in a freezer-safe sealed container and leave them in the freezer for 1 to 3 months before enjoying.  When you want to eat the cookies, remove them from the freezer and leave them out at room temperature for a few hours to thaw.

FAQs

Is cream of tartar necessary for meringue?

No, cream of tartar isn’t necessary when making meringue.  While it does help stabilize the egg whites, you can achieve the right texture and consistency without using it or with a substitute such as lemon juice or citric acid.

Can I skip cream of tartar in meringue?

Yes, if a meringue recipe calls for cream of tartar, you can leave it out without any major ill effects.

How do you make meringue thicker without cream of tartar?

If you don’t have cream of tartar, you can use lemon juice or citric acid to thicken the meringue and help the egg whites form stiff peaks.

What can I substitute for cream of tartar in meringue cookies?

Lemon juice and citric acid are both suitable substitutes for cream of tartar when making meringue cookies.