Almond Paste vs. Marzipan

When you're walking through the baking aisle of a grocery store, you may spot two nearly identical tubes among the chocolate chips and toffee bits - marzipan and almond paste. These two ingredients share some key similarities, like containing almonds and sugar, which can lead to confusion about their differences.

Almond Paste vs. Marzipan

If you're a passionate home baker, it's important to understand the distinctions between marzipan and almond paste. While they may seem interchangeable at first glance, using them incorrectly in recipes can result in disappointing outcomes.

What is Marzipan?

Marzipan is a smooth, pliable confectionary paste made primarily from almonds and sugar. It has a clay-like consistency that makes it easy to handle and mold into various shapes. Marzipan is a popular ingredient in many European baking traditions, particularly in Germany, Italy, and Scandinavia.

Key Takeaway: Marzipan is a sweet, moldable almond paste used for decorative purposes in baking.

Origins of Marzipan

The exact origins of marzipan are debated, as several European cities claim to have invented it. According to some accounts, it was first created in Lübeck, Germany, in the 15th century during a famine when bakers had to resort to using almonds instead of wheat flour. Other stories credit its invention to cities like Venice, Florence, and Königsberg.

Marzipan Ingredients and Texture

Commercially produced marzipan typically contains around 28% almonds and 21 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons, making it sweeter than almond paste. The higher ratio of sugar to almonds gives marzipan a smoother, more pliable texture, similar to Play-Doh.

In addition to almonds and sugar, marzipan may also contain egg whites, coloring agents, and flavorings like rose water or orange flower water.

How to Use Marzipan

Due to its moldable nature, marzipan lends itself well to decorative purposes in baking:

  • Rolled into flat sheets to cover cakes and pastries
  • Molded into shapes like fruits, vegetables, or figurines for decorative elements
  • Dyed with food coloring to create colorful accents and designs

Marzipan is often eaten on its own as a confection, rather than being incorporated as an ingredient in baked goods. Its sweetness and smooth texture make it a popular treat, especially around the Christmas season.

What is Almond Paste?

Almond paste, on the other hand, is a coarse, dough-like paste made primarily from almonds and sugar, with a texture resembling cookie dough. Unlike marzipan, almond paste is typically used as an ingredient in baked goods rather than as a standalone confection.

Key Takeaway: Almond paste is a coarse, nutty paste used as an ingredient in baked goods.

Almond Paste Ingredients and Texture

Commercially produced almond paste contains around 45% almonds and 16 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons, giving it a more intense almond flavor and less sweetness than marzipan. The ratio of almonds to sugar is closer to 1:1 in almond paste.

In addition to almonds and sugar, almond paste may also contain egg whites, almond extract, and rum as a binding agent.

How to Use Almond Paste

Almond paste is commonly used as an ingredient in a variety of baked goods:

  • Creamed into cake batters and cookie doughs to add almond flavor, sweetness, moisture, and chewiness
  • Rolled out and tucked into brownies, pies, tarts, and galettes for pockets of nuttiness
  • Cut into cubes and folded into scones, muffins, and quick breads for soft almond-flavored inclusions

Unlike marzipan, almond paste is not typically eaten on its own or used for decorative purposes due to its coarse texture and less intense sweetness.

Can Marzipan and Almond Paste be Used Interchangeably?

While some recipes may mistakenly use the terms "marzipan" and "almond paste" interchangeably, these two ingredients should not be swapped out for one another in most cases. Their distinct flavors, textures, and purposes make them unsuitable substitutes for each other.

Using Marzipan Instead of Almond Paste

If you use marzipan in place of almond paste in a recipe, you'll likely end up with an overly sweet and smooth result, as marzipan contains more sugar and has a smoother texture than almond paste.

Using Almond Paste Instead of Marzipan

Conversely, if you use almond paste in place of marzipan for decorative purposes, you'll struggle to achieve the desired smooth, moldable texture, and the coarse almond paste will not hold its shape as well as marzipan.

Making Substitutions in a Pinch

In a pinch, you can substitute one for the other, but you'll need to adjust the recipe accordingly:

  • If using marzipan instead of almond paste, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe to compensate for marzipan's higher sweetness.
  • If using almond paste instead of marzipan, add more sugar to the recipe to make up for almond paste's lower sugar content.

Keep in mind that even with adjustments, the final product may not turn out exactly as intended due to the differences in texture and flavor between the two ingredients.

Making Almond Paste at Home

If you can't find almond paste at your local grocery store, you can easily make your own at home with just a few ingredients:

  • Blanched almonds (or almond flour for a quicker method)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Almond extract
  • Rum (or egg whites as a binding agent)

To make almond paste from scratch, follow these simple steps:

  1. Pulse blanched almonds in a food processor until finely ground.
  2. Add powdered sugar and almond extract, and continue processing until smooth.
  3. Incorporate rum (or lightly beaten egg whites) until the mixture forms a dough-like paste.
  4. Knead the mixture by hand until it holds together, if needed.

Homemade almond paste can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Key Takeaway: Almond paste can be easily made at home by blending blanched almonds, powdered sugar, almond extract, and a binding agent like rum or egg whites.

Frangipane: Another Almond-Based Ingredient

While discussing almond-based ingredients, it's important to mention frangipane, which is often confused with marzipan and almond paste.

Frangipane is a pastry or pie filling made from ground almonds, sugar, eggs, butter, and flour. Some recipes may also include milk, liquor, juices, cocoa powder, or spices.

Unlike marzipan and almond paste, which are ready-to-use products, frangipane is a mixture that is prepared specifically for use as a filling in pies, tarts, and pastries. It can also be made using almond paste as a base, eliminating the need to grind almonds separately.


What is the main difference between marzipan and almond paste?

The main difference lies in their texture and sweetness. Marzipan has a higher ratio of sugar to almonds, making it smoother, more pliable, and sweeter than almond paste. Almond paste has a coarser, more dough-like texture and a more intense almond flavor.

Can I use marzipan instead of almond paste in baking?

While you can use marzipan as a substitute for almond paste in some recipes, it's not recommended as a direct replacement. The higher sugar content and smoother texture of marzipan can significantly alter the intended outcome of the recipe. If you must substitute, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe to compensate for the sweetness of marzipan.

What is the best way to store marzipan and almond paste?

Both marzipan and almond paste should be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or an airtight container. Properly stored, marzipan can last for several weeks, while almond paste can keep for up to a week.

Can I make almond paste from marzipan?

No, you cannot make almond paste from marzipan. Marzipan contains a higher ratio of sugar to almonds, which makes it unsuitable for transforming into almond paste. However, you can use almond paste as a base to make marzipan by adding more sugar and binding agents.

What is the difference between almond paste and frangipane?

Almond paste is a coarse paste made primarily from almonds and sugar, used as an ingredient in baked goods. Frangipane, on the other hand, is a smooth pastry cream made from ground almonds, sugar, eggs, butter, and flour, used as a filling in pastries and tarts.


While marzipan and almond paste may seem similar at first glance, they are distinct ingredients with unique characteristics, uses, and purposes in baking. Understanding the differences between their textures, flavors, and applications is crucial for achieving the desired results in your baked goods.

Marzipan, with its smooth, pliable texture and sweeter taste, is best suited for decorative purposes and as a standalone confection.

Almond paste, with its coarse, nutty flavor and dough-like consistency, shines as an ingredient in cakes, pastries, and baked goods, adding moisture, chewiness, and almond essence.

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