Meringue powder has become a staple ingredient for many home bakers. This dried egg white product provides convenience, versatility, and food safety compared to using raw egg whites. However, meringue powder may not always be readily available. Understanding suitable substitutes allows you to still create light, airy frostings and desserts.
What is Meringue Powder?
Meringue powder eliminates the risks of raw egg whites while providing their foaming properties in a shelf-stable powder.
Meringue powder consists primarily of pasteurized dried egg whites ground into a fine powder. However, it also contains additional ingredients:
- Cornstarch - Absorbs moisture during storage
- Sugar - Provides sweetness
- Gum arabic - Thickening agent
- Calcium sulfate - Keeps powder dry
- Silicon dioxide - Allows smooth powder flow
- Citric acid and cream of tartar - Stabilizers for egg foam
This combination allows home bakers to achieve stiff meringue peaks without raw egg whites. It also improves convenience with a shelf-stable product stashed in the pantry.
Common Uses of Meringue Powder
Meringue powder shines when recipes call for whipped egg whites that hold their structure. This includes:
- Royal icing - Hardens on cookies or gingerbread for decoration
- Meringue cookies - Light, crisp cookies piped into fun shapes
- Lemon meringue pie - Light, fluffy topping over citrus curd filling
- Pavlova - Crisp yet marshmallow-like meringue base for fruit and cream
- Frostings - Small amounts stabilize buttercreams and whipped cream
While raw egg whites may provide superior results in some cases, meringue powder offers food safety. It prevents any risks associated with raw egg consumption.
Best Substitutes for Meringue Powder
If you find yourself without meringue powder, several alternatives create similar results. Consider the pros and cons of each to determine the best option for your specific recipe.
Fresh Egg Whites
Fresh egg whites separate from the yolks provide the closest match to meringue powder. They whip to stiff peaks with the same smooth, glossy texture. For each 2 tablespoons of powder, use 1 large egg white.
However, raw egg whites pose potential salmonella risks. Only use in thoroughly cooked items like pie fillings. Avoid direct consumption in raw frostings or royal icing.
Powdered Egg Whites
Powdered egg whites offer pasteurized and shelf-stable convenience. They must be reconstituted with water before whipping. Substitute 2 teaspoons powder + 2 tablespoons water for each egg white.
The trendy aquafaba provides a vegan alternative to egg whites. For 1 tablespoon of powder, use 1 1⁄2 tablespoons aquafaba. Add cream of tartar to stabilize, and sugar for sweetness.
It comes from the starchy liquid in canned chickpeas. Whip for 5-10 minutes to form stiff peaks. Best for recipes without raw consumption.
Agar powder offers another vegan choice derived from seaweed. It creates gels that mimic whipped egg whites. Use equal parts agar powder and water as a substitute.
Boil agar-water mixture for 5 minutes. Chill until set, then whip to soft peaks. Add lemon juice to stabilize when whipping. It works for custards, cakes or breads.
Unflavored gelatin powder dissolves in warm water for a thickening effect similar to meringue powder. For 2 teaspoons powder, substitute 1 tablespoon gelatin + 3 tablespoons warm water.
Allow to bloom for 5 minutes before whipping. Gelatin works in both raw and cooked recipes. However, it is not vegan due to animal origins.
The food additive xanthan gum acts as a stabilizer like meringue powder. Mix 1⁄4 teaspoon gum + 1⁄4 teaspoon water per 2 teaspoons powder.
It thickens and helps maintain structure. Xanthan gum may alter texture and requires extra steps. Check labels since xanthan can come from dairy, soy or wheat.
Soaked chia seeds produce a gel-like substitute. Grind seeds first for smoother results.
For 2 teaspoons powder, use 1 teaspoon ground chia seeds + 2 tablespoons water. Chia works well in baked goods, adding a nutty flavor.
Like chia seeds, ground flaxseeds form gels when hydrated. Substitute 2 teaspoons powder with 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water.
Flaxseeds offer another vegan choice, but impart a strong nutty taste. Best for pancakes, cookies or muffins.
Choosing the Best Meringue Powder Alternative
With an array of options from chia seeds to xanthan gum, how do you choose? Consider these key factors:
- Intended use - Raw vs. cooked recipes
- Flavor - Sweetness and taste preferences
- Dietary needs - Vegan or food allergen restrictions
- Convenience - Prep time, ingredients on hand
Evaluate your recipe requirements and available ingredients. Opt for egg whites or powder for traditional flavor and simplicity. Use aquafaba or agar for vegan versions. Gelatin, xanthan gum or seeds produce different textures. Pick alternatives complementing your desired meringue uses.
Substitution Ratios and Tips
Properly substituting ingredients ensures your recipe turns out right. Follow these key ratios and tips:
- 2 tablespoons meringue powder = 1 egg white OR 2 teaspoons powdered whites + 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon powder = 1 1⁄2 tablespoons aquafaba OR 1 tablespoon agar powder + 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons powder = 1 tablespoon gelatin + 3 tablespoons warm water OR 1 teaspoon ground chia seeds + 2 tablespoons water OR 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds + 3 tablespoons water
- Add cream of tartar or lemon juice when whipping egg whites to stabilize
- Mix in extra sugar and stabilizers to powdered whites for best results
- Allow agar and gelatin mixtures to bloom/chill before whipping
- Aquafaba may require longer whipping time, up to 10 minutes
- Xanthan gum alters texture - best used sparingly
Follow proper substitutions and allow extra time as needed. Test whipped thickness periodically to determine when satisfactory peaks form. With ideal ingredient ratios and preparations, these alternatives produce excellent meringues, frostings and treats.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why use meringue powder instead of egg whites?
Meringue powder offers convenience, stability and food safety. The dried pasteurized egg whites prevent bacterial risks like salmonella. It also eliminates separating eggs and whipping raw whites.
What recipes use meringue powder?
Common uses include royal icing, meringue cookies, pie toppings, pavlovas and stabilizing frostings. It works well when stiff glossy peaks are required.
Is powdered sugar necessary with meringue powder?
Powdered sugar is needed for recipes like royal icing. But meringues or pie toppings rely solely on whipping the powder with water or juice.
Can I make homemade meringue powder?
Yes, you can make DIY meringue powder by drying leftover egg whites in a low oven, then processing into powder. Add sugars or cream of tartar as needed for stability.
Is cornstarch an appropriate substitute?
Cornstarch alone does not properly replace meringue powder. While added to commercial powder, cornstarch lacks the foaming abilities.
Meringue powder provides a convenient way to quickly stabilize frostings and whip up glossy meringues. With suitable substitutions like egg whites and powdered egg whites, you can achieve similar results without specialized ingredients on hand.
Consider your recipe’s particular needs and dietary restrictions when selecting alternatives. Follow the proper ratios and preparation tips outlined here for each substitute. With smart ingredient swaps and care when whipping, you can still create light and airy meringue desserts without meringue powder.