However, many bakers find them confusing and wonder if they can be used interchangeably.
What is Meringue Powder?
Meringue powder is a shelf-stable powdered ingredient used in baking and confections. Its key function is to act as a substitute for raw egg whites to make light and fluffy meringue or icings safely.
The main component of meringue powder is pasteurized dried egg whites. In addition to the egg whites, it contains sugar, cornstarch, stabilizers like cream of tartar or gum arabic, and sometimes flavorings like vanilla.
Using meringue powder eliminates food safety issues associated with consuming raw eggs in dishes like meringue pies or royal icing. The egg whites have been heat-treated to eliminate any salmonella bacteria.
Meringue powder can simply be reconstituted with water and whipped into a stable foam used for:
- Meringue pie toppings
- Royal icing and decorative icing
- Stabilizing buttercreams and frostings
- Meringues and macarons
It's convenient for bakers because it has a long shelf life compared to fresh eggs, is ready to use, and whips up easily into a consistent foam.
Key Takeaway: Meringue powder is a mixture of pasteurized dried egg whites, sugar, and stabilizers used to make stable meringue and icings without raw eggs.
What is Cream of Tartar?
Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is an acidic white powder extracted from wine grape juice during winemaking. It naturally crystallizes on the inside of wine barrels after fermentation.
Cream of tartar has some key functions in baking:
- It stabilizes and strengthens egg foams like meringue by preventing proteins from over-binding. This helps beaten egg whites gain volume and stay stable.
- It activates baking soda to help baked goods rise.
- It prevents sugar syrups from crystallizing so they stay smooth.
In addition to baking, cream of tartar has some culinary applications:
- Brining poultry or vegetables - it can help tenderize and enhance flavor
- Use in drinks like cocktails or coffee to add tanginess
So while meringue powder substitutes for eggs, cream of tartar serves more as an acid additive to improve structure and texture. They are not interchangeable despite appearing in some of the same recipes.
Can You Use Cream of Tartar as a Meringue Powder Substitute?
Cream of tartar on its own cannot adequately replace meringue powder in recipes. While it contains cream of tartar as a stabilizer, meringue powder's main function is to act as dried egg whites.
To substitute meringue powder when you don't have any, you need an egg white replacement combined with cream of tartar for structure. Egg whites + cream of tartar makes an effective substitution.
Here is a simple meringue powder substitute using fresh eggs and cream of tartar:
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar
Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form, then slowly add sugar until stiff and glossy. Use this in place of 2 tablespoons of meringue powder.
Adjust ingredients for larger recipe quantities. Cream of tartar helps ensure your raw egg white meringue whips up properly.
Can You Substitute Meringue Powder for Cream of Tartar?
No, meringue powder cannot adequately replace cream of tartar in recipes. Since meringue powder contains mainly egg whites and cream of tartar provides acidity, they perform completely different roles.
Using meringue powder rather than cream of tartar could compromise texture, rise, and stability in recipes relying on cream of tartar for its acidic qualities.
Instead, substitute cream of tartar with an acid like lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid in a 1:2 ratio. For example, replace 1/4 tsp cream of tartar with 1/2 tsp lemon juice.
|Cream of Tartar
|1/2 tsp lemon juice
|1 tsp lemon juice
|2 tsp lemon juice
The acid helps stabilize and strengthen egg foams and activate baking soda for lift the same way cream of tartar does.
Using Meringue Powder and Cream of Tartar in Recipes
Many desserts and confections utilize both meringue powder and cream of tartar, such as:
- Royal icing - Meringue powder provides structure and stability while cream of tartar strengthens the egg white foam so the icing holds decorative shapes.
- Macarons - Meringue powder helps the egg white and almond flour batter gain volume when whipped while cream of tartar keeps the air bubbles intact.
- Meringue cookies - Meringue powder makes the base while cream of tartar ensures a light, crisp cookie texture.
- Whipped cream - Meringue powder thickens and stabilizes whipped cream while cream of tartar can help prevent weeping.
So in these recipes, meringue powder provides egg foam structure while the cream of tartar gives extra stability. They serve complementary purposes.
Can you make meringue without cream of tartar?
Yes, you can make meringue with just egg whites and sugar. However, adding cream of tartar helps stabilize the meringue so it holds its shape better and doesn't weep liquid.
Does meringue powder contain gluten?
No. The main ingredients in meringue powder are egg whites, sugar, and cornstarch, none of which contain gluten. Always check labels to confirm no gluten ingredients are added.
Can you replace cream of tartar with cornstarch?
No, cornstarch cannot adequately replace cream of tartar. While it thickens, cream of tartar provides acidity to activate baking soda for lift and stabilize egg foams.
What can you use if you don't have cream of tartar or lemon juice?
White distilled vinegar substitutes well for cream of tartar. Use twice the amount of vinegar as cream of tartar called for. Cider vinegar also works. Start with small amounts as vinegar flavor intensifies over time.
In summary, meringue powder and cream of tartar serve distinct purposes in baking recipes. Meringue powder acts as a substitute for raw egg whites while cream of tartar is used for its acidity and stabilization abilities.
While they appear in some of the same recipes like royal icing and macarons, they work together to improve texture and structure. Cream of tartar cannot replace meringue powder's main role as an egg white substitute, and vice versa.
When experimenting with substitutions, replace meringue powder with reconstituted egg whites + cream of tartar for needed structure. Swap cream of tartar with lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid in a 1:2 ratio to maintain acidity levels.