Classic Meringue Pie Topping

Classic meringue pie topping with billowy peaks

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 1 pie
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
73 Calories
0g Fat
16g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 73
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 68mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 16g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 2mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 58mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

There's nothing quite like a fluffy, dreamy meringue to top your pie. It's not hard to pull off, but it's the kind of recipe where you want your bowl and beaters to be absolutely clean and the egg whites, which get whipped with a little bit of cream of tartar, to be at room temperature. This will help to produce the most consistent and stable volume in your meringue.

There are three basic types of meringue: French, Italian, and Swiss. This meringue pie topping, known as a French or common meringue, is a simple combination of egg whites whipped with sugar. It's the easiest type of meringue to make. Italian meringue is made by slowly adding hot melted sugar as you beat the egg whites, while Swiss meringue is made by whipping sugar and egg whites together over heat.

French meringue makes a delicious topping for a chocolate, banana, or lemon meringue pie or tart. A two-egg meringue is enough for a tart or a pie with moderate height, while a three-egg is best for a larger pie or a tall meringue. Cream of tartar is used in this recipe because it offers a little more stability to the delicate whipped egg whites. If you don't have cream of tartar, you can leave it out and the recipe should still work. If you can find superfine sugar, it is the best sugar to use in a meringue, since it dissolves easily for a creamy result.

For safety, a meringue must be cooked to the safe minimum temperature of 160 F. Do not eat meringue raw, since it contains raw egg whites.

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"This recipe utilizes a French-style meringue, which is the most straightforward way to get a beautiful, airy, and fluffy meringue. Whipping the egg whites with the sugar allows you to have a sweet topping for a pie, or you could even bake the meringue separately until crisp for cookies or the beginning of a pavlova." —Tracy Wilk

Classic meringue pie topping on a wire whisk over a mixing bowl
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For a 2-Egg Meringue:

  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature

  • Pinch salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 4 tablespoons sugar, preferably superfine

  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For a 3-Egg Meringue:

  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature

  • Pinch salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 6 tablespoons sugar, preferably superfine

  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Classic meringue pie topping ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  2. In a mixing bowl–preferably stainless steel or glass–beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt using the low speed of an electric mixer until they are frothy.

    Egg whites beating in a glass bowl with an electric beater

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  3. Add the cream of tartar and increase the mixer speed to medium. Continue beating until the whites are fluffy, with large bubbles forming around the edges. 

    Cream of tartar added to beaten egg whites for meringue pie topping

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  4. With the mixer running, add the sugar a few teaspoons at a time, mixing the sugar in completely before adding more. Continue until all of the sugar is incorporated.

    Sugar being gradually added into the egg whites for meringue

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  5. Continue beating until the peaks are firm but still glossy. Add the vanilla.

    Vanilla added to meringue beaten with stiff peaks

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  6. Spoon the meringue onto the hot pie filling. If you are topping an unbaked pie filling, have it at room temperature (not cold) before you top it with the meringue. Spread the meringue to the crust edge to seal the filling in. Fluff it with the back of a spoon to make decorative peaks across the pie.

    Meringue added to the top of pie using the back of a spoon to create peaks

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  7. Bake at 350 F/180 C/Gas Mark 4 for about 12 minutes for 2 egg whites or about 15 minutes for 3 egg whites.

    Meringue topping on a pie baked and browned in the oven

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  8. Serve and enjoy.

    A slice of lemon meringue pie with billowy topping with a pie in the background

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk for food-borne illness.

Tips

  • Separate the eggs while they are cold (it's easiest), but room temperature egg whites whip more readily than cold egg whites.
  • Make sure to spread the meringue all the way to the crust; otherwise, the meringue might shrink on the filling when you bake it.
  • A cornstarch and water mixture is a great way to provide extra stability to a meringue, especially on a humid day. Make a paste with 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of water. Heat it in the microwave oven for 10 or 15 seconds, or until the paste is clear. Once peaks have formed on your meringue mixture, beat in the cornstarch mixture, adding one teaspoon at a time.
  • When making meringue, there's an issue called "weeping" or "beading" that can come from sugar or moisture. To avoid this, make sure not to refrigerate the meringue while it is still warm, or cook it for too long or at too high a temperature.
  • In some cases, weather, baking temperature, or technique can cause issues when making meringue. So if something goes awry, backtrack your steps and try again.

Can You Overbeat Meringue?

If your meringue isn't fluffy, or if falls flat, looks dry or grainy, or deflates, it's been overbeaten. The quickest remedy for that is to beat one egg white separately, and then gently fold it into the overbeaten whites just until they're shiny again.

How to Use

French meringue is best used for topping pudding-style pies or tarts. It can also be used to top old-school banana pudding, baked Alaska, bars, other types of pies, or even to frost cakes. Just make sure to bake before eating to properly cook the meringue.

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