Classic Meringue Pie Topping

Classic meringue pie topping with billowy peaks

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  • Total: 25 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 1 pie topping (8 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
73 Calories
0g Fat
16g Carbs
2g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 pie topping (8 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 73
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 72mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 2g
Calcium 2mg 0%
*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 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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Click Play to See This Classic Meringue Pie Topping Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • For a 2-Egg Meringue:
  • 2 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar (preferably superfine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For a 3-Egg Meringue:
  • 3 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar (preferably superfine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for a classic meringue
    The Spruce / 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.

    Beaten egg whites in a glass bowl along with an electric beater
    The Spruce / 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 is added and beaten until large bubbles form around the perimeter
    The Spruce / 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.

    The sugar is gradually added in with the electric mixer on
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  5. Continue beating until the peaks are firm but still glossy. Add the vanilla.

    Vanilla is added after meringue peaks are firm and still glossy
    The Spruce / 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.

    While the pie is hot, meringue is added with the back of a spoon, create pointed peaks
    The Spruce / 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.

    The meringue topping was added to the pie and then nicely browned in the oven
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  8. Serve and enjoy.

    A slice of lemon meringue pie with billowy topping
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Tips

  • Room temperature eggs work best since they 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. 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 1 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.

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, or even frost cakes. Just make sure to bake before eating to properly cook the meringue.

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