Meringue powder is a key ingredient in many desserts and baked goods. It’s made by whipping dried egg whites with sugar and cornstarch. This yields a powder that can be reconstituted into fluffy meringue by adding water. With food allergies and dietary restrictions becoming increasingly common, many home bakers wonder if store-bought meringue powder is gluten-free and dairy-free.
What is meringue powder?
Meringue powder contains just a few simple ingredients: dried egg whites, sugar, and cornstarch. These are whipped together into a fine powder. To use it, the powder is combined with cool water and whipped into fluffy meringue. This makes it much easier to prepare meringue than whipping fresh egg whites. Meringue powder is shelf-stable so it can be kept on hand for whenever a recipe calls for meringue.
The key advantages of using meringue powder include:
- It’s faster and easier than fresh meringue.
- The powder keeps for a long time in the pantry.
- It whip ups into stable, consistent meringue every time.
- There’s no need to separate eggs.
- It’s pasteurized for food safety.
Meringue powder makes quick work of recipes like meringue cookies, pavlovas, lemon meringue pie, angel food cake, and any other dessert needing fluffy meringue.
Is meringue powder gluten-free?
The good news is yes, standard meringue powder is gluten-free. It contains no wheat, barley, rye, or any problematic grains. The ingredients are simply dried egg whites, sugar, and cornstarch. Both cornstarch and pure sugars are naturally gluten-free ingredients.
Even though meringue powder itself is gluten-free, there are a couple things for gluten-free bakers to keep in mind:
- Check labels to confirm the brand you’re using is gluten-free. Most state it clearly on the packaging.
- Avoid pre-made meringue shells, as these may contain wheat starch.
- If using it in a recipe with other ingredients, make sure all components are gluten-free.
As long as you use a gluten-free meringue powder and combine it with gluten-free ingredients, the resulting dessert or baked good will be 100% gluten-free.
Are there gluten-free labels or certifications to look for?
When shopping for gluten-free meringue powder, look for a statement of being gluten-free on the packaging. Terms like these indicate a product is gluten-free:
- “Free of gluten ingredients”
- “No gluten ingredients”
The products may also display certification labels from organizations that test for gluten. These include:
- Certified Gluten-Free from GFCO – This requires less than 10ppm of gluten.
- Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) symbol
- National Celiac Association recognized gluten-free symbol
Checking for these certifications and phrases can help you safely choose gluten-free meringue powder.
Is meringue powder dairy-free?
Standard meringue powder contains milk-derived ingredients and is not dairy-free. The main ingredient in meringue powder is dried egg whites. These egg whites undergo a pasteurization process that allows the powder to be shelf-stable. The pasteurization process typically involves adding milk or milk products to the egg whites before drying.
So in its regular form, meringue powder is not dairy-free or vegan. Most brands contain milk-derived ingredients like skim milk powder, whey powder, or casein powder. These milk solids are added to the egg whites as part of pasteurization and drying.
Are there any dairy-free meringue powders?
While standard meringue powder contains dairy, there are some dairy-free options available:
- Egg white powder – Plain egg white powder without any milk solids added can serve as a dairy-free meringue powder. Whipped with sugar it makes a vegan meringue.
- Dairy-free labeled meringue powders – Some brands make meringue powder without milk ingredients and state it’s dairy-free on the packaging.
- Aquafaba powder – Powdered aquafaba (chickpea liquid) can be used like meringue powder for dairy-free meringues.
Carefully checking labels is key when seeking a dairy-free meringue powder. Or opt for plain egg white powder and add sugar yourself.
What about vegan meringue powder?
There are a couple ways to make completely vegan meringue powder at home:
- Whip aquafaba powder with sugar to make an egg-free powder.
- Use agar powder whisked with plant-based milk and sugar.
These whip up into vegan meringue. For a convenient store-bought option, look for “vegan” labeled meringue powders that are made without eggs or dairy.
Common questions about meringue powder
Is powdered egg whites the same as meringue powder?
Powdered egg whites and meringue powder are slightly different:
- Powdered egg whites – Dehydrated egg whites without any added ingredients.
- Meringue powder – Dried egg whites whipped with sugar and cornstarch added.
So meringue powder contains a few extra ingredients. But plain powdered whites can be used to similar effect. Whip the powdered whites with sugar to get something very close to meringue powder.
Can you make meringue with meringue powder?
Yes, meringue powder can quickly be whipped into fluffy meringue. Simply combine the powder with cool water in a stand mixer or using a hand mixer. Whip on high speed for around 5 to 8 minutes until light, airy peaks form.
For best results, use water that is around 60°F/15°C. The meringue powder whisks up much faster than fresh egg whites. So light, stable meringue can be made in just minutes.
What is the best meringue powder brand?
Some top brands of meringue powder include:
- Plus many store brands like Kroger, Safeway, etc.
Wilton is likely the most popular and widely available brand. But most brands give similar results. Just check the label if you need it to be gluten-free or dairy-free.
Is meringue powder safe to eat raw?
Meringue powder can be eaten raw safely. The egg whites used are pasteurized before being dried and turned into powder. This kills any potential salmonella bacteria. So unlike fresh raw egg whites, meringue powder is safe when uncooked.
Of course, take the normal precautions of buying pasteurized powder from a reputable supplier. But major commercial brands should all be pasteurized during production.
How to use meringue powder
Meringue powder is easy to use in any recipe calling for meringue. Here’s a simple process:
- Measure out the powder – About 2 to 3 tablespoons per egg white as a substitution ratio.
- Add cool water – Start with around 2 tablespoons water per tablespoon meringue powder.
- Whip until peaks form – 5 to 8 minutes on high speed.
- Use in the recipe as you would fresh meringue.
This meringue can be used to top pies, fold into mousses, make dacquoise or macarons, etc.
Meringue powder substitution
As a general substitution ratio, use:
- 1 tablespoon meringue powder + 2 tablespoons water for every 1 fresh egg white called for
However, recipes can vary. Always check the package instructions to see how much meringue powder to use.
Can you overbeat meringue made with powder?
Yes, it is possible to overbeat meringue made from powder. After whipping to stiff, glossy peaks, overbeating can cause the meringue to look grainy and start to break down.
Watch for the meringue to become thick, quadruple in volume, and form tips that curl over. Don’t whip much beyond that point or it may get overwhipped.
Does meringue powder expire?
Meringue powder lasts a long time, around 2 to 3 years unopened. Once opened, it will stay good for 6 months to a year if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Over time it may slowly lose some thickening power but remain safe to eat.
For the freshest results, try to use opened meringue powder within a year and watch expiration dates on unopened packages.
Whipping up the perfect meringue
Making great meringue with powder takes just a little care. Follow these tips:
- Use cool water around 60°F/15°C.
- Whip in a very clean bowl with no traces of fat.
- Avoid overbeating once peaks are formed.
- Use immediately after whipping for the lightest texture.
- Fold in gently when combining with other ingredients.
With the right technique, meringue powder yields impressive results every time. It makes projects like meringue cookies, lemon meringue pie, and angel food cake much more approachable for the home baker.
Meringue powder offers a quick way to make fluffy meringue for desserts and baked goods. The powder itself is gluten-free, though not dairy-free due to containing milk products. Dairy-free options are available for vegan baking, along with egg-free powders made from aquafaba or agar. With so many options now available, meringue powder makes it possible for anyone – even those avoiding gluten or dairy – to whip up perfect meringue anytime.