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Macaron vs. Macaroon: What’s the Difference?

Macaron vs. macaroon. What’s the deal? Is there a difference? Is there a winner? Let’s dive deep and find out!

Macarons vs. Macaroons

Photos via CakeSpy

Master Macarons, Macaroons, Tartlets and More!

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Join this online class to add these sophisticated treats to your repertoire and indulge whenever the craving strikes.Enroll Now »

Explaining the difference between macaroons vs. macarons can be confusing. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably and both are cookies. However, there is a definite difference, so let’s set the record straight. 

Pink and yellow macarons

Macarons via Craftsy member ChristieLee

Macarons

A macaron is a cookie made using egg whites, sugar and finely ground nuts, usually almonds. They are combined into a meringue-like mixture that’s piped on to a baking sheet into small rounds. Once baked, the cookies rise into a pleasing, dome-like shape with a little “foot” around the bottom edge.

Technically, a single cookie is a macaron. But they are frequently served as little sandwiches featuring two cookies and a cream, ganache or fruit filling inside. That the doubled-up version is referred to as a “macaron” (just one O, pronounced “mac-a-rhon”).

Want to learn how to make macarons? Check out the Craftsy course Miniature French Desserts: Macarons, Madeleines & More, which features two entire lessons on making these delightful little treats. 

Plate of Macaroons

Macaroons

A macaroon is a cookie made mostly of coconut flakes, using egg whites as a binder and sugar as a sweetener. Nut paste or chopped nuts can be used in these cookies too.

Because they are bulkier, macaroons (double O; pronounced “mac-uh-rhoon”) can be piped through a thick tip, or shaped by hand into little balls or haystack shapes. The bulkier ingredients used for macaroons typically yield a slightly more substantial and chewier result than a macaron. 

Learn how to make coconut macaroons with our easy five-ingredient coconut macaroon recipe.

Pink lavender macarons

Lavender macarons via Craftsy instructor Colette Christian

Macarons and macaroons: are they related? 

In spite of their very different appearances, these cookies are, in fact, related.  

The macaron was developed in the 1500s and served in the House of Medici in Italy. The word “macaron” and “macaroni” actually have a similar root, meaning “fine dough.” When Catherine de’Medici was married to the French Duc D’Orleans, the cookie was imported to France. But macarons didn’t gain widespread popularity until a little later.

As the story goes, two Benedictine nuns were seeking asylum in the French town of Nancy during the French Revolution. They paid for their housing by baking and selling a version macarons that had trickled down from high society.

These original macarons were simply cookie rounds — it wasn’t until the early 19th century that fancy tea room Ladurée began serving the cookies with a sweet ganache filling between two of the traditional rounds. Naturally, it caught on.

But Italy had not forgotten the earlier version of the cookie. While the macaron took a life of its own in fabulous France, it remained popular in Italy, particularly with the Jewish population because it required no flour or added leavening, and could therefore be enjoyed during Passover.

Of course, this recipe gained popularity all over Europe as a year-round sweet, and regional variations popped up. The coconut version of the macaroon seems to have gained popularity first in Glasgow, Scotland; from there that it hopped over the pond and captured the hearts of Americans, where the macaroon has really gained its footing.

In a nutshell, both the macaron and macaroon are derivatives of the same basic cookie concept, but at this point they have headed down decidedly different roads. Today they are quite different cookie experiences. 

Macaron vs. macaroon: is there a winner?

If you look at Pinterest, it will seem that macarons are ruling the school. After all, the results are refined, and there’s plenty of opportunity for creativity, so these little treats appeal to cake decorators and bakers.

While making macarons is a bit fussy at first, they’re not extremely difficult to master, and can be a great entrée into the world of French baking.

That isn’t to say that macaroons are a loser, though. Whether they’re made with coconut, nuts or a mixture of both, macaroons are without question a classic. And as a bonus, they’re so incredibly easy to make that they are a baking project accessible to all levels. 

Master Macarons, Madeleines, Tartlets and More!

mexican street food craftsy classT

Join this online class to add these sophisticated treats to your repertoire and indulge whenever the craving strikes.Enroll Now »

Which do you prefer: macarons or macaroons? 

2 Comments

carol

Macaroons!! Almond, Coconut or any combo of nuts and coconut! A big “boardwalk” favorite at the Jersey Shore!!

Reply
derek

– there is indeed a debate on whether the 2 words mean different things, and most of the media sources are in the “totally different” camp
– however, when you take a closer look, most of the “totally different” camp arguments are not based on any credible evidence or logic; most of them simply pronounce that the 2 words refer to 2 different things and strongly suggest that if you didn’t know the difference you should be grateful for the education…most of them support their argument simply by citing someone else’s article, which cites someone else’s article…
– the “same but different spelling” camp, however, is grounded in far more credible evidence and logic, and takes pains to explain how the same word with different spelling, at various times and in various places came to mean slightly different things to certain people:
* “macarons” were a simple cookie developed in the Middle Ages-Renaissance period, made popular in the 16th-century French court of Catherine de Medici
* the word comes from the Italian word “maccherone”, which refers to something ground into a fine paste; the earliest macarons were made with egg whites, sugar and ground almond paste (as an aside the pasta macaroni shares the same root word)
* some time in the 19th-century, dried shredded coconut was added or used to replace the almonds in some recipes
* European Jews migrating to America brought the cookie with them, and for various reasons the coconut version became more prevalent in America
* as Americans are wont to doing with English words, they spelled it differently, either “macaroon” or “mackroon”
* it was not until 1930 that the Parisienne bakery Laduree started combining 2 halves of a macaron together with a ganache filling to create what is now the most familiar version of the macaron
* when the elegant French double-layered version finally made its way to America in the late 20th-century, certain food writers, out of either ignorance or cultural bias, did not recognise its commonality with the humble coconut cookie they called a “macaroon” and instead declared them completely different things
* by now of course, mangling the spelling of words was no longer in fashion, and not only did the new creation deserve to be spelt in the elegant French way, the “macaron” now had to be pronounced in the proper French way
* this mistake borne of ignorance and bias simply got repeated and perpetuated, and eventually some (but not all) English dictionaries acknowledged them as 2 different words…the single-O spelling referred to the almond-based, double-layered meringue with a cream or ganache filling, and the double-O spelling referred to the round-mound coconut-based cookie
* of course the French (and the rest of Europe) were not part of this debate, and continued to enjoy the macaron in its various forms – almond-based, coconut-based, single-layer, double-layer, etc…
* so if you go to the Alsace region in France today, you will find a Macaron D’Alsace which looks nothing like the Laduree Macaron (which is sometimes referred to as Macaron Parisien) and which some poncy foodie will insist should be called a “macaroon” because it is a round-mound cookie made with shredded coconut…and if you go to Amiens you will find a single-layer almond-based Macaron that looks more like a sponge biscuit (or a Laduree Macaron before its been sliced in half and glued back together with the filling) – if travelling to France is too difficult you can Google the photos
My eventual conclusion is that the original error was to believe the 2 spellings meant different things, due to a combination of ignorance and cultural bias.
I’ve always argued that language is a living thing, so the fact that some dictionaries acknowledge the difference may mean that, in the English language, they are now different words meaning different things. But since a quick Google search (again) will show that many people (including established food magazines) also use the double-O spelling for the Parisienne double-layer version, I’d rather view it as an etymological reunion than an error.
So the next time someone raises their eyebrows at you for calling a “macaron” a “macaroon”, please feel free to bore them with the fruits of my research…

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