Strawberry French Macarons are tender, chewy sandwich cookies filled with bright strawberry-flavored buttercream.
They only have a handful of ingredients and are naturally gluten free, which means their success relies on how you execute the technique. A little practice goes a long way and once you’ve mastered the art of making the shells the flavor possibilities are endless.
I encourage you to set aside a weekend to try this recipe because they are both delicious and fun to make, but they do require time to cure the shells, cool, and assemble the cookies.
Macarons make a beautiful addition to a holiday cookie tray, a Mother’s Day brunch, bridal or baby shower or even to decorate the top of a birthday cake!
What is a French Macaron?
French macarons are delicate, sweet meringue-based sandwich cookies with a smooth, crisp shell and chewy inside. The meringue is made up of egg whites and sugar whipped until it looks like billowy clouds, which gives the cookies height and a super chewy texture.
The shell, what the unfilled cookies are called, is almost never flavored but often tinted with food coloring. Flavors are added to the filling. You can have fun matching the color of the shell to the flavors in the filling, like these soft pink macarons with strawberry filling. Once you learn how to make the shell, the color and flavor combinations are endless.
When making macarons, there are certain key ingredients you’ll need:
- Use blanched almond meal or superfine almond meal made with blanched almonds. Blanched almond meal is made with skinless almonds, it is pale yellow, and has a super fine texture.
- Use fresh egg whites at room temperature to make the meringue.
- Powdered sugar sweetens the shells and granulated sugar is added to the meringue for stability (meaning it will stay light and fluffy) and sweetness.
- Use gel food coloring instead of liquid food coloring in the batter so that its consistency doesn’t change. I think Americolor makes the best quality gel food coloring.
- Cream of tartar also helps the meringue stabilize.
The Tools You’ll Need
You’ll need a full day to make the macarons, so it’s important to work with the right tools for the best chance at a successful bake:
- Use clean glass or metal bowls to make macarons. Plastic bowls can hold onto grease, which can ruin the macaron batter. When the egg whites are whipped, any fat clinging to the bowl will prevent the shells from rising as they bake.
- Use a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients. I’ve provided you with the measurements in grams. Weighing the ingredients will give you the most consistent and accurate amounts and will ensure success every single time!
- I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer to make the meringue. Although not impossible, it’s harder to make it with a handheld mixer.
- A pastry bag fitted with a round pastry tip will make piping the macarons easy. I use a #12 Wilton pastry tip. It’s the perfect size for piping without the batter leaking. If you don’t have a pastry bag, use a large zip top bag. Cut a bottom corner and place the pastry tip into it.
Tips and Tricks for Making Macarons
Follow these simple tips and tricks for the best macarons:
- Don’t make macarons on a rainy day! A meringue's worst enemy is moisture from humidity, rain, and even steam from your dishwasher.
- Flip the baking sheet upside down and bake the macarons on the bottom of the baking sheet (which is now the top). An upside-down baking sheet helps distribute heat coming from the bottom of the oven, preventing the macarons from baking too quickly.
- Before making the meringue, wipe the mixing bowl with a little distilled white vinegar to remove any residual fat on its surface.
- Use room temperature egg whites. Separate the eggs while they're cold, then let the egg whites sit out on the counter. If you’re in a hurry, place the egg whites into a tightly sealed container and place it in a bowl of hot tap water. Your egg whites will be warm in 5 to 10 minutes.
- If the food coloring has been sitting in the pantry for some time, give it a good shake before using to reincorporate the dye and the liquid.
Color the shells with whatever color inspires you. Here are other filling flavors you can experiment with instead of strawberry:
- Orange: Add a few drops of orange extract to the buttercream.
- Blackberry: Add a few tablespoons of blackberry jam to the buttercream.
- Cherry: Add a few drops of cherry extract to the buttercream.
Once assembled, the macarons should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. They will last in there for up to a week!
To freeze, place the macarons in a single layer on a large tray and freeze them for 1 hour, then transfer them to an airtight container. Layer them between parchment paper to make sure they don’t stick. They will keep in the freezer for one month.
More Macarons Recipes to Try
You may have an easier time finding whole freeze-dried strawberries. You can grind them in a food processor or spice or coffee grinder into a powder. Sift the powder through a fine mesh sieve or sifter to get rid of large pieces and seeds.
Instead of the blanched almond meal, you can use super-fine almond flour made with blanched almonds.
- For the strawberry buttercream filling
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups (160g) powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons freeze-dried strawberry powder
- 1 tablespoon 2% milk
- For the strawberry macaron shells
- 1 1/4 cups (100g) blanched almond meal
- 3/4 cup (80g) powdered sugar
- Distilled white vinegar for cleaning the bowl
- 2 or 3 (80g) large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup (80g) sugar
- 1 drop pink gel food coloring
- Special equipment
- Silicone baking mat or parchment paper
Whip the butter:
In a medium bowl, add the softened butter. Using a mixer with the beater attachment, beat on low speed to ensure the butter is lump free before adding the powdered sugar.
Add the powdered sugar:
Add the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time and continue mixing on low speed until combined.
Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula with each addition of powdered sugar so that it incorporates evenly. Then, increase the speed to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the strawberry powder:
Add the strawberry powder and mix until combined. Add the milk and mix again on medium speed until light and creamy. The milk will help thin out the buttercream and give it a super smooth and creamy texture.
You shouldn’t need more than 1 tablespoon of milk. If you add more, the buttercream will be too thin. It should look light and fluffy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel and set it aside.
Sift the dry ingredients:
Place a sifter or fine mesh sieve over a large bowl. Add the almond meal and powdered sugar to the sifter or sieve and sift into the bowl. Discard any large pieces of almond meal. Set it aside.
Wipe out your mixing bowl:
Dampen a paper towel with a bit of vinegar and wipe down the inside of a 4- or 5- quart mixing bowl. A glass or metal bowl would work!
Make the meringue:
Add the egg whites to the mixing bowl and using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, whisk on medium-low speed for 1 to 2 minutes until the egg whites are foamy, but not yet holding their shape.
Add the cream of tartar first and continue whisking for 3 minutes. At this point, the egg whites will have gained a little bit of volume, look dull, and will not hold its shape.
With the mixer still running, sprinkle in the sugar slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. When all the sugar has been added, increase to medium speed and continue whisking for about 2 minutes. The egg whites will have increased in volume, become white, and look thick.
Stop the mixer and add the food coloring, then continue whisking for 3 minutes until the mixture looks glossy and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. You will also notice some ridges in the middle near the whisk indicating it is ready.
Check for stiff peaks:
Stop the mixer, lift the whisk from the egg whites, and turn the whisk upside down. It should have a stiff peak of meringue that slightly bends at the very tip, but it should not slide off the whisk.
If the peak curls or falls over then continue whisking the meringue, about 1 to 2 minutes. If the meringue starts to look chunky or curdled, the egg whites have been overwhipped and you’ll have to start over.
Fold in the dry ingredients
Add one third of the dry ingredients into the meringue. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold them together. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients, one third of it at a time until fully combined.
Scrape the batter:
Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter against and around the sides of the bowl to knock some of the air out of the batter. Do this 5 or 6 times. Knocking some of the air out of the batter is important because too much air will cause the shells to crack while they bake.
Do the figure 8 test:
Use a rubber spatula to pick up some of the batter and drizzle it over the batter in the bowl. It should stream down like honey. Draw a figure 8 with it over the batter. The figure 8 should start to sink back into the batter after 10 to 20 seconds, but not disappear.
If the batter does not pass the figure 8 test, fold the batter with a rubber spatula twice and then check it again, and repeat until it passes!
Pipe the shells:
Turn two large baking sheets upside down and line the bottom of the baking sheet (which is now the top!) with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Set them aside.
Fit a 12- to 18- inch pastry bag with a small round pastry tip—I use a small #12 Wilton round tip.
Place the pastry bag into a tall cup with the pastry tip touching the bottom of the cup. Cuff the excess bag over the edge of the cup. Use a rubber spatula to gently scrape the batter into the piping bag. Twist the top of the pastry bag so that the batter doesn’t fall out of the bag while you’re holding it.
If using parchment, pipe a small dot of batter in each corner of the baking sheet to help secure the paper.
Pipe 1- to 1 1/2-inch circles 2 inches apart from each other on the prepared baking sheets. The pastry tip should point directly down, not at an angle, for evenly sized and perfectly round shells.
If the tops have a pointy tip from the piping, gently smooth them out with an offset spatula or the back of a small spoon. You will get 30 to 32 circles, which will yield 15 or 16 macarons.
Remove more air bubbles:
Firmly grasp the sides of the baking sheet and tap it hard against your counter. Tiny air bubbles may come up to the surface of the shells and pop. You can use the sharp pointy end of a toothpick to pop them, if desired. Rotate the baking sheet as needed to tap all sides evenly.
Rest the shells:
Allow the shells to rest for 30 to 40 minutes. It may take up to 1 hour if your home is humid. The shells are ready to bake when they look matte and you can touch the tops without them sticking to your finger or leaving a mark.
Bake the shells:
Place the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 300°F
Bake the shells, one baking sheet at a time, for 13 minutes. When the timer goes off, carefully open the oven door, and gently touch the top of a shell. The top of the shell should not move from the feet where it touches the pan. If it moves slightly, bake it for 1 minute more.
Cool the shells:
Place the baking sheet on a wire cooling rack. Allow the shells to cool completely before lifting them from the mat. Do not try and lift them up using a spatula or other tool, especially if they are sticking.
Once they are completely cool, use your hands to peel the baking mat or parchment paper back from the shells slowly and gently. If they are completely cool, the shells should come off easily.
Match the shells:
Match similar-sized shells in pairs and set them aside on your counter. Each pair will be filled with the strawberry buttercream.
Fill with the buttercream:
Fit a small piping bag with a round #12 Wilton tip. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the strawberry buttercream into the pastry bag. Twist the top of the pastry bag so that the buttercream doesn’t fall out of the bag while you’re holding it.
Pipe a little less than a tablespoon-sized dollop of strawberry buttercream onto one of the paired shells. Sandwich the pair together. Repeat with all other macarons.
Mature the macarons:
Transfer the macarons into an airtight container and place them in the fridge overnight, at least 12 hours, to soften for the best texture. This step is called maturing.