Macaron vs Macaroon: What’s the Difference?

Words: Jess Spiro

There seems to be confusion when it comes to what a macaron vs macaroon and we’re going to put that to bed today. They’re both certainly delicious, there’s no doubt about that, but is there a difference? Yes, there is a massive difference. Does it actually matter what I call my confections? Yes, it most certainly does. Whoever named these sweets really did them no favours.

Macaroon-vs-Macaron_

The Showdown: Macaron vs Macaroon

Both names are derived from the Italian word ammacare, meaning to crush (ah, je’taime!). And in France, macarons are sometimes known as French macaroons. So if you’re confused, you’re definitely not alone. To clear things up, here is the definitive difference between two equally tasty, but ultimately dissimilar, treats.

What is a Macaroon?

macaron vs macaroon

First things first, Macaroons starts with the same egg white and sugar base as a macaron. It’s whipped into a stiff meringue, to which shredded coconut is added. Spoonfuls of this coconutty mixture are dropped onto a baking tray.

They are then baked until the exterior is crispy and the interior is soft and chewy. The macaroon can be dipped in chocolate if you choose, there are no rules here.


What is a Macaron?

macaron vs macaroonA macaron is like the more grown-up sister of the macaroon; the sister who spent a year in Europe becoming more civilised and cultured. The egg white and sugar meringue base has ground almonds gently folded in and flavourings and colours are added. The mixture is carefully piped into rounds before being baked.

The baking process causes the little disc to rise slightly, resulting in the iconic ‘foot’, as well as a little shell to form. The interior is soft and chewy, almost marhsamallow-y and the exterior has a neat little crisp bite to it. Two shells are then sandwiched together either with ganache, buttercream icing or fruit curd.

Technically, the macaron can require more of a deft touch, where the macaroon is more forgiving when mixed together.

When it comes to these two, you can’t go wrong with either. The macaroon is like a hug and the macaron is like an air-kiss, both leave you feeling loved, the one is just more aloof.


 

Make Macarons

Now that you’ve answer the Macaron vs Macaroon question, brush up on your French cooking terms and then try your hand and these French baking recipes.

One comment

  1. 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 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)
    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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