Holiday treats never get old… but making sure to stay with your clean eating plan can grow tiresome. It can be especially hard to keep kids away from food dyes, refined sugars, and gluten. That’s why this paleo meringue cookie recipe is perfect (& easy!) to whip up for holiday gatherings.
Listen, I admit I can be a bit of a grinch. I feel pretty strongly about not lying to kids about Santa. And sorry, but I would never go to the trouble of moving a toy elf every night (#aintnobodygottimeforthat). But when it comes to holiday food, well, obviously, I’m not going to skimp on that.
After all, I wrote a whole cookbook with holiday recipes to help those on a strict diet enjoy all the holiday foods they love!
You can make a healthier version of almost anything!
My four sons know that when it comes to making goodies at the holidays, mom’s gonna deliver. Last year we made these paleo gingerbread houses… twice. It’s already on the agenda this year, but I wanted to expand our gluten-free, dairy-free, dye-free options. So, I decided to try my hand at a paleo version of a meringue cookie recipe.
Backstory: my five-year-old and I really enjoy watching cake/cookie/macaron/meringue decorating videos together. He’s quick to exclaim “that’s not healfy” when we see all the lovely and colorful treats.
He’s right. We do not eat food dye in our family. After learning my children respond poorly to food dyes, we cut them out and never looked back.
Thankfully, lots of innovative companies have emerged with dye-free sprinkles and food colors, so I took advantage to jazz up my meringue pops. Before we get into those details though, lets discuss the ins and outs of meringue.
What are the 3 types of meringue?
French Meringue is an uncooked meringue in which the sugar is gradually beaten into the egg whites once they have reached soft peaks, and then the mixture is whipped to firm peaks. This type of meringue is the least stable.
Italian Meringue is most stable of all the meringues, and is made with a sugar syrup that has been heated to the soft-ball stage. The hot sugar syrup is gradually beaten into the egg whites after soft peaks have formed and then whipped to firm glossy peaks. Its stability and smooth texture make it great for egg white buttercreams and mousses.
Swiss Meringue is firm and slightly denser than the others, and is made by stirring sugar and egg whites together over a pot of simmering water until the sugar is dissolved. The early addition of the sugar prevents the egg whites from increasing as much in volume as they do in the other meringues, but adds to its fine texture. Swiss meringue is good for topping pies.
A Swiss Meringue is used for this paleo meringue cookie recipe, which is kept a little healthier with a less-refined sweetener.
If you’re new to meringue making, here are some answers to common questions
Why do you use cream of tartar in meringue? Cream of tartar is an optional ingredient in meringue. The acid in cream of tartar helps to stabilize the egg whites. A splash of lemon juice can accomplish the same thing.
Can I open the oven when cooking meringue? It’s best to minimize exposing meringues to drastic temperature changes. However, in my experience, this meringue cookie recipe holds up fine to checking and shifting cookie trays.
Why are my meringue cookies chewy? If your meringue is still chewy, there is still too much moisture and it needs to dry out more, either by resting in the oven or cooking longer. For best results, plan ahead to allow the meringue to rest overnight in the oven.
How long do meringue cookies last? This meringue cookie recipe will stay good for up to two weeks at room temperature, though if your family is anything like mine, they won’t make it a day!
Note: I turned my meringue cookies into the fun and trendy “meringue pops.” Kids think it’s more fun to eat things on sticks. *shrug* If you’d like to use this meringue cookie recipe to make meringue pops, grab some sticks like this or these cute and colorful ones.
Meringue cookie recipe: how to keep things healthy
Now that we’ve got some meringue basics out of the way, let’s talk about how to health-ify meringue to make this meringue cookie recipe.
It turns out, you can work with just about any sweetener to make a meringue. For my meringue pops, I used maple sugar. It’s similar in texture to table sugar, making these pops no fuss. Maple sugar also has a delightfully rich flavor.
Maple sugar is also a less refined, healthier, and paleo-friendly alternative to white sugar.
A note on dyes
Food dyes are non-negotiable in our family. They have been linked to migraines, mood swings, and, most importantly, behavioral challenges in children. It was for this reason our family originally eliminated food dyes and we have never looked back.
There are some great options for cute, naturally-colored sprinkles, which I used to make these meringue pops more festive.
Note: I tried a batch with a natural food color, but due to the amount of liquid it took to make an impact on the color, the meringue turned into a liquid-y mess. It’s sensitive to moisture like that.
A powder-based color might work, but I decided to cut my losses and take advantage of these adorable holiday-themed sprinkles. The green ones I used are found here. These are also cute and very Frozen-inspired for the Frozen fans out there.
Paleo Meringue Cookie Recipe
- Stand mixer
- Frosting piping bag and tip of choice (we like a large star-shaped tip).
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup maple sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar or lemon juice optional
- Preheat oven to 200*. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Fill a medium saucepan with a couple of inches of water and bring it to a boil on the stovetop, then turn heat off.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites and maple sugar. Place bowl over the pan of hot water and use a hand whisk to combine the egg whites and maple sugar until the maple sugar is dissolved, about 2-4 minutes.
- Move the bowl to the stand mixer and turn mixer on medium-high. As whites begin to whip up, add vanilla extract.
- Whip for approximately 6-8 minutes until egg whites are cool, thick, and lighter in color and have formed stiff peaks.
- Transfer meringue to piping bag fitted with a large, star-shaped tip. Pipe desired shapes onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with dye-free sprinkles if desired.If you would like to use sticks to turn the cookies into pops, pipe about an inch of meringue onto the parchment, then place the stick on the meringue and pipe the shape over the stick.
- Place the baking sheets in the oven and set a timer for an hour. At one hour, rotate sheets and set timer for another hour.For best results, after the meringues have cooked, turn the oven off and allow them to rest for 6-8 hours or overnight to finish drying out and setting up. Skipping this step is likely to result in chewy meringue pops.