If you visit most French or Italian pastry shops, you’ll find at least one or two varieties of macarons.
These cute, trendy, stuffed cookies were the original inspiration for Oreos, and have been around since the mid-1500s. While they may look innocent enough, French pastries are known for containing dairy and eggs.
So, are macarons vegan?
Traditionally, macarons are NOT vegan. Like many other French pastries, they contain both eggs and refined white sugar. Additionally, many of the popular fillings used for macarons are dairy-based, which makes them non-vegan.
That being said, vegan macarons do exist! They’re also relatively easy to make on your own as long as you have a bit of patience and some talent in the kitchen.
In today’s post, I’m going to give you a full breakdown of all of the ingredients used to make both macaron cookies and macaron filling. Then, I’ll show you how vegan macarons are made, so you can see the difference (it’s not a huge difference).
Are you ready to learn a bit more about baking?
Are French Macarons Vegan?
Although macarons are generally regarded as a French pastry, they actually originated in Italy!
It’s generally assumed that the Italian-born Queen of France, Catherine de Medici brought the pastry to France with her when she immigrated. Since then, the macaron has largely been considered a French pastry.
Sadly, French macarons usually are NOT vegan. Most recipes call for confectioner’s sugar, egg whites, and dairy-based ingredients – none of which are vegan.
This shouldn’t be surprising either. Most old-fashioned recipes call for common ingredients like white sugar, butter, milk, cream, and eggs. Before the development of food chemicals, bakers had to use natural animal-derived fats as binding agents and emulsifiers.
Seeing as the recipe has been around since the 1500s, most of the ingredients used for macarons are not vegan.
Why Are Macarons Not Vegan? A Look At The Ingredients
Although macarons may look a little complicated, they’re actually made with a relatively simple recipe. Here’s a look at the most common recipe used by most pastry shops and bakeries.
1) Almond Flour
Believe it or not, the Italians were using almond flour long before celiac disease and the gluten-free diet! To make it, they would finely chop dried almonds before grinding them with a stone mill to create raw, homemade almond flour.
Sometimes, they would just mix finely chopped almonds into normal wheat flour.
Wherever it comes from, though, flour is always vegan. Almond flour is simply dried and ground almonds. Wheat flour is simply dried and ground wheat.
The only difference between almond flour and wheat flour is that almond flour is far more fibrous, and filling, and has more protein and fat. Wheat flour, by contrast, is low-fat and low-protein but is very high in carbohydrates.
2) Egg Whites
Egg whites are one of the main ingredients used to make macaron cookies. Egg whites are high in protein and act as natural emulsifiers when used in cookies and baking applications.
Unlike whole eggs (which contain more fat), using egg whites in a cookie recipe makes the cookies more fluffy and light instead of heavy and filling.
Unfortunately, though, egg whites are never vegan.
The egg industry is very cruel. Not only are captive hens treated with cruelty and abused but many of their young are also slaughtered.
Any male chickens that happen to hatch are killed, as they’re not “egg producers,” while females that hatch are thrown back into the system to continue producing eggs non-stop.
While some vegans may be okay consuming ethically-sourced “backyard eggs,” 99% of vegans agree that consuming any animal products is inherently wrong.
3) Confectioner’s Sugar
Confectioner’s sugar, or powdered sugar, is a super-fine type of sugar that’s made by mixing white sugar with cornstarch.
Powdered sugar is often used as a type of topping that’s dusted over brownies and cookies to make them look pretty. However, it can also be used for baking as well.
When used in baking applications, it creates a crispy, lightly sweetened texture. This is why macarons have such a crispy, flaky texture!
That being said, confectioner’s sugar is NOT vegan.
While cornstarch is 100% vegan, the refined white sugar used in confectioner’s sugar isn’t vegan. Unlike raw cane sugar, white sugar is filtered through animal bone char. This process removes the syrupy outer coating, creating a more pure, concentrated sugar product.
Unfortunately, this process also turns an otherwise vegan sweetener into a not-so-vegan sugar product.
4) Food Dye
Last but not least, most macarons are artificially colored with food dye. Originally, macarons were always a pale yellow color. This is the natural coloring of flour, sugar, eggs, and almonds.
However, macarons changed forever with the invention of food dye! Today, it’s more common to see colored macarons than non-colored macarons.
There’s no particular reason for this, other than the fact that they look pretty. Colored macarons are commonly sold during holidays, such as Valentine’s day and Easter, where colorful treats are sought after.
The artificial food dyes used to color macarons are vegan-friendly and come from a lab.
What Is The Filling of Macarons Made Of?
Above, you saw the ingredients used to make the macaron cookies themselves. However, this is only one part of the macarons. At the center of each macaron, you’ll find a creamy layer of filling.
Depending on the recipe or the flavor of the macaron, this filling could be different. Here are the most common types of macaron filling you’ll encounter.
Buttercream is a thick, dairy-based filling that’s made by mixing butter, cream, sugar, and flavoring together. The result is a thick, sugary cream that’s very similar to the stuffing used to make Oreo cookies! Unfortunately, though, buttercream is NOT vegan.
Curds are chunky pieces of low-fat cheese that come out of the cheese-making process. These are often combined with sugar or buttermilk to create a slightly sweet, slightly sour cream filling. Unfortunately, a curd-based filling is also non-vegan, as it’s dairy.
7) Cream Cheese
Cream cheese icing or filling is another common filling used for macarons. This is probably one of the most popular fillings, as it’s easy to make and doesn’t require a bunch of extra ingredients.
Cream cheese is a dairy product, though, so it’s not vegan.
8) Jelly or Jam
Although it’s rare to see, I’ve seen some macarons that are made using fresh jam or jelly as the stuffing! I tried a vegan macaron stuffed with homemade raspberry jelly one time… All I can say is that it was one of the best vegan pastries I’ve ever had.
For the most part, jelly and jam are vegan-friendly. The only thing that you really have to look out for when it comes to jelly or jam is refined white sugar. White sugar is often blended with the fruit to create a sweeter filling.
As I mentioned above, though, white sugar is not vegan since it’s filtered through bone char.
Chocolate is probably the second-most-popular filling used for macarons. Sometimes a nutty hazelnut chocolate spread like Nutella is used as well.
Unfortunately, most of the chocolate filling used for macarons is not vegan. It either contains some form of dairy (in the form of milk chocolate) or white sugar, which is non-vegan.
What Are Vegan Macarons Made Of?
Sorry if this all sounds a bit pessimistic… I’m just trying to be as honest as possible.
Like I mentioned in the intro, though, there are vegan-friendly macarons! You just have to know where to look.
The best place to find vegan macarons, in my opinion, is to visit vegan bakeries. For example, I recently got a chance to visit NYC and ate at some awesome vegan bakeries. Several of the bakeries I visited offered vegan macarons and even vegan cheesecake!
Based on my experience, here are the most common ingredients used to make vegan macarons.
Also, while I’m at it, here’s a great recipe to follow if you want to make your own homemade vegan macarons:
1) Almond Flour
2) Egg Substitute
While vegans may not eat eggs, there are plenty of vegan egg substitutes. These baking substitutes typically contain some natural emulsifiers mixed with plant-based protein.
The resulting macaron may taste a little bit different than egg-based macarons, but the texture should be very similar.
3) Cane Sugar
Although white sugar and confectioner’s sugar may be off-limits for vegans, there’s nothing wrong with raw, all-natural cane sugar. In fact, real cane sugar actually has a more full-bodied syrupy flavor than white sugar, so I far prefer it in baked goods!
4) Vegan-Friendly Filling
Last but not least, vegan macarons are made with vegan-friendly stuffing. They don’t contain any of the dairy, butter, cheese, or white sugar that you’ll find in most traditional macaron cookies.
The Verdict – Are Macarons Vegan-Friendly?
While macarons can be vegan, most of them are not. Traditional macaron recipes all contain dairy, egg, cheese, and confectioner’s sugar, which makes them non-vegan. The only place you’ll find vegan macarons is at a vegan bakery. You can also try baking them yourself!
That being said, there are plenty of vegan-friendly cookies to choose from. If you’re looking for the perfect treat, be sure to check out my post on the best vegan cookie brands next!