French macarons are just as beautiful as they are delicious. But are they gluten-free? Read on to find out.
Macarons are colorful, flavorful, dainty, and oh so photogenic. These Parisian pastries have swept the U.S. since the early 2010’s. But is this sweet treat gluten-free?
SHORT ANSWER: Yes… usually!
Traditional macarons are made from almond flour, egg whites, powdered sugar, and sugar, along with other flavors and coloring. These ingredients are naturally gluten-free.
However, some bakeries will add gluten-containing ingredients to certain flavor variations, so it’s important to read labels and ask questions to clarify which macaron flavors are gluten-free. Also beware of cross-contamination, as macarons could be produced in a facility that handles wheat flour as well.
Are Macarons Gluten-Free?
Most of the time, macarons are gluten-free! These are the simple ingredients typically used to make French macaron shells:
- Egg whites
- Cream of tartar
- Flavor extracts (almond, vanilla, coconut, etc.)
- Granulated sugar
- Powdered sugar
- Almond flour (aka almond meal)
- Food coloring (natural or artificial gel food coloring)
Macaron fillings are usually gluten-free as well. Common fillings are buttercream frosting, jam, and ganache.
Gluten could come into play if a bakery departs from the standard ingredients or creates a unique flavor (such as cookies and cream) that has gluten in the additional ingredients. Cross contamination could also be an issue depending upon the bakery. To avoid even the smallest amount of gluten, make sure to read labels or ask questions when you are ordering from a bakery!
What Are French Macarons?
French macarons (not to be confused with coconut macaroon cookies) are delightful, colorful little cookies made by sandwiching a creamy filling between two crisp almond meringue wafers.
Macarons as we know them today are rumored to have been invented by pastry chef Pierre Desfontaines of the renowned Parisian bakery Laduree in the 1930’s. Macarons took off in Paris but didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the 2010’s. Today, Maison Laduree has 13 locations in the U.S., and other macaron bakeries have sprung up all over the country.
Macarons can be quite finicky for the home chef. Ingredients must be sifted and measured precisely, and egg whites aged at room temperature and whipped just the right amount of time (until stiff peaks are formed), for the cookies to come out as desired.
Macarons should be rounded and smooth, with ruffled “feet” at the base. The shells should be light and crisp, but not hollow, with a slightly chewy texture. Of course, the oven temperature must heat the cookie sheet evenly, and you’ll definitely need to watch out for air bubbles.
Are All Macarons Gluten Free?
Most macarons are gluten-free cookies. They are made using almond flour (which is naturally gluten-free) as a main ingredient rather than gluten-containing wheat flour.
Macarons can have all kinds of unique fillings. If a particular flavor includes gluten, then the macaron will not be gluten-free, but this is unusual.
Of course, always check the packaging or ask the bakery if all of their macarons are gluten-free before consuming.
Are Macarons Gluten- and Dairy-Free?
While macarons are usually gluten-free, they often do contain dairy. Macaron cream filling is often buttercream frosting made with dairy butter, but the center of the cookie could also be jam, lemon curd, or chocolate ganache. It is possible to find macarons that are both gluten-free and dairy-free. For example, Laduree has come out with a hazelnut vegan macaron flavor that is free from dairy.
If you are making macarons at home, you could easily swap buttercream frosting for a dairy-free frosting or jam.
Yes, people with celiac disease (and others on a gluten-free diet) are usually safe to eat macarons. However, make sure you read the packaging or check with the bakery you are ordering from to make sure their macarons are gluten-free. Some bakeries may depart from the traditional macaron recipe and add ingredients that contain gluten. Cross-contamination could also be a concern if the macarons come from a facility that produces gluten-containing items.
Store-bought macarons are usually gluten-free, but not always. The traditional macaron recipe uses gluten-free ingredients, but if you have a gluten intolerance, you’ll want to read labels to make sure any macarons you’re picking up at the store are absolutely gluten-free.
As with any baked goods, cross-contamination could be a concern if the macarons are prepared in a facility that also handles wheat flour. The packaging should indicate if there is a chance of gluten contamination.
Trader Joe’s macarons actually do contain wheat, so they are NOT gluten-free. The ingredient list for Trader Joe’s macarons (regular, seasonal flavors, and “boozy”) includes a glucose syrup derived from wheat. If you have gluten sensitivities or celiac disease, steer clear of the macarons from Trader Joe’s.
There are many other places to buy gluten-free macarons, just not Trader Joe’s!
Costco macarons come from French company Tipiak. They are gluten-free! Tipiak macarons are made using the traditional almond flour (a naturally gluten-free flour), egg whites, powdered sugar, and sugar. Costco’s Tipiak macarons do, however, contain egg and milk, which are also common allergens.
Laduree‘s macaron cookies come in a variety of flavors, and all of them are gluten-free! Laduree’s Parisian macarons are made in the traditional way, using almond flour, egg whites, powdered sugar, and sugar.
Laduree even has a hazelnut vegan flavor that does not contain egg or milk, if those are ingredients you choose to avoid.
The Bottom Line
French macarons are a wonderful gluten-free treat most of the time. They are normally made from almond flour and other ingredients that are naturally gluten-free.
If you are following a strictly gluten-free diet, just make sure to check packaging if you are buying store-bought macarons, or talk with the person behind the counter if you are ordering from a bakery.
Macarons may contain gluten if they depart from the traditional recipe. In addition, watch out for cross-contamination that can occur in facilities that handle wheat flour. Packaging should warn of possible cross-contamination with a “may contain” notice at the bottom of the ingredients label.
Of course, if you want total peace of mind and control over ingredients, and if you’re feeling extra ambitious in the kitchen, you can try your hand at making macarons of your own. Good luck, and bon appetit!