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Royal Icing

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This royal icing is perfect for decorating holiday cookies, creating intricate designs, or making letters or flower decorations.

Gingerbread people decorated with royal icing.

Royal icing is a hard white icing made from softly beaten egg whites and confectioners sugar that dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish. It’s ideal for decorating cookies, creating intricate designs, or making letters or flower decorations.

Snowflake cookies decorated with royal icing.

What you’ll need to make royal icing

Containers of egg whites and confectioners sugar.

The egg whites are what allows the icing to dry hard. However, if you’d like to avoid using raw eggs, feel free to use meringue powder, which is sold in the baking aisle of most large supermarkets or craft stores.

How to make royal icing

Begin by whisking the egg whites until foamy.

Foamy egg whites in a stand mixer.

Add the confectioners sugar.

Confectioners sugar in a stand mixer.

And mix on medium-low speed until thick and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes.

Thick and shiny icing in a stand mixer.

Divide the icing up into bowls depending on how many colors you plan to use. Use food coloring to tint the icing and then add water, little by little, to get the right consistency.

White icing drizzling into a bowl.

For decorating cookies with a smooth layer of icing like the ones pictured here, you’ll need to thin the icing with water to a “flood” consistency, which means the icing should hold a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for about 15 seconds until smoothing out on its own.

Gingerbread man decorated with royal icing lederhosen.

Go slowly — you don’t want the icing to be so thin that it runs off the edge of the cookies. (If you’ve added too much water, you can add a spoonful of stiff icing to thicken it back up. Always reserve a little white stiff icing just in case!)

Heart cookie decorated with polka dots.

Happy decorating!

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Royal Icing

This royal icing is perfect for decorating holiday cookies, creating intricate designs, or making letters or flower decorations.

Servings: About 3 cups
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Minutes


  • 3 pasteurized egg whites or 3 oz (6 tablespoons) pasteurized egg whites from a carton (see note)
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • Food coloring (optional)


  1. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or beaters. Beat on medium speed until frothy.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until blended. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat until the mixture is thick and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes. Divide the icing into bowls depending on how many colors you plan to use. Use food coloring to tint the icing and then add water, little by little, to get the right consistency. Use a thicker icing for details and outlines and a thinner icing for "flooding," or fully covering the surface of the cookies. Place a damp paper towel directly on top of the icing to keep a skin from forming on top. If not using within 2 hours, cover the bowls tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate (Icing may also be kept in airtight squeeze bottles) for up to 3 days.
  3. Note: If you're concerned about using raw eggs, feel free to use meringue powder, which can be found in the baking aisle of most large supermarkets or craft stores. Reconstitute the powdered egg whites according to the package instructions, making sure the powder is completely dissolved, and proceed with the recipe.

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  • Thank you for this royal icing recipe! I have always wanted to make royal icing to decorate gingerbread cookies this time of year, but most required meringue powder and seemed complicated. Not something I keep on hand that I can whip up. I always have these ingredients on hand and it was super easy to make! Need to work on my piping skills but with an icing recipe this easy I have no excuse not to practice. I also like how the icing doesn’t have much flavor…just makes your cookies look pretty. 🙂

    • — Lilee on December 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • Best Gingerbread cookies I’ve ever made!! One question, my daughter can’t eat butter, what can she substitute in these cookies? Lonnie, Minnesota

    • — Lonnie Lexvold on November 20, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Lonnie, so glad you like them! I think this should work with (solidified) coconut oil — just keep in mind that it will give the cookies a slightly different flavor. I’d love to hear how they turn out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on November 21, 2023
      • Reply
    • Vegan butter

      • — Mary on December 15, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hello,
    Do you have a chocolate icing recipe for piping?
    Thank you

    • Unfortunately not. I’ll have to add that to my list of recipes to potentially develop. 🙂

  • Hello, Do these need to be refrigerated because of using raw egg whites & how long are they good for since we’re using raw eggs?

    • — Kim Juodawlkis
    • Reply
    • Hi Kim, they can be safely stored in an airtight container and don’t need to be refrigerated. And these cookies are best eaten within a day or two, when they are perfectly tender and crisp. They’ll keep much longer if stored in an airtight container, but they’ll soften up. Hope you enjoy!

  • Loved this recipe. Used at Christmas to decorate my Christmas biscuits and have dug out again for my easter biscuits. Thank you

  • Fantastic recipe! These cookies were soft and delicious. We found they were plenty sweet without the frosting and the husband actually requested I not frost all of them. This one’s a keeper!

  • This recipe was awesome! I used raw egg whites instead of the kind from the carton and it came out very well. If your icing comes out a little grainy at first, add a little more egg whites to compensate. But besides that, this recipe was perfect! 10/10 would use again!


    • — Karen N Barbieri
    • Reply
  • This recipe said to use 4 cups of powered sugar and 3 egg whites. When I did that, I could only get about two cups mixed in and even then the ball of icing was so thick that my whisk couldn’t get through it. I feel like the the measurements were way off.

  • How much meringue powder should we substitute for the eggs?

    • Hi Jessica, I don’t know off-hand but the package should indicate how much powder is needed per egg white.

  • Jenn, I am making your gingerbread man cookies with my excited 4 year olds and only have regular eggs. Is it fine to use regular freshly bought Omega-3 eggs for the egg whites? If not, is there any other option to ice them rather than going to the store? (we made store-bought gingerbread houses today and have some leftover icing that came with the package, but we didn’t want to ruin your gingerbread men with that packaged icing that works like glue)

    • Hi Janet, to be safe, I’d only make this pasteurized eggs — sorry!

  • Just right.

  • Loved it! I didn’t have allspice so I substituted with nutmeg, it turned it wonderfully, as I always find with your recipes. Thank you!

  • My toddler and I would like to use this recipe to decorate your gingerbread men cookies we plan to make for the holiday season. I am concerned about the raw egg whites (and would prefer not to buy the meringue powder if not necessary). I do not have pasteurized eggs (not even sure where I would find pasteurized eggs at the store?) My question is, do you think there is danger in using unpasurized egg whites for the icing recipe, especially if the cookies are stored in a bag or airtight container on the counter for several days? I would hate to make someone sick! Thanks.

    • Hi Lauren, I wouldn’t risk using unpasteurized egg whites (particularly with a toddler). Sorry!

    • Use the pasteurized egg whites sold in cartons in the dairy section of your store or the meringue powder (which you can purchase at Michael’s craft store). For meringue powder, I prefer the Wilton’s but that’s just me. I use both methods for icing. I would NOT use raw eggs though; especially not with a toddler.

  • Do you have problems with this recipe being so brittle when it dries that it’s hard to bite into or eat? I’m trying to find a way to make my icing (where i use egg whites only) less hard to eat. Thanks for any tips!

    • Hi Erin, I know the icing, when dry, is on the crunchy side, but I don’t have problems with it being too hard. I wish I had some suggestions, but that’s just the nature of this icing – sorry!

      • Great royal icing recipe! The simplest one yet. But the quantity was too much haha.
        May I know how long can this be kept?

        • Hi Yf, Glad you like the recipe. It should keep nicely in the fridge for up to 3 days.

  • My icing did not come out. any way to salvage the grainy icing???

    • Hmmm… it definitely shouldn’t be grainy. Did you, by any chance, use regular/granulated sugar?

  • If i want to use raw egg whites what will be the measurements?

    • Hi Elizabeth, you’d need 3 oz (6 tablespoons).

  • Hi! I love every single recipe I have tried- thank you! I would like to ask if I need to refrigerate the decorated cookies after and how to keep them fresh and safe for kids ..(?) the pasteurized egg whites that I am using are refrigerated.. xxxxxx

    • Hi Joanna, they can be safely stored in an airtight container and don’t need to be refrigerated. Hope everyone enjoys!

  • Wow, beautiful cookie decorating!
    I love all of your recipies, I have never been disappointed with the many ive tried. Your Chai banana bread is one of my kids favorite, just uplifts banana bread to something more special.

  • This recipe is so easy to make and gives so much control over the icing. I used it for sugar cookie snowflakes for Christmas, and I just did a batch of hearts and flowers for Valentine’s Day. The trick is to add milk/cream to get the right texture for filling or outlining.

    • — Nicole Rodriguez
    • Reply
  • Happy Christmas.for your family members

    • — fathima mimshifa
    • Reply
  • I can’t wait to try this recipe. Your cookies look incredible! Professional! How do you get red icing? We always seem to end up with pink when we add red dye. Even when we add tons of it. Is there a special brand that you like?

    • Hi Amy, I buy the red color from Wilton – you can get it at craft stores. Remember, it gets darker as it dries.

  • Do you have any recommendations or suggestions for best quality food coloring. Maybe I have a sensitive palette. I seems I get I chemical taste especially with the red coloring.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Peg, I can taste it too – I use Wilton “no taste” red. You can get it at most craft stores. Enjoy!

  • Just a question – I have made royal icing with the whites of pasteurized eggs and powder meringue. What I find that when the icing dries it no longer has a shine, and is quite matte. Does this recipe have a little shine when it has dried on the cookies?

    • Hi Cindy, Not really – royal icing has a matte finish. Sorry!

    • Try adding a little bit of corn syrup. Gives it a nice shine!

      • — DJ on December 15, 2022
      • Reply

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