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Here is my classic easy royal icing made with meringue powder. It’s easy to work with, sets quickly, and won’t break your teeth when it dries. It has the most delicious taste and texture and makes decorating sugar cookies FUN and SIMPLE. Use this traditional royal icing recipe for both flooding and outlining your sugar cookies!

royal icing in mixing bowl

This is the only traditional royal icing I use. It’s my favorite because it’s easy to work with, sets quickly, and doesn’t require raw egg whites. And, best of all, it doesn’t have a hard cement-like texture. It won’t break your teeth like other royal icings!


Meringue Powder in Royal Icing

There are many ways to prepare royal icing and my favorite method is with meringue powder. Meringue powder takes the place of raw egg whites, which is found in traditional royal icing recipes. Both create a very sturdy and stable icing that hardens quickly on top of cookies. Meringue powder, while containing eggs, eliminates the need for raw fresh eggs, but still provides the EXACT same consistency. You can find meringue powder in some baking aisles, most craft stores with a baking section, and online. I just buy it on Amazon in the 8 ounce container. Super inexpensive and it lasts me awhile.

This royal icing is just 3 ingredients: confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder, and water. The trickiest part is landing on the perfect consistency, but I have a helpful video for you below. Sometimes I need more water, sometimes I need less water. But the wonderful thing is that you can manipulate the icing to get the proper consistency by adding more water or more confectioners’ sugar. It’s awesome.


Use This Royal Icing for Flooding and Piping

I use this one royal icing for both piping/outlining and flooding. It is thick enough to outline and thin enough to flood, which makes it super convenient.

Christmas holiday decorated sugar cookies including snowmen, candy canes, Christmas trees, snowflakes, and stars

Decorating Cookies

Here is the sugar cookies recipe you need. Soft centers, crisp edges, easy to decorate. You can also use this royal icing on chocolate sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, or as the glue for a gingerbread house.

Some handy tools:

  • Couplers – needed if you’re using the same icing color, but need to switch tips.
  • Disposable Piping Bags or Reusable Piping Bags – I prefer the 16 inch size for decorating.
  • Gel Food Coloring – get the whole set. I love these colors for royal icing, cake batter, frosting, etc. They’re high pigmented so you don’t need as much coloring.
  • Piping Tips– see below.
  • Toothpick — I use a toothpick to help spread out the icing. You could also just use the piping tip, too.

And some piping tips. I always use Wilton piping tip #4 for outlining and flooding the cookie with icing. This is a wonderful basic piping tip to have in your collection. For any detail, I use a thinner round tip like Wilton piping tip #1 (super thin) and Wilton piping tip #2 (thin). For larger round tips that are easier to work with, I suggest Wilton piping tip #3Wilton piping tip #4, or Wilton piping tip #5. The piping tip #s reflect their sizes– #1 being the thinnest and #5 being the largest of this particular bunch.

Just starting out with piping details? I suggest #1 (smallest), #3 (medium), and #5 (largest of the bunch). You can create anything basic with these three.

decorated Christmas sugar cookies

Royal icing on snowflake sugar cookies


Royal Icing Consistency

After mixing the 3 icing ingredients together, lift the whisk attachment up. If the icing that drips off melts back into the bowl of icing within 5-10 seconds, you’re golden. If it’s too thick, add more water. If it’s super thin and watery, just keep beating it OR beat in more confectioners’ sugar.


Can I Freeze Royal Icing?

Yes, royal icing can be frozen. Many royal icing recipes, including this one, yield a lot of icing. Any leftover royal icing can be frozen for up to 2 months. Place leftover royal icing into zipped-top freezer bags. If you have more than 1 color, each color should have its own bag. Before sealing, squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible. Freeze on a flat shelf surface in your freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using again.

Sugar cookies decorated with royal icing freeze well up to 3 months. Wait for the icing to set completely before layering between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature.


How Can I Make Royal Icing Ahead of Time?

You can prepare this royal icing 2-3 days ahead of time. I recommend transferring it to a smaller bowl or container and tightly sealing for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to use it, let it come to room temperature, then mix it up with a whisk a few times as it may have separated. Whisking in a few drops of water is helpful if it thickened.


Royal Icing Alternative

If you’d rather skip royal icing and try something easier, here’s my easy cookie icing. This opaque “glaze” style icing doesn’t set/dry as quickly as royal icing and it’s not ideal for piping sharp detail. That being said, sometimes it’s just the more convenient option! It will dry in about 24 hours, where the royal icing recipe below dries in about 1-2 hours.

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decorated Christmas sugar cookies

My Favorite Royal Icing

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Here is my classic easy royal icing made with meringue powder. It’s easy to work with, sets quickly, and won’t break your teeth when it dries. It has the most delicious taste and texture and makes decorating sugar cookies fun and simple. Use this traditional royal icing recipe for both flooding and outlining your sugar cookies.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted (I use and recommend Domino brand)
  • 3 Tablespoons meringue powder (not plain egg white powder)
  • 910 Tablespoons room temperature water
  • optional for decorating: gel food coloring (I love this food coloring kit)

Instructions

  1. Watch the video of the icing above so you get an idea of what the final consistency should be.
  2. Pour confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder, and 9 Tablespoons of water into a large bowl. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat icing ingredients together on high speed for 1.5 – 2 minutes. When lifting the whisk up off the icing, the icing should drizzle down and smooth out within 5-10 seconds. If it’s too thick, beat in more water 1 Tablespoon at a time. I usually need 10 Tablespoons but on particularly dry days, I use up to 12-14 Tablespoons. Keep in mind that the longer you beat the royal icing, the thicker it becomes. If your royal icing is too thin, just keep beating it to introduce more air OR you can add more confectioners’ sugar.
  3. When applied to cookies or confections in a thin layer, icing completely dries in about 2 hours at room temperature. If icing consistency is too thin and runny, it will take longer to dry. If the icing is applied very thick on cookies, it will also take longer to dry. If you’re layering royal icing onto cookies for specific designs and need it to set quickly, place cookies in the refrigerator to help speed it up. See blog post above for make-ahead and freezing instructions.

Notes

  1. When you’re not working directly with the royal icing (for example, you are decorating cookies but you still have some icing left in the bowl that you intend to use next), place a damp paper towel directly on the surface of the royal icing. This prevents it from hardening.
  2. Optional Flavors: Feel free to add 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite flavored extract, such as lemon, orange, maple, peppermint, etc when you add the water. Taste after the icing comes together, then beat in more if desired. You can also use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Keywords: royal icing, sugar cookies, cookie decorating, icing

Here is my recipe for sugar cookies.

sugar cookies with icing

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Is it better to use piping bags with assorted tip sizes – or – piping bags without tips and just snip off the end of each bag, depending on whether I am outlining or flooding?

      1. Do you just thin the icing a bit more for flooding then and use the same tip?

  2. I am having a cookie decorating party and I wanted to make the process as easy ans clean as possible. I planned on making your fabulous sugar cookies and royal icing but can I put your royal icing recipe in squeeze bottles instead of piping bags?

  3. Hi.Sally ,I did make meringue icing for cookies,next day it was stil soft a little bit..why

    1. Hi Pat, it could be that your icing was piped/spread on a bit thicker. The thicker the icing, the longer it will take to dry.

  4. The best thing about this recipe is the “quick” drying! I definitely need practice outlining and flooding, tho.
    Question: I’m not bringing these to our ladies dinner until tomorrow night. How do I store them? My plan was little plastic bags, but I don’t want cookies to smear.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Marie! Let them dry until completely hard (usually about 2 hours) and store in a sealed container (or baggie) at room temperature.

  5. I’ve followed this recipe exactly and the icing will not fully dry/set, now 20 hours since I decorated the cookies. I must have applied it thicker than is intended but it’s not very thick at all to inflate the wait time so much. It is frustrating!

  6. Oh gosh; I only wish I had your experience, Sally! My meringue powder must have been too old, and I only needed 1/8 of the quantity (1/2 c. powdered sugar, etc.). I have made 1/4 of the quantity of this recipe before without a hitch. This time however, although my frosting had the proper 5-10 second melt consistency in the mixing bowl, the texture fizzled to goo once I started piping it from a bag. And it just got gooier the more I piped it. My poor gingerbread cookies look pretty sad and my poor mother now thinks I’ve got an early case of holiday bah humbugs. Hopefully, I’ll recover before we have to start our holiday baking in earnest. Thanks for all your recipes! They truly are the best, even if yours truly cannot make them work, all of the time.

  7. Hi Sally – If I am not going to be using all the Royal Icing and will freeze it should I mix in some
    Sunny Side Up Bakery”s Glycerin into the icing before I freeze it ?
    Will it help keep it fresh or am I wasting my time.

    1. Hi Kate, we don’t add anything to the icing to freeze it. Check out the section Can I Freeze Royal Icing? in the middle of the post to see how we freeze ours.

  8. I made this recipe today usng pure maple syrup instead of water to make a maple flaver icing for gingerbread cookies. It was amazing! I dipped the cookies but maybe next time I will do a back and forth drizzle.

  9. If you add vanilla, do you use less water? I’ve mastered both your sugar and chocolate sugar cookies recipes, but I cannot for the life of me master your royal icing! I wanted to add the vanilla to give it a bit more flavor, but am worried it’ll mess the icing up even more if I don’t do it right.

    1. Hi Katie! The measurements will be just about the same, but you could try decreasing the water by the teaspoon of vanilla, adding the teaspoon of vanilla, then adding more water if needed to thin it out. Let us know if we can help troubleshoot other aspects of the recipe at all!

  10. Hi Sally, if I can’t get meringue powder before I need the cookies to be ready because I’m going to have to order it, how would I go about using the fresh eggs version?

    1. Hi Amanda, this recipe was written specifically for meringue powder, and using fresh egg whites would require a different recipe. Luckily there are many options if you’re going that route! Or if desired, try this easy glaze icing which does not require meringue powder or egg whites.

  11. Hi, I was wondering if this icing would be suitable to hold together a small gingerbread house. Would you suggest I whisk it for longer to make it a thicker consistency?

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