My Favorite Royal Icing

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

Some handy tools:

  • Couplers – only needed if you’re using the same icing color, but need to switch tips.
  • 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, add more confectioners’ sugar.


Can I Freeze Royal Icing?

Yes, royal icing can be frozen. Many royal icing recipes, including my own, 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, too.


Royal Icing Alternative

If desired, try this royal icing alternative that I posted on my blog a couple years ago. This “glaze” icing doesn’t set/dry as quickly as royal icing and it’s not as easy to decorate with. 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
  • 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

  • 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. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat all of the 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, add a little more water. (On particularly dry days, I use up to 12-14 Tablespoons water total.) If it’s too thin, add a little more sifted confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Icing completely dries in about 2 hours at room temperature. 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 the best sugar cookies.

sugar cookies with icing

690 Comments

  1. Priyanka Shingla says:

    Hi. How can i replace meringue powder with eggs in this recipe?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Priyanka, Some recipes use fresh egg whites but that would require a different recipe. We don’t have one, but 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.

  2. Dear Sally, I made a gingerbread house with your recipe, and it turned out great.
    I just have a question, for royal icing, can I use egg whites powder instead of meringue powder, if so what should I do…
    Thank you so much.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Farahanz, Egg white powder and meringue powder are not the same. Egg white powder can replace egg whites. Meringue powder replaces the ingredients in meringue. The two are different and shouldn’t be used interchangeably in this royal icing recipe.
      Some recipes use fresh egg whites but that would require a different recipe. We don’t have one, but 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.

  3. So glad I tried this recipe today for decorating Christmas cookies! I LOVED only having to use one consistency and it makes it so that the outline blends in seamlessly with the flooding. I made 1.5x the recipe and added 1 tsp of vanilla extract, turned out great!

    1. Cynthia Plett says:

      I found this to be FAR too runny. Which was a bummer as I didn’t have anymore icing sugar to thicken it.

      1. Hi Cynthia, the great thing about royal icing and this recipe is that you can control its thickness with the amount of water you add. Was the icing that runny with 9 or 10 Tbsp of water? Thanks for trying it!

  4. Perfectly simple and easy to make! Ended up using 9 tbs water and it was PERFECT. Made so much icing and and we had 25 cookies and ended up using half of it. The gel food coloring was smart, we didn’t have it in every color but the liquid type definitely does not work as well.

  5. Thank you so much for this recipe my grandson just dipped it and it was perfect!!

  6. This recipe was perfect. My first time making royal icing and it was great not having to make two different consistencies. The cookies looked so professional!

  7. My first time making Christmas sugar cookies and this royal icing was a disaster for me. It never hardened, just stayed wet and semi-liquidy on the cookies, even after 2 whole days. Any idea what could’ve gone wrong???

    I used 9 tablespoons of water. The consistency was too thin, so I added about 30g of extra powdered sugar in order to meet the test (I counted 8-9 seconds before drops fully melted back into the bowl).

    The cookies are not servable unfortunately, but your recipe for the “best sugar cookies” was still very tasty with a great texture after wiping off this royal icing.

  8. This recipe works AWESOME for just filling in. But when I tried to use it for details of the snowflake it doesn’t work well. Do you have another recipe or how to alter this one to draw details of snowflakes or other design on to the cookies??

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rachelle, You can definitely change the consistency of this icing by adding more powdered sugar or using less water. If the icing is already made, add more sugar to thicken it up for the lines on your snowflakes.

  9. I have just used this recipe to make royal icing for the first time to put together a gingerbread house with the children for the first time. Thanks, saved the day as my gingerbread house kit didn’t have the icing! Just wanted to check, this icing doesn’t need to be refrigerated, right? I imagine the kind of royal icing that used fresh eggs whites would, but hopeful that by using meringue power, it’s fine on the counter – cause I don’t have room in my fridge for a whole gingerbread house ha!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Roslyn, We are so happy this icing worked for you! It will be fine at room temperature for up to 5 days.

      1. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  10. Would it be possible to add cream cheese to this recipe? If so, how much would you recommend?

  11. Hi there I was wondering if you can use food dye instead of the food gel to colour the royal icing?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda, Do you mean the liquid food coloring that is usually sold in little squeeze dropper bottles? You can use it but the colors are not as vibrant and you will need to use much more to reach darker colors. It’s fine for pastel colors but if you use a lot just be sure to use a little less water to make up for the liquid food coloring.

  12. Hi. This may be a stupid question but I’m never sure. Do I measure the confectioners sugar before or after sifting?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Peter, You want to measure and then sift. A good tip is that if the word “sifted” is listed before the ingredient, you sift it before measuring. If the word “sifted” is listed after the ingredient, sift it after measuring. I hope this helps!

  13. Hi Sally if meringue powder is unavailable do you have a substitute for it that I can use in royal icing?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Thedara, Some recipes use fresh egg whites but that would require a different recipe. We don’t have one, but 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.

  14. My kids and I made this recipe tonight. Let me just say, that finding meringue powder during the holiday was no easy feat. Lol. 6 stores and two counties! But it was totally WORTH it! We all had so much fun and even had guest join in that didn’t have great childhoods and have never made Christmas cookies in their lives! It really brought the family together and I’m so thankful to have finally found the perfect recipe to use each year. Thank you!

  15. I followed the recipe exactly and it was very very watery. I ended up added ALOT more sugar to get it to the right consistency… and then it tasted overly sweet that it was almost inedible. I read somewhere that you need to mix it longer. Maybe that should have been noted in the recipe

  16. Can you add vanilla or almond extract

  17. Really disappointed with this recipe. I measured everything to a T and 9 tablespoons was WAY to much water!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Deb, The consistency of royal icing depends on many factors including the brand and how you measure your sugar, down to the humidity level in the air. The great thing about royal icing and this recipe is that you can control its thickness with the amount of water you add. If you try it again, add a little water at a time instead of all at once. And if it is too thin you can always add more sugar to thicken it back up!

  18. For freezer instructions you said to put the icing in a zip lock bag? Does that mean I put the royal icing DIRECTLY in a zip lock bag or in a container in a zip lock bag? Just want to clarify because wouldn’t the icing stick to the zip lock bag making it hard to remove the icing?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sofia, you can put the icing directly into a zip lock bag to freeze. After you thaw it out you can cut a hole in the bottom of the bag to transfer it to a piping bag. Hope that helps!

  19. worst icing ever couldnt finish my cookies because i ran out of sugar this recipe makes WATER not icing.

    1. Really??? I used this for the first time at Christmas and thought it was amazing to outline and flood. How much water did you add?

  20. LOVED your sugar cookies and royal icing recipes, and planning to make them again. Do you think coconut flavouring would be OK to add to the royal icing? And would you add vanilla as well or just the coconut?
    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Meaghan, We haven’t tried this with coconut extract but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I suggest using half the amount of vanilla and half coconut.

  21. Unfortunately I found this icing did not work well. I sifted, used the exact measurements and it still turned out poorly. Very dull and never really dried hard, like royal icing usually does. I think your non royal icing (glaze) with corn syrup makes a
    Much prettier cookie. It also stays a proper consistency for a longer period of time, if you are decorating in large batches. I found that one works really well! Thanks for so many great recipes!

  22. This worked perfectly for my daughter’s snowflakes she made to top her cupcakes. Easy and fast and really dries quickly. Thanks!

  23. Simonetta Morgan says:

    Hi sally..I have Swiss meringue buttercream powder. Will that work?
    Thank you

    1. I use this recipe all the time except I add less water because what the recipe says makes it top runny. Also this icing definitely does not dry in a couple hours, mine takes at least 24 hours while a fan is blowing on them.

  24. So excited to have found this recipe. Used it in my first attempt ever to make royal icing and I followed the recipe and ingredients exactly as written. IT WAS PERFECT! The video was helpful to watch as well. I used it to decorate my sugar cookies (also followed Sally’s recipe for that too!) and I was so pleased with the consistency and the way it hardened just like Sally described in her instructions. Definitely bookmarking this and will never use store-bought icing again!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re glad to hear you had such success with this recipe, Alyssa!

  25. Recipe taste yummy. I did need to use more water, might have something to do with my elevation, but it worked out great. Only big issue I had is that it doesn’t seem to be drying…I have had the cookies sitting out for the icing to dry for several hours already, but it just continues to be tacky and soft. I am hoping by morning they will be okay??? Hopefully they dry for stacking and packaging.

    1. Hi Pam, if you can place them in the refrigerator, they will dry a bit faster. The thicker the layer of icing, the longer it takes to set.

      1. Thank you…that makes sense. My layer of icing is quite thick. Hopefully it dries before my cookies do…lol. Cheers

  26. Diana Bernardini says:

    I tried this recipe for the first time about a week ago. My question is if we double the recipe do we also double the amount of meringue powder? I loved the consistency compared to another icing I always use. The thing is that I got feedback that the cookies tasted a bit soapy. Thank God they were Valentine’s samples that I just gave to my friends. I didn’t change anything but the fact that I used meringue powder instead of corn syrup for my icing. My only guess is that the meringue powder gave it that flavor.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Diana! Yes, when you double the recipe you double the meringue powder as well. Some readers have had issues with powdered sugar tasting soapy in the past – mix yours with just a little water and give it a taste to see if that might be the issue. You may want to try a few different brands. You could also try a different brand of meringue powder. Would love to hear what you find out!

  27. Sally, first off I love your site. I will be making your sugar cookies later in the week (love the recipe) and using your royal icing (never have done royal icing) recipe . I have seen where many have had issues with it being to runny; I do not plan on adding the water all at once. I also live in a climate that can get humid as very near the coast.

    My question is is there a specific description of what the consistency should be like for the royal icing? If it is not drying can you put the cookies in a food dehydrator or in low temp warm oven? Not sure if that would also dry lout the moist cookies…. Like I said I will me making this week and it may be just a teat run. However, if the first time works then great.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Craig. When lifting the whisk up off the icing, the icing should drizzle down and smooth out within 5-10 seconds. To speed up the drying you can pop them in the fridge. Would love to hear how they go!

      1. It went very well. Did not have issues with too runny or thick. I did have trouble piping because of arthritis and trigger finger..but I was pleased with results. I am diabetic and can’t eat much of what I bake, but love to bake.and I hate diabetic baking. I am retired and I recently found about Cake4Kids so I’m back in the kitchen throwing sugar and flour around.

  28. Another winner recipe from Sally! Tried this for my first royal icing attempt, it was perfect! I experimented with other recipes afterwards & they just did not work out. I’ve used this recipe three times since, and it’s been spot on every time! My only alteration is adding 1/2 tsp of Cream of Tartar to keep it extra white – didn’t change the consistency & prevents the need for white food coloring. So happy I found this – thanks Sally!

  29. How long can you keep leftover icing in the refrigerator without freezing it?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Adela, about three days. 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, too.

  30. Hi Sally, do you know if I can use this recipe to make a flower embroidery design on my cakes? It’s my first time trying this technique so I’m not sure if this recipe can be used for my purpose?

    Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chau, we haven’t personally tried it but we believe this should work for that purpose. We’d love to know if you give it a try!

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