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 Sugar Cookies

Here is the sugar cookie recipe you need. Soft centers, crisp edges, easy to decorate.

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.

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


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!


  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tablespoons meringue powder
  • 910 Tablespoons room temperature water
  • optional for decorating: gel food coloring (I love this food coloring kit)


  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 freezing instructions.


  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.

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

Here is my recipe for the best sugar cookies.

sugar cookies with icing


Comments are closed.

  1. Will this icing take black gel food coloring without ruining the taste? My son wants batman cookies for his birthday.

    1. Yes, it will! Definitely use a gel food coloring and not the liquid drops.

  2. Can you add vanilla or almond extract?

    1. Absolutely. Go light as extra liquid could throw off the final consistency.

  3. Just curious, can I use this recipe to pipe on side of cake for decorating?

    1. Yes, that should work. You might want to adjust the consistency so it’s a bit thicker.

  4. I would like to make a chocolate flavored version. What do you suggest? I need to keep the frosting non dairy. Thank you!

    1. I have not made chocolate royal icing! Let me know if you find a good one!

      1. Thanks for the reply. I ended up making a vegan cream cheese, using really good chocolate that somewhat conceals the taste:) Not my best production, but it will do!

  5. Lynette Theriault says:

    If I can’t find meringue powder (no where here has it right now), how many egg whites would I use to substitute? Is there anything else I need to differently if using egg whites? Thanks!

    1. Hi Lynette! I recommend this glaze icing instead. Or you can search for traditional royal icing using egg whites. (I don’t have one of those on my website because I prefer meringue powder!)

  6. Have you ever had trouble with your royal icing recipe not drying?

    1. If it’s applied too thick, it will take a considerable amount of time to dry.

  7. Hi Sally, I made your sugar cookies and preparing to frost them. Do you have a royal icing recipe that is not quite so sweet? Could I add salt? Lol. Anything to tone down the sweetness.

    1. A pinch of salt would certainly help!

  8. Lynne Sadler says:

    Just made and used this. So easy, came out wonderful!

  9. This icing will harden enough for me to individually wrap the cookies without ruining the design?

    1. If piped on in a thin layer, yes! Meringue powder sets the icing nicely.

  10. Can I mix up Icing, preferably with colors already in and just store in refrigerator to use the next day?

    1. Absolutely! I store the icing already in piping bags in the refrigerator. That way they are ready to go the next day. Bring to room temperature before decorating.

  11. I’ve made your icing twice now, and each time it has turned out perfectly. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. If I mix this up the day before and place in a Tupperware container, does it need to be refrigerated?

    1. It’s best to refrigerate overnight, yes.

  13. Sherrie Smitley says:

    Do the cookies have to be refrigerated after icing?

    1. No! I recommend storing these at room temperature for up to a week 🙂

      1. Hi Sally, I love this recipe! I’ve made it successfully several times! Will these be better frozen if I need them 3 days from now, or just leave them at room temperature? Thanks!

      2. For the iced cookies I would leave them covered at room temperature for 3 days!

  14. I need to ice 150 cookies. How many cookies does each batch cover?

    1. Hi Katie, depending how thick the royal icing is applied, 1 cup usually frosts about 20 cookies. I recommend doubling this recipe for 150 and applying a little lightly.

  15. Have you ever had royal icing dry “dusty” inside rather than more solid? And what could cause this? Thanks!

    1. Hi Renae! I haven’t, sorry! My only guess would be that the royal icing was too dry and thick to begin with.

  16. Lynn Loughlin says:

    I don’t have a stand mixer. Will a hand mixer with beaters work?

    1. Yes, a hand mixer works for this royal icing.

  17. The video of the royal icing won’t play, any other way to watch it?

    1. Hi Carol! So strange, sorry about that– it’s working now.

  18. Hi! Can I add corn syrup to the icing for a glossier look? Also, can I just use a regular whisk to make the icing? Sadly I don’t own an electric mixer 🙁

    1. It will be quite the arm workout using a whisk, but you can try it! A little corn syrup would be fine, but it will thin out the icing. You may want to reduce the water.

  19. Hi :)! I tried this recipe and it’s super easy and great! When the icing set though, it had a bit of a sparkle to it sort of like it was dusted with glitter, so not as smooth and shiny a finish as in your photos, more a matte sparkly finish, so is there something that I could have done wrong that caused some sort of crystallization if you’ve ever had a similar issue? Thanks 🙂

  20. Hi I am using egg white substitute powder instead of meringue powder. How much would I need to use to replace the same amount of meringue powder in your recipe?

    1. Hi Sid, You can search for traditional royal icing using egg whites. I don’t have one of those on my website because I prefer meringue powder!

  21. Emily blount says:

    Is salt the only item that would cut the sweetness in the meringue icing?

    1. Royal icing is definitely sweet! I have read articles about adding salt or different extracts to royal icing for different flavors but I haven’t tested any out. Let me know if you try anything.

  22. I made some royal icing and needed to add a CRAZY amount of water (almost 20 tbsp) and it still seemed thick and didn’t leave a smooth finish. Is it possible I overbeat it?

    1. It could have been over-beaten, yes. Too much air will prevent the icing from setting. Depending on the day, I add close to 14-15 Tbsp of water. Try sifting the confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder together if you decide to try it again. That will help too.

  23. Would you recommend using this recipe to both pipe and flood a sugar cookie?

    1. Hi Laura! Yes, I use this royal icing for both outlining and flooding. If you need it a little thinner for flooding, add a little more water.

  24. Your recipe said to use a whisk attachment and beat on high for 5 minutes. I added a T. of lemon juice and MANY tablespoons of water to get the consistency on the video. The icing is very fluffy and isn’t drying. On a previous message you mentioned the icing may have been over beaten but the recipe as followed produced a huge quantity of stiff icing. What did I miss?

    1. Pam, depending on the conditions of your kitchen, royal icing can require varying amounts of water for the right consistency. Depending on the day, I can add close to 14-15 Tbsp of water. Try cutting back on the mixing time and sifting the confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder together if you decide to try it again. That will help too.

  25. Can I substitute some of water with vanilla extract for extra flavour without altering consistency? Love your videos!

    1. Yes, that should be fine!

  26. I can’t seem to find the video…link?

    1. Hi Christine! If you wait a second to load, the video pops up– just takes an extra second to load sometimes. And make sure you temporarily pause any ad blockers because they block my videos from appearing. You can also view this video on my YouTube and Facebook page.

  27. Hi Sally,
    I used your recipe to make Royal Icing for the first time. I beat it with 9 tblsp water, and then beat it again with each add’l tblsp of water. It didn’t get to the flowing consistency you described and I just stopped at 19 tbls. Should I not beat it after every small addition of water? Only stir? It wasn’t changing, maybe overbeaten? The white ended up setting on the cookies, but the icing with color did not set. That didn’t make sense to me either. By the time I was using the ones with color, they were too runny. I added confectioners sugar to one, but I didn’t know how much and each addition didn’t seem to make much difference. I was out of time so I just used them anyway, not pretty, and I froze the remaining icings. Is it still usable? Do I just STIR in sugar and not beat it anymore? Why do you think the white set, but not others? I didn’t use very much gel color. Thanks!

    1. Hi Colleen, It sounds like the icing was over mixed. For royal icing if you mix it for that long it will begin to incorporate a lot of air which changes the texture. If you feel like you have already mixed it for a long time but it still needs more water try stirring it in. I’m unsure why your white frosting would set but the color frosting wouldn’t, but I have heard that some deep colors (dark red, black, etc) take much longer to set.

  28. Peggy Collins says:

    Hello. I’m wondering if I can pipe the designs onto a silicone baking mat and transfer them later.

    1. Hi Peggy, this does work if you let them completely dry before removing them! You might need a thicker icing depending the design you are making.

  29. Can cookies be frozen after decorating with this frosting?

    1. Hi Judy, yes, cookies decorated with royal icing can be frozen after the icing sets completely.

  30. Hey sally! If I don’t have a sifter for the confectioners sugar is this an imperative step or is there another option? Thank you!

    1. Hi Britt, measure out the confectioners’ sugar then run a whisk or fork through it a few times to break up any clumps.

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