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.

Decorated sugar cookies with my favorite royal icing on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 sugar cookies with my favorite royal icing on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Royal icing on 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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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
  • 3 Tablespoons meringue 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 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.

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

Here is my recipe for the best sugar cookies.

sugar cookies with icing

404 Comments

  1. How long is the icing good for, before being used on cookies(saved in fridge)?

    1. Hi Jess! It’s fine stored in the refrigerator for a couple days. I usually store it in piping bags so it doesn’t dry out from excess air.

      1. How long is the icing good for once it has dried and set on the cookies? In on there words, what would the expiration date of the icing be? Could you ship cookies with this icing? Thank you!

  2. Mine had a horrible chalky texture to it. I do believe after reading all of the other comments that I over beat it. But what causes the chalk texture and lack of flavor? Thanks

    1. Hi Stephanie, Royal icing is inherently very sweet – it tastes like the sugar you use! You can certainly try a different brand of sugar and you can also add flavoring. Feel free to add a very small amount of vanilla, almond or any other extract you wish for different flavors (just be sure they are oil free).

  3. Hi there, I have a mom who’s a type 1 diabetic and I’ve been wanting to make her some sugar-free sugar cookies with sugar-free royal icing (if that’s even possible cuz I’ve tried looking all over the internet and have yet to find anything), so I was wondering if it’s at all possible to use Splenda or another sugar alternative to replace the confectioners sugar? Or at least incorporate the two in some way? Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Hi Erika, I wish I could help but I’ve never tried to use a sugar alternative to make royal icing.

      1. Hi! I made my own sugar-free powdered sugar for my daughter’s baby shower, since she had gestational diabetes. It still had that sugar-free “whang” that you get with sugar substitutes, but it was still better than nothing! I used Stevia, but I’m sure Splenda can be used also. It’s very simple, for every cup of sweetener (Stevia or Splenda), add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Blend in a food processor, blender, or Bullet hand blender-type machine. The smaller the batch, the finer the consistency, which is needed for powdered sugar. Blend on high speed for 30 seconds, then use pulse until you have it the consistency of powdered sugar. There may still be some larger granules that you can sift out with a fine mesh sieve. I used this recipe for buttercream icing, and it came out the same consistency as traditional buttercream, but with that slight sugar-free taste.

        I can imagine that you would be able to use it the same way with royal icing, although I haven’t tried it yet. Give it a try, and good luck!

        PS–I know cookie icing and royal icing has that cloyingly sweet taste, but I’ve learned you can tamper down the extra sweet taste by adding a little bit of salt! I’ve added salt to royal icing, and it doesn’t interfere with the drying time. Try starting with 1/8 – 1/4 tsp. for a 4 cup batch; 1/4 tsp. or more for an 8 cup batch. Start with the smallest amount possible, and adjust according to your own taste. If you tint your icing and notice spots in the icing after it has dried, that means the salt didn’t dissolve properly, and I’ve learned to remedy this by dissolving the salt in the water to be added to the icing, or, if you are using flavoring, dissolving in the flavoring (the alcohol in the flavoring helps dissolve the salt without having to heat it, like you would with water.)

        Hope this all helps!

        Have a blessed and fruitful Holiday season!

      2. I have to tell you how much I love this icing. I put it in squeeze bottles and decorate cookies with my three year old. It’s easy for him to squeeze out and, having no raw eggs, I’m not worried if he squeezes a little directly into his mouth. Also, it sets quickly enough for his little patience. Iced cookies were intimidating but I’ve also discovered how much I love doing more complex designs with this icing

    2. I have also never tried this. However, try searching blogs for keto or low carb recipes. There are a ton sugar substitutes, and they each have their own qualities. I’ve read using them together instead of using just one can help minimize their aftertastes. Swerve is a popular brand and one I found very useful. It’s erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. You’ll want to find another to use with it to minimize the cooling effect you get from sugar alcohols. I hope this helps.

    3. You can use Swerve confectioners sugar! This is a sugar substitute.
      Amazon has it.
      I do Keto! That’s what I use.

    4. Sukrin Icing Sweetener has been a great confectioners sugar replacement. I have not personally used it for royal icing but have for many other things and it has the best flavor in my opinion. I buy it in Amazon.

    5. Use confectioners Swerve!! It works just like powdered sugar. Swerve is a sugar substitute that’s healthier than Splenda or equal. It comes in granulated and powdered forms.

    6. Erika, kind of late but try swerve! They make a icing sugar with a low glycemic index perfect for diabetics.

    7. Hi there Erika! I have /family friends who are diabetic and/or adapting the keto lifestyle. You can try using Monkfruit Sweetener. They sell both the crystals and the powdered versions.

  4. How can you make the royal icing have a sweet flavor as in the cookie icing that Betty Crocker makes. It is so good.

    1. Royal icing is very very sweet! If you want to add additional flavor you can feel free to add any extracts such as vanilla, almond, etc. Just be sure it’t not an oil based flavor!

  5. I made this recipe using meringue powder. I did use a bit more water to thin to the proper consistency. I wasn’t flooding, just decorating butterfly shaped cookies

    I put in a drop of lemon extract to give it some flavor. It dried quickly, was easy to work with and a good texture with no grittiness.

    The only thing soneone might not like is that it didn’t dry super shiny. For my purposes, it didn’t matter. It was perfect

    I’d post a picture if I could figure out how!

  6. I just made it and frosted my cookies. It’s perfect. Thank you for publishing the recipe. I will be making it again for sure.

  7. When the icing is hardened can I paint on designs using food coloring? Or will the liquid begin to dissolve the icing?

    1. Yes you sure can! I recommend mixing a drop of your gel food coloring with vodka (or any clear extract if you don’t want to use alcohol). Don’t use water to thin out the food coloring as it will take too long to dry and mess up your royal icing. The alcohol will evaporate quickly on the cookies keeping your icing intact!

  8. Do you have additional information on royal icing consistency? For example, medium, stiff, and flooding?

    1. Hi Sarah, I admit I use the same consistency icing for all of my cookies, both outlining and flooding. If you wish to make more intricate designs that call for stiffer icing I recommend adding less water to start with vs adding more powdered sugar at the end. SweetAmbs makes beautiful cookies and has a great explanation and a list of uses for different consistencies here: https://www.sweetambs.com/tutorial/royalicing/

  9. Do you measure the powdered sugar before sifting or after?

    1. Hi Irene! After. If the word “sifted” is after the ingredient name, that means you sift it after measuring. If it comes before the ingredient name, sift it before measuring. Hope this helps!

  10. I have egg whites I’d love to use up. So… how much/many egg whites in place of meringue powder?

    1. Hi Natalie! That would require some testing– I recommend finding a different recipe that is tested for liquid egg whites.

  11. Hi do I need to whip the mixture with a whisker or can I use a regular mixer?

    1. I like to use the whisk attachment on my mixer but I do know others prefer the flat beater attachment. You are not whipping this icing like you would a whipped cream so you can use whichever you prefer!

  12. I just made this icing using 4 egg whites instead of meringue powder and water and it turned out fantastic!! Note: I used the egg whites from 2 regular eggs and 2 silkie chicken eggs (which are smaller). I was a bit lazy and didn’t sieve my icing sugar and it still turned out silky smooth! Will definitely be saving this recipe.
    Thank you!

  13. Can I add corn syrup to this royal icing so it be shiny like your glaze icing recipe? However, would I be able to pipe designs in the cookies if I do that?

    1. Hi Ree! It will be a little sticky and thicker, but you could still use piping tips. The icing won’t set as quickly.

  14. Can you substitute lemon juice for some of the water to give it a little tang? If so, same ratio of juice as water?

    1. Hi Justen, you can definitely add lemon juice but I don’t recommend replacing all of the water with it. Replace half or a little less than half of the water with it.

  15. What is the standard thickness a cookie should be? I purchased the rings that go on the rolling pin but feel the cookies are too thin. What do you recommend?

    1. Hi Virginia! I like thicker cookies because they stay softer. I recommend rolling to 1/4 inch thick.

  16. I made your cookies and they are so delicious that I’ve made them over and over. I used your easy icing recipe since I didn’t have meringue powder. But I bought the meringue and I’m gonna try this icing recipe. My question is: can I refrigerate leftover icing? You mentioned it’s ok to freeze, but I like to make cookies once a week and it would be nice not to have to make fresh icing every week. Or could I split this recipe in half?

    1. Hi Jennifer, yes you can split this recipe in half. Best way to store it for a few days is in the refrigerator already in piping bags. The key is to not have it exposed to air, which is when it dries out.

  17. Grandma Carolyn says:

    Grandma is going to TRY the Christmas cookie decorating – again! I’m never satisfied with my results but, now that I have starting getting Sally’s help….I’m ready:) Is there a video on HOW to “flood” sugar cookies? Grandma Carolyn

    1. You can watch how I decorate/flood the cookies in the video tutorial above. 🙂

      1. Grandma Carolyn says:

        I am SO sorry I missed that. PERFECT!

  18. Candace Anderson says:

    My granddaughter is allergic to eggs (whites included). We are decorating cookies Friday, is meringue powder safe to use for her?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Candace, meringue powder is made from dehydrated egg whites so I do not recommend it. Here is my easy glaze icing instead.

    2. Duck eggs do not have the same protein makeup, and often people who are allergic to chicken eggs can tolerate duck eggs, but you should check with her doctor or allergist before using. Duck eggs are also better for baking.

  19. I think the recipe is good but I’m wondering what I might have done wrong. I think I may have over whipped it bc it stayed tacky even overnight. The taste was amazing. Tasted like marshmallows but it didn’t set up. What do you think?

  20. Hiya,

    I want to try this recipe out, but I was wondering if I can just use shop bought royal icing instead of having to use icing sugar and meringue powder?

  21. The recipe tasted and looked great! It was however still soft after if “set” overnight. If I touched it there would be an indention or movement of the icing. Did I do something wrong when mixing or is this just how it is?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Julie! If you piped the icing on rather thick, it won’t set as nicely. Nothing you did wrong with mixing!

  22. Is it me or is the video no longer on this page? I tried another (not yours) frosting recipe and it was way too gummy and gross so I’d really be interested in your video. Thanks!

    1. Hi Sally! It’s there under the heading Royal Icing Consistency. Give it a second to load and make sure any ad blockers in place are temporarily paused. You can see a rectangle thumbnail of me with a play button on it. 🙂

  23. Deborah DeGalla says:

    I don’t have meringue powder for the icing. Can I use pasteurized liquid egg whites from a container instead? If so, how much to use? First time baking cookies and royal icing. Wish me luck!!!

    1. Hi Deborah! This recipe uses meringue powder, so I would search for a recipe that gives specifics for using liquid egg whites. I wouldn’t want to steer you in the wrong direction as I have the best experience with the powder. Thank you!

  24. Hi Sally
    My frosting is still sticky after setting over night. How long should it normally take to dry? Anything I can do to help dry faster?
    Did I beat The frosting too long is that why it’s still sticky?

    1. Hi Melinda, the consistency could have been too thin or it was applied in too thick of a layer on top of the cookies. Freezing the decorated cookies or 1-2 hours will help it set. Once cool to room temperature again, the icing will still be set.

  25. I made this icing this morning, and it was extremely fluffy and almost foamy. 12 hours later and it has not dried. I followed the recipe and even used a timer to beat 5 minutes. Any idea what went wrong? I’m really bummed 🙁

    1. Hi Suzanne, It sounds like it was over-beaten if it was fluffy. Try lowering the speed of your mixer and testing it after a shorter time next time you make it. Royal icing is so dependent on the conditions of your kitchen – and they can be different every day!

      1. Hi Sally,
        Thank you for the reply. You are probably correct – it was almost marshmallow-y. After I beat it for 5 minutes, it was really thick and didn’t look like your video example, so I added more water and continued to beat it to incorporate it. I’ll have to give it another try!

  26. Hello!! How many cookies could you ice with this recipe? ALSO would the recipe still work if you do half of each ingredient for a smaller portion?

    1. Hi Rebecca! The amount of cookies you can ice with 3 cups of royal icing depends on how much icing you are looking to use/how detailed you are getting. At least 3 dozen cookies with a generous amount of icing. Yes, you can halve this recipe.

      1. Hi Sally!
        Thanks for your response!! I am sending Christmas cookies to different families so I will half the recipe Because it will be to much for 12 cookies!!!

  27. Is there a way to just make a small bowl of the icing since I don’t need too much of individual colors ?

    Also the last time I made these, my icing wouldn’t dry completely and they were sticky so I couldn’t bag them and I tried to freeze them and parchment paper stuck to them and made icing look terrible
    What do I do?!

    1. Hi Robyn! You can definitely halve this recipe if needed. If your icing isn’t completely drying, it may be too thin in consistency or applied too thick. Make sure you’re adding just enough water to reach the consistency shown/explained. I hope this helps!

  28. Easy to make and tastes great. It’s the perfect consistency too. This is now my go to royal icing recipe every time.

  29. If the royal icing is taking too long To dry on the cookies, can I refrigerate so it hardens quickly?

    1. Absolutely!

  30. Tanya Trepyshko says:

    Hello do you know around how many cookies can be frosted using this icing recipe because I am making a lot of cookie and I want there to be enough for all of the cookies.

    1. Hi Tanya! The amount of cookies you can ice with 3 cups of royal icing depends on how much icing you are looking to use/how detailed you are getting. At least 3 dozen cookies with a generous amount of icing.

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