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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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
  • 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

423 Comments

  1. Hey, is it possible to substitute egg whites in the is recipe and still have the same frosting texture and look? If so, how much egg white should be substituted for this recipe?

    1. Hi Mercy, I recommend a different recipe if using real egg whites or an egg white substitute that specifically calls for either. If desired, try my easy glaze icing which does not require meringue powder or egg whites.

  2. Hi Sally!

    I’m preparing to make your animal crackers with royal icing, however, I only have a hand held mixer (without the whisk attachment). Can I still make your royal icing without a whisk?

    1. I’ve made it with my handheld mixer (with the beaters) and it’s completely fine. Works like a charm!

  3. Have you ever added vanilla to the icing?

    1. I have, yes. Start by adding 1/4 tsp of vanilla for extra flavor. Taste, then add a little more if desired.

  4. Hi Sally! Can I use egg white powder instead of meringue powder, are they the same? Its really hard to find meringue powder in our area. Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Graciel, I’m happy to help. 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.

  5. Hi Sally, can you use milk instead of water for the recipe?

    1. Hi Sandra! The royal icing will not set with milk, so I don’t suggest it.

  6. I just made this to use on sugar cookies, and it was great. Since it doesn’t harden quite like typical royal icing, and I have plenty left over, and I really don’t feel like baking more cookies right now – how do you think this would work if I poured it over a chocolate bundt cake as a “melty looking” glaze?

    1. Hi AJ, Depending on how much water you added, and the humidity level in your kitchen, the icing can take much longer to dry. You can certainly drizzle it over cake but you can also freeze it to use for your next batch of cookies at a later date! See the section in the post above “Can I freeze royal icing?”

  7. I find after I color the icing and it dries on the cookies, its super dull. No shine at all, almost faded looking. Would it help if I add corn syrup??

    1. Hi Dana! Absolutely– a little corn syrup (1 teaspoon is plenty) adds a lovely shine to glazes, ganaches, and even royal icing.

  8. Hi Sally! Can I make this royal icing a couple days in advance? Does it hold up well for a couple days? And how would I store it?
    I would like to make the icing on Friday and want to decorate my cookies on Monday. Am I better off waiting till Monday to make the icing or making it Friday and freezing it?
    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Corrine! Here’s what I do when I want to prep the icing in advance. Store the icing in baggies (or the piping bags you’ll use), then cut off the tips when it’s time to decorate. Best to store in the refrigerator for those couple of days. It’s helpful to bring them to room temperature prior to using/decorating.

  9. Hi Sally, do you have a recipe for glossy royal icing with meringue powder? just wanted a shiny royal icing on my cookies instead of the glaze

    1. Hi Ree! Adding a teaspoon of corn syrup helps keep the icing shiny.

  10. Hi, I used your royal icing recipe the first time I decorated cookies fir Christmas, your recipe was fantastic to work with! I have your site in my IPad notes and getting ready to make a small batch for cookies I made for grandson to bring to his daycare for Valentine’s Day, along with a heart shape cookies for daughter, I baked letters for their names of kids at daycare to put tiny hearts on. I do have icing bags but I find using the plastic squeeze bottles work great even the very small one I take the metal nozzle out and use bottle for fine lines. I have to experiment to make a smaller batch for the royal icing sugar and meringue power..1 cup icing and 1/2- 3/4 tbsp of meringue work? Or…… thanks for sharing ..

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed working with this royal icing, Frankie! You can definitely make a smaller batch, try one cup of sugar with one TBS of meringue powder.

  11. Hi, I made this icing for some Valentine’s Day sugar cookies. However it doesn’t seem to be setting. They look great but the tiniest touch dents the icing. It’s been 12 hours – shouldn’t they be completely hardened by now? What could I have done wrong?

    1. Hi Becky, Did you add a lot of extra water to your icing, layer it on your cookies thickly, or is it particularly humid where you live? There are so many different factors that can affect the dry time of this icing without you doing anything wrong!

  12. I made Valentine sugar cookies with this royal icing and they are delicious and beautiful! I cut the icing recipe in half and still had almost a full cup left over after outlining and flooding 40 2-inch cookies. So glad I can freeze it for later!

    Love your site, Sally! Many thanks!

  13. Great Icing , best recipe for royal icing . Used for valentine cookies and will it will be my go to decorating cookie icing .
    First royal icing recipe that I have used and was the right consistency for flooding .

  14. hi, Can i add like an almond extract to this or other extracts? How much would I use. I love vanilla extract but it makes my icing get a tinge to it? Any ideas to keep the icing bright white?

    1. Hi Judy, yes, feel free to add extracts for different flavors. Oddly enough, the smallest speck of purple food coloring will keep the icing bright white.

    2. Try using clear vanilla extract.

      1. Judy Riccio says:

        Isn’t clear vanilla extract imitation?

  15. Hi Sally,

    I’m going to use this for the animal crackers! Is it possible to add chocolate to this frosting? If so, what kind (cocoa powder, melted chocolate?) and how much?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Kristina, I don’t have a recipe for chocolate royal icing. I have tried it but the recipe from Sweet Sugar Belle looks good and her explanations seem thorough: https://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2012/02/chocolate-royal-icing/

  16. Hi Sally,
    I’m in China right now, and I don’t know where to buy my stuff. So, can I use egg whites? I’m super confused, and I would LOVE it if you reply to me soon!

    1. Hi Coralina! I recommend the meringue powder here. Using fresh egg whites would require a different recipe. Luckily there are many options if you’re going that route!

  17. Do you ever use the paddle attachment when mixing royal icing?

    1. Hi Lisa, 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!

  18. Hi,
    Very new to royal icing. Is 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar equal to 1 lb? Learning that weighing is king in baking.
    Thanks,
    Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa! Just about. 1 pound = 3.5 – 4 cups unsifted confectioners’ sugar.

  19. I’ve used meringue powder in the past – trying different brands – but always found that it imparted a subtly metallic taste to the icing. Maybe it’s just me, but I could definitely taste it, and it was off-putting. I discovered, however, that I could use pasteurized egg whites in the carton from the cold section of the grocery, right next to where the “EggBeaters” are stored. However many raw egg whites would be used, for each use three tablespoons of the pasteurized egg whites as a substitute. For the volume of confectioner’s sugar in this recipe, I’d say it would use two+ egg whites, or six + tablespoons of pasteurized egg whites. Of course, you’d need to reduce the water amount by the same amount of liquid egg whites used. You get the benefit of the natural taste of actual egg whites, but can be assured that there won’t be any bacterial issues because of the pasteurization.

  20. Great recipe! I need royal icing to pipe into daisies for a cake. Can I still use this recipe and just add more sugar to make it thicker?

    1. Hi Charene! Yes, you can add more confectioners’ sugar to make a thicker royal icing 🙂

      1. Hello! I feel like I have added a whole extra cup of confection sugar and it’s not thick enough yet… and only did 9tbsp water. Any advice??? Was the sugar supposed to be packed?

  21. Thank you for this easy and delicious recipe, Sally! I ended up making mine a little too thick, so I did a border first and then added more water to the icing so I could flood them. What I loved about your recipe is that you could do both a once, so I just need t get the consistency down!

  22. Hi. I used this recipe during the holidays with great success! I just used it again and could not get it to thin out. I kept adding water -tons- and it kept getting fluffier?! By the end it was the consistency of shaving cream, hard to use and wouldn’t dry?? Help what did I do wrong? I used the whisk attachments on boschmixer. It is 60 degrees and rainy here- too humid??

    Appreciate any guidance.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, If it got super fluffy it was probably over-mixed. Next time try a paddle attachment (really either one works but some people notice less air gets incorporated with the paddle) and slow down your mixer.

  23. Hi there, thanks for the site and recipes!
    I’ve got some freezedried strawberry powder coming in the post, do you think I could add it to this icing and still have it hold up and dry ok?
    thanks in advance!

    1. I use freeze dried fruit powder in buttercream frostings all the time, but I honestly haven’t tried it with royal icing. I can’t think of a reason it wouldn’t work but please let me know if you try!

      1. Hi again,
        Well I tried it with and without the freeze-dried strawberry powder and this is a great recipe both ways! 😀
        I actually made this 3 times now and the first time I think I overwhipped it, the consistency started to go down the home-made marshmallow route but I pulled it back enough to use it.
        I added 1 tsp of vanilla and almond extracts, and 1 tsp corn syrup as you suggested for a bit of shine and it tastes great… might be the corn syrup that contributed to the marshmallowy-ness when I overwhipped? I was more careful the next 2 times though and this icing is perfect!
        Even with the corn syrup I wouldn´t mind it being a bit shinier but I would much rather have it taste lovely and not break your teeth than have it look varnished. I did think of painting the cookies after they´ve dried with corn syrup and seeing what happens, but I forgot about it til after the cookies where gone lol. It´s probably a crazy idea anyway, I don´t know anything about corn syrup and this is the first time I´ve ever actually used it but I´ll try a test cookie next time and see how it goes.
        Anyhow, I didn´t actually weigh how much strawberry powder I used but it was enough to colour the icing a dusky rose. I outlined with plain white icing and did flowers, they were so pretty! And having the powder in the icing really brought out the strawberry flavour cos with the cookies by themselves you couldn´t really tell it was strawberry.
        Thanks again for a great recipe, this is going to make my holiday cookies so much prettier and it´s a lot easier and more fun that frosting cookies in different colours and shapes in buttercream the way I usually do!

  24. Once frosted, can these be stored at room temperature and if so, for how long? Thank you.

    1. Hi Susan, If you are using my sugar cookies with this frosting then they stay fresh if tightly covered at room temperature for 5 day.

  25. Hey Sally!
    Can I leave out the meringue powder, or can something be subsituted (cream of tartar powder perhaps?)
    Thanks!

    1. Unfortunately, meringue powder is the key to make royal icing. If you don’t have any you can use my recipe for an easy glaze to decorate your cookies.

  26. Sally..fill I wed instructions to the letter but as I started beating little pellets were flying out of my bowl and I did sift powder sugar. Had to play with it adding more water until it came together then had to add a bit more powder sugar for 15 second test. First time and some did drip down sides of cookies so anxious to see how it works.

  27. I love the cookie recipe with the easy glaze. Everyone loves them… that is if I am able to leave some behind after making them. “smiles”
    But I am having a problem with the Royal Icing recipe. You mention a couple of times to watch the video, but I can’t find it.

  28. This recipe is now my go to, also! So simple, perfect results! I’ve had success with all your recipes I’ve tried. Thanks so much!

  29. Letitia Maynard says:

    I love this recipe. Very easy and yummy to make. I couldn’t get the kiddo to stop eating it. Plus i have leftovers for more cookies. I colored mine and had no problem with mixing a little color in to give it the pastel color i wanted for easter. Very tasty on sugar cookies.

  30. I am using your sugar cookie/royal icing recipies to make gender reveal cookies for my family. I plan on completely covering both sides of the cookie to conceal the colored cookie under the icing. Do you think there is any reason why I shouldn’t cover the comlete sugar cookie in royal icing? I am also guessing I’d have to dip it, let it dry for two hours, then dip the second side, then dry again. Any advice?

    1. Hi Jenn! Shouldn’t have an issue doing this– I’ve done it with my animal cracker cookies before with no problem. Dip one side, let dry, dip the other side.

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