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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. Hi I’m trying meringue powder again, I usually use corn syrup for shine can I add it to this recipe?

    1. Hi Brenda, A little corn syrup would be fine, but it will thin out the icing. You may want to reduce the water.

  2. Could this royal icing be used for cookies that are on the softer side, such as lofthouse cookies?

    1. Hi Naomie, you can certainly try this icing on lofthouse style cookies if you wish. You may want to keep it on the thicker side, so it doesn’t absorb into the cookie. Let us know how it goes!

  3. I hope you can help me Sally! I’ve made royal icing for years and never had a problem. When my best friend asked me to help her ice cookies for her daughter’s shower, I was delighted to help. It went pretty well I thought. She beat the icing at first then we began to add water to get it to flooding. I’m not sure it was beaten enough at first, because it got thicker when we added water. Then she beat it a little harder. We ended up adding what seemed like a lot of water to get it flooding consistency. It worked perfectly.. Borders and flooding. But it did not dry in 24 hours and the remaining icing separated! What do you think happened? She’s afraid to try again! HELP!

    1. Hi Laurie, It sounds like you may have just mixed it too long. When it’s mixed too long (or at too high of speed) it will incorporate too much air – this makes it fluffier which means it goes on thicker and takes longer to dry. Next time just turn down the speed of your mixer and don’t mix quite as long, you can also try switching to the paddle attachment instead of the whisk so it doesn’t get as much air. Hope this helps!

    2. I have been making cookies for years with absolutely no problem and the last two times this exact thing has happened to me. I’m wondering if Wilton has changed their merengue powder? Frustrating.

  4. I don’t have a whisk or paddle attachment for my mixer. Can I still make this recipe?

    1. Hi Jess, It will be quite the arm workout using a whisk, but you can try it!

    1. Hi Rachel, that would depend on the size of your cookies – this recipe yields about 3 cups which is quite a bit!

    2. Hi Sally, can an extract be added to this royal icing? If so, how much?
      Thank you!

      1. Hi Janette, 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).

  5. Hi Sally is there any other option aside from Meringue powder? I’ve been searching from bakeshops, but no luck

    1. Hi Jam, meringue powder is essential for this recipe. You could search for a traditional royal icing recipe using egg whites, or try our easy cookie icing recipe as well.

    1. Hi Tina, we haven’t tried it ourselves, but you can try swapping some of the powdered sugar for cocoa powder to make a chocolate icing. It may take a bit of trial and error, or take a look online for a chocolate version to find some inspiration / guidance. Or, you can use brown food coloring like we do with our football cookies.

  6. Hi Sally is it OK not to use meringues powder?
    Will it make a difference?

    1. Hi Saffiyah, meringue powder is essential for this recipe. You could search for a traditional royal icing recipe using egg whites, or try our easy cookie icing recipe as well.

  7. Hey Sally, I’m making this recipe but don’t have meringue powder. Can I substitute it with whipped egg whites?

  8. I used this recipe to frost sugar cookies then froze them in individual cookie bags for about a month. When they thawed in the fridge, the pink icing turned kind of a blotchy white. It looks gross and old. What did I do wrong?

    1. Hi Beth, it sounds like there was some condensation in the bag which caused the spots to form on the thawing icing. If you’re able to next time, you can try placing a piece of parchment paper on top of the cookie to add another layer of protection.

      1. Can you halve this recipe if you don’t need as much instead of freezing the leftover?

      2. Absolutely, you can halve this recipe.

  9. I just did your cookie recipe for the second time and they turned out perfect again. I froze the leftover icing to use later. It has been 6 months and I just noticed you said we could store up to 2 months. I’m trying to decide if I should start over or give my 6 month old icing a try. What do you recommend?

    1. Hi Analu! 2 months is our recommendation for best flavor and texture, but let us know if you give it a try!

    2. I just got nervous looking at some other comments, I couldn’t find any lemon extract which is what I usually use in this recipe, but I have some lemon oil. Would it be ok to put a couple drops, or would it negatively affect the icing?

      1. Oil of any kind will ruin Royal icing. Better to leave it our than ruin the whole batch. Sorry…

  10. Hi – can this recipe be used with vegan meringue powder? I want to decorate some gingerbread for selling at vegan markets.

    1. Hi Jules, we haven’t tested that so we’re unsure of the results. Let us know if you do!

    1. Hi Esther, it’s best to store in a tightly covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight, if possible. That way, you can give it a good stir to bring it back to piping consistency before using the next day.

  11. If I use less water would the icing be thick enough to pipe with a grass tip?

  12. I’m so glad I found this recipe, it made it super easy for us to decorate our cookies, our toddler had a blast smothering them in sprinkles. Next time I’ll start with less water as I goofed up and added the whole amount so it was on the thinner side but still great.

  13. Hi Sally! I love your recipes so much! Your sugar cut-out cookies and royal icing are my go-to, and I go to them a lot!!! 🙂 I have a question about the icing. What might be the reason they are very dull and not shiny when they dry? The first time I made it, the icing dried with a beautiful shine. Now for some reason, frequently the don’t not anymore. Any ideas? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Lisa! I’m so glad to read that you enjoy the sugar cookies and this icing. Humidity is often the culprit if the frosting is losing its shine. The icing will dry dull and the surface may even be uneven. Is it very humid where you live right now?

  14. Hi! I’m excited to try this recipe but I usually bake cakes rather than cookies. Can I still use this? Will it work well to ice the cake or should I only use it for decorations?

    1. Hi Allie, we wouldn’t recommend using this icing for a cake. We have a lot of other frosting recipes you could try, though!

      1. hi I’m thinking of making this icing and i was wondering for how long i should refrigerate it before using it for my cookie

  15. Hello! How many gingerbread houses could I ice with this recipe? I am using your gingerbread house recipe. I think I will use this icing to stick the house together and also to decorate.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Paige, this recipe makes enough for assembling one gingerbread house with plenty leftover for decorating. If you’re making more than one full-size house, we recommend doubling or 1.5x the royal icing recipe just to be sure you have enough.

  16. Sally what if I left my icing out overnight on counter House is cool Is it safe to use today? Mona

    1. Hi Mona! Royal icing will last for several days at room temperature (as long as you are using meringue powder like in this recipe) in an airtight container. However, it will start to separate after a few hours and need to be stirred again before using. Enjoy!

  17. Hi Sally! I am new to royal icing. How do I know what consistency for decorating cookies? I know thin consistency for borders and etc but what about “flooding” the entire cookie and other decorations? THANK YOU in advance!

    1. Hi Heidi, You may even want to use the thicker icing just for the borders, while using a thinner consistency for flooding. Hope this helps, and thanks so much for giving it a try!

    1. Hi JoAnn, some bakers will use royal icing to pipe flowers for on cookies, but the icing will need to be much thicker than used for flooding and basic decoration (more confectioners sugar, less water). If you’re looking for flowers to pipe onto a cake, we recommend using vanilla buttercream and substituting some of the butter for shortening to make a “crustier” buttercream for piping. Hope this helps!

  18. Hi, I’m planning on making this icing for a cookie decorating party. I’m traveling about an hour away with the icing, so would the icing be okay if I made it the morning of the party and I put them in squeeze bottles? Would I need to plastic wrap the opening of the squeeze bottles before I put the lid on?

    Thanks in advance for the help 🙂

    1. Hi Kacey, this icing would be just fine on that trip. You would probably be fine without wrapping the opening of the squeeze bottle (under the lid), but you certainly can just to be totally sure the icing doesn’t get dry at all.

    1. Hi Cindy! Here are some tips to help your royal icing dry more shiny than dull. Some decorators add a very small amount of light corn syrup to their icing to add some shine, but keep in mind that it may not dry as hard. You can also try drying your iced cookies in front of a fan for the first hour or two which helps keep some shine. Humidity in the air also plays a roll in how the icing drys so if you are going for a shiny look try making them when your kitchen is not humid. Hope this helps!

  19. Hi! I just used this for cookies and am realizing that it may set to DRY but not firm. As in any pressure on it will create a divot. It’s been 6 hours, will it firm up any more? Kinda worried that I just wasted 100 cookies (literally) for my kid’s bday party we were going to decorate w/ edible markers.

    Thanks.

    1. Hi David, How long it takes to completely harden can vary greatly depending on how much water you added, the humidity in the air, how thick you applied the icing, etc. We usually wait a full 24 hours to stack them or write on them. For next time, you can try using less water, as that will help the icing to be a bit thicker and dry quicker. Hope this helps!

      1. Thanks. I left it a solid 24 hours at 45% humidity and it ended probably fine-ish? We’ll see tomorrow I guess. I then put them all in bags and in the freezer so we can pull and guarantee it’s firm enough for the first ten minutes which is about a single.cookies max attention span w a 7 year old. Thanks.

  20. I loved this recipe. It was easy to follow and written very well. My question though, is what is the best speed on the stand mixer to use? I read another comment that said too high of a speed can incorporate too much air. Also, is it best to hand stir in the gel colors? Thanks!

    1. Hi Shellyn, thank you for your positive feedback! We prefer mixing the icing on high speed. The longer you whip it, the more air it will incorporate (as you mention), which will make the icing thicker — something to keep in mind depending on the consistency you are looking for. We mix in the colors with the mixer but you can certainly do it by hand if you prefer. Thanks again!

  21. Do you have any recommendations on what I can use for icing without sugar? I know it sounds crazy, but want to do the process with my toddler (baking cookies, and decorating together), but don’t necessarily like the idea of her having too much sugar.

    Otherwise, I love the recipe! I am not a baker (not even close), but everyone loves the cookies I make – so thank you!

    1. Hi Masho, there isn’t a great replacement for the powdered sugar in this recipe. You may be able to find an alternative recipe on another site that is specifically formulated without sugar. Glad to hear you enjoy the cookie recipe!

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