Food is fun, isn’t it? Yesterday, we discussed the confusion that could surround spring rolls and salad rolls, especially when the same term could be used to describe very different dishes. By the same accord, a similar kind of confusion can arise when you have seemingly similar terms for entirely different food items too, as is the case with macarons and macaroons.

Macarons Are French

Even as I type this into my blog, the automatic spell check feature in WordPress is telling me that macarons (with one “O”) is a mistake. It’s not. Macarons are the French confection that you see at the top of this post. In effect, they’re like meringue sandwiches. You get a couple of smooth biscuits made with eggs, icing sugar and almond meal, and between these you’ll usually find some sort of jam, buttercream or ganache.

They’re incredibly commonplace in Paris and there are many patisseries where you can find them in Vancouver too. You’ll find macarons in all sorts of different colors with all sorts of different filings. They tend to be very light and delicate with a distinctive “ruffle” around the outer edge. It’s important to note that macaron is pronounced as “mah-kah-rohn,” roughly rhyming with words like tone or moan. The word was originally derived from the Italian word macarone, which really just means meringue.

Macaroons Are American (Sort Of)


The French macaron is entirely different from the macaroon that you see here. The most common variety that we know around these parts is best described as the “American” coconut macaroon. The shape is more like a ball, rather than being like a sandwich, and you’ll usually find a very textured surface from the shaved coconut. Whereas the French macaron is essentially meringue-based, this American variant is more like a balled cookie. It could be dense or fluffy and the macaroon may optionally be dipped in chocolate. Macaroon is pronounced as “mah-kah-roon,” rhyming with cartoon, noon or moon.

Now, the reason why I say that “macaroons” are “sort of” American is that there are many different varieties from around the world that are somewhat similar, though they take on some regional characteristics. A Scottish macaroon might have a fondant center, whereas a Dominican macaroon is darker and uses ginger. There’s a hazelnut and honey version in Spain called carajitos, while macaroons in the Indian areas of Tuticorin and Mangalore have macaroons with cashews.

What a Difference One Letter Can Make

I’m not going to enter the debate about whether one sweet treat is better than the other. Instead, this post was simply meant to illustrate that when you are talking about the French meringue-based biscuit sandwich, you really shouldn’t call it a macaroon. This may have been the case in the past, but if you want to avoid any ambiguity, call it a macaron instead.