How to Make Meringue Tops for Pies

Nothing crowns a citrus pie more royally than fluffy white meringue, its peaks turned golden brown in the baking. It’s simple and easy to make your pie look spectacular! Meringue—mmmm!

Browned meringue pie top
Perfectly browned meringue pie top

No matter what’s underneath it!

This traditional top for a Lemon Meringue Pie is also perfect for other citrus pies such as Grapefruit Meringue Pie.

Meringue ingredients

4 egg whites
1 Tbsp (15cc) cornstarch
1 Tbsp (15cc) sugar
1/3 cup (8cl) water
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) vanilla extract
1/4 tsp (2.5ml) cream of tartar
1/2 cup (95g) sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and place the oven rack in the middle. (Hint—the meringue will be tall, so make sure it won’t touch the top of the oven when it rises!)

In a small pan, combine the cornstarch, 1 Tbsp (15cc) sugar, and the water. Cook for several minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken and become translucent. Cool it.

Beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the vanilla, cream of tartar, and 1/2 cup (95g) sugar. Beat until foamy. Add the cornstarch-sugar-water mixture and continue beating until the meringue forms soft peaks; if you lift some with a spoon or spatula, it should form a peak that stands up. The meringue will also look shiny.

Uncover your pie and spread the meringue over the filling. Start by spreading it around the edges, being sure to seal the edges of the crust. Pile the meringue into the middle of the pie and make some decorative swirls with your spatula. There will be a lot of meringue!

Bake for about 20-25 minutes at 350°F (175°C). The meringue should be lightly browned on top. Check it frequently for the last 5-10 minutes to make sure the peaks don’t burn.

Tips from Jane

Separating egg whites from yolks isn’t difficult, but you have to be careful, because even a little bit of yolk (protein and fat) in with the white (carbohydrate) will keep the whites from frothing up properly.

I do each egg separately to minimize the risk of messing up, and I use three bowls: One to catch each white, the second for the accumulated whites, and the third for the yolks.

Hold an egg in one hand and give it a firm tap on the side of the bowl. Separate the halves, keeping the yolk in the shell and allowing the white to fall into bowl no. 1. Place the yolk into bowl no. 2. Transfer the white to bowl no. 3.

Take the second egg and repeat process, so by the end you have four yolks in bowl no. 2 and four whites in bowl no. 3.

If a yolk breaks and gets into the white, set that egg aside for scrambled eggs, wash out the bowl, and start again with a new egg. Here’s the process.