A few years ago, I walked into a bakery in northeastern Indiana and spotted a display of colorful macarons. I immediately purchased six of these pretty cookies (don’t judge—they’re small!), and decided I’d try to make them myself. If I could make macaroons, I certainly could make macarons, right?
What I didn’t know was how different these cookies could be. It took me five attempts to get these right. That’s when I decided to do a little research on the difference between the two, because that extra “o” causes a lot of confusion (and can mean a lot more work in the kitchen). Here are 20 other things most of us think are the same—but aren’t.
The French macaron
The macaron (pronounced mac-a-rohn) was made famous by the French, though they take their name from the Italian word maccarone, or meringue. These cookies are easy to spot in any bakery case: They look like beautifully elegant Oreo cookies. Macarons, however, are light and delicate. They’re made by combining almond flour and meringue for a deliciously chewy texture. These shells are then sandwiched together with a filling like buttercream, ganache or jam. Food colorings and extra flavors give these cookies extra flair.
The American macaroon
The macaroon (pronounced mack-a-roon) gets its name from the Italian word ammaccare, which means “to crush,” but this creation is as American as can be. Shredded coconut cookies are served plain, packed with extra ingredients (think lemon or chocolate candies) or dipped in chocolate. Macaroons are made by whipping egg whites and sugar into a meringue and adding coconut (try toasting it first for extra flavor). Spooned onto a cookie sheet and baked, these cookies are delicious and chewy.
As you can tell, that extra “o” makes a big difference. Keep in mind that many folks pronounce both these treats the Americanized way (no judging on my end!), so I like to ask if they mean the coconut cookie or the fancy French sandwich cookie, and then share what I’ve learned about the difference between the two. While we’re at it, check out the definitive ranking of Pepperidge Farm cookies.