Macarons de Nancy – The traditional French macarons

Macarons de Nancy - The best almond macarons in the world - Maison des Soeurs Macaron

The sweet meringue-based treat called macaron* is produced with eggs, sugar, almond meal, and food colouring. Although most people know macarons as a small sandwich of two biscuits with cream in the middle, the most traditional French macarons are the Macarons de Nancy, which can be found in the city of Nancy (the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine in France). They are almond and meringue-based biscuits and considered by many to be the best almond macarons in the world.

the story of macarons
Parisian macarons
Photo by collectmoments from Flickr

The macaron is said to have been introduced to France during the Renaissance by the Italian cook of Queen Catherine de Medici. However, this story appears to be a myth. In the encyclopaedia Larousse Gastronomique, the French monastery in Cormery in the 8th century is cited as the origin of the macaron. Another version claims that the history of these almond biscuits can be traced back to Morocco in the 11th century. There, they were mostly offered during Ramadan. The conventional Parisian-style macaron, which is presented with ganache, buttercream, or jam spread between two biscuits, has been the most popular type of macaron since the 19th century.

Macarons de Nancy - The best almond macarons in the world
Photo by Jason Whittaker from Flickr

The monastery of Les Dames du Saint-Sacrement was founded by Catherine de Vaudemont in the centre of Nancy. In the monastery, there were strict rules that banned the consumption of meat. In this way, the sisters of the convent baked a wide range of pastries, including the latterly famous macarons. After the French Revolution, when the decree about the abolishment of religious congregations was put into force, two of the sisters, Marguerite and Marie-Elizabeth, found shelter in the house of the town doctor, at Rue de la Hache. In order to have an income and support themselves, they started making and selling macarons. They soon became well known, and their reputation spread outside Nancy. Not long after, their shop took the name “Les Soeurs Macarons”. In 1952, the city of Nancy renamed the street where their shop was located “Rue des Soeurs Macarons”.


If you visit the city of Nancy, you will see several pastry shops advertising that they make traditional macarons, but the only place where the original macarons are produced is the Maison des Soeurs Macarons (House of the Macarons Sisters) at 21 rue Gambetta. Here you will find macarons made with the authentic recipe, which is still kept a secret by Nicolas Genot. This mouthwatering sweet treat is a traditional macaron since it is just made from egg whites, sugar, and Provence almonds. The dessert is a little crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside. With the first bite, your mouth is filled with the aroma of almonds, and the macaron happily dissolves in your mouth.

Also, there is a museum at the site of the original place used by the two sisters, the Musee Fours des Soeurs Macarons.

Macarons de Nancy - The best almond macarons in the world
Photo by Evi Michou (By Food and Travel team)

Although the recipe for the Macarons of Nancy remains a secret, you could find many recipes on the internet that try to replicate their unique taste.

According to the website the ingredients are:

  • 150 g almond meal
  • 250 g icing sugar sieved
  • 2 small egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp bitter almond essence

And the way of making:

  • Mix the almond meal with the icing sugar and then mix in the egg whites, vanilla extract and almond essence.
  • Put small spoonfuls (the size of a walnut) on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper. Make sure you space them out. To get a perfect shape you can also use a piping bag.
  • Leave the macarons to dry a little and to form a crust (approx 1 hour). Then pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C.
  • Before putting in the oven moisten the tops with a little water using a patry brush.
  • Cook for about 10 minutes until golden brown and then remove from the oven.
  • You can eat them warm or cold.
An epilogue

Although the macarons of Nancy are not the most impressive-looking macarons we have seen, they are definitely a tasty treasure worth discovering. These macarons are part of French culture and culinary history. They are the most traditional and authentic French macarons and undoubtedly the ancestors of the more famous Parisian ones. A visit to the patisserie of the two sisters in Nancy is the definition of the philosophy of food and travel.

*In the article, we use the French term macaron, which most of the time is referred to in English as macaroon, although there is a debate over whether macaron and macaroon are the same thing.

[Photo at the top by Patrick from Flickr]