Meringue vs. Pavlova

What's the Difference?

Meringue and Pavlova are both popular desserts that feature a light and airy texture, but they differ in their preparation and presentation. Meringue is made by whipping egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form, resulting in a crisp and delicate shell. It is often used as a topping or base for other desserts. On the other hand, Pavlova is a dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. It is made by adding cornstarch and vinegar to the meringue mixture, creating a soft and marshmallow-like interior. Pavlova is typically served as a large, round cake-like base topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits. While both desserts showcase the versatility of meringue, Pavlova offers a more indulgent and visually appealing presentation.


Photo by Charity Beth Long on Unsplash
OriginSwitzerland/FranceNew Zealand/Australia
Main IngredientEgg whites and sugarEgg whites and sugar
TextureCrisp and lightCrisp on the outside, soft and marshmallow-like on the inside
ShapeUsually round or individual portionsUsually round or individual portions
PreparationBaked in the ovenBaked in the oven
Serving StyleOften served as a dessert on its own or used as a toppingUsually topped with whipped cream and fruits
Popular VariationsFrench, Swiss, ItalianClassic, Berry, Tropical
Photo by Eugene Krasnaok on Unsplash

Further Detail


When it comes to elegant and delicate desserts, meringue and pavlova are two popular choices that often leave people confused due to their similar appearance and ingredients. While both desserts are made primarily from egg whites and sugar, they have distinct differences in their preparation, texture, and serving styles. In this article, we will explore the attributes of meringue and pavlova, highlighting their unique characteristics and helping you understand the key differences between these delightful treats.

1. Origins and History

Meringue, believed to have originated in Switzerland, has a long history dating back to the 17th century. It was initially used as a topping for pies and other desserts. On the other hand, pavlova, named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, is a dessert that originated in either Australia or New Zealand in the 1920s. The exact origin is still a topic of debate between the two countries, but both claim to have created this delicate dessert in honor of the ballerina during her tour. Regardless of its origin, pavlova has become an iconic dessert in both countries and is enjoyed worldwide.

2. Ingredients

Both meringue and pavlova share a common base of egg whites and sugar. However, the ratio of these ingredients and the addition of other components differ between the two desserts. Meringue typically includes a higher proportion of sugar to egg whites, resulting in a crisp and dry texture. It may also contain cream of tartar or lemon juice to stabilize the egg whites and create a fluffy consistency. On the other hand, pavlova incorporates a lower amount of sugar, allowing for a softer and marshmallow-like interior. It often includes the addition of cornstarch or vinegar to create a chewy texture and a slightly tangy flavor.

3. Preparation and Baking

The preparation of meringue and pavlova follows a similar process, but with slight variations. To make meringue, egg whites are beaten until stiff peaks form, and sugar is gradually added to create a glossy and stable mixture. This mixture is then piped or spooned onto a baking sheet and baked at a low temperature for a longer duration to achieve a crisp exterior. Pavlova, on the other hand, involves the addition of sugar gradually while beating the egg whites until they become thick and glossy. Cornstarch or vinegar is then folded into the mixture to stabilize it further. The pavlova mixture is then shaped into a round or rectangular base on a baking sheet and baked at a slightly higher temperature than meringue, resulting in a crisp outer shell and a soft, marshmallow-like center.

4. Texture and Mouthfeel

The texture of meringue and pavlova is where the most noticeable differences lie. Meringue, with its higher sugar content and longer baking time, has a dry and crisp texture throughout. It shatters easily when bitten into, providing a satisfying crunch. On the other hand, pavlova has a delicate and fragile exterior that cracks upon slicing, revealing a soft and pillowy interior. The contrast between the crisp shell and the marshmallow-like center creates a delightful mouthfeel that is both light and airy. The texture of pavlova is often described as melt-in-your-mouth, making it a truly indulgent dessert experience.

5. Serving and Presentation

When it comes to serving and presentation, meringue and pavlova offer different options. Meringue is commonly served as individual cookies or used as a topping for pies and cakes. It can be piped into various shapes, such as nests or shells, and filled with whipped cream, fruits, or other sweet fillings. Meringue-based desserts are often decorated with a dusting of powdered sugar or garnished with fresh fruits to enhance their visual appeal. On the other hand, pavlova is typically presented as a large, round or rectangular dessert base that is topped with whipped cream and an assortment of fresh fruits, such as berries, kiwi, or passion fruit. The vibrant colors of the fruits against the white cream and pale pavlova create a visually stunning dessert that is perfect for special occasions.

6. Flavor Profiles

While both meringue and pavlova are primarily sweet desserts, they offer distinct flavor profiles. Meringue, with its crisp texture and high sugar content, has a sweet and sugary taste that is often complemented by the addition of vanilla extract or other flavorings. It provides a neutral base that allows the flavors of the fillings or toppings to shine. On the other hand, pavlova has a delicate sweetness with a subtle tanginess due to the addition of vinegar or lemon juice. This slight tang balances the sweetness and adds a refreshing element to the dessert. The combination of the soft, sweet pavlova with the creamy whipped cream and the tartness of the fruits creates a harmonious blend of flavors that is both light and satisfying.


While meringue and pavlova may share some similarities in their ingredients, they are distinct desserts with unique attributes. Meringue offers a crisp and dry texture, making it perfect for cookies and pie toppings. Pavlova, on the other hand, has a delicate and marshmallow-like interior that contrasts with its crisp outer shell, creating a melt-in-your-mouth experience. The flavor profiles of the two desserts also differ, with meringue providing a neutral base and pavlova offering a delicate sweetness with a hint of tanginess. Whether you prefer the crunch of meringue or the softness of pavlova, both desserts are sure to impress with their elegance and delightful flavors.

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