American Meringue Buttercream (vegan)

This frosting is quick, it’s easy, it’s no-cook, and just so happens to be vegan. It’s American Buttercream’s less teeth-shatteringly sweet, more refined, and just as perfectly versatile meringue cousin. Dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free, it’s allergy friendly and you’ll love working with it. Plus, the flavor and texture will have everyone who tastes it in awe.

While American Buttercream may be the quickest and easiest of the buttercreams to make, many people find it to be sickeningly sweet because it’s the sugar that gives it structure and body – and it takes quite a lot. So what could we possibly do to it to make that not the case?

Enter aquafaba.

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I usually use garbanzo/chickpea aquafaba – but any one will do!

Aquafaba is legume (beans, lentils, soy, peas, etc.) cooking or canning liquid – and it is the vegan egg white replacement for perfect meringues. It can be used to make macarons and top meringue pies, and even perfect little meringue cookies and royal icing. And it gets treated just like egg whites do in all of the meringue recipes out there.

And there are some amazing recipes by amazing bloggers for vegan meringue buttercreams like this recipe by Gretchen’s Vegan Bakery which is DELICIOUS and AMAZING, but they all involve a pan on the stove and I’m honestly quite lazy and don’t like to dirty extra dishes or turn the stove on unless I absolutely have to. So I had an idea.

Weighing sugar to make syrup. The bane of my existence.

One day, while making my easy vegan buttercream, I wondered how I could lower the sugar amount but still maintain structure within the frosting.. And I’ve made enough aquafaba meringue to know it COULD provide structure, but was worried it might deflate if I added it to a bunch of fat. Fats and oils kill meringue faster than you can blink your eyes, in case you didn’t know. Plus, aquafaba meringue usually deflates over time unless it’s stablized with something like agar agar. If you don’t add a stabilizer, it starts to melt and get weepy, and NO ONE wants a soggy cake due to deflating meringue.

But I decided to give it a chance anyway, and I did it the lazy way; I just cracked open a can of beans and dumped the liquid straight into the buttercream.

AND IT WORKED. WONDERFULLY. PERFECTLY. MIRACULOUSLY.

Smooooooth.

It fluffs up gorgeously, provides a silky texture and beautiful sheen to the buttercream, and takes the place of a whole bunch of sugar so that the frosting is only about half as sweet as what my original American buttercream recipe is.

Even being a meringue buttercream, it’s still stable enough to go between cake layers or macarons and not squish or slide out everywhere.

This cake traveled an hour by car, was unloaded and reloaded multiple times, and sat in 75-80° F heat for over three hours and did great! It was filled and frosted with American meringue buttercream.

It doesn’t deflate or weep, and colors and takes on flavors like a dream. And if you want a denser meringue, you can totally reduce your aquafaba down before adding it (I don’t because I’m happy with the way it is and I don’t want to dirty extra dishes).

If you want to check out some gorgeous cakes that use buttercream employing this method, check out @justsomethingfancy on Instagram – while she doesn’t use my exact recipe (because I’m just publishing it now, lol) she does add reduced aquafaba to her buttercream to make it lighter, fluffier, and less sweet.

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Pinterest image featuring cupcakes topped with smooth, white, meringue buttercream


As far as butters go, take a look at my Easiest Vegan Buttercream Ever post to check out which ones work and how to make the ones that don’t bend to your will.

Tutorial Video:


So without further ado….

The Recipe

Yield: Enough to generously fill and frost an 8" cake

American Meringue Buttercream (vegan)

American Meringue Buttercream (vegan)

No thermometers, no cooking, no weighing, no timing, no fuss. The easiest meringue buttercream to ever exist - thanks to aquafaba. And it just so happens to be vegan. Smooth, pipeable, delicious, and super simple to make.

Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (4 sticks, 450g) vegan butter*, room temp
  • 5 cups (550g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2ish c (125ml) aquafaba, room temperature**

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream your butter on low speed until lighter in color and smooth, then turn off mixer.
  2. Add all the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until completely incorporated. Turn off mixer.
  3. Add in your vanilla and aquafaba and mix on medium high for five to ten minutes, until your preferred level of fluffiness has been achieved. Keep in mind that the fluffier it gets, the less weight the buttercream will be able to hold. I usually go about five minutes.
  4. Mix on low/stir speed for five minutes to get rid of bubbles.

Notes

* Country Crock plant butter sticks or equivalent. For more on vegan butters and how to make them work, check out my Easiest Vegan Buttercream Ever post (please note that Earth Balance and Miyoko’s are both too soft for this recipe alone. Use 50/50 butter and shortening if you’re unsure if your butter will work)

** I add my aquafaba straight from the can - no reducing. Feel free to reduce yours first if you want, though.

*** The perfect amount of aquafaba to use depends on your climate, your tastes, and your needs. If your buttercream feels too soft, reduce the aquafaba to about 1/3c and/or reduce whipping time. You can also add extra powdered sugar to stiffen it.

Allergy-Friendly and Vegan Pastry Recipes:

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118 thoughts on “American Meringue Buttercream (vegan)”

  1. I love it! It’s great vegan people can actually enjoy treats like this!But could the sugar be reduced more,5 cups still seems a lot?

    Reply
    • Hi, Beth! Yes, I add it during the final mixing – that way the color and flavor don’t get diluted by the air we beat into the frosting and it’s easier to judge how much needs to be added.

      Reply
    • Mine was liquid too 🙁 I added 2 extra cups of powdered sugar and it is now just a very expensive bowl of liquid. I haven’t had any issues with other icing recipes, maybe aquafaba just doesn’t like me.

      Reply
  2. Hi.

    I’m in Australia and we have 2 types of icing sugar. Does your powdered sugar contain constarch/cornflour, or is it just straight sugar?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi, Melissa!

      The powdered sugars (confectioner’s sugar) I use contain either corn or tapioca starch – depending on if I’m using organic or not.

      Here in the States, pure icing sugar isn’t really a widely available thing – but I know lots of folks who use their own and have used it in recipes with no problems!

      Reply
  3. Most baked goods taste better when left to get to room temperature. Will the icing hold up? My past experiences with aquafaba is that it tends to get runny and sticky.

    Reply
    • Hi! The cakes I’ve made with this have held up extremely well at room temperature and a bit above. The wedding cake pictured in the post held up at an outdoor wedding when it was 85°F without any issues. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hi there! Can I use powdered form of sweetener (like erithritol) and put agar or (gelatin for non vegans?) to hold shape – it would be needed in a sugarfree cake in layers and frosting as well.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi, Evelyn! I really hesitate to give a flat out “yes” here, because then the new recipe is absolutely nothing like this one. Lol.

      That said, confectioner’s erythritol will work in this recipe. No need for agar or gelatin to keep it stable, either. 🙂

      Reply
  5. This was a disappointment. Everything was going well until I added the aquafaba. I must have blended it for 20 minutes and nothing but goop. It was really sad to lose so much vegan butter and organic powdered sugar.

    Reply
  6. This is my go to buttercream. It could not possibly be any easier. Even when I overfilled my mixer with a double batch and split half on the floor, it came out beautifully. We absolutely love it and put it on everything. Thanks!

    Reply
  7. For those having trouble with the buttercream getting to liquid or curdling after adding the aquafaba, I suggest you add the aquafaba little by little, letting it incorporate each time. I had the same issue the first time I did it, my buttercream just curdled after adding the aquafaba. Had to mix for about 15 minutes, for it to get together. By then, it was just too fluffy.
    I did it again, adding the aquafaba little by little, and it was perfect! And it’s so versatile, I love it.

    Reply
    • Hi! Looking forward to trying this recipe for some Halloween cupcakes (going to add orange zest!). Do you use the avocado or almond country crock plant butter sticks for your buttercreams? Thanks!

      Reply
      • Hi, Amber!

        I’ve used all three varieties of the Country Crock Plant Butter sticks and they all perform equally. I change it up based on the allergies/sensitivities of the folks who will be eating them. 🙂

        Reply
  8. Hi, I would love to try this, but where I live (South India) there is no vegan butter or shortening available and the weather is always hot. Coconut oil for example is liquid throughout the year. Do you think it might work with cocoa butter? That said I really don’t want to experiment too much risking a flop cos the cocoa butter is quite expensive.

    Reply
    • Hi Miriam,

      I have a theory that mixing cocoa butter with coconut oil should give a good butter-like consistency, but I haven’t had a chance to experiment with it yet. If you’ve tried it and had success, I’d love to hear about it!

      Reply
    • Hi, Camilla!

      I usually make a paste with cocoa powder and water and add that, or mix in some of my ganache. I find that adding melted chocolate to it can sometimes result in a gritty buttercream, so I go with other options.

      Reply
  9. I was very excited to find this recipe and made a version of it tonight, one quarter the size by weight. I make my own chickpeas in the pressure cooker from dried beans and have lots of aquafaba that I’ve frozen into individual ice cubes, this recipe fits really well into my everyday life because after making the frosting I also don’t need to worry about what to do with lots of egg yolks afterward like when making a more traditional Swiss buttercream. Since I’m not vegan, I ended up using regular butter because that’s what I had in the house.

    Happily I found your video on YouTube that demonstrates this frosting and so the curdling phase wasn’t a surprise when I first added the liquids. After beating the frosting for about 7 minutes on speed 8 on my KitchenAid it was wonderfully frosty, slightly sweet, and had a sort of fluffy silky texture. The next thing I wanted to do was add flavoring in addition to the splash of vanilla, so I added a teaspoon of chocolate protein powder mixed with a bit of water and that helped a little bit but there wasn’t enough flavor still. So, after that I mixed some cocoa powder with water and after string that in there is a very pleasant velvety chocolate flavor to the frosting.

    Do you have any more advice on how to flavor this in different ways? I wasn’t sure how much of the flavoring I could add without breaking the emulsion

    I don’t post very often on blog sites, but your recipe is so useful and tastes great that I felt drawn to let you know how much I appreciate you posting it. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • Hi, Matt!

      I’m so glad to hear that you loved it, and thanks for sharing that dairy butter worked great, too!

      I don’t have any hard and fast, exact measurements for flavoring it as I’m more of a dump cook than anything else. I’ve flavored this with extracts, jams, vegan jello mix, reduced juices and coffee, espresso powder, crushed Oreos, and I’m sure a few more things too. I just toss in a couplefew tablespoons, and haven’t once had an issue with the emulsion breaking yet. 🙂

      Reply
  10. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this buttercream. It is EASY. It freezes SO well. It keeps for a long time. It is stable in different kinds of temperatures (hot and humid days). It is silky, light, easy to work with. Easy to flavor! I’ve made raspberry, chocolate, cookie and cream, rosewater, and more. So impressive!! You are an amazing unicorn Meggan.

    Reply
  11. Would this recipe work if I am using the Earth Balance Vegan butter sticks? It is the only vegan butter I can find in my area

    Reply
    • Hi! Yes it can work, but the buttercream will be quite soft and melt at warm temperatures. You can add a little extra powdered sugar to give it some additional structure, but it’ll still be pretty soft.

      Reply
  12. Oh my gosh! I was terrified to try this because of the comments of people who ended up with liquid. But it turned out beautiful! Thank you! I reduced down the aquafaba if that helps anyone.

    Reply
  13. Hi Meggan!!! For the aquafaba, is the 1/2 cup-ish the pure liquid, or after whipping it into a foam? Thank you for your recipes!!!

    Reply
    • Hi, Sharon!

      So sorry it took me so long to reply to you – I haven’t checked actually comments here on the blog in a while..

      The aquafaba here is straight from the can, no whipping beforehand. 🙂

      Reply
  14. Hi! Can I just use egg whites instead of Aquafaba? I just need the recipe to be dairy free, not vegan. How much egg whites would substitute aquafaba?

    Reply
    • Hi, Apryl

      I wish I could help you but I don’t really have any experience making this with egg whites. Generally, one tablespoon of aquafaba equals one egg white, though. I would start swapping with those measurements and adjust. And since this is an uncooked meringue, please make sure to use pasteurized whites. <3

      Reply
  15. Hi, I was so excited to try this but it’s sooo soft. It’s dripping off of my cake. I used 2 sticks of the country crock and the rest crisco. Was it the crisco? I thought it would help it be firmer!

    Reply
    • Hi, Kay!

      Ohhhh no! I’m so sorry to hear this!!

      Did you blend the butter and shortening together at the beginning? And if so, was it on low or high speed?

      It sounds like it may have been whipped a bit too much. The more you whip it, the lighter and less stable it will be. That can include whipping time both before and after adding the aquafaba. I do it on purpose when I’m going for a ‘whipped cream’ alternative, but it doesn’t work so well for frosting a whole cake.

      Reply
    • Hi Marie,

      It’ll definitely work with that many layers as long as you don’t whip it for too long at the end. The longer you whip it, the lighter it will get. So just keep an eye on the texture and stop whipping while it’s still pretty firm. 🙂

      Reply
  16. This was the best frosting I’ve ever made! It tasted great, it worked great with a 2-layer 9×13 cake, and it worked perfectly for decorating the cake.

    I don’t think there was anyone at my party that didn’t end up going back for seconds!

    Thank you for such a great recipe!

    Reply
  17. Thanks so much for this recipe! I have made the vegan ‘meringue’ buttercream with sweetened condensed coconut milk, but it isn’t suitable for those with tree nut allergies and ends up tasting a bit like coconut. Your recipe was perfect! It was silky and smooth and has the perfect vanilla flavor. I followed the recipe as stated except that I refrigerated my aquafaba before use and the frosting whipped up in about two minutes. Incredibly easy and absolutely wonderful! Thank you for this!!!!

    Reply
  18. I just wanted to say that I made this recipe a few weeks ago and it was amazing. Smooth, light, tasty. I didn’t have any of the problems that were mentioned above. I’m not great at following directions but I did follow yours and it came together beautifully! Thank you!!

    Reply
  19. Perfect, perfect, perfect. This was so very easy to make, held up great for piping, and tasted wonderful. I used my own aquafaba rather than from a can and had no problems. Thank you, Meggan.

    Reply
  20. Hi! This looks like a really nice recipe! Do you think the thickness and sweetness would work in a Yule log recipe?

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  21. Country Crock plant base butter comes in olive, avocado and almond oil options. I am not sure which one to get. Advice?!

    Reply
  22. Hi,

    I really want to try this buttercream but I am making a tall cake for my kid’s birthday (6 regular i inch layers, that I may cut in half each and frost inbetween). Do you think it will hold up for this?

    Also, have you tried using vegan merengue powder? It’s mostly powdered aquafaba in the ingredients. I wonder if I could use this instead of the liquid bean juice and if it would hold up better… Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks! Irina

    Reply
    • I’m not sure exactly how tall it is based on the comment – I think the code got messed up somewhere. But as long as you’re using proper structure in your cake, this holds up beautifully for at least three 2″ layers. Any more than that and I put a cake board and dowels for support.

      And I haven’t had any experience with the powder, so I can’t offer input there. <3

      Reply
  23. Hey! I would love to try this recipe, but I can’t seem to find aquafaba anywhere. I searched it up online too, it said aquafaba is the liquid that comes in the can of chickpeas, which what aquafaba is, but should I just drain out the liquid from the chickpeas or?

    Reply
  24. This is my favorite vegan frosting and i advertise it everywhere! 😉
    Now i want to make a black buttercream, and i wonder if this recipe will make a nice black buttercream? I do have dark cocoa powder to add and black food colouring (gel) and also i would like to add some melted dark chocolate. Do you think that will work? which amounts would you advise?
    Thanks in advance 🙂

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you love it!! Thanks for the feedback!

      The buttercream can go black, but it takes patience. I add black gel until it’s a nice medium grey and then I cover it and let it sit at least overnight to see how much it darkens, then add more as needed.

      I don’t recommend adding melted chocolate because it always breaks my buttercream.

      Reply
  25. I really love the beautiful texture (no, it did not break or turn to liquid). Quite delicious! It is Thursday today and I plan to frost cake on Sunday so I put it in the fridge. Should I just let it sit out a couple of hours to soften or would you take it out the night before. I won’t have to beat again, right?

    Reply
    • I know I’m a couple months late responding to this (I’m sorry!), but I wanted to answer for anyone down the line with the same question:

      I usually take it out a couple of hours before, and give it a quick stir with a spatula before I frost the cake with it.

      Reply
  26. hello! how long should I cream the butter for in the first stage? thanks and if I chose to melted semi sweet chocolate instead of cocoa powder paste, how much would you suggest using?

    Reply
    • You want to cream the butter until it’s lighter in color, and smooth with no lumps. And I don’t recommend using melted chocolate in this, as it will mess with the consistency. You can definitely combine it with ganache though and it doesn’t risk the emulsion as much!

      Reply
  27. Incredible recipe! I used Earth Balance butter and added cacao powder while whipping in the last stage and it came out beautifully! Ridiculously light, airy, and fluffy. Will absolutely use this recipe again!

    Reply
  28. I was so excited about this recipe but it isn’t whipping up at all! I used country crock butter original and garbanzo bean juice. I whipped the butter until it got spindly, put in the powdered sugar, mixed it up until smooth, then put the aquafaba in. 15 minutes with the electric mixer and it’s not whipping up. What could I have done wrong? I used a reduced aquafaba with lemon juice in it. The ingredients are all room temp. How can I fix it or do it right next time?

    Reply
    • Hi, Riz!

      The original Country Crock will not work in this recipe because the water content is much too high. You need to use the sticks. <3

      Another comment mentioned that lemon juice added made theirs curdle and not whip up, so I would omit that as well.

      Reply
  29. This recipe came out great! Some observations and questions:

    1. I tried this the first time with some leftover aquafaba from a meringue that was reduced with lemon juice in it. It was a huge disaster! My theory is the acidic aquafaba somehow curdled the butter, resulting in a gross goo. The second time I made it with aquafaba straight from the can and it whipped up beautifully.

    2. Question: the only non dairy butter I can find is earth balance. This recipe work great with 25% crisco added but I was wondering if reducing some earth balance over the stove might work as well. Have you tried anything like this? Palm and coconut oil wreck my stomach so I try to avoid them.

    Thanks again for the recipe!

    Reply
    • Oh wow, thanks for the update on the lemon juice thing! That sounds really unpleasant. Lol

      I haven’t tried reducing Earth Balance over the stove, but I have done it with Smart Balance and it worked wonderfully. I would *assume* EB would behave the same.

      Reply
  30. OH MY GAWD!!! This recipe is AMAZING! I seriously will never make another buttercream! This hits all points:
    1) Silky
    2) Creamy
    3) Fluffy
    4) Delicious
    The aquafaba really cuts the sweetness without making the frosting unsweet, at all! I made a red velvet cake for my brother’s birthday and I’m using this frosting. I can’t wait for him to try it – he’s not vegan like I am, but I know he’s going to love this!
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!!!! You’re my hero!

    Reply
  31. hi Meggan!

    i’m wondering if you’ve ever made this frosting in advance, and if so, how long it may keep? ‘looking forward to testing it out !

    Reply
    • Yes I have! For longer than a few days I keep it in the fridge in an airtight container, and then just stir it up when I need it. Longer than that and I pop it in the freezer for up to six months. 🙂

      Reply
  32. I love love love this buttercream,, omg!! I am so happy I found this recipe.. I am a home baker and I felt my Vegan cakes always missed something, a fluffy, creamy and not tooo sweet buttercream. This is perfect 😍!!! Thank you so so much @cookingoncaffeine ! Whoever is reading, I recommend you definitely try this! You will not be disappointed.

    Reply
  33. Hello, think it’s possible to add peanut butter to this recipe? If so, at what step?

    I made this recipe as posted (vanilla)and it was a hit, but I want to make a light/airy peanut butter version to go on chocolate cake.

    ::fingers crossed::

    Reply
  34. Hi , I was wondering if after i beat butter I can add other things for example – cream cheese ,biscoff spread, sour cream then beat to combine and then continue with other ingredients . What so you think?

    Reply

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