It’s no typo: Macarons and macaroons are “entirely different things,” says Paulette Koumetz, owner of Paulette Macarons, which has stores selling the single-o version in San Francisco and Beverly Hills.
Macarons, she says, are French cookies made with almond and egg whites that are sandwiched around a cream-based filling (see our recipe for French Chocolate Macarons). They come in a rainbow of colors and flavors: At Paulette you can find violet and black currant, Earl Grey, and passion-fruit macarons. Some bakers even dabble in savory versions like ketchup and cornichons.
Macaroon is the American word for our version of a flourless egg-white-based cookie. Most often made with coconut (like in this recipe), it can also include nuts or nut paste. Macaroons are often served for dessert at Passover celebrations, since they don’t contain flour. The same linguistic confusion doesn’t exist in France, says David Lebovitz, author of Ready for Dessert, where the coconut macaroon is called rocher à la noix de coco, or “coconut rocks.”
Lebovitz says that the sandwich-cookie-style macaron is most often found in Paris. Another French cookie, resembling Italian amaretti (also a flourless egg white and nut cookie), is also called a macaron.