What's the Difference Between Marzipan and Almond Paste?

Word of Mouth

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I remember wandering through department stores and Christmas markets in Western Europe and marveling at the displays of marzipan goodies: amazingly realistic-looking little fruits or tiny animals, all neatly lined up in the windows. I loved how they cheerily stood out against the gloomy weather outside.

Then I started baking and seeing recipes calling for almond paste and got a little confused. If marzipan is a paste made out of almonds, are they just the same thing?

The Main Differences

While they both are made of almonds, marzipan and almond paste are completely different creatures. Marzipan is smooth, sweet, and often dyed and molded into shapes. It's also used to cover sweets much like fondant and is sometimes eaten as is. Almond paste, however, is coarser, less sweet, and used as an ingredient or filling for baked goods.

Can They Be Substituted for Each Other?

The texture and flavor of the two are different enough that they shouldn't be substituted for one another.

Marzipan colored and molded into fruits.
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Marzipan

Sometimes called almond candy dough.

  • What it's made out of: Almonds, sugar, glucose syrup, and water. Gluten-free versions are available. It can also sometimes contain egg whites.
  • How's it sold: In tubes, cans, or tubs.
  • Taste and texture: Sweet, with more finely ground almonds for a smoother texture; can be brilliant white in color.
  • How it's used: To decorate cakes or confections like fondant, or just eaten like candy. Marzipan is often dyed into other colors and molded into shapes and decorations around the holidays.
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Almond Paste

  • What it's made out of: The same ingredients as marzipan, but with less sugar and almost double the amount of almonds. Sometimes almond extract is added.
  • How's it sold: In tubes, cans, tubs, or bags.
  • Taste and texture: Not as sweet and coarser than marzipan.
  • How it's used: Primarily as a filling in pies and cakes. Bitter almond paste is used to make Italian amaretti cookies.

Updated from a post originally published in March 2008.