Paris Macaron Smackdown

Macaron smackdown - Expat Edna

The first macaron I ever tried when I moved to Paris was a caramel au buerre salé from Pierre Hermé. I’d never tasted anything like it before — the balance of salt and caramel, the texture of the meringue and the cream — I thought it so perfect that for the last year I’ve almost exclusively only patronized Pierre Hermé, taken friends and family there, and recommended it to anyone who asked for macaron advice.

It’s hard to shake that loyalty and branch out — why try other macaron houses that might not measure up? At two euro a pop, they’re not the cheapest snack and if I’m going to spend that kind of money on sweets, I don’t want to be playing Russian macaron roulette. I want to go where I know I won’t be disappointed.

Sadaharu Aoki macarons by Expat Edna

That’s why I was so excited when Milsters invited me to her annual Macaron Smackdown last month. It gave me the perfect chance to test five of Paris’ best macaron houses, establishments I probably would have never gotten around to visiting otherwise.

Plus it was an invitation to spend an afternoon in Milster’s lovely new apartment with good friends and copious amounts of champagne — like I was going to say no to that.

Jean Paul Hevin macarons by Expat Edna

The Smackdown went like this: Five teams, two people in each; each team had to bring five macarons in five parfums of from their assigned macaron house — 25 macarons in total per team.

I was partnered with Stephanie from Artfully Adored, and we were assigned Carette, the winner of last year’s Macaron Smackdown. The other submissions came from Pierre Hermé, Hugo & Victor (who came in second and third, respectively, last year), and two newcomers: Sadaharu Aoki, and Jean-Paul Hévin.

Hugo and Victor macarons by Expat Edna

Flowers by Expat Edna

Bloggers by Expat Edna

Champagne and macarons by Expat Edna

When all 125 macarons had been staged and photos had been taken (and with half a dozen bloggers involved this took a while), we sat down with our glasses of bubbly and slowly made our way through each round: PistacheCaramel au beurre salé (salted caramel), Framboise (raspberry), Chocolate/Nut, and Flower/Fruit. 

Macaron Smackdown rounds by Expat Edna

The last two were specialty rounds, where each team submitted a flavor unique to their macaron house. The winner of the chocolate/nut round was earl grey tea by Hugo & Victor, though I was also a fan of Sadaharu Aoki’s sesame macaron.

Pierre Hermé’s famous mogador won the flower/fruit round — though I’m personally not a fan of passionfruit, I’m not surprised it won as I’m fairly sure it’s one of PH’s most popular flavors.

leftover macarons by Expat Edna macaron graveyard by Expat Edna

As much as we all proclaimed to love macarons, by the end of the smackdown there wasn’t a single person who could finish their plate — in fact most of us started eyeing our macarons with an increasing level of uneasiness as our stomachs and brains screamed no more, you silly overeating fool!

Turns out finishing 12.5 macarons in one sitting is a harder task than it sounds.

So who won in the end?

Carette macarons by Expat Edna

For the second year in a row, Carette was the overall champion. (Pierre Hermé, though technically winning with the most points, didn’t enter two of the rounds so in my books that’s not exactly a fair win.) Carette’s macarons were plumper, with richer filling and intense but balanced taste. I wasn’t impressed by Hugo & Victor and Jean-Paul Hévin was flat-out disappointing — the man’s a chocolatier, not a macaron-ier.

I have officially been converted: from now on, if you ask me where to go for the best macaron in Paris, I’ll tell you Carette…but I’ll still probably add that a stop at Pierre Hermé wouldn’t hurt, either.

For a full rundown of the smackdown and how each macaron ranked, check out this ridiculously detailed post by the lovely host at Little Pieces of Light.

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  1. Oh a macaron smackdown? Now we’re talking! I still have not tried Carette so am putting this at the top of the list for this summer ;) Heading over to see the ridiculously detailed post now!

  2. Lovely write-up!!! And gorgeous photos, as always! So lovely to have all of you girls over that time. Looking forward to more sweet smackdowns in the future. :)

    x Milsters


  3. What a fun idea!

  4. they look oh so delicious! i do enjoy the asian-fusion flavours from aoki, and likewise, not a fan of macarons from JPH. at the end of the dya, my first love is always going to be PH (for the delectable caramel bites).

    in our very unscientific macaron taste-off a few years back, my friends and i found it hard finish 7-8 macarons per person, never mind 12.5! it took us a while to venture back into the world of macaron eating, but what a delicious return it was. probably helps that i didn’t live in paris at that time so i was properly deprived of macarons for months before my following trip.

  5. holy. crap. i need in on this. warn milsters that i’m not afraid to stalk her out the second i move to paris. i’m very charming. and persistent. xo! the romantic

  6. awesome recount of this wicked event, brought back memories of my head spinning from all that sugar xxx

  7. This sounds amazing! And macarons are definitely the most photogenic sweets ever! I can’t wait to come to Paris and try all the macaron brands you recommended here!

  8. Your blog is so much fun to read…….
    Thank you!

  9. Whoa – love this idea! I want to do this with salsas in Texas now :) except there’s need to be a mega palette cleanser in between!

  10. I’ll be living in France this time next year – cannot wait to visit all these places and see how they differ from the Macarons here in New Zealand :)

    Would be interesting to see a prices difference per location – or are they all roughly the same?

    Love your blog – it’s really helped settle my mind about moving abroad!

    Court x

  11. I love macarons so much!! They must taste the best in Paris, all those flavors sound so good.

  12. Best. Party. Theme. Ever.

    While the thought of 2euro macarons kind of makes me want to cry, you know I’ll be sampling some of these beauties when we eventually make it to Paris! And now, thanks to you, we know the very best place to blow through our budget (and our waistlines)!

  13. Sounds incredible. I was just in Biarritz for less than 36 hours and I was eying those macaroons- oh so pretty- but managed to walk out before buying any!

    Macaroon smackdown sounds delicious but maybe a bit rough on the tummy!

  14. That looks amazing!!! I so wish I was in your side of the world and could have participated!!!

  15. I’ve never understood the appeal of macaroons – probably because the ones I’ve tried have all been stale-ish things from the grocery store. But these look so good! I guess the secret to finding good ones is ‘Step 1: Go to Paris.’

  16. I’m self inviting, umm myself, to the next smackdown!

  17. I’ve never tried macarons before but I’ll make sure I pop into either Carette or Pierre Hermé next time I’m in Paris. ;-)

    Haha, I love that picture of everyone crowding around with their cameras.

  18. Linda P says:

    Just returned from Paris, tried the Pierre Herme and I was very very disappointed. The best ones we found were at Angelina, unexpectedly. We tried 6 flavors at PH, Angelina, and Laduree, and everyone in our group liked Angelina the best. Will have to try Carette next time.


  1. […] *Macarons. What is more chic than these dainty puffs? I don’t have any recs for you–we tried ours in the Parisian suburb–but check out Expat Edna‘s ideas for where to get a great macaroon  in her detailed Paris Macaron Smackdown. […]

  2. […] would have loved to do a fullscale macaron battle (akin to this one), but we only had time, space and budget for Pierre Hermé on this trip. Consequently, I obviously […]