This zefir recipe yields a slightly chewy, melt-in-your-mouth confection. A Slavic delicacy and must-try for sweet fanatics!
These zefir are almost too pretty to eat…almost. Light, airy, and super sweet, it’s nearly impossible to just eat one. Serve them during the holidays, for kids’ parties, or as a light dessert to cap off your next dinner party. Traditionally, zefir are made with a fruit purée of raspberry, cherry, or blackberries to yield a pretty rose color. They can also be made with apple puree and dyed light green. In this recipe, we keep it simple by omitting the fruit and doubling down on the sugar.
What Exactly are Zefir?
Zefir are marshmallow-like confectionaries that hail straight from Russia and are derived from traditional pastila. To get their signature texture, egg whites and sugar are whipped with a gelling agent like agar-agar, pectic, carrageenan, or gelatin. Today, they’re eaten all throughout countries of the former Soviet Union.
- Flavor: Zefir doesn’t skimp on sweetness. Mostly sugar, these little bites will satiate even the most out of control sweet tooth.
- Texture: Unlike American marshmallows, they are little more gummy in texture and have a delightful chewiness to them. Making them homemade far surpasses store bought varities, which tend to lack moisture and be a bit hard to chew.
- Time: From start to finish, zefir takes about 1 hour of prep and 8 hours of drying at room temperature.
Fun Fact: Zefir get their name from the Greek God of the Light Zephyr. This name is meant to allude to their delicate airy consistency.
How to Prepare Zefir
Gather and measure all the ingredients before you dive in to make the process that much easier.
- Make the Gelatin Mixture: Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with 1 cup sugar in the mixing bowl. Next, whisk 1/2 cup of water with the gelatin powder. In a saucepan over low-heat, dissolve the other 2 cups of sugar with 1/2 cup of water. Finally, add in the gelatin mixture, food coloring, and lemon juice and let the batter cool at room temperature.
- Make the Zefir Batter: As the eggs are beating in the bowl of stand mixer on high-speed, slowly add in the gelatin mixture until stiff peaks form.
- Pipe the Zefir Batter: Transfer the zefir batter into a piping bag or pastry bag. Pipe small flower shapes onto a piece of wax paper on the countertop. Allow the marshmallows to dry overnight.
- Assemble the Zefir: Sprinkle the marshmallows with powdered sugar. Assemble the zefirs by sticking the ends of two marshmallows together. Enjoy!
Hot Tip: Bring the speed of the mixer up gradually to prevent causing a mess. Move slowly from low speed to medium speed to high speed.
Tips & Tricks to Make Zefir Like a Pro
A couple of tips and tricks will help you to make the most traditional zefir.
- Give the gelatin time to set at room temperature. To ensure the gelatin activates properly, allow the mixture to cool completely at room temperature before you pipe it.
- Pipe the zefir into similar-sized flower shapes. To make assembling the zefir much easier, make sure to pipe them into similar sizes so they stick together well.
- Dry the zefir for at least 8 hours. For the best texture, give the zefir 8 hours to dry at room temperature. We like to prepare them the night before so they’re ready to be assembled in the morning.
How to Properly Store Zefir
To keep zefir fresh for up to 10 days, store them in an airtight container on the counter. Avoid popping them in the refrigerator or freezer, as they tend to try out in cold air.
Are zefir and meringue the same thing?
Despite being made with similar ingredients, there are some stark differences between zefir and meringue. The main one is that zefir tends to be chewy, while traditional meringue is dry and crispy.
How long does the sugar mixture have to cook over low heat?
The sugar mixture only needs to stay on low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Is it possible to substitute gelatin with potato starch?
While potato starch does serve as a thickener, we’ve never tried using it for this recipe. Stick with gelatin for best results.
How sweet are these zefir?
They are definitely on the sweeter side and contain a good amount of sugar.
Do you have to use food coloring?
Nope! Feel free to keep them white if you wish.
Other Slavic Desserts to Try
- Sweet Piroshky (with Poppy Seeds) – Poppy seed filled donuts
- Oreshki– Dulce de leche filled cookies
- Chocolate Cake Balls – Sweetened condensed milk and chocolate cake balls
- Farmer’s Cheese Donut Holes (Ponchiki) – Sweet cheese donut holes
- 3 egg whites
- 3 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 5 tsp gelatin
- 5 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/3 tsp food coloring
- Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the egg whites with 1 cup of sugar.
- In a separate bowl, mix ½ cup water with the gelatin powder and let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes.
- Mix the other ½ cup of water with 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Add in the gelatin mixture and stir until completely dissolved. Next, add in the food coloring and lemon juice. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
- Transfer the gelatin mixture to a measuring cup for easy pouring. Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer and gradually increase the beating speed to high. Slowly, pour the gelatin mixture into the eggs as you beat until you get stiff peaks.
- Stuff the zefir batter into a plastic piping bag. Using the frosting tip, pipe small flower shapes onto a piece of wax paper laid flat on your countertop. Allow the marshmallows to dry for 8 hours at room temperature.
- Sprinkle the marshmallows with powdered sugar. Assemble the zefirs by sticking the ends of two marshmallows together. Repeat until you run out. Enjoy!
If I make these in advance, can the finished zephyr be frozen to use later?
Hi Carolyn, You can keep them in an air tight container and freeze them. Good luck and enjoy!
would I be able to cook them back down again with my chocolate fudge recipe for added texture?
Hey Karen, I have never tried that before, If you give it a try, I would love to know how it ends up! Good luck and have a great day!
Hi how long do you beat the eggs and gelatin mixture for ? Is it possible to over beat it?
Hey Natasha, you will see the egg mixture starting to create texture on top. You cant really over beat the eggs. Enjoy!
Hi, I was wondering if the lemon juice was the flavor and if it could be substituted with another fruit juice
Hey dear, lemon juice is there for the flavor. Yes, you can add other flavors but I would stick to a similar amount so it doesnt change the recipe.
I thought that apple puree is involved, isn't it?
Hey Marina, not in this recipe. I know the classic recipe does have apple sauce in it.
How long do Zefirs last?
Must they be stored in the fridge or kept in room temperature?
Hey Odete, we store them at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 10 days.
Hello, how long does the sugar mixture have to stay on the fire?
Hey Hellen, just until the sugar is fully dissolved.
Is it possible to substitute gelatin with potato starch? I've heard you can use agar, pectin, or gelatin, but I don't have any around the kitchen and Covid plus the fires have left me with little money and the air quality is currently to low to go grocery shopping.
Hey, I dont think the outcome would be the same. I haven't tried making it with potato starch.
I live in Florida and the humidity seems to get into my house so the zefir's never settled. Is there any way to fix that?
I think if you keep it out for a longer time, it may dry or try dusting them with powdered sugar and see if you can handle them.
Can I use real fruit flavor in it?
It really depends on how much of it you add. You dont want the texture to change.
This is missing apple (or general fruit) purree, is there are reason you're omitting it?
This is just a different type of recipe. 🙂
This sounds so exciting to make..just wondering if the outcome is overly sweet or just right? Please let me know..i will really make this..?
This one is pretty sweet, it has a ton of sugar 🙂
So technically are these cooked? or is the egg raw? Im pregnant--which means im very cautious 🙂 they look so good tho!!
They aren't cooked, they dry overnights at the room temperature but not cooked.
so how safe are they to eat for pregnant women?
You may want to ask your doctor. Personally I ate everything 🙂
They sale pasteurized eggs
Yes, thanks for that tip!
Haha, sounds like they're perfectly safe!
Very easy recipe, I used another recipe, but that one didn't work out good sometimes, this is the best recipe of zefir, just made them and can't wait to eat it. Do it really have to dry for 8 hr?
Yes, they are better when they settle in a little. The best thing to do is to let them sit overnight.
Do you have to use food coloring?
No you don't, you can leave them white.
Hi! I was just making them and for some reason mine never became peaks when mixing. I mixed it on high for around 45 minutes and the mixture never hardened 🙁 It was getting soft peaks before I started putting the gelatin mixture in. Do you know what could be the problem? Thanks!
HI Vicki, If you mix egg whites with sugar for long enough they should always come to soft peaks. The only thing I could think of is that gelatin mixture was too hot when you were pouring it into the egg mixture.
Thank you so much for the quick reply! I think that you are correct. Should I make the gelatin mixture and have it cool down before starting to mix the egg and sugar?
Yes, cool down as much as possible before it thickens.
Natalya you are the BOMB!!!!!!! I have been looking for this zifir recipe for a long time but I always found the jello version which is good, buuuut I remember this one from Russia and the one lady i know that has this she doesn't share. And I did try your piroshki dough but I did ryleti with it and they turned out great.
Hi Natalya! Thank you dear for words of encouragement, its exciting to read comments like yours.
Hope you love many more of the recipes.
Mine stood over night but they are still sticky. Do you know why?? 🙁
They will be sticky, this is why you sprickle powdered sugar over them. But if they don't keep their form, that means the jello didn't firm them up.
When you're beating egg whites with sugar. How long do you do it for and at what speed ??
Until you reach high peaks, on high speed for about 15 minutes.
have you tried making zefir with flavored jello? they taste awesome especially with lemon and raspberry flavor. I use agar-agar in my recipe 🙂
I seen that type of recipe before. Because everyone just loves this Zefir when I make it, I have never had a need to try anything different. Maybe one day 🙂
Do u use flavored jello or the unflavored one and then add food coloring for color? I've never made these so not sure how they work 😉
I used pure gelatin, unflavored.
what is the best way to store these? and can they be made ahead of time?
Airtight container works the best. They can be made up to a week in advance.
you can add food coloring and lemon juice to the sugar mixture, I let it cool just a little bit.
I have few questions: when do I add dissolved sugar with gelatine to the egg mixture, can it be right of the stove or it needs to be cooled first?
Also when do I add lemon juice and food coloring ? Thank you.
Очень вкусний зефир.