Cholee is a stay-at-home mom who enjoys creating family and budget-friendly recipes from scratch.
Tired of your cookies coming out crispy on the bottom and gooey or uncooked on top? Maybe they've completely flattened out, turned brown, and crunchier than you would have liked. Try these tips to get soft, warm, and moist cookies every time. Using the correct ingredients is key among other factors.
Ingredients and Utensils
Knowing how your ingredients are going to react when mixed together is the key to making perfect soft cookies. Different ingredients carry different results and knowing these results will help ensure you are preparing the best possible end product. This knowledge is the fundamental corner stone for creating soft cookies.
Butter and Shortening:
Adding butter instead of shortening will result in thinner cookies, however butter is essential in certain types of cookies such as shortbread.
Shortening and margarine are stable and will help your cookies keep their original unbaked shape. Using cold butter and fats will also help to keep the original shape. Melting the butter or keeping it at room temperature will result in flatter cookies.
It is important to read the recipe and recognize what type of butter/shortening the recipe is asking for. Soft, melted, cold, and room temperature all have different meanings and the temperature of the butter will make a difference in your end result.
Sugars, like fats liquefy in the oven. White sugar will make your cookies crispier while brown sugar contains more moisture and will result in a softer and more chewy cookie. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes call for both sugars. Lowering the amount of sugar or substituting some of the white sugar for brown sugar will result in softer lighter cookies.
If you are having troubles with your cookies not retaining their shape, try lowering the amounts of sugar or baking soda.
Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and Flour:
Make sure these ingredients are top notch and at their freshest. Using ingredients that are not fresh or past their use by date will result in sub-par cookies. Measure these ingredients and mix them in the order that the recipe calls for. Always mix baking powder/soda into the flour and other dry ingredients to ensure they are being mixed throughout the dough.
It is also very important to use the correct flour when baking cookies. If a recipe calls for all-purpose that is what you have to use. Just because the recipe calls for a flour that is all-purpose does not mean you can substitute any type of flour and get the same results. It is very important to follow what the recipe says when working with flour.
Not only is the type of flour important, but measuring the flour correctly is equally as important. Too much flour and you will have hard cookies. Always scoop flour out with a spoon and put it into a measuring cup leveling off with a butter knife. Using your measuring cup as a scoop will result in too much flour. You never want to pack flour.
Measuring Cups and Spoons:
This may seem common knowledge, but I know I always forgot when I first started baking cookies many years ago. I still have to remind myself some days even now, so I think it's important to mention here.
There are separate cups for measuring dry and wet ingredients. They may hold the same volume, however they are used differently and the likelihood of wrong measurements due to using the wrong cup is very high.
Using a dry measuring cup to measure milk for example is not going to give you the same cup of milk that measuring into a liquid measuring cup will give you. On average you will end up with less liquid if you measure in a measuring cup meant for dry ingredients. Why? It's simple, you are less likely to fill a dry measuring cup to the top (so you don't spill), which you would need to do to get that full one cup of milk.
My not so Secret Ingredient:
When making cookies, especially chocolate chip I add a packet of vanilla cook and serve Jell-o brand pudding mix. This extra ingredient helps to keep my cookies soft, moist, and chewy every time. I don't make a batch of homemade cookies without some flavor of pudding mix. Vanilla, chocolate, and cheesecake are my go to flavors.
After adding and mixing all the ingredients together the dough should be easily pliable. Having a dry and crumbly dough will result in uneven baking and dry cookies. On the other hand having a dough that is too sticky will result in your cookies flattening out and turning crispy during baking.
A pliable dough will retain it's shape while baking, as well as keep the cookies soft, chewy, and moist during baking. When the dough has the right texture and moisture you know you have mixed the ingredients in the way they need to be to produce the best quality cookie.
I like to mix my dough just until everything is combined and the dough comes together. As with other baked goods, over mixed cookie dough runs the risk of creating dry, crumbly, hard, and/or crispy end products.
How your cookies turn out not only depends on the ingredients, but also on the type of baking sheet you chose to use. Different styles and colors of cookie sheets will result in different end products. For example, baking sheets with left over or baked on grease, or darker pans will result in crispy bottoms and undone middles.
Personally I have a different baking sheet for my cookies than I do for making other meals. Having separate baking sheets used only for cookies ensures that my pans are ready to make perfect cookies every time.
Insulated Cookie Sheets:
Insulated baking pans slow baking and will usually yield a lighter and softer cookie. Baking cookies made with butter is not a good idea for these pans as it will result in the butter melting faster than the dough can set and bake.
Non-stick Cookie Sheets:
Non-stick pans let you skip the greasing step, however cookies baked on these sheets do not spread as much and will result in cake-like cookies. This means depending on the type of cookie you are making, they can stay puffed up if you don't flatten them slightly yourself. The texture will also be lighter and fluffier similar to that of cake rather than your typical cookie.
The Best Cookie Sheets:
The best type of baking sheets are those that are light in color and have very low to no sides. Adding parchment paper to your baking sheets will result in a more over all even baking of your cookies, as well as keep the bottoms from browning too fast.
Calphalon Non-stick Bakeware:
My all time favorite bakeware to use for cookies are my 2 Calphalon non-stick toffee colored cookie sheets. I've owned these pans for over 5 years and I would not trade them for anything! I actually have two sets, four pans total and I use every single one of them. They still work as great as the first day I received them. I love the toffee color as it adds a pop of color to my kitchen, but it is still light enough that the color does not effect the end results of my cookies.
I love the non-stick feature, as well as the one "high" side that is great for gripping. These pans have a built in handle of sorts which is great as it allows for the rest of the sides to be almost non-existent. My pans have not darkened, become warped, or collected grease which makes me feel like I'm using a brand new pan every time. I have never had a single cookie stick to these pans, and I am looking forward to the next 5 years of baking with these perfect sheets.
Fresh Oatmeal Cookies
Keeping Cookies Fresh:
You've made the perfect cookies, but after baking and a few days have past, they are slowly becoming hard and crumbly. These are a few of the tricks I use to store my cookies when I know I want them to last for a few days, weeks, and even months.
Different cookie types will require different storing methods, so it's best to store each type in their own container or zip lock bag. However, all cookies will benefit greatly from cooling completely before being stored in any way. Storing warm cookies will make them soggy and you will end up with a pile of cookies that are hard to separate.
- Soft cookies should be kept in air tight containers. Cookie jars and other containers that allow air in will make the cookies turn hard. If you don't have an air tight container, adding a slice of bread will help keep them soft. The bread will turn hard while your cookies stay soft and chewy. When the bread becomes completely stale remove it and add a new slice.
- If you are layering cookies add wax paper between the layers to keep the cookies from sticking to each other. Adding a top layer of wax paper also helps to keep the top layer fresh. Wax paper will also allow for multiple flavor profiles to be stored in the same container without transferring flavors to the surrounding cookies (The exception would be any cookies made with peppermint or other strong scent that can be transferred through air alone).
- Store cookies such as Biscotti, or other hard cookies in cookie jars or containers with an easily removable lid. The little air that flows through keeps these cookies crispy and just like the day you made them.
- Do not store them with soft cookies, they will lose their crispness. Hard cookies should be stored in metal tins to keep their crispy texture.
If you need to store your cookies for longer than a week or two putting them in freezer safe containers or zip lock bags will preserve your cookies for up to six months. I recommend wrapping the cookies in a freezer safe plastic or freezer paper before storing. The extra wrapping will keep the cookies from getting freezer burn and absorbing any freezer smells from other foods.
Enjoy soft and chewy cookies every time with these simple and easy tips.
Questions & Answers
Question: For the added pudding mix in the cookie recipe do you add it to the dry ingredients? Or is this a substitution for another ingredient?
Answer: I add the pudding mix right into the other dry ingredients. It is not a substitution for anything. I follow the recipe exactly and then add in the mix before I combine the wet and dry ingredients.
Question: I read somewhere about adding a small amount of water to a cookie recipe to make a softer cookie. Have you heard of this or tried this?
Answer: I have heard of this, however I have not tried it. I have used applesauce instead of oil, which I personally think creates a more moist and softer cookie. I have also added a few teaspoons of milk and that has worked out well for me. You can add a little bit more of any liquid, but I would stick to what is in the recipe. So if the recipe calls for water you could certainly add a little bit more to make the cookie softer, I simply prefer milk so I tend to stick to that if I'm not using pudding mix.
Question: What makes a cookie too moist, or not moist enough?
Answer: It really comes down to the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. You need the right ratio to create the perfect cookie. Baking really is a science and if something is not measured right or the ratio is off, the dough and ultimately the cookies are going to come out dry or too wet.
If one over measures flour for example (either because it was packed or scooped out of the container), the dough is likely to become dry and crumbly. If the dough is already dry, the cookies are going to be dry as well. Same can be said for cookies that are to wet. A wet sticky dough is likely to cause the cookies to be underbaked, too gooey in the middle, or depending on why the dough is too wet, the cookies could also become thin and crispy. This happens when dry ingredients are again measured wrong (not enough flour for example), or too much liquid was added to the batter. This can happen by using the wrong type of butter/margarine/lard, using the wrong measuring cups, or simply reading the recipe wrong.
Question: My chocolate chip cookie dough came out good and moist. After baking cookies, how long should they cool on a rack before putting them away?
Answer: I always cool my cookies for 3 minutes on the pan and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool for an additional 10 minutes (Do not leave on the pan unless you took them out early as the cookies will still bake while on the pan).
You want to ensure that the cookies are completely cooled before storing. Depending on the type of cookie it may take more or less time to be completely cool. As long as they are no longer warm, it is safe to put them away.
Question: What size pudding mix do you use when making cookies?
Answer: I generally use the larger 5oz package for recipes over a dozen. I've used the smaller 3.4oz package in larger recipes and it seems to work as well, but I prefer the larger size as the cookies seem just a tad softer.
For smaller recipes I've tried the smaller boxes and that seems to be a good amount. I don't make many recipes under a dozen though, so I usually end up using the larger box (I don't usually keep the smaller size on hand) and it hasn't changed the texture of my cookies.
Question: I make an oatmeal cookie that is great for breakfast, very filling. However, they get hard within a week. Proportions are: oatmeal - 1:flour - 1: brown sugar - .46: butter - .61 : shortening - .18. how can I adjust the recipe to get a more moist version?
Answer: I would up the oatmeal so it is 1 more than the flour and bring the brown sugar to 1 so it is equal with the flour. So it would look something like this...
2.5 cups oatmeal
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups brown sugar (or you could try 1 cup brown sugar and half a cup of granulated sugar)
The extra brown sugar will help make the cookie softer and more chewy. You could also add a packet of instant jell-o pudding mix without having to change the recipe you are currently using.
I would also pay attention to how you are storing them. To get the most life out of them keep them in an air tight container with a slice of bread.
Question: I sometimes cheat and use store-bought cookie mixes. Do you know if adding pudding would work to make cookies chewier?
Answer: I have frequently used pudding with store-bought cookie mixes. I personally think it does help make them softer/chewier.
You could also use Betty Crocker super moist cake mix instead of cookie mixes. Her cake mixes already contain pudding in them and make great cakey and chewy cookies.
Question: How else can I keep my chocolate chip cookies moist? I don't eat white bread, so I don't have any.
Answer: You can use other bread such as wheat or oat bran. I specified white because it tends to be the softest bread and it will also not give a different flavor profile to your cookies. Wheat and other soft bread would work as well, as long as one is mindful of what flavors could transfer to the cookies.
Freezer zip lock bags also work well, as long as most of the air is let out of the bag. The key to storing soft cookies is trying to keep them away from as much air as possible. For example, if you would like to keep them in a cookie jar either add a piece of bread or keep them sealed in a ziplock bag. You can also store them in airtight containers if you plan to eat most of them right away.
For longer storage, you can seal them in a freezer ziplock bag, and they will stay fresh for up to 3 months. Simply bring the cookies to room temperature and enjoy.
Question: Is flour still good when kept in the freezer past best use by date?
Answer: I have never frozen flour or worked with flour that has been previously frozen, however I'm going to assume that it will keep indefinitely in the freezer like most other frozen goods. Flour is good for up to 2 years being kept in the refrigerator (40 degrees F), and I would say the life expectancy of frozen flour is much longer. Assuming your flour has been kept in an airtight container it should still be good.
Question: Do you still use vanilla when using the pudding for making moist cookies?
Answer: Yes, I still use vanilla extract. I don't always use vanilla pudding mix (sometimes I substitute other flavors depending on the type of cookie I'm making), because the pudding doesn't change the flavor of the cookies at all. If your recipe calls for vanilla extract or vanilla bean I would definitely still add that to your dough mixture.
Question: What can I add to my chocolate chip cookie dough to make them soft and chewy? My husband didn't like the batch that I made because they were hard. I would like to be able to salvage the rest of the dough.
Answer: Without the actual recipe, I'm not going to be able to give specifics, but I can give some ideas on why the cookies might have come out hard.
Are they crumbly as well? The problem could be not enough butter. If they are flat the dough likely needs more flour (or you could have added to much butter). However, too much flour can also make them tough. Flour really needs to be measured precisely for the best end product.
If your cookies look good, you likely baked them too long or at too high of a temperature.
It's also possible that the dough was over mixed. Over mixed dough is not salvageable in my experience.
You could try storing them in an airtight container with a slice of bread and see if they soften up at all after a day.
Question: Can you adjust the temperature while baking cookies to change the level of moistness?
Answer: I don't adjust temperatures. If you try baking at a higher temperature you risk the bottoms or tops of your cookies burning before the middle is fully cooked. Lowering the temperature will cause thin crispy cookies. By lowering the temperature you are allowing the butter time to melt and spread before the dough has a chance to set and bake. Lower temperatures cause longer bake times which will likely dry out your cookies.
If you are wanting to adjust temperatures or baking times, your best bet is to turn the heat up ever so slightly and keep an eye on your cookies. Depending on the type of cookie you are making a higher temperature could yield a softer thicker (cake like) cookie, but I wouldn't say it will make your cookies moister.
Question: Should I change the amount of flour when adding pudding mix to cookie recipes?
Answer: I personally do not. The amount of pudding mix that is added has not altered the texture of my dough.
Question: Do you chill your cookie dough before baking and do you use parchment paper ?
Answer: The only cookie dough I chill is sugar cookie dough for cut outs. It makes it easier to cut the cookies and they keep their shape better. Ever other type of cookie I make I do not chill the dough. I never use parchment paper. The cookie sheets I use are non-stick and bake my cookies evenly that I feel parchment paper is unncessary.
© 2012 Cholee Clay
samantha allen on December 05, 2019:
I've been making cookies for years...I must say that I've learned so much reading these tips!!! Who knew!?! At 83 I still not too old to learn great stuff!! And I thought I knew 'everything'...??? Thanks. This is the best cooking site I've seen. Samm
Jennine Quiring on July 30, 2019:
Thank you for the hints. I compete in the California State Fair. Our cookies have to be delivered at 9 in the morning. Most of us deliver more then one kind of cookie Most of us are up all night baking. The judge will The judge will taste a cookie and say, "oh these are not fresh, they were probably baked yesterday. Cookies are judged after 4 or five grueling days of baking pies, cakes and special things. It will be good to know my cookie will taste fresh for the judge to taste. I am 83, and am still learning
Bethany Halbert from West Virginia, USA on March 29, 2018:
Oh my goodness! Now I just want to make cookies. Thanks for the cookie sheet recommendation! The fact that they haven't warped or stained in so long makes me think they would be a good option for next time I'm in the market for some.
It's amazing how much the different ingredients impact things... I love making chocolate chip cookies, and it took me years of tweaking until I found the recipe I like the most. Growing up we never added baking powder, but I realized I really liked the chewiness it added to the cookie.
Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on March 26, 2018:
Yes I am referring to the pudding mix :) I use Jell-o brand, but any brand of pudding mix will work.
Darlene on March 25, 2018:
When you said you use cook'n'serve jello, did you mean Jello cook"n'serve pudding mix?
Stuart from Santa Barbara, CA on December 15, 2017:
Great baking tips. Thanks for the helpful ideas for the holidays. Now following
Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on October 08, 2017:
Hi Lisa, I’m afraid without looking at the actual recipe I can’t tell you how to substitute or change the recipe. I would suggest finding a recipe for soft or chewy cookies and make that for your children. I’m assuming the recipe you made is something like a biscotti cookie. If that is the case, a jello packet would probably not be enough to make them softer. I also would not add any shortening or fat to that recipe. Baking cookies is a special type of science, and without knowing how the ingredients are going to react to each other I cannot give specifics, sorry. You would be better off finding a different recipe than trying to tweak the current one you have, considering you are wanting to make to a completely different kind of cookie.
Lisa on September 19, 2017:
Hi Cholee, Thanks for a great article. I found a cookie recipe that doesn't call for butter, margarine, shortening at all. I was happy with the type of cookie I got as it was a fantastic dunking cookie. However, my kids would prefer that the cookie be more moist. Will the jello help with that? Should I add shortening and if so how much?
Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on September 19, 2017:
I only use one packet of jello. I tend to use cook and serve, but I have used instant as well and have not noticed a difference in texture or baking.
I fixed the wording in the article, so I hope this brings better clarification for others. I can see how my previous comment can be confusing. Hope this helps!
Romi madia on September 18, 2017:
I'm confused, do you use both types of jello pudding in the cookies at the same time?
Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on April 08, 2017:
I actually use both instant and cook and serve. Cook and serve can be found in the same aisle as the instant. It will say cook and serve I believe in blue lettering, right below the bold red Jell-o label. I think the cook and serve boxes are also slightly bigger than the instant boxes.
Dixiexflowers on April 08, 2017:
I appreciate all the tips. Haven't thought of using pudding mix in cookies. I'm not familair with instant pudding cook and serve jello mix. I've used instant pudding mix in cakes but not cook and serve. Can you tell me where to find the mix that you use mentioned? Thanks.
Geri McClymont on December 24, 2016:
Thank you for the great tips for baking cookies. I had not thought about substituting more brown sugar for white sugar for moister cookies...will certainly apply that next time I bake cookies! Thanks for a very helpful article.
Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on January 14, 2012:
Hope some of these tips will help you out tammyswallow. I still remember the first time I tried to bake cookies lol.
Tammy from North Carolina on January 13, 2012:
Thank you for sharing your secrets with us. My cookies don't turn out right even when I buy the ready made dough. LOL.. This is wonderful and helpful!
Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on January 13, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by Simone Smith! I love using margarine, keeps the cookies from flattening and all around turns out a better cookie then using butter.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on January 11, 2012:
Aha- I had forgotten about the butter vs. margarine/shortening thing! I KNEW there was some reasons why my cookies weren't so fluffy ever since I left my parents house! I never buy margarine... guess I'll have to change that!
thebookmom from Nebraska on January 05, 2012:
Great hub! Really practical helpful information written in an easy to read and use format. Awesome!
Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on January 05, 2012:
Now this is my kind of hub. I love your advice. One tip I picked up from an in-law was putting a piece of bread in a sealed container with the cookies.
Jason Menayan from San Francisco on January 05, 2012:
Terrific advice. Now that there's all-natural shortening available (the usual Crisco stuff has either trans or interesterified fats), that first piece of advice is great. I've used instant pudding mix to make cupcakes more moist; had never thought of putting them in chocolate chip cookies!
Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on January 05, 2012:
I rarely read articles about cookies with content that is new, but you have changed all of that! I learned a bunch of new cookie baking tips from this Hub! I'm definitely going to have to try the vanilla jello next time! Danke!