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Tips for Making Soft, Moist Cookies Every Time

Try these tips to get soft and moist cookies every time. Using the correct ingredients is key, among other factors.

Try these tips to get soft and moist cookies every time. Using the correct ingredients is key, among other factors.

How to Make Cookies Soft

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 are 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 ensure you are preparing the best possible end product. This knowledge is the fundamental cornerstone 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 trouble 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 it 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 like 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.

The Dough

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 its 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 leftover 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 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 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 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 overall even baking of your cookies, as well as keep the bottoms from browning too fast.

Absolutely love my Calphalon bakeware!

Absolutely love my Calphalon bakeware!

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 affect 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.

You too can make cookies that stay fresh for days after you make them.

You too can make cookies that stay fresh for days after you make them.

Keeping Cookies Fresh

You've made the perfect cookies, but after baking and a few days have passed, 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 storage methods, so it's best to store each type in its 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

  • 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 another strong scent that can be transferred through air alone).

Hard Cookies

  • 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 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