Is your chocolate chip, shortbread, or sugar cookie dough too dry? Whether you incorrectly measured dry ingredients or your cookie dough dried out in the fridge, this post can help! If you're wondering how do you add moisture to dry cookie dough, below I list a few different ways, show you how to fix crumbly cookie dough, and what to do with dry cookies! And for more baking tips, check out Browned Butter 101, How to Make Vanilla Extract with 2 Ingredients, and Measuring Baking Ingredients Accurately for Better Results! And once you've learned these tips, check out my list of the Best Cookies for a Cookie Exchange!
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Common Reason for Dry Cookie Dough #1: Too Much Flour
If you've found a cookie dough recipe you love but can't achieve perfect cookies, the issue may be how you're measuring your flour. A cup of flour measured with a measuring cup can actually contain varying amounts of flour, leading to a cookie that's too dry. I recommend using a kitchen scale to measure your all-purpose flour to make sure you're adding the correct amount and achieve best results. The kitchen scale I use is under $10 and very reliable! For more tips, check out my post on measuring baking ingredients accurately!
Common Reason for Dry Dough #2: Wet Ingredients Not At Room Temperature
When adding in your melted butter, brown sugar, white sugar, or eggs, or any extra ingredients that add liquid to your homemade cookies, make sure that you've allowed them to come to room temperature. The only exception to this is if you're using a shortbread cookie dough that calls for cold butter. Otherwise, your butter should be soft, and eggs no longer cool to the touch.
Common Problem with Crumbly Dough #3: Not Enough Fat or Enough Liquid
Be sure to use the full amount of butter, oil, milk, or eggs that the recipe calls for. Also, be sure to use large eggs if the recipe calls for it -- smaller eggs contain less liquid.
Reason for Dry Cookie Dough #4: Overmixing
This can easily happen if you're using an electric mixer. Combining flour with water or other liquids activates the gluten. So the more you mix the two together, the tougher the gluten will be, leading to a drier cookie. When mixing your dough, I would suggest to only mix as much as needed to bring the dough together -- or you can use an electric mixer for most of the mixing and then switch to a dough whisk to mix it the rest of the way. That way you avoid mixing too long!
Cookie Dough Dried Out in Fridge
Another source of frustration with cookie dough that's too dry is when it dries out on its own in the fridge. The interior of refrigerators are constantly circulating air to maintain cool temperatures. So any uncovered dough is likely to dry out. To prevent this, be sure to always cover your dough tightly with plastic wrap if you plan to store it in the fridge for more than an hour.
What do you do if your cookie dough is too dry? How do you make crumbly dough stick together?
How do you add moisture to a dry cookie? There are a few different ways to fix dry, crumbly cookie dough:
- Add vegetable oil or melted butter to combat a lack of fat. If your recipe doesn't use much fat, you may end up with crumbly dough. To fix this, add in a bit more fat a teaspoon at a time, and mix after each addition. This is a great option if you have shortbread cookie dough that's too dry.
- Add more liquid ingredients in small amounts. Milk, egg yolks or egg whites, vanilla extract or even a teaspoon of water can help moisten the dough to give you less crumbly cookies. A little bit of a liquid like milk can also help your cookies spread in the oven to give you a more crispy cookie. This is a technique I might use if my sugar cookie dough is too dry.
- Let the dough rest so that the gluten can soften. Place plastic wrap on top of the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour. This is a great way to allow the gluten to relax. It will also let the ingredients absorb into each other better, leading to much softer dough and the best cookies!
Be Careful Not to Overbake Cookies
Even if you don't start out with dry, crumbly cookie dough, you can still end up with hard, dry cookies if you bake them too long. Be sure to take cookies out once the edges are golden brown (or as the recipe directs), but they may still be soft and appear underbaked. Cookies often continue to set as they cool, so that they end up with the soft and chewy texture you want, like with my Crumbl Sugar Cookies Recipe! If you make sure to follow the recipe instructions and confirm that your oven temperature is accurate with an oven thermometer, you should be able to remove your cookies from the oven even a minute or two early so that they don't overbake.
How to Fix Dry Cookies
So how do you add moisture to a dry cookie? To soften baked cookies that are too dry, you can add a slice of bread to the airtight container where you're storing the cookies. The moisture from the bread will give the cookies a softer texture. Or you can just pop the cookies in the microwave for 4-5 seconds until their texture softens a bit.
What to Do with Dry Cookies
If you've already baked your cookies and they came out dry and crumbly, you have options! You can crush them into crumbs and make a cookie crust for cheesecake, or as a crispy layer in a no bake dessert like these Halloween Dirt Cups! Mix chunks of them into a no-churn ice cream recipe, or crumble them as a crunchy topping on cakes, cookies, or brownies!
Favorite Cookie Recipes to Try
The best way to avoid dry, tough cookies is to use an original recipe with enough moisture in the dough in the first place! Here are a few of my favorites for delicious cookies in your next batch:
- Raspberry White Chocolate Cookies
- Coconut Macadamia Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint Cookies
- Snickerdoodle Recipe without Cream of Tartar
- ½ cup unsalted butter - softened (1 stick)
- ½ cup light or dark brown sugar - packed
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 large egg - room temperature
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract - optional
- 1 cup all-purpose flour - (128g)
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats - (90g)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 4 oz white baking chocolate - chopped
- ¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut
- ½ cup roasted macadamia nuts - chopped (see note)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.
- Add the egg, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat until combined.
- Add flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and stir with a spatula until just combined.
- Fold in the white chocolate, coconut, and macadamia nuts.
- (Optional) Chill dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough and roll into balls. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
- Bake until golden on edges, about 12-14 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Last Updated on December 14, 2022 by Chenée Lewis
I tried using the vanilla extract and it helped so much!! Added a little hint of sweetness too!
So glad to hear it!
Saved this! Thank you! Such a great fix for dry cookie dough!
Thanks! Hope it's helpful!
Great tips in this post. Will come in handy should I have crumbly cookie dough.
Absolutely! Glad you liked it!
Great tips! This will be so useful for when I do my holiday cookies. I always try to get them all done in one day, like a maniac, and at least ONE of the doughs always goes wonky in the process. Bookmarked!
Great to know it's helpful! Thanks for the feedback!
This is really helpful!! Thank you so much!! And thanks for the recipe, too! It was a huge hit with my kids!
You're very welcome! Thanks for trying it out!
These tips are spot on! Everyone should read this! Thanks for sharing!
Love the tips in this post! I only bake cookies at Christmas time for the most part, so I'm not exactly a seasoned baker lol. Things happen, I get into situations with at least ONE cookie recipe, and this post will be great to have on hand.
I totally understand! I hope these tips take away a little of the stress of holiday baking. 🙂
Some great tips here if you have dry cookie dough. I'll save this recipe incase I ever need to fix dry cookie dough!
Glad it's helpful for you!
This is so helpful! Thanks for sharing your experience, now I know how to make best cookies.
Awesome! Thanks for the feedback!
Cynthia | What A Girl Eats
This is a great troubleshooting post! I've bookmarked for future reference.
Glad it was helpful! 🙂