I’ve been there.
- Are your cookies flat greasy puddles?
- Did you just waste an hour of your time?
- Is your cookie recipe a complete flop?
After years of baking cookies– and writing a cookie cookbook— I know exactly what a failed batch of over-spread cookies is like. It’s frustrating, unappetizing, and a waste of money.
Let me help.
I’m sharing my 10 guaranteed tips to prevent flat cookies.
10 Guaranteed Tips for Thicker Cookies
- Chill the cookie dough. Not all cookie dough requires the chilling step– and I normally determine that by how the cookie dough looks and feels. If the cookie dough is particularly sticky, wet, or greasy, chilling is in its best interest. And yours! Chilling cookie dough helps prevent spreading. The colder the dough, the less the cookies will over-spread into greasy puddles. You’ll have thicker, sturdier, and more solid cookies. Whenever I make cookies, I plan ahead and chill the cookie dough overnight. After chilling, let your cookie dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or more, depending on how long the dough has chilled) before rolling into balls and baking. Your cookie dough may be a solid rock, so letting it slightly loosen up helps.
- Line your baking sheet. Use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Coating your baking sheet with nonstick spray or butter creates an overly greasy foundation, causing the cookies to spread. I always recommend a silicone baking mat because they grip onto the bottom of your cookie dough, preventing the cookies from spreading too much. These mats also promote even browning. Mats can get greasy! Here is how to clean your silicone baking mats.
- My tall cookie trick. Roll your cookie dough into tall balls instead of perfectly round spheres. Taller balls of cookie dough ensure thicker cookies. You see this cake batter chocolate chip cookies photo? (Scroll down in the post.) Just like that.
- Cool your baking sheets. Never place cookie dough balls onto a hot baking sheet. Always room temperature baking sheets.
- Quality baking sheets are a MUST. Did you know the color and material of your baking sheets greatly impacts the way your cookies turn out? Dark metal sheets typically over-bake cookies and thin flimsy cookie sheets = burnt bottoms. I’ve tested many brands and my favorite is USA Pan half sheet baking pan. (Not sponsored!) They’re a wonderful size for baking a dozen cookies, have an edge so they’re great for other recipes like toffee, chex mix, and yellow sheet cake. I suggest owning a few. I have 6!
- Cool butter. When butter is too warm, it is too soft. When butter is too soft, your cookies will spread all over the baking sheets. Room temperature butter is actually cool to touch, not warm. When you press it, your finger will make an indent. Your finger won’t sink down into the butter, nor will your finger slide all around. Here’s my trick to soften butter quickly!
- Correctly measure the flour. Cookies spread because the fat in the cookie dough melts in the oven. If there isn’t enough flour to hold that melted fat, the cookies will over-spread. Spoon and level that flour or, better yet, weigh your flour. If your cookies are still spreading, add an extra 2 Tablespoons of flour to the cookie dough.
- Don’t overmix the cookie dough ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar for only as long as you need to, usually about 1-2 minutes. Don’t begin beating then leave the room with the mixer running. I’m guilty of this too! Whipping too much air into the dough will cause those cookies to collapse when they bake. I guarantee that.
- One batch at a time, on the middle rack. I know that sounds a little crazy, but that’s how I bake every single cookie recipe. Here’s why: you get the best possible results when the oven only concentrates on that 1 batch. If you absolutely need to bake more than one batch at a time, rotate the baking sheets from the top rack to bottom rack a couple times through the baking process to encourage even baking. And turn the sheets around as well. Ovens have hot spots.
- Freeze for 10 minutes. We’re coming full circle back to tip #1! After you roll the cookie dough into tall balls, freeze them for 10 minutes. Here’s how I do it: after I roll cookie dough into balls to bake them, I place the balls on a plate and put the entire plate in the freezer. Then I preheat the oven. This time in the freezer firms up the balls which may have gotten a little soft while handling with our warm hands. Remember: the colder the dough, the thicker the cookie.
How to Save Your Flat Cookies!
Here is the trick I always use when my cookies begin to over-spread as they’re baking. I’ve actually never shared this with you before, so I’m excited to spill the beans. 🙂
- Use a spoon. When you notice your cookies over-spreading, remove your baking sheet from the oven. Use a spoon to push the edges back towards the center of the cookie. A spoon can literally reshape your over-spreading cookies. Place back in the oven. Repeat during bake time if necessary, then repeat one more time when the cookies have finished baking.
Works every time.
What are your guaranteed cookie tips?
Pictured today are my salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies and soft-baked monster cookies recipe.
Reader Comments & Reviews
To prevent over spreading I use a round cookie cutter one size larger than the desired finished size. I place it over the cookie and move it all around to pull the runaway dough back to the middle. I use it during baking if needed and/or after taking cookies from oven, while still hot. It easily creates a perfect round shape. This is really helpful if cookies need to be the same size for “sandwich” cookies.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with baking after not doing it for 25 years. Your tips and tricks and the way you hand held me in the beginning makes me feel like I can bake anything! Thank you! Thank you! ❤️
So glad you’ve been enjoying our site and recipes, Jennifer!
I have been baking for manny years but I have to tell you your peanut butter giant cookies were the best I EVER had thank you for sharing. This fabulous recipe
I am confused about making the dough into tall balls? Do you have a photo to share of that? Thank you!
Hi Carol, You can see a picture of this, and also see them shaped this way in the video under the recipe for chewy chocolate chip cookies. Hope this helps!
Hi! Could I ask for some tip on how to properly pack cookies for shipment? I usually deliver a ton of cookies in a small coffee shop and it tends to crack especially my chocolate chip cookie. BTW my cookies weigh 100g each. Is there a chance that it crack because its too big?
Hi Jianne, we actually have a post dedicated to how to pack and ship cookies! Hope this helps.
Rather than chilling dough first, I tend to use cookie scoop-form-then chill. Does it make a difference WHEN you chill or just that it’s important to chill. I find this method easier than trying to scoop the already chilled dough.
Hi Cindi! It matters most that the dough is chilled. We usually recommend chilling the dough before scooping because sticky dough can be difficult to work with, but you can do what works best for you!
Creaming butter and sugar, should we use the paddle attachment or whip? The paddle spreads grainy butter in an even layer all around the mixing bowl and doesn’t look fluffy. The whip incorporates air and does fluff. What’s the real story here? Thanks for your advice.
Hi Marilyn, we typically use our paddle attachment for creaming sugar and butter. If you find the butter and sugar is sticking to the sides of the bowl, you can periodically stop the mixer and take a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue mixing again.
I just made really tasty chocolate chip cookies but they spread everywhere. I was really glad to find your best tips to avoid your cookies spreading. Thank you
Glad they were helpful tips, Victoria – happy baking!
Would there be any changes or additions for high altitude
Hi Tammy, we wish we could help, but we have no experience baking at high altitude. Some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html
I tried your thumbprint cookies twice and they flattened both times (this after trying another recipe that also flattened). I weighed the flour, used the proper temperature butter, chilled the dough, and followed all other instructions to the letter. I even chilled the formed cookies before baking and still had no success. The first batch went completely flat and the second batch was only salvageable because I reduced the temperature and kept pulling them out to reshape them by hand. I’m a fairly experienced baker and I do not know how there are so many recipes for “easy” thumbprint cookies when mine failed three times!
used this to bake some double chocolate cookies today. they turned out beautiful and THICC!
Thanks for your time and for showing me you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Hi DeeDee, in many cases, it is okay to double cookie dough recipes, so long as your mixer/bowl can handle the added volume. (We don’t, however, recommend doubling cakes, muffins, etc. since it becomes easy to over mix the batter which results in dense baked goods.) To double, simply double all ingredients, including any baking powder or baking soda called for in the recipe. Hope this helps!
OMG – thank you so much for these tips!
I’ve been wondering why my chocolate chip cookies come out so flat. The mystery is solved! Not sure what too me so long to research, lol!
Hi Sally thanks so much for all your tips! I’m having trouble with the choc chip cookies spreading flat still. I have followed measurements exactly, weighing them out, baking on parchment paper, rolling into cylinders and freezing before baking but to no avail. I have leftover dough in the fridge and I’m wondering if it is too late to add a little extra flour to try and salvage the next batch of cookies. Do you have any other suggestions for this or the next batch? Thank you!
Hi Alison, without fail, adding more flour will always help prevent your cookie dough from overspreading. That’s because it will help soak up more wet/liquid to give the cookies more structure. Let your chilled cookie dough come to room temperature, and work in a little more flour. Shape into cylinders/balls and then chill the balls for 20-30 minutes before baking. All is not lost!
I haven’t made this particular recipe yet, but I have your cookie cookbook and have made several recipes from it. Cookie love! My tip is for ‘shaping’ the cookie once they come out of the oven. I use a round cookie cutter large enough to fit around the cookie with a little extra space. I sort of twirl the cutter around the cookie and it shapes it into a circle pretty easily. It’s important to do this immediately after removing from the oven. It makes a really pretty round shape for each cookie.
I’ve used Airbbake cookie sheets for years that are a double layer with an air pocket so the bottoms of my cookies don’t burn. I wondered what you think of them in comparison with what you recommend, the USA pan half sheet baking pan. Is one better than the other? I see they have a corrugated bottom and wonder if you think this is superior to the air pocket? Thank! I love your site and all your tips and recipes!
Hi Karen! I actually haven’t tried those exact baking sheets in a long time. I remember the bottoms of cookies getting quite crisp (which isn’t a bad thing!). I typically use Nordic Ware baking sheets these days and I line them with a silicone baking mat or sheet of parchment paper.
I do not have the USA cookie sheets but I have the cake pans. Best I have ever used. I will head out to get the sheet pans.
Hi Sally What are those delicious looking cookies in your photos? Toffee something?
Hi Jo, Pictured here are our salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies.
Hi !! Love all you tips and advice!
I used a recipe for oatmeal cookies and the author said no refrigeration needed
Prepare and bake well they puddled into one huge wet mess
And she said 16 cookies somehow I ended up
With way more !! So discouraging!
I’ve baked for 50 yrs !!!
Thanks again!! Keep all your tips and recipes coming !
I keep a baking stone in my oven at all times but I move it to the lower rack and use the middle rack for baking. I use the stone for setting a cookie sheet or cast iron on for roasting because the stone gets so hot and holds a lot of heat.
I’m excited to try a few of these together on our favorite monster cookie recipe! One of our kids developed an egg allergy, and I’ve given up on egg-free brownies and cakes, but cookies with flax eggs are passable, especially if I could get them to stop spreading. I’m thinking of increasing the flour AND doing the freezer trick today. Thanks for the ideas!
Shortbread cookies have no eggs.
hi there, is there any reason why my large cookies crack at the sides though the middles remain fudgy just the way i like?
are large cookies more prone to cracking or? i bake them frozen…
Hi CC, it really depends on the type of cookie you are making. Is there a specific kind that seems to crack more? A little cracking can be normal, but baking them for a bit less time can help.
after reading about why cookies spread i think i know why my cookies spread…i use an older electric hand mixer..so it takes longer to creme together the butter & sugar. i think i overdue it in that department. i thought the longer you creme them together the better..as they say, ‘MY BAD’!
so thank you for the insight..
Hola! Te escribo desde México, hice la receta de m&MS minis y salieron un poco expandidas y crujientes, las guardé en un recipiente hermetico y ya están suaves, sin embargo obsequie unas al día siguiente de hornearlas y me comentaron que estaban duras, no se que pasó porque yo no las percibí de esa manera
my cookie dough seems to be too a little too sticky to handle/ roll. im making really large cookies hence a cookie scoop wouldnt help to shape it into balls as well. if i were to use my hands, is it okay if the cookie dough are shaped like cylindrical in shape as opposed to balls? (i.e. like flat mountains)
i have left them to chill in the freezer for a while before mounting it slightly higher, as opposed to re-rolling them into balls.
Hi cc, it depends on the recipe you’re using, but chilling dough can help solidify the dough and make it easier to roll instead of being so sticky. If your dough is shaped like little mountains, the cookies may spread too much while baking, since they’re already in a spread out shape.
Thank you for all your tips. I have improved my baking a lot with your tips and recipes.
I have a question about a problem regarding Biscotti. Do you have an idea why my Biscotti always form cracks on the top and sides? it is a problem I continually have and makes it hard to cut them without pieces breaking off. I have even tried using a combined egg white and milk coatings but it still happens. I do not know if I am doing something wrong. I would really appreciate your help. Thank you.
My biscotti slabs (before slicing) usually crack too and I haven’t ever found it to be a problem. They don’t completely crack and fall apart, but just crack enough to let some air out– this is mostly because the eggs in the dough need room to expand and vent. Sorry I can’t help. If you find a solution, let me know!
I baked Ihe brownie walnut cookies yesterday We love it n they’re very yummy!
The problem is during baking the cookies spread out until flat. I still have some remaining dough in my fridge. What should ldo n how to repair the remaining dough in the fridge, so that it doesn’t spread when l bake them. Would appreciate if you could help me before l cook that badge in the fridge.
Hi Jenooi, we’re so glad you enjoyed the cookies! Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to fix the dough now that it’s already mixed and chilled, but the additional time in the refrigerator should be helpful to prevent more spreading. Also, if you see the cookies are starting to spread too much during bake time, feel free to use a spoon to gently round the edges and bring the dough back together. Then finish baking. You can see an example of how to do this in our chewy chocolate chip cookies video. Hope this helps!
The question that led me to your site was not addressed. How do I keep rolled and cut cookies from spreading. I chill the dough overnight and again after I cut and place on the cookie sheet. Any help is appreciated. Thanks
Hi Barb, there are quite a few factors that could be contributing to your spreading cookies. It’s possible the butter is a bit too soft, or that there is not enough flour to soak up the wet ingredients. Chilling the dough and the cut shapes, as you mention, should help as well. See our Best Sugar Cookies recipe for more tips on cut-out cookies.
Thanks for the great tips, Sally! I’ll definitely use them next time I bake cookies.
Sally, I just have to tell you that you’ve made me famous… Because I follow your soft chocolate chip recipe tips exactly and as long as I remember to check at 11 minutes all is just perfect! I have found that if I make the cookies before I refrigerate they are less likely to roll over as I put them in the oven and I don’t have to wait a full hour with them segmented. I also liked your Snickerdoodle’s! You’re just amazing at explaining every detail so I understand WHY I’m going to all this trouble and it makes it fun. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. College coeds across the country await your cookies eagerly!
(Ps I use a friend’s homemade rum-based double vanilla and it’s even better with this subtle flavor!)
Hi Sally! I’m writing to you from Italy (so sorry for my English) to tell you that I have tried many of your cookie recipes in the last few months. However, I realized that in the last recipe for cookies with white chocolate chips, crunberries and salted pistachios, the cookies remained too high and raw in the center despite having cooked them a few minutes longer than the indicated time. Could it be that this is due to the dough being too cold? How can I recognize when a cookie is well cooked even in the center? Thank you!!!
Hi Tommaso, thank you for trying our recipes! These white chocolate cranberry pistachio cookies are meant to have soft, but not raw centers. Be sure you’re using room temperature butter and cream the butter with the sugars. You definitely want to chill the dough for these!
I’ve tried everything, new brand of butter, new baking soda & my cookies still go flat. I live in Mexico where all the brown sugar is like sand. Could this possibly the reason they’re flattening? I froze the dough for 1 hour, used parchment paper, used an oven therometer. Just can’t figure it out. Suggestions please!
Hi Debra, it’s always so frustrating when cookies over-spread. The brown sugar you are using may be the culprit and you can certainly continue using it, the cookie dough may just need more dry ingredients to bulk it up. I recommend adding another 1/4 cup (30g) of flour will certainly help.
<Make your own brown sugar. 1 cup white sugar + 1T molassas for light brown sugar or 2T molassas for dark brown. Stir and stir until it's all blended and you will have the same product as US brown sugar. I never buy brown sugar anymore, got tired of having to toss it.
Brown sugar that hardens can be brought back to life by putting a slice of bread in the bag or canister – I’ve done it, it works
I like putting a few large marshmallows in the container I store mine in.
I hear ya there.. I once took a college food course and the only thing I learned was how to make brown sugar.. always make it niw!
Sometimes find that I need to add more flour. I use King Arthur flour and I usually need to add an extra tablespoon or two, sometimes more to prevent spreading.
I don’t know which part of Mexico you are in, but I am here in Tulum, where it is hot and always humid. It has been pretty frustrating to try and bake and come away with success as I do when I am back in my home in Connecticut.
Yes the brown sugar is very unlike what we have in the States and I have to make sure that everything here is very very cold before I start working or shaping the dough. I have made Sally’s sugar cookies in the US and they are perfect, while here no matter what I do and how cold the dough is they are never the same crispy cookies. I now order Bob’s Red Mill flour on Amazon Mexico because I don’t like the Mexican flour. Here’s hoping your baking is more successful. We can continue to compare notes.
Hi Sally! I made your brown butter cookies yesterday and they are delicious! Thank you for sharing such a recipe. I did chill my dough before hand but they still turned out a little flat. I read through all your tips. I was wondering what your thoughts are on baking stones. I usually use my baking stone for cookies. This time I baked half of my batch on the stone and half on the cookie sheet. Thank you! I love your site.
Hi Leigh, Thank you for trying this recipe and we are glad you enjoyed it! We’ve honesty never had luck with baking stones with cookies and we don’t usually recommend them with our recipes. Here are all of our tips to prevent cookies from spreading. If your cookies are still spreading, you can add an extra 2 Tablespoons of flour to the cookie dough which should help.