10 Guaranteed Tips to Prevent Cookies from Spreading

Jump to Recipe

salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies with 10 guaranteed tips prevent cookie spreading text overlay

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.

stack of 2 monster cookies

10 Guaranteed Tips for Thicker Cookies

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 photo? (Scroll down in the post.) Just like that.
  4. Cool your baking sheets. Never place cookie dough balls onto a hot baking sheet. Always room temperature baking sheets.
  5. 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 sheet cake. I suggest owning a few. I have 6!
  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. Soften butter to room temperature quickly with this trick!
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Caramel cookie after baking with a spoon shaping the edges

What are your guaranteed cookie tips?

Pictured today are my salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies and soft-baked monster cookies recipe.

salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies on a red plate

252 Comments

  1. Carol Indrisie says:

    My daughter and 3 of her children are gluten free. I have been making various recipes using cup for cup gluten free flour. Thank you for the amazing recipes. So far what I have made have been such huge hits with them, they have come out perfect. All your tips are just brilliant. I actually feel I can bake now. Scales are really an important gadget to have. Thank you Sally.

  2. Kathleen Chojnacki says:

    Thank you so much for the ideas to keep cookies from spreading! I was so disappointed this year, that I stopped baking after two trays. I never had this problem when I started baking in the early ‘70s. I’m not sure if I was just faster, or if changes have been made to the flour over the years. Luckily with COVID this year, I haven’t seen all the people I want to give cookies to. Thanks!

    1. I’m wondering the same thing..have they changed the products we’re using? I have baked for 50 years, using the same recipes, and didn’t have the spreading problem.

  3. Can the dough sometimes be TOO cold? I prefer to scoop my cookie dough into balls rather than scooping them after the whole bowl has been chilled (I just can’t’ seem to get that method down). I then chill them in the fridge for at least 24 hours and then put them straight into the oven. Should I let them sit out for a few minutes? I’ve never tried freezer to oven, but I’ve read lots of people do this with no problems, no thawing, and don’t have trouble with not spreading.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jessica, baking cookies directly from the fridge or freezer should usually be fine, but if you find the cookies are not spreading, you can try gently pushing them down with the back of a spoon before sticking them in the oven (or even part way through baking). We also have more tips on helping cookies spread in this blog post — see the heading “What if cookies AREN’T spreading?” for more. Hope this helps!

      1. I usually spoon and level, but am never sure if I’ve got it just right. I’ve started trying my hand at weighing ingredients, so hopefully, that’ll help. Overall, my cookies have SO much improved once I started chilling them! It’s made such a difference, and is probably the best cookie tip I’ve ever found…it’s totally changed my “cookie life”, haha. Just wondering why I sometimes end up with those little mounds. I’ve yet to try these tips on my favorite CCC recipe though. I’m so picky, always looking for that “Goldilocks Cookie”. Thank you!

  4. Are these recommendations the same for my cookies that don’t overspread, but rise up nicely, then fall flat? I’ve had this problem for years with the classic chocolate chip recipe. They look great in the oven, then they collapse. More flour? Less beating? I’ve researched this and still no consistent answers, tried many different suggestions. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jean, I’m just seeing your comment/question now so my apologies for the delay. When cookies fall flat after baking, it could be an issue of over-mixing/over-creaming the butter and sugars together. Depending on the recipe you are using, only cream the butter and sugars together for 2 minutes. That’s a nice standard length of time. The dough could also benefit from a little more flour so the cookies hold structure. The amount depends on the recipe, but try an extra 2-3 Tablespoons. Hope both of these suggestions help.

  5. I would love to make these sugar free for my husband. I am new to baking sugar free. I made him Splenda low sugar chocolate chip cookies. But is it possible to make chocolate chip cookies with just Splenda granular and not the brown sugar blend? Splenda granular is completely sugar free. Brown sugar blend isn’t. Your recipe sounds wonderful. Do you offer it in a sugar free version?

  6. Tiffany Lightfoot says:

    Are these tips in your cookie book? Please let me know..these have helped me immensely!

    1. Hi Tiffany! A lot of them are included in my cookie cookbook– scattered throughout the book, as well as in the introduction. I’m glad this has all been helpful for you!

  7. If I have softened room temperature butter (too soft where your finger falls in it) can I put it in the fridge for a little to get it back to the correct room temperature and still work in cake mix?

    Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Juliette! Yes that will usually work. But remember that that middle of the butter may still be warmer than the outside. Happy baking!

  8. Do any or all of these concepts apply to cut out sugar cookies?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Gwen! Yes, they all apply other than the tall cookies trick. We have a very detailed post on cut out sugar cookies you may find helpful as well!

  9. Please tell me how to use a silicone baking mat to make cookies. Some instructions say to use oven spray on the mat, but I don’t want my cookies (chocolate chip, molasses ginger, etc.) to spread excessively. So could you give an explanation about when to use spray and when not to.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi BG, you do not need to grease a silicone baking mat. Simply place the cookie dough balls/shapes 2-3 inches apart (unless another spacing is noted) on the silicone baking mat lined baking sheet. I have never used spray or butter/grease on silicone baking mats because they are nonstick.

  10. I have a spice cookie recipe that makes very thin cookies, slightly too thin. One time I accidentally omitted the baking soda and the cookies hardly spread at all. Since then, I make the recipe with half the baking soda and get the thickness I want. (The original recipe called for 2 t baking soda for a 2 C of flour recipe; there was no baking powder in the recipe )

  11. Hello Sally! Im the biggest fan of your irresistible cookies – i bet you hear it a lot though! Ive been baking them for awhile now and every time its delicious. The other day i decided to try and bake White chocolate macadamia in baking rings, for a perfect circle shape. They turned out round and tasted amazing, but the middle sank after they cooled down… So i was wondering is there a way to prevent them from sinking?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kate! We don’t have any experience baking cookies with rings, but when cookies sink, they’re usually under-baked. The rings may make the cookies thicker so they may need a few more minutes in the oven next time.

  12. mike mcdougall says:

    Hello thanks for tips. I LOVE peanut butter cookies but they are always flat . i tried using more flour and found that they cracked and got hard, but then someone told me thst thery were baked to long?!?!??! i want the thick chewy peanut butter cookies you see in coffee shops and starbucks…… sad face…. havent cooled it yet the dough will try that …. do you have a peanut butter cookie recipe?

    thick chewing peanut butter cookies i need the secret the universe is against me here

    mike

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mike! We have a few different peanut butter cookie recipes, but you might love our Big Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies (you can omit the chocolate chips if desired). Our Very Peanut Butter Cookies and Big Fat Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are also favorites! We’d love to know if you give any of those a try.

  13. Hello Sally! Thanks for the tips. I have been following a recipe that is the brown butter method for cookies, and I really like it, but I have recently been having this issue of the cookies overspreading too thin. I try to whisk in a couple ice cubes and put my browned butter in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to let it cool before I add it to my mixture. Is it possibly not cooling down enough, and that is my main issue for overspreading? I want to try adding a little more flour to my recipe, but also does over mixing the egg/sugar/vanilla mixture have anything to do with it? I mix the egg/sugar/vanilla for about 5 minutes before I adding the browned butter and brown sugar which I only mix in for about 15 seconds. Thanks for your help!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Abbey, We don’t recommend adding ice to your brown butter as that would add too much liquid, which may be why your cookies are spreading. Instead try chilling the brown butter for longer. You can take a look at these brown butter sugar cookies and these brown butter chocolate chip cookies for examples.

  14. linda pavlatos says:

    if you put to much chocolate in the cookies will that make them too soft and spread also using frozen chocolate spread

1 3 4 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×