10 Guaranteed Tips to Prevent Cookies from Spreading

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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


  1. Thank you for your helpful information.
    I am pinning this now.

    1. I’m so happy you found these helpful! 🙂

  2. Sally thank you so much for your tips! I use a cookie scoop for my cookies, should I roll them in a ball after I scoop them? Thank You!

    1. That doesn’t really matter though I do prefer to shape them into “tall balls” even if I use a cookie scoop or not!

  3. I’m amazed. I began reading your tips assuming they would be the same ho-hum suggestions that we’ve all read a hundred times. They were not! You actually presented new ways and methods I’d never heard before! Impressive. Thank you so much. I’ll be trying them during my Christmas cookie marathon.

    1. I’m so happy you found these tips helpful, Karen! Happy cookie baking- I hope these will come in handy 🙂

  4. If you tried all the tips and cookies still spread, let them cool slightly then roll them into balls. This has worked for me several times and I rename them cookie truffles! Once they cool, no one is the wiser and great cookie flavor is still there.

    1. Miranda Lovelace says:

      Thank you for these tips. Its devastating when ur cookies look like a piece of bolonge. This is what I done to make sure they were eatible. 1 st thing I done was sprinkle some pudding mix,dry straight from the box no more than a tblspoon.. Then I just put them in a baking pan like u would brownies. U will have cookie bars,thick and chewy

  5. I like to add about 2 tsp of cornstarch to some of my cookie doughs. It also keeps them from spreading.

  6. This is an excellent article. Thank you so much for sharing your tips. They will certainly help me with my holiday baking.

    1. You are welcome Julia! Happy baking 🙂

  7. Laura | Tutti Dolci says:

    These are such great tips, and I can’t wait to try the spoon technique – so smart!

    1. Yay! Perfect cookies every time! 🙂

  8. I’m so glad I clicked on this! A lot of times I’ll see posts like this and I’ve already tried all the tips but I’m so guilty of over whipping the butter and sugar! I thought that was what I was supposed to do and my cookies have been spreading lately so I’m so excited to try this! Thank you, Sally!

    1. Good luck! Let me know how it goes 🙂

  9. Ketaki Thosar says:

    I love to bake cookies and I always end up coming to your website for inspiration. This article has really helped in my technique. Thank you so much, Sally! Off to baking more cookies now

    1. I’m so happy these tips are helpful! Thank you!

  10. I love these tips as I love a nice, normal, puffy cookie, but my husband loves a flat, spready cookie with crispy edges and a chewy inside. I’m gonna reverse engineer a couple of these to try to make a batch or two to his liking (then back to crowd pleaser cookies… ha!). In particular I think I’ll try cutting the flour by a bit in our favorite chocolate chip recipe.

    1. Lolol!! Good luck 🙂 Hope he loves them!

  11. Patty McGuire says:

    Hi Sally! What recipe is the one in the first picture? It looks like M&Ms and chips??? That looks amazing! Thank you for your always wonderful tips and tricks.

    1. Hi Patty! Those are my monster cookies. 🙂

      1. Patty McGuire says:

        Thank you Sally! I’m off to see what I need to make them!

  12. I made your devil’s food cake this weekend for a combined birthday celebration and it was sooo delicious!! I’ve made many chocolate cakes over the years,and nothing has ever been as good as this one…thanks for making it 3 times over the weekend!

  13. Shannon Naugle says:

    In regards to the sheet pans you suggested, do you use the regular or the heavy duty?

    1. I have the regular!

  14. Hi Sally,
    In some of your recipes you recommend using cornstarch to make the cookies thicker/softer. Does this work for all cookies, or are there some recipes when it wouldn’t help/ isn’t needed?

    1. Hi Brianna! I only add cornstarch sometimes– mostly to chocolate chip cookies and similar. You can definitely add it to most cookie doughs though! Leaves a wonderfully soft texture in baked cookies.

  15. Thanks for the tips, I willgive them a try. Regarding pre-chilling the cookie dough – do you then adjust (increase) the bake time due to the lower starting temperature of the dough?

    1. Typically no, though I always recommend using your eyes– not the clock– for baking cookies. All ovens and baking pans are different and when the cookies are lightly browned on the edges, they’re usually done. Hope this helps.

  16. When baking chocolate chip cookies, they always come out really flat. I was told that maybe it was the type of chips I use, milk chocolate vs. semi sweet. Would one cause flat cookies?

    1. The type of chip wouldn’t really be causing the issue especially if it’s just semi-sweet vs milk chocolate. Perhaps there’s too many chips and not enough dough? It depends on the recipe you are using!

  17. I used these tips to make your oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and they came out perfectly! I realized I was making some really basic mistakes. Once I followed your tips here, my cookies were great!

  18. For baking your cookies (COSTCO article), what does the corn starch do? why 1 egg + 1 egg yoke rather than 2 full eggs

    1. Hi Wes! Cornstarch keeps the cookies extra soft. The extra egg yolk adds extra chew. See this blog post if you’re interested 🙂 https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/chewy-chocolate-chunk-cookies/
      The cookies in my article are based off of that recipe! Thanks so much for reading and for asking.

  19. I love all the information you share. I am 69 years old and you are teaching an “old dog new tricks”. I never realized that I was over beating my dough and causing the cookies to spread. Your tips are wonderful.

  20. carly trimble says:

    Such great tips! I made your drop christmas sugar cookies and they didn’t spread like yours did. They still tasted great but weren’t as soft as I had hoped for. Any tips?

    1. Hi Carly! When cookies aren’t spreading at all, here is my little trick… roll the dough into balls then microwave the dough balls for 5-10 seconds. Sounds odd, but this softens the butter inside the cookie dough. Warmer cookie dough balls spread more in the oven. Works every time.

  21. Aloha Sally,
    Thank you so much for your baking tips. This is my first year baking dozens of cookies for gifts.
    Thanks to you it was a complete success!
    Mahalo, Lei

  22. Kimberly Morgan says:

    Just found your lovely blog! I’m in search of a sugar or shortbread cookie recipe that won’t spread for cut out cookies. I have some detailed cookie cutters of faces and the recipe I used didn’t work well because they spread too much. Anything that can be rolled out, cut with cutters and stand up well?

    1. Hi Kimberly! These sugar cookies ALWAYS hold their shape, especially if you chill the shaped cookies before baking. (Chill them on the baking sheet as the oven pre-heats.)

  23. Kimberly Morgan says:

    Thanks for the tip and recipe! The cookies worked GREAT! I have these large cutters made out of faces and they didn’t spread and you can tell who everyone is! Thank you! Merry Christmas!

  24. my 10 yr daughter is making cookies at home and I’m texting my wife some of these tips to give her right now. She’s been disappointed with her flat cookies the last couple of times, can’t wait to see the results now.

  25. Miss Sally,
    I have recently moved into my own home after staying with my dad, after my mom died. I didn’t realize just how much I missed having my own kitchen! It has been over 12 years, and I am falling in love with baking sweets, bread, and cooking again! I can’t tell you how excited I am to have stumbled across your blog (via Google!). I just found you tonight, but I can’t quit reading! It is so refreshing to find recipes from scratch, and not a box! I look forward reading your info packed blogs, and making your recipes! I wish you continued success with your business. (It will be, you are interesting as well!). Thank you!
    P.S. Do you make bread? I will be looking!

    1. Hi Cynthia! Thank you so much for the extremely kind comment and for saying hi. Welcome to my blog! I have a lot of bread recipes, both yeasted and quick breads. Here is that section: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/category/bread/

      Let me suggest my favorite. I adore this no-knead bread: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/no-knead-cranberry-nut-bread/

  26. On occasion I have combined my butter and sugar too long. So I put bowl in frig and it seems to help. Not too long though.
    Have you tried this?

    1. I haven’t!

      1. What would be the negatives when doing this? Any?

  27. Valerie Murphy says:

    Ok now I know why they spread. I creamed too long and the butter was too warm. I did place in the fridge for 30 min but they spread anyhow. Thank you so much.

  28. This is an excellant post; chock full of great and useful tips for making thick cookies (which are the best kind, by far 🙂 ). Love your own personal trick of rolling the cookie dough balls taller than they are wide; I use it a lot of the time when baking cookies! It’s fascinating to watch the mounds slowly sink, and at one point they look like cookie hats!:D Thanks for the great recommendations, Sally!

  29. The only chocolate chip cookies I make, are the ones I’ve made since I was about 12. Well over 45 years. The older I got, the more experienced I became, the more I changed the recipe to reflect what I have learned over the years. My cookies have been flat for a very long time. My recipe calls for shortening (I’ve never cared for butter based chocolate chip cookies), so I started creaming the shortening with the sugar, adding my room temperature eggs one at a time, 30 seconds apart….made sure I sifted the dry ingredients as stated in the recipe. My 12 year old self didn’t do these things, not even my 30 old self did. Somewhere around my 40s, I suppose I started with the creaming and the sifting. That’s where the flat cookies came in. I didn’t register this however. I thought Crisco did something to their shortening. I finally spoke about 2 months ago, multiple times with very experienced bakers, and I decided I was going to go back to how my 12 year old self did my chocolate chip cookies. My dump and go method I call it. Cold eggs, no creaming, no sifting. I am very pleased to say that my cookies turn out perfectly every time now. Sometimes, it just works

  30. Fantastic list! 🙂 I love the spoon trick. I’ll definitely be trying that soon.

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