How to Make Soft or Crispy Cookies

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

 The Spruce

There are two schools of thought when it comes to cookies—soft or crispy. Some people like them soft and chewy, while others prefer them crispy and crunchy.

There is a surprising amount of science in the art of baking cookies. By tweaking a few ingredients, you can determine the texture, shape, and color of your favorite cookie recipes.

How to Make Brown, Thin, and Crispy Cookies

Sometimes a flat, crispy cookie is desired. Gingersnaps are a classic crispy cookie, and some people prefer chocolate chip cookies with a crunch. The trick to a thin, crunchy cookie is using ingredients that allow the cookie to spread during baking.

Use the following ingredient suggestions to make sure your cookies come out crispy and delicious every time.

  • Flour: All-purpose flour has a higher protein content than some other flours. When used in cookies, it creates a darker brown, crispy cookie, thanks to the Maillard reaction.
  • Fat: Butter has a low melting temperature. This allows a cookie to spread much more during baking than other solid fats, such as shortening. Butter also contains protein, which aids in browning and crisping. For flat and brown cookies, butter is the best choice.
  • Sugar: Using white sugar or corn syrup in a cookie produces a crisp end product. Corn syrup also browns more readily than some other sugars.
  • Egg: Recipes without egg will yield a flatter, crisper cookie with more spread. Eggs provide moisture for steam which leavens the cookie dough. The protein in egg provides body and structure to maintain that loft as well. Cookies without eggs will be flatter, thinner, and crisper than recipes than contain egg.

Soft, Fluffy, and Light Cookies

Oatmeal cookies and sugar cookies are often enjoyed for their fluffy, soft texture. If you like your cookies more cake-like in texture, be sure to choose these ingredients.

  • Flour: Cake flour has a lower protein content and is more acidic than all-purpose flour. It also browns less easily and creates more steam for a leavening. The cookie rises, and the resulting texture is fluffier.
  • Fat: Shortening has a high melting point, stays solid longer during the baking process, and prevents the cookie from spreading. A cookie that spreads less during baking will be thicker, softer, and chewier, even without any extra rise from leavening.
  • Sugar: Using brown sugar, which is more acidic and hydrophilic, retains moisture during baking. This creates a softer, moister end product. When used with egg, the acidic pH of the brown sugar will help denature (solidify) the egg faster and prevent spreading.
  • Egg: Including egg in a cookie recipe provides moisture for steam and structure for thickness. An increased amount of steam helps leaven the cookie dough and create a soft, moist end product.
Soft vs Crunch Cookies Illustration
 The Spruce / Adrian Mangel

Chilling and Baking Times

Other factors that can impact the texture of cookies are chilling (or not chilling) and baking times. Cookie dough that is unchilled will spread more readily, resulting in a crisper cookie. To keep cookies from spreading as much, resulting in a thicker, chewier cookie, chill the dough before baking. This is a good technique to use on butter cookie dough recipes when you're looking for a thicker, gooier, but not necessarily cakey cookie.

Baking a cookie for longer will also result in a crispier cookie. Let the cookies bake until the edges start to brown and the cookie is baked all the way through, but don't allow them to burn. Bake less for a chewier cookie. Note that raw cookie dough carries the same health risks as eating raw eggs, so don't underbake your cookies too much.