7 Secrets to Baking Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

When it comes to cookies, texture is key. Follow along as we teach you how to bake sugar cookies to perfection.

Sugar cookies are one of life’s purest joys. Combine a few simple ingredients and WHAM! You have a batch of satisfying sweet-tooth treats fresh from the oven. One of the best parts of a sugar cookie is its soft, chewy texture. This, however, can be tricky to achieve. Follow along as we guide you through a few steps for baking the chewiest-ever sugar cookies.

But first, check out one of our favorite chewy sugar cookie recipes.

1. Go for Brown Sugar

Though brown sugar isn’t a traditional ingredient in sugar cookies, there’s no denying that adding it to your recipe will make your cookies chewier. The reason? Brown sugar is up to about 10 percent molasses, which means the ingredient adds moisture to the dough (get the details here). The more moisture, the chewier your cookie will be. Plus, the acidity in brown sugar can react with the baking soda in traditional sugar cookie recipes, helping them leaven and rise rather than spread out flat.

(Note: The brown sugar will change the cookie color. If you’re seriously concerned about getting a golden cookie, we’d recommend trying out the following tips instead.)

2. Experiment with Syrup

If you don’t care for brown sugar, you can swap out the sugar in your recipe with a bit of corn syrup. This contains fructose and is hygroscopic, which means it attracts and retains moisture from the air. Your cookies may look a little bit different—but they’ll definitely be chewier. You could use maple syrup, too!

3. Buddy up with Butter

Butter is your best bet for chewy cookies, so don’t think about swapping it out for shortening or lard. Since it’s composed of 16 to 17 percent water, it’ll help make your dough more moist for tender, chewy cookies. (Want to know which butter brand won our blind taste test?)

How you handle the butter matters, too. If you take the traditional route by creaming the butter and sugar together, you’ll end up with lighter, taller cookies. That’s because the air incorporated during that process helps leaven them as they bake. However, if you melt the butter first, the results are chewier and denser because there is no incorporation of air.

Psst! If you were thinking about using shortening in your sugar cookies, reconsider! It doesn’t deliver the same flavor (or really any flavor at all), or contain any water for moisture.

4. Add an Extra Yolk

Eggs can make a huge difference in cookies. Plus, there are so many combinations you can use—all yolks, all whites, whole eggs, whole eggs plus a few whites, and so on (here’s how to separate them mess-free). An extra egg yolk is full of fat that can contribute to the chewiness of the cookie. Try throwing in an extra yolk next time you bake.

We did a side-by-side tasting of conventional and organic eggs. The results might surprise you.

5. Choose Your Flour Wisely

Be certain to double-check the type of flour you’re using to make your sugar cookie dough. Bread flour is ideal. It has a higher protein concentration than cake and all-purpose flours, which helps develop more gluten when baked. Gluten is a protein that provides structure and elasticity, for that irresistibly chewy texture. We recommend weighing it instead of measuring it, too.

6. Watch Your Bake

Other factors that affect chewiness in a batch of cookies are oven temperature and baking time. Luckily, these can be easily adjusted to retain the most moisture in your cookies. By baking at a slightly lower temperature or for a shorter amount of time, the cookies will stay moist in the middle and will ultimately be chewier.

7. Chill Out

Chilling your dough before baking helps, too. The cold raw dough will spread less during baking. This also is great tip for those bakers who like to make ahead.

Lots of variables influence how a batch of cookies will look and taste, and in my experience, no two batches of cookies ever turn out identical. (Even if the same recipe and method are followed!) However, by adjusting a few key ingredients, you can come that much closer to achieving the ideal chewy sugar cookie of your dreams. Want to try even more recipes? Try our easy cookie recipes!

Feeling inspired? Check out our favorite sugar cookie recipes.
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Grace Mannon
Grace is a full-time mom with a Master's degree in Food Science. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and writes about her hits (and misses) on her blog, A Southern Grace.