The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Keeping Chocolate Chip Cookies from Spreading and Chip Recommendations

3 Olives's picture
3 Olives

Keeping Chocolate Chip Cookies from Spreading and Chip Recommendations

I've been using the Toll House recipe for years and the cookies always taste great. They spread more than I like but that's a visual issue and doesn't effect the taste. I'm making some cookies as a gift and I'd like them to be a bit plumper.  Will chilling the dough decrease the spreading?

Also, any chocolate chip recommendations would be appreciated.

jaywillie's picture

Spreading is a result of the recipe, the relationship of fat to flour, and not the starting temperature of the dough. Do a Google search for Alton Brown's three chocolate chip recipes -- he offers three different recipes based on the sort of cookie you want -- thin, puffy, chewy:

When you compare the recipes, you'll be able to see why each one bakes the way it does.

My personal favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is from Cook's Illustrated, so you might see if you can Google that one as well. It's a pay site (, but the recipe is probably out there somewhere.

My favorite semisweet chocolate chip for cookies (being very precise there!) is from Guittard.


LindyD's picture

The CI chocolate chip cookies are awesome.  Here's a link to their recipe:

dwcoleman's picture

Chilling the cookie dough will help, also using a combination of butter/shortening helps as well.  Shortening has a higher melting point than butter, which will make a thicker cookie.

Try my recipe below, I think it's awesome.  However there is a 2 hour chill time.


Recipes - Cookies - Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.

Roll dough into a log, wrap in plastic, refrigerate 2 hours.

Cut cookies from log @ 1/2" thick.

Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.



EvaB's picture

cookies once. They spread all over the pan, and they were terrible! I never baked choc chip cookies again, until a little over a year ago, I baked a great recipe for my son in law who whines that I never bake choc chip cookies! I have probably close to 100 cookbooks if not more, but I still go to the books I got in highschool, they were from the home ec teacher and are specific books for different things, there is a meat book, casseroles etc, the desserts book has tons of choc chip recipes, but I sort of picked one out of the dozen or so, and went with it, figuring I could try another if it didn't work well. Well it worked fine, didn't spread all over the pan, made the best tasting choc chip cookie I've ever eaten, doesn't dry out fast, and disappears like the bugs in the raid adds! Poof! Gone, and that was with only 4 of us, and 3 dozen cookies! My daughter is not a sweet fan at all, but she even liked them! They aren't too sweet, or too thin, but like the porrige just right!

1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup white sugar (I always scant the sugar by about 1tablespoon because I am not into overly sweet either) 1/2 cup firmly pcked brown sugar (I buy the brown not the yellow) (and by firmly packed I mean pack it in real hard) 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional and I didn't use them) 1 pkg 6 ounce size semi sweet chocolate chips (my daughter thought that looked like a lot but it was great)

Heat the oven to 375F Mix butter and sugars, egg and vanilla well, Sift the dry ingredients and stir into the sugar mix, stir in the nuts and chips. I used a cookie scoop (about a good tablespoon size bought at Walmart) onto sheets, bake 8-10 minutes, coolslightly before removing to the rack to cool. makes about 3 dozen with scoop, and they don't last long, they are plump tender and don't spread all over!

fishers's picture

I was so tired of trying to perfect the old Toll House standby that I stopped making chocolate chip cookies all together several years ago.  I tried everything.  Keeping them in the refrigerator, more water, less water - nothing worked and figured it was me because everyone else seemed to make them!  Then just before Christmas 2011, I came across the following recipe.  These were easy and ready in no time.  They're the best I've found and I think it's all in the oatmeal:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yield:  Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies (my cookies must be smaller than the recipe because I got about 4 dozen)

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups uncooked regular oats
1 (11.5-ounce) package semisweet chocolate mega morsels (I used regular chips)
1 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.

3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring well. Add oats; stir well. Add to butter mixture; stir until well blended. Gently stir in morsels and pecans. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until brown around edges. Cool on pan 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

PastryPaul's picture


While chilling your dough may help, it likely won't be enough to fix the issue. A more likely culprit would be overmixing the dough. It should be mixed just enough to blend it all together, and you are better of erring on the side of undermixing.

Actually, depending on batch size, you may want to try hand mixing the final dough



dwcoleman's picture

Overmixing would result in a bread like texture, wouldn't it?

PastryPaul's picture

But cookies will spread and cakes will fall in the middle when overmixed. I can't offer a scientific explanation, but that's what we've observed over and over again


G-man's picture

My wife is the one who bakes most of the sweets around our house. She uses Alton Brown's "The Chewy" recipe for chocolate chip cookies and goes from there.

They don't spread a whole lot. If you want even less spreading, reduce the amount of fat you put into the cookies.

Oswaldhamilton's picture

Speculoos is made from caramelized gingerbread cookie which was traditionally baked for consumption on St. Nicholas day in Belgium.Speculoos is sourced and derived from the Dutch word  ‘speculaas’ and it is a type or form of biscuit or cookies that we eat on a daily basis as part of our breakfast or snacks.

johnr55's picture

I agree-cookies sound like they were overmixed.

laura seim's picture
laura seim

I had the same problem with cookies spreading during baking (even though I chilled the dough), after doing some online research found out that it is because of the butter itself. Using margarine baking sticks was one of the most recommended remedies I found.

Dragonbones's picture

If I recall correctly, my Professional Pastry Chef book says that when you mix the butter and sugar, if you mix it until just blended (rather than continuing to cream until light and fluffy), the cookies will be thicker, spreading less. If you overmix the butter and sugar, they will spread out more and be crisper. I think it said it's due to the incorporation of more air (I don't have the book here), but I imagine you're also warming the mix up more.  Chilling the dough a bit, especially in hot weather, and making sure your baking pans aren't hot (when reusing them, in a large batch) should help too. I definitely wouldn't switch to margarine, which is the worst stuff imaginable for your heart.

Khadija's picture

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time testing chocolate chip cookie formulas.  For the past six months, I have done 1-2 formula testings per month.  In the testings, I bake 3-4 batches of dough, aiming for a difference of only 1 variable.  Some experiments tested ratios of ingredients, some tested temperatures of the dough, some tested age of dough, some tested types of specific ingredients (e.g., flour), some tested baking times and oven temperatures.

At this point, I am fairly confident that there are multiple factors that affect the spread of the cookie, many of which have been mentioned here.  So, while I agree with posters who say that the ratio of ingredients is key, I disagree with those who go on to say that some other factor (like chilling the dough) is irrelevant to spread.

My research has lead to the following thoughts:

1.  For a "thick and chewy" bakery-style cookie, the ingredients formula should be roughly: 100% flour, 100% sugar, 60-70% fat, 20% eggs, 1-2% baking soda, 0-1% baking powder, 1-2% salt.  For the sugar component, use 30-50% white and 50-70% brown.  Increasing the brown sugar will slightly decrease spread, and also lead to a softer, chewier cookie.  Less fat will decrease spread.

2.  Chilling the dough slows spread, and this can significantly affect the thickness of the cookie.  If your formula contains a high percentage of fat, and the dough is thoroughly chilled, your cookies will still spread a lot (especially if you bake at a lower temperature for a longer time).  But the chilling will still slow the spread.  It also helps to chill after portioning.  (I have learned this the hard way, after carefully chilling the dough in bulk, and then shaping balls while standing next to a piping hot stove.  This always eliminated the effects of chilling.)  Now, I chill the dough in bulk right after it has been mixed, portion it, and chill it again.)

3.  You can incorpote time into the chilling process, and "age" the dough for between 24 hours and several days.  This will allow the flour to hydrate, the dough will become drier, develop a bit of gluten, and lend itself to a thicker and chewier cookie.   (Aging the dough will also contribute to flavor, which I think is usually, but not always a good thing.)

3.  Incorporating a lot of air into the butter and sugar significantly contributes to spread.  So, for a thick cookie, I would never cream the butter and sugar "until pale and fluffy."  I tend to use two methods for combining the butter and sugar: 1) Either with a mixer, or by hand, I mix just to the point where the sugar has been incorporated into the butter and some of the grittiness has been removed.  I actually like the hand-mixed results better, but it's more work and unrealistic for large batches. 2)  Melt the butter and thoroughly beat in the sugars.  This will produce a chewier cookie, but it will be slightly flatter.

4.   The type of flour you use will have a significant impact on the thickness of the cookie.  Using some or all of a higher protein flour (e.g., bread flour) decreases spread, but can also lead to a tougher cookie.  Interestingly, I've also found that using 100% all-purpose whole wheat flour will produce a significantly thicker cookie, and a really appealing taste (i.e., not a health-food taste).

I can talk CCCs for ages, but I'll stop here. 






Dragonbones's picture

Good info, Khadija!  I agree with much of what you wrote. We've been baking thick, soft choc chip cookies several times a week for several weeks now, paying attention to these details, and find that there are multiple factors, as you say. I never mix the dough as long as the recipes say (I find a minute to be enough to cream the cold pats of butter and sugars), then I age AND chill the dough, and after 36 hours, get it onto a cold pan without warming it up (I chill it in thin logs, and cut them with a knife to place on the pan, minimizing contact with my hand, then bake at a high enough temperature to solidify the outer shell before the cookie spreads too far. I start them on a high rack and then move them downward when rotating; being nearer to the top element initially has the effect of solidifying and lightly browning the shell early, which stops the spreading; I then let them finish at a longer time on a lower rack so as not to overbrown.

breadsong's picture

Hello Khadija,
I was interested in your research findings on these cookies - I have a favorite chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe
and I was curious how the baker's percentages compare to what your research shows:
(I converted the recipe to grams to determine the baker's %'s)

These baker's %'s seem right in line with what you've discovered, and these quantities sure do seem to work for a chewy, thick cookie.
I like Fine Cooking's recommendation for mixing butter and eggs cold from the fridge, and for a short mix -
haven't needed to further chill the cookie dough, or the portioned cookies, prior to baking (been grateful for that when I've been in a particular rush to get the cookies baked - a quick mix and into the oven!).
Thanks again for your thoughts about these cookies. Next time I make them I'll use a soft whole-wheat flour to compare flavor and texture.
:^) breadsong


MIchael_O's picture

I may have a simplier answer. Do not grease the baking sheet. Greasing the baking sheet allows the cookie dough to "slide around"