This is the ultimate guide on how to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch. They have soft centers, crispy edges and are beyond chewy. You can use it as your basic cookie recipe and add any add-ins you love.
You will learn the science behind chewy cookies, what ingredient does what in cookies, and what's their purpose. I also share how chilling cookie dough affects the texture and taste of cookies. A useful FAQ chapter, including troubleshooting tips, detailed step-by-step photo instructions, and a video, make sure you successfully recreate this chocolate chip cookies recipe every time.
Ingredients notes and substitutions
It's important to understand which purpose the ingredients in this chocolate chip cookie recipe have and how making substitutions affect the texture and outcome. So here are a few notes on why certain ingredients are used and some not.
- Unsalted butter - it's best to use it at room temperature that you can easily cream it with the sugars. I find that melting the butter adds no benefit in terms of taste or texture. With melted butter, they spread a tad more and are lightly greasy to touch. For those reasons, my preference is to use room temperature butter. I don't recommend using salted butter because you have less control over the sweetness or saltiness of the cookie dough.
- If you are practicing a vegan diet, make my vegan cookies recipe instead.
- White and brown sugar - granulated white and light brown sugar are my choices for making basic cookie dough. Dark brown sugar works either, but the cookies will be a tad thicker, and the brown sugar taste is more intense. I used a ratio of 1:1 so, half white and half light brown sugar and find this to be the best ratio. Every other ratio has a direct impact on the texture of your cookies. White sugar lets them spread, and browns sugar keeps them soft and chewy. So keep this in mind if you swap one for the other. Don't skip entirely on brown sugar because its acidity is needed when using baking soda as a leavening agent. Remember:
- more brown sugar = thicker, chewier cookies
- more granulated sugar = thinner, crispier cookies
- All-purpose (plain) flour - though all-purpose flour gives you the best results, gluten-free flour works as well. I recommend using Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour.
- Cornstarch - maybe you asked yourself why would you put cornstarch in cookies? Cornstarch is the key ingredient for soft and tender centers and prevents your cookies from spreading too much and becoming too crispy. It also keeps the cookies soft for days. Although it's possible to skip it, I don't recommend it. You will see that this ingredient has a huge impact on the texture. Say hello to bakery-style chocolate chip cookies!
- Baking soda - if you love chewy chocolate chip cookies with crispy edges, baking soda is the leavening agent of your choice. It makes the cookies chewy and lets them spread more. Using baking powder results in thicker, fluffy, cakey cookies that spread less. Unless you want thicker and cakey cookies, I don't recommend to use baking powder. Remember:
- baking soda = chewy, thinner cookies
- baking powder = cakey, thicker cookies
- Chocolate chips - either chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, or chopped chocolate bars work great. Use what you love most. But actually, you can add any mix-ins you love instead. Think of peanut butter chips, nuts, or dried fruits. I recommend not adding more than 1 cup in total, though.
Here you find step-by-step photo instructions to provide you with a visual guide to know how the dough looks at every step. Find the full recipe, including the ingredients list and a video, in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar.
Then, add the egg and vanilla and mix until creamy and well combined.
Add the flour mixture and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated.
Then add the chocolate chips and mix just for a few seconds until well distributed. The dough should be slightly sticky.
Then cover and chill. Scoop balls of cookie dough...
and roll them into balls. Place on baking sheets and bake.
Why and how to chill cookie dough before baking?
You have a direct impact on the texture, browning, and taste of the cookies by chilling or not chilling the cookie dough before baking. That you don't have to find that out on your own what method leads to which results, I included a comparison below.
Methods and results
- Bake immediately: make the cookie dough and bake it right away. Since the cookie dough is sticky, you can only scoop the dough onto the baking sheet. Rolling is not possible. Resulted in thinner, crispier cookies with darker edges. If you prefer thin and crispy cookies, feel free to skip the dough chilling. The taste is a little sweet. I would increase the salt to ½ tsp if you don't chill the dough.
- Let rest: after making the dough, let it rest at room temperature until the liquid is absorbed and the dough isn't sticky to the touch anymore. This will take about 20-30 minutes. The texture is chewy with crispy edges, the browning is lighter, and they spread a tad less than those baked right away. Also, I find them a bit too sweet, and I would suggest increasing the salt to ½ tsp in this case.
- Bang: this has nothing to do with chilling, but I included it because I wanted to try if my recipe is also suitable for the banging method from Sarah Kieffer's The Vanilla Bean Baking Book to create a super-thin, crispy, crinkly cookie. Hint: it's not. The result is far away from the desired outcome what made me conclude that using this method for this chocolate chip cookie recipe is not recommended.
- The banging method works like this: bake the cookies for 8 minutes, then tap the baking sheet against the counter or lift it on one side and let fall back onto the oven rack to deflate the cookies, then bake again 1-2 minutes, deflate again, and bake a further 1-2 minutes until lightly browned.
- Chill: make the cookie dough and refrigerate for 1 hour. Then scoop, roll, and bake. Results in lightly browned, chewy cookies with soft centers and crispy edges, which stay soft for days. The taste is well balanced, and the sweetness is perfectly regulated. My favorite and the standard method used in this recipe.
- Chill + rest: the dough has been chilled for 8 hours and then rested at room temperature for 30 minutes until it was a soft and spoonable dough. The results are very similar to the ones which are chilled for 1 hour. I found that they spread a tad less, but are more even, and are a tiny bit softer with less crispiness around the edges. This shows me, this recipe is perfectly suitable to prepare in advance and chill until needed.
- Freeze: chill the dough for 1 hour and then spoon and roll into balls, place in freezer bags, and freeze. Let them thaw at room temperature for 1-2 hours, preheat the oven, and bake. They are chewy, the flavor is well balanced, and they brown a little more. This means you can absolutely prepare this cookie dough in advance and bake it when needed. But is it my preferred method? Honestly, no. They are a tad dry and not as perfect as just chilled.
This experiment convinced me that chilling the cookie dough for 1 hour, then spooning and rolling it into balls and baking, leads to the best results. The taste and texture are simply perfect. Here are my key takeaways:
- Unchilled cookie dough leads to thinner, crispier, and sweeter cookies than chilled cookie dough.
- Using the banging method for this recipe doesn't lead to the intended outcome.
- Freezing unbaked cookie dough is absolutely possible but leads to a bit dryer cookie.
Note: Please keep in mind that every taste is different. Based on what you learned in this post, you can create your best chocolate chip cookies recipe. However you prefer your cookies to be, you learned how to make them chewy, crispy, sweet, more colored, or cakey.
Mistakes to avoid and tips for success
Making cookies is actually a straightforward and easy process. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid. After years of developing the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, I want to share my knowledge with you to ensure you end up with perfectly baked cookies.
1. Incorrectly measuring the flour
You will get the most accurate results when you measure the ingredients with a kitchen scale or you know how to spoon and level the flour that you have the desired outcome. Every baker measures flour differently and there are different cup sizes available in the world. I use US measuring cups for all my recipes and spoon and level the flour as follows.
First, I fluff up the flour with a spoon (the spoon shouldn't be too big) until it's light and airy and not packed. By the way, I always store my flour in a container because it makes it so much easier to measure the flour using this method.
Then I spoon the flour lightly and slowly into the measuring cup, beginning on the side facing towards me and spooning away from me. This makes sure that the flour remains loose in the cup while spooning. Then repeat until the cup is full but not excessively overloaded. Spoon just enough to make it full.
My tip: don't spoon too much at once and not too fast, and don't press the back of the spoon into the flour while spooning
Then carefully level it with the back of a knife or the handle of the spoon without pushing the excess flour into the cup. I start in the middle of the cup and level the flour in two directions, towards me and away from me. This makes sure that you don't push too much flour into the cup while leveling.
My tip: Use the back of a knife to do this if the handle of the spoon is not straight.
2. Overmixing once the flour is added
Once the flour is added to the dough, mix on medium-low speed just until combined. Otherwise, the gluten develops too much, and it results in tough or unpleasantly chewy cookies. Overmixing is generally a problem. Mix always as long as the recipe states.
3. Wrong oven or dough temperature
Having the correct oven temperature is crucial for the success of baking cookies. If the temperature is either too low or high, the cookies won't spread properly. If too cold, they won't spread enough and will stay more in the shape of balls, and if too hot, the edges will bake through too quickly, which means your cookies can't spread quickly enough, and you end up with thick, small, dry, and crumbly cookies.
My tip: If you know your oven is either running too hot or too cold, having an oven thermometer is the best and easiest fix. I always use it when baking.
The same is true for the cookie dough. Although I absolutely recommend baking frozen cookies if needed, I don't recommend baking them straight out of the freezer. They will need more baking time and result in dry, uneven, thick, and way too dark cookies.
My tip: Let them sit at room temperature to thaw for 1-2 hours or store them overnight in the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
Results for both scenarios shown below (oven temperature was too hot and frozen cookie dough baked without thawing):
4. Not identifying oven hot spots
Do you have an oven hot spot that is driving you crazy? I've been there. It's so important to find oven hot spots and to find a solution to handle them. My previous oven was driving me crazy by having a hot spot in the center. I found multiple workarounds to ensure that my baked goods end up as they are supposed to be.
One of my favorite workarounds for cookies is placing the unbaked balls of cookie dough in the center of 5x5-inch (12.5x12.5cm) cut baking paper and place it onto a baking sheet that you know the hot spot is not directly above a cookie. My hot spot was in the center, so I placed a cookie in each corner of the baking sheet.
Then after the cookies start spreading (after about 7 minutes in), I remove the baking sheet from the oven, turn the baking sheet around by 180°, and also turn the single baking paper pieces by 180° that the sides of the cookies which are facing towards the hot spot are then facing away from the hotspot. Wherever your hotspot is, your workaround may look different but turning the baking sheet around and being flexible with single cookies turning around is great.
Overbaked cookies are dry and hard and simply not a joy to eat. Thankfully it's easy to avoid this, though. Bake them until the edges are set and lightly browned. The center should look undone and pale.
You will notice that they puff up a little in the center and then deflate as they cool. They should be pale and too soft to move when you remove them from the oven. They continue baking on the baking sheets for a few minutes. This simple but crucial step separates chewy from dry cookies. So, please resist the urge to bake the cookies until they look completely baked through.
To sum it up
- Measure the flour correctly.
- Avoid overmixing.
- Ensure that the cookie dough and the oven have the correct temperature.
- Identify and handle hot spots.
- Avoid overbaking.
Why are my cookies flat?
That chocolate chip cookies turn out flat and spread too much in the oven can be due to
- having too little flour in the dough and the wet/dry ingredients were out of balance. Possible questions to ask yourself: Was the egg size correct? Was the cup completely filled with flour? Did I accidentally use more butter? After making the dough it should be slightly sticky to the touch but hold together. If not, you will need more flour but be careful and add it just little-by-little.
- baking without chilling the dough. Unless you want thin and crispy cookies, it's recommended to chill the cookie dough until it's a soft, smooth, and rollable dough that doesn't stick to your fingers at all.
- using expired baking soda. Test your baking soda by adding one teaspoon of baking soda in a bowl and add one tablespoon of vinegar. If it doesn't fizz heavily, it's not good anymore, and you need new baking soda.
Why are my cookies not spreading?
Sometimes it can happen that chocolate chip cookies don't spread at all and turn out too thick. This can be because of
- having too much flour in the dough and the wet/dry ingredients were out of balance. Questions to ask: Did I fluff up and then spoon and level the flour into the cup as described? I feel it important to mention that 1 cup of packed flour = 1.5 cups of spooned and leveled flour. Are all ingredients in the dough?
- a wrong oven temperature. It can be either that the oven was too hot or too cold what causes the cookies not to spread properly.
- baking too cold or frozen cookie dough. I don't recommend baking the cookie dough straight out of the freezer. Let it come to room temperature for 1-2 hours, or thaw it in the fridge overnight. When it's longer than 2 hours in the fridge, let it stand at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how long it was in the fridge.
Why are my cookies hard?
That they turn out hard can be because of the same reasons why they are not spreading, plus overbaking. It's important that you remove them from the oven as soon as the edges are set and lightly browned, the center puffed up slightly and looks pale and not done.
Make ahead and freezing instructions
- Chilling up to 2 days: If you plan on chilling the dough longer than 2 hours, store it covered in the fridge for up to 2 days. Let it sit at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes until it is a soft and spoonable dough, then preheat the oven and bake.
- Freezing unbaked dough up to 3 months: If you want to freeze the unbaked cookie dough, chill it in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Then spoon and roll into balls, place in freezer bags, and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw at room temperature before baking for 1-2 hours. Alternatively, let them thaw in the fridge overnight and then remove them from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you bake them.
- Freeze baked chocolate chip cookies: Wrap the baked and fully chilled cookies in plastic wrap and store them in freezer bags. Let them thaw at room temperature for about 2-3 hours.
Recipe and Video
How to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes. Then add the egg and vanilla and mix for about 1 minute, until creamy and well combined.
- Add the flour mixture and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated, about 30-60 seconds. Then add the chocolate chips and mix on medium-low speed just for a few seconds until well distributed. The dough should be slightly sticky. Then cover and chill for 1 hour.
- Line 2-3 baking sheets and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Scoop 16 equal-sized balls (about 2 tablespoons [45g]) of chilled cookie dough and roll into balls. Place 6-8 cookies, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each prepared baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for 10-11 minutes, or until the edges of cookies are set and lightly browned, and the center looks undone, pale, dry, and lightly puffed.
- Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, or until firm enough to move. Then, transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. The cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Make big chocolate chip cookies Scoop 2 tbsp (90g) of dough per cookie and bake for 12-14 minutes.