Cookie Dough Too Sticky – How To Fix It

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Sticky cookie dough can be so annoying to work with; it gets all over your hands and the kitchen counter. It can take a while before you figure out how to portion out the cookies and transfer them onto the baking sheet.

How to fix sticky cookie dough? To fix sticky cookie dough, first try refrigerating it for 30 minutes. Cookie dough can get sticky when the butter and eggs in it get warm. If refrigerating doesn’t help, you can salvage sticky cookie dough by adding more flour to it. 

Keep reading to learn what makes perfect cookie dough and why cookie dough turns out sticky. You’ll also get step-by-step instructions on how to fix your sticky cookie dough.

What Does Perfect Cookie Dough Look Like?

There is no such thing as perfect cookie dough. It all depends on what you want the final result to be. You may like your cookies soft and chewy, or you may like your cookies crunchy and crispy.

To make cookie dough for the end result to have your desired texture, you should learn what function each ingredient performs in it. This will help you make the perfect cookie dough for your liking. 

Here’s what each ingredient’s purpose is:

  • Flour – Flour is the ingredient that has the power to turn your cookies from soft and chewy to crispy and crumbly. The gluten in flour creates the foundation for the cookie dough. In other words, it is the ingredient that supports the structure of the cookies. 
  • Sugar – Sugar is an important component of cookie dough. Not only because it provides sweetness, but sugar also absorbs moisture and makes the cookies crispy. It caramelizes and makes the cookies look nicely golden brown. When the cookies bake, the sugar melts, spreads through the dough, and softens it. 
  • Fat – The fat you add into the dough coats the gluten particles that flour adds. This makes the cookies tender and fluffy. If your fat of choice for the cookie dough is butter, you can expect to get cookies with crispy edges. 
  • Eggs – Eggs are the bonding agent. They also contribute to the fluffy texture of the cookies.
  • Salt – The recipe may call for only a pinch of salt. However, you should never skip it, as the smallest amount of salt brings all the flavors in the dough to balance.
  • Baking Soda – Baking soda helps the cookie dough to rise. But be careful with this ingredient, as too little of it can make the dough heavy, while too much of it gives the cookies an off-putting, bitter taste. 

Knowing how to add or subtract ingredient to get your desired texture makes a world of difference when it comes to the final product.

How Do You Know When the Cookie Dough Is Too Sticky? 

If you are not a pro at cookie baking, you may have a hard time deciding whether your cookie dough has the right consistency or is too sticky. This may also go for sticky bread dough, which we have another article for.

Here are a few things that give away overly sticky cookie dough:

  • Your dough clumps up on the beaters when you are using a hand mixer to mix the cookie dough.
  • You are unable to scoop out the dough and transfer it onto the baking sheet as a result of the sticky texture. 
  • If you grab a piece of dough, part of it melts or drips back into the bowl.
  • You can’t roll out the sugar cookie dough as it sticks to the rolling pin. 

Once you can identify sticky dough, you can figure out what the cause is and address it before your cookies are doomed to a gooey demise.

Why Is My Cookie Dough Sticky?

Two things cause cookie dough to be sticky – less flour than needed and the temperature of the dough.

The latter is affected by not only the temperature of the ingredients you used to make it but also by the warmth of your hands and the temperature in your kitchen.

Lack of flour is the simplest cause of sticky cookie dough. However, stickiness is also a common issue with cookie doughs that contain a lot of butter and eggs. 

These types of doughs are very sensitive to the temperature of the body. The longer you knead them and the more heat gets transferred to the dough from your body, the stickier the dough becomes. 

Your cookie dough may also feel sticky right after you have made it because of the temperature of the butter. 

It is recommended to always add room-temperature butter to the dough. Sometimes you may forget to take the butter out of the fridge in advance. In such cases, many people turn to the microwave. 

While a few seconds in the microwave can effectively soften the butter, it can also make the butter too hot. Butter added to the dough in liquid form can make the dough feel sticky. 

How Do You Fix Wet Cookie Dough? 

If you have ended up with wet cookie dough, the first thing you should do is double-check the recipe. Perhaps you added less flour than needed? It is also possible that you added more of the wet ingredients than the recipe calls for. 

If all the ingredients seem to be added in the right amount but your cookie dough is sticky, there are two ways to fix it. You should either add more flour or refrigerate the dough to be able to further work with it. 

1. Refrigeration 

When the cookie dough is sticky because of hot butter or hand-kneading, refrigerating it will solve the problem.

Here’s how to refrigerate your cookie dough:

  1. Wrap the cookie dough with food wrap. Alternatively, you can roll the dough between two layers of parchment paper and only then put it in the fridge. This is a helpful trick for cut out cookie dough. 
  2. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. 
  3. Leave the dough in the fridge longer if you want thicker cookies. The cookies won’t spread out as much if you put the cold dough on a room temperature baking sheet.
  4. Once you remove the refrigerated dough from the fridge, use it quickly, as it will return to its sticky state very quickly. 

Tip: If putting the dough in the fridge helped a little but the dough is still sticking to your hands, try wetting your hands.

You can handle the sticky dough with wet hands more easily. Keep in mind that you will need to wet your hands repeatedly until you are finished working with the dough to prevent it from sticking to your hands. 

However, don’t do this for too long, as this water will transfer to the dough and make it wetter and therefore stickier.

2. Adding More Flour 

If refrigerating the dough didn’t help or you simply don’t have the time to wait 30 or more minutes until it gets firmer and easier to handle, your only option is to add more flour.

Here’s how to fix sticky cookie dough by adding more flour:

  1. Start by adding a fine dusting of flour to the dough and try to handle it. While this short-term solution may be enough for you to portion out the cookies and get them into the oven, in certain cases it may not work. 
  2. If the dough is still too sticky to handle, keep adding flour little by little to the dough. Knead the dough to get the flour mixed in well and spread through the dough evenly. Avoid over-kneading the dough unless you want very crispy cookies. As you knead the dough, you enrich it with air. The aerated dough causes the cookies to rise and then fall, causing them to be flat and crispy. 
  3. If you are dealing with an overly sticky sugar cookie dough, make sure to add more flour onto the rolling pin and on the working surface. Dip the cookie cutters in flour to prevent the dough from sticking to them. 
  4. Lightly dust the cookies with flour to prevent them from sticking to the baking sheet. 

What Happens When You Bake Sticky Dough? 

If you manage to work with the sticky cookie dough and portion it out to get cookies, you may not end up with good results.

As the sticky dough cooks, it will create flat and greasy cookies. Because they are flat, the cookies will also be rather crispy and brittle. 

If you bake cookies often, you have probably ended up with greasy, flat, and crispy cookies at least once. This is not always the result of the dough being too sticky. This may be the result of the pan being too hot when you loaded it with cookies. 

If you’re getting a little fed up with the trial and error of baking cookies, why not try out recipe for no-bake sugar cookies?

How to Fix Runny Cookie Dough?

You’d have to try really hard to make cookie dough runny. Specifically, you need to add too many eggs to get the dough runny.

Adding more eggs into the batter than the recipe calls for without doubling the rest of the ingredients will naturally cause the dough to be runny.

The cookies probably won’t hold their shape if you try to bake them. And if they do bake, they will taste more like a cake rather than a cookie. Additionally, they won’t taste very sweet because of the extra eggs in the batter. 

You can try to fix the dough by adding more flour and sugar, but it might be easier to find a cake recipe that calls for a runnier batter and change your plans from cookies to a cake. 

Up Next: Recipe – Vanilla Crinkle Cookies

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