Bake Exactly What You Crave with Our Chocolate Chip Cookie Guide

Not all chocolate chip cookies are created equally. Check out our handy comparison chart to see how different types of fat and flour affect a recipe.

When you think about it, making chocolate chip cookies (or any baked treat) is a science experiment. If you have all the proper ingredients and the chemistry works, the experiment is a success with delicious results. Butter and sugar are creamed together before adding dry ingredients such as flour, baking soda, and salt before heated to just the right temperature. And using properly-measured ingredients is essential in making sure the finished result is the correct texture and flavor. Thankfully, the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen has tested all sorts of chocolate chip cookie variations so you don't suffer a failed experiment when making alterations or substitutions to your recipe.

chart of chocolate cookies by ingredients
Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

Type of Fat Makes a Difference

The Test Kitchen made cookies using a variety of different fats such as vegetable oil, butter, margarine, and shortening to see how each batch of chocolate chip cookies compared. You can see each test gave a different result. Using only butter causes your cookies to spread more. An all vegetable oil cookie will seem greasier, so it isn't recommended as the only source of fat used in a cookie recipe. And since margarine is more oil-based, you won't get the same buttery result as you would using real butter. The original recipe calls for a combination of butter and shortening. The butter flavors the cookie nicely while shortening helps the cookie keep its shape.

Making Chocolate Chip Cookies Without Brown Sugar

While substituting granulated white sugar with brown sugar is pretty interchangeable in most baking recipes, the chocolate chip cookie is one you don't want to mess with.Using only white sugar will make your cookies crisper and lack that rich flavor the molasses in brown sugar provides. If you have molasses and no brown sugar, try adding 2 Tbsp. molasses per cup of white sugar to add that moisture and flavor back in.

Substituting Flour in Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you're gluten-free or on a special diet such as Keto, you might want to swap out all-purpose flour for the almond flour you have in the pantry. You can certainly do this, but flours such as almond or coconut absorb more moisture and might dry out your cookie faster. Try using a gluten-free flour mix to make your next batch of chocolate chip cookies and make sure you don't work the dough too much which can make cookies tough.

Should I Chill the Dough Before Baking?

There's no rule that says you should or shouldn't, but a quick chill (at least 30 minutes) could make a difference in how your cookies turn out. If the temperature of your kitchen is warm and the dough seems a little greasy after mixing, chilling will help solidify some of the fat to prevent too much spreading. After chilling, scoop your dough and bake on your ungreased cookie sheet ($21.95, Crate & Barrel) as directed. Alternatively, you can plan ahead and keep your dough covered in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.

Our Best Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies lined up on counter top
Blaine Moats

Troubleshooting Guide

It's a terrible feeling when you take your freshly-baked cookies out of the oven only to find them tough or spread out into one giant cookie. Here are some common problems and possible causes (can be one or a combination) recognized by our Test Kitchen. This applies to all cookie recipes, so keep these in mind so your next bake will be just right.

Cookies Are Tough and Hard

Possible reasons your cookies are too hard include:

  • Too much flour
  • Overmixed dough

Cookies Are Baked Unevenly

Possible reasons your cookies are uneven include:

  • Misshapen dough balls before baking
  • Cookie sheet with raised/high edges used

Cookies Are Too Brown on the Bottom

A possible reason your cookies are too brown on the bottom:

  • Dark-color cookie sheet

Cookies Spread Too Much

Possible reasons your cookies spread too much include:

  • Unnecessary greasing of cookie sheet
  • Dough placed on warm cookie sheet
  • Oven temperature too low
  • Too much sugar
  • Wrong fat used

Cookies Are Burned

Possible reasons your cookies are burned include:

  • Baked too long
  • Left on baking sheet too long

After you've mastered your favorite version of the chocolate chip cookie, try freezing the dough so you'll always have cookies at the ready to curb your cravings. Or move on from cookies and practice your cake making skills.

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