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So you’re making your favorite cookie recipe (or a brand new one, taking risks and all that), and you soon discover that your cookie dough is crumbly.
It’s not holding together, it’s refusing to be made into those perfect little balls, and you’re wondering how to make cookie dough less crumbly so you can actually turn those cookies into a baking success rather than a fail.
Crumbly cookie dough can be disheartening, but rest assured that actually the fixes are relatively easy.
It might have been a bad recipe where you did nothing wrong, or it could have been a case of you accidentally measuring an ingredient wrong like adding too much flour.
Why is My Cookie Dough Crumbly?
Whatever happened, it means that your cookie dough is too dry and doesn’t have enough moisture in it.
One thing to keep in mind is that some cookie doughs are meant to be more crumbly.
Shortbread, for instance, is a relatively crumbly dough compared to something like sugar cookie dough, and it will be fine once you pack it down into your baking pan.
But if you’re making something like a chocolate chip cookie or a sugar cookie, your cookie dough should not be crumbly.
How to Fix Dry Cookie Dough
The problem is that it’s missing the right ratio of the wet ingredients, so the obvious fix is to add something to our cookie dough to make it less dry.
But what? Hope and a prayer?
No (well, maybe), but try this first:
1. Add Some Water
The first thing to dry if your cookie dough is too crumbly is to add a little bit of water.
This is the best ingredient to try because it’s not going to change the taste or consistency of your dough as much as some of the other options.
Honestly, this should be your go-to fix.
Add about a teaspoon of water at a time until your cookie dough feels more like a consistency that you can shape or roll out.
Do not add more than that at one time, because if you add too much water, you may end up with too wet cookie dough and that’s a whole different problem.
If you want to play it even safer, add just a few drops of water at a time if you’re working with a delicate dough or you have cut the recipe in half.
This is going to help soak up some of the dry ingredients and crumbles and you can bake as normal.
2. Add Olive Oil
While water is definitely the best fix for crumbled cookie dough, there are a couple of other things you can try.
I usually reach for a little bit of olive oil.
It helps to smooth the crumbles out and adds that bit of extra moisture that you’re looking for in the dough.
With this fix, I would add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil at a time to the dough.
Your hands will become a little slimey, but it can help give your dough the consistency that it needs to be able to be used.
Oil is used in many cookie recipes as standard, so even if it wasn’t in your original recipe, it shouldn’t change things to the point of being a problem.
3. Add Melted Butter
If you want to add some richness to your cookies while trying to solve the crumbly cookie dough problem, melted or softened butter should be your go to.
Now, one thing to be aware of when you add melted butter is that this may lead to flatter cookies than you would have expected with the regular recipe.
For many people, this isn’t a problem, but if you want puffy cookies, this is not necessarily your solution.
Adding softened or melted butter will add some additional fats to your recipe and help combine with those dry ingredients to make your cookie dough more smooth.
Butter also just tastes great, so adding a slab or two more in your cookies will just make them melt in your mouth even more.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter to your recipe and see where that gets you.
If it doesn’t completely take care of the crumbling cookie dough, add 1/3 tablespoon’s worth until you get somewhere.
Melted butter is usually the best for this, but softened butter will also help to combine things and will help you maintain a little of that puffy structure in your cookie.
4. Add Milk
Milk is another option for fixing your crumbly cookies.
The moisture and fats in the milk will combine with the dry ingredients and help you get back to that perfect dry to wet ingredient ratio.
Milk is, of course, often used in baking, but it’s not usually used in cookie recipes, so this is our fourth choice when it comes to the best ingredients to add.
It will work to smooth things out, though, so if it’s all you have on hand, then go for it.
5. Work the Dough in Your Hands More
Sometimes, a crumbly cookie dough can be solved without adding any extra ingredients.
Typically, if you take the dough out of the mixing bowl and put it onto the surface of your kitchen counter (it might get a bit messy if crumbly, but work with me here), you can still save the dough by using your hands.
Work the dough in your hands slightly, warming it up.
This can be all you need to soften some of the existing butter in the recipe so that it more easily combines with the dry ingredients.
I do this all of the time with one of my favorite sugar cookie recipes when it gets too crumbly, and it works every time.
You don’t want to continually knead the dough like you would with a bread – you’ll overwork it.
By try and get your hands on it and fold it over a few times and warm it up in your hands to try and put it together into one big dough ball.
Often, this is all you need (and then if that doesn’t work, you can add the liquid recommended above straight to the dough on the counter and keep combining with your hands).
Hey! Want more cookie baking hacks? Check these out!
- Why are my cookies burnt on the bottom (and how to fix them)
- Can you bake cookies on aluminum foil?
- 7 easy ways to soften hard cookies
- Oops! Burned cookies! Here are 9 ways to fix them
- Exactly how long do homemade cookies last?
- How long does raw cookie dough last?
- Secret hacks to making chewy cookies