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What makes a cookie crisp vs chewy?

Cookies come in a variety of textures – some are crispy and crunchy while others are soft and chewy. The texture of a cookie depends on several factors, including the ingredients, baking time and temperature. Understanding what makes a cookie crisp or chewy can help bakers get the ideal texture for their recipes.

Cookies get their structure from flour, which when mixed with liquid forms gluten. Gluten is a protein that gives elasticity to dough and baked goods. The more the flour is worked and kneaded, the more gluten networks develop and the chewier the cookies will become. Conversely, less working of the dough results in less gluten and a more tender, crumbly cookie.

The fat content also impacts texture. Solid fats like butter and shortening give cookies a rich, tender crumb. Liquid oils create a more cakelike, chewy cookie. Recipes with more fat in proportion to flour will spread more during baking and be softer.

Eggs provide moisture and fat that keep cookies soft. Using an extra egg yolk or whole egg makes cookies chewier. Egg whites have a drying effect for a crisper texture.

Lastly, the sugar, leavening agents, ingredients like oats or chocolate chips, and the baking time/temperature will affect the final texture.

Crispy Cookie Texture

Crispy cookies have a crunchy, brittle texture that breaks apart easily. Here are some of the factors that contribute to crisp cookies:

– Low moisture – Recipes with little or no eggs and milk/water produce crisper cookies. The lack of moisture concentrates the base ingredients.

– Granulated sugar – Regular table sugar makes crisp cookies compared to brown sugar, which adds moisture.

– Minimal mixing – Overworking the dough develops gluten for chewiness. Quick mixing creates less elastic gluten.

– Hard, solid fats – Butter, vegetable shortening, and lard make tender cookies. Soft spreads or oils make chewier cookies.

– Low protein flours – Flours like cake or pastry flour contain less protein than all-purpose or bread flours for less gluten development.

– Leavening agents – Baking soda gives cookies a crisper texture than baking powder does.

– Baked longer/higher temp – Crisp cookies are often baked at 375°F or above for a longer time until browned and set.

– Ingredients like oats, nuts, chocolate – These add flavor but interrupt gluten formation.

Recipe Examples for Crispy Cookies

Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread is the quintessential crispy cookie with its high fat, low moisture content and minimal mixing. Basic shortbread contains just butter, flour and sugar. The high proportion of butter gives shortbread a melting, sandy texture that crumbles and flakes apart.


Gingersnaps get their signature crispy texture from the sugar coating formed during baking. Recipes use granulated white sugar rather than brown for a harder snap. Baking soda also helps gingersnaps spread and flatten with crisp edges.

Butter Cookies

Butter cookies made with just butter, flour and confectioners’ sugar have a crisp, delicate crumble. The powdered sugar dissolves during baking for a thin, crunchy cookie. Eggs are often omitted to prevent chewiness.

Chewy Cookie Texture

Chewy cookies have a soft, dense center that clings together. Biting into them leaves teeth marks with visible air pockets. Here are some factors that create chewy cookies:

– High moisture – Extra eggs, milk or water keeps cookies moist and chewy. Egg yolks in particular add fat and moisture.

– Brown sugar – Brown sugar retains more moisture than white sugar during baking.

– Overmixing – Kneading develops long strand gluten for chewiness.

– Softened butter – Butter that is softened rather than melted makes chewier dough.

– Bread flour – The higher protein content creates more gluten than all-purpose flour.

– Low fat to flour ratio – Less fat in proportion to flour allows more gluten development.

– Baking powder – Baking powder encourages cookies to rise vs. spread for a chewy center.

– Underbaked – Taking cookies out early before setting firms the centers.

– Ingredients like oats, raisins, chocolate – These interrupt gluten for chewiness.

Recipe Examples for Chewy Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The classic chocolate chip cookie owes its chewy texture to brown sugar and extra egg yolks. Margarine also contains more liquid fat than butter. And the chocolate chips disrupt gluten formation.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal gives great chew to cookies, while raisins add moist pockets of fruit. Eggs and butter also retain moisture, and minimal flour allows a high ratio of oats.

Peanut Butter Cookies

The peanut butter and eggs make these cookies soft and chewy. Using all brown sugar instead of white also lends moisture, and the peanut butter inhibits gluten development.

Factors that Control Cookie Texture

Many variables go into making cookies crisp or chewy. Here are some of the key factors:

1. Type of fat

Fat Type Texture Effect
Butter Tender, crumbly texture
Margarine Chewier texture
Vegetable shortening Crisp, crumbly texture
Oil Chewy and cakey

Solid fats like butter and shortening give tenderness and crispy textures. The water in butter still lends some chew. Oils make the most chewy cookies.

2. Type of sugar

Sugar Type Texture Effect
Granulated white sugar Crisp cookies
Brown sugar Chewy and moist cookies
Powdered sugar Very tender, crumbly cookies

Brown sugar retains moisture for chewiness. Powdered sugar makes delicate cookies. Granulated white sugar makes the crispiest cookies.

3. Leavening Agent

Leavening Texture Effect
Baking soda Crisp texture
Baking powder Chewy texture

Baking soda promotes cookie spread which gives a crisp texture. Baking powder helps cookie rise upward rather than spread for a softer center.

4. Fat to Flour Ratio

Fat : Flour Texture Effect
More fat than flour Tender and crumbly
Equal ratio fat to flour Balanced tender and chewy
More flour than fat Tough and chewy

Less fat relative to flour allows more gluten development from the flour, resulting in chewier cookies. A high fat to flour ratio gives shortbread-like tenderness.

5. Egg Adjustments

Egg Amount Texture Effect
Extra egg yolk Chewier
Extra whole egg Chewier
Egg whites only Crisper
No egg Crisper

Egg yolks add fat and moisture for chewiness. Egg whites dry out cookies for crispness. Omitting eggs entirely gives the crispest cookies.

6. Mixing Method

Mixing Method Texture Effect
Minimal mixing Crisp and crumbly
Kneading Chewy and dense

Kneading develops long gluten strands for chewiness. Minimal mixing limits gluten development for a crisper texture.

7. Baked Good Add-Ins

Add-In Ingredients Texture Effect
Chocolate chips Chewy
Oats Chewy
Raisins Chewy
Nuts Crisp

Chocolate, oats and raisins interrupt gluten development for chewy cookies. Nuts add crunch and promote crispness.

8. Baking Temperature

Temp Texture Effect
250°F or below Soft and underbaked chewy center
275°F – 300°F Balanced tender and chewy texture
375°F and above Crisp and crunchy

Higher heat helps moisture evaporate faster for a crisp cookie. Lower temperatures keep the center underbaked and chewy.

Tips for Adjusting Cookie Texture

Follow these tips to modify a cookie recipe to get the ideal crisp or chewy texture:

For crisper cookies:

– Use melted butter or shortening instead of softened butter

– Chill the dough before baking to prevent spreading

– Substitute granulated sugar for brown sugar

– Replace some or all of the eggs with egg whites or eliminate eggs entirely

– Add an extra tablespoon or two of flour

– Add a pinch of baking soda for increased spread and crunch

– Bake cookies on the upper rack at 375°F or above

– Bake cookies a few minutes longer than the recipe states

For chewier cookies:

– Use softened butter instead of melted or chilled butter

– Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy for more air

– Use dark or light brown sugar instead of granulated white sugar

– Add an extra egg yolk and/or tablespoon of milk or water

– Substitute bread flour or all-purpose flour for cake flour

– Replace some flour with oats, raisins, or chocolate chips

– Add a teaspoon of baking powder to help cookies rise

– Bake cookies on the middle rack at 300°F – 325°F

– Remove cookies from the oven 1-2 minutes earlier than recipe time


A cookie’s texture comes down to its ingredients, the mixing and kneading method, baking temperature, and time in the oven. Crisp cookies have less moisture and fat and minimal gluten development. Chewy cookies have extra fat, eggs, and sugar that retain moisture, and adequate gluten strand formation.

Making adjustments to the fat, sugar, eggs, leavening agents, flour, and ingredients in a recipe can modify the texture from soft and chewy to crunchy and crisp. Baking time and temperature also have a dramatic effect. Understanding these dynamics gives bakers precise control over achieving the perfect cookie texture.