Cookie Dough Left in the Fridge for Too Long: What to Do?

Cookie Dough Left in the Fridge for Too Long

Cookie dough is the mark of the childhood of many. However, cookie dough doesn’t stop being fun once you are an adult, on the contrary, it has an everlasting charm, and if you loved it once, you always will. To make the most of your cookie dough, you need to know some things. A crucial step in making quality cookies is chilling the cookie dough, which can sometimes lead to a disaster if you don’t have the correct information. So what happens if the cookie dough is left in the fridge for too long? 

Leaving it in the fridge for too long can harden the dough and make it lose flavor, resulting in low-quality and dry cookies. Considering that it contains raw eggs, the longer it is chilled, the more the yolks work on binding the dough ingredients. Lightly chilled cookie dough yields the best results. 

The chemical processes at play while the cookie dough is chilling in the fridge result in more flavorful, softer, and crumblier cookies. The eggs work on binding the ingredients, and the more you chill the dough, the better the bond. However, there’s such a thing as too much chilling, which can have nearly disastrous results. So, in the following paragraphs, I will explain what happens if you leave the cookie dough in the fridge for too long, what to do if this happens, how long the cookie dough lasts in the fridge, and how to recognize if it has gone bad. 

What Happens If You Refrigerate Cookie Dough for Too Long?

First, there are many types of cookie dough, and not all rules apply to all of them. For some types of cookie dough, such as store-bought, ready-made cookie dough, too much refrigeration would be longer than four days and up, and for homemade cookie dough, too much refrigeration would be over 72 hours. 

The store-bought and homemade cookie doughs have many subtypes, depending on the cookies made with them, but the general refrigeration still stands. However, it may vary a little depending on the particular dough.

Generally, the types of homemade cookie dough are more sensitive to the fridge temperature and, therefore, less tolerant. On the other hand, the store-bought cookie dough types are more impervious to the fridge temperature as they contain additives that make them more endurable. Therefore, to know if you have left the cookie dough in the refrigerator, you need to know what kind of dough you have in the fridge. 

Cookie Dough Left in the Fridge for Too Long

Store-bought cookie doughs can be refrigerated for a slightly more extended period. Still, unlike the homemade ones, they don’t actually need refrigeration that much unless you need to store them. 

Regardless of the type, conventionally, the cookie dough contains raw eggs that round up the ingredients, solidify, and stabilize the dough. Therefore, after making the dough, you need to refrigerate it for two reasons; to prevent the eggs from spoiling the dough, bind everything together, accentuate the flavor of the dough, and thus will give you better cookies. 

Leaving the dough in the fridge 24 hours before baking the cookies is a standard procedure, and it is highly recommended, as the cookies will be more flavorful. If you want well-risen cookies, leave the dough for 48 hours in the fridge, and if you want puffy and airy cookies, leave it for 72 hours. 

Leaving the dough for more than three or four days in the fridge means that the bonds between the ingredients will start to break, the dough will become harder and inconvenient to work with, and the cookies will not be as favorable. In addition, the cookies made with over-rested dough tend to be coarser, too crumbly, and drier. 

If you leave the dough for five or six days in the fridge, it will become highly unstable, it will tear once you touch it, and if you somehow manage to make the cookies, they may turn out slightly tangy, as well as too hard and bland. 

For over six days, the dough in the fridge has a crust on the surface, has an unpleasant sell, and tends to be slimy on the bottom, where it touches the container. Do not attempt to do anything with this dough. 

Can You Use Cookie Dough That Is Left in the Fridge for Too Long? 

If your cookie dough has been sitting in the fridge for too long, there will be signs if you can or cannot use it, as it isn’t clean-cut as a simple yes or no. 

First of all, how long is too long? Depending on the cookie dough and what you intend to make with it, too long refrigeration can be three days for some types of cookie dough, while for others, too long can be four or five days. 

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Therefore, it is best to spot the signs the dough gives you and decide based on its use. If the dough has a thin crust but is still soft and non-sticky when you touch it, doesn’t have an unusual smell, and is still that eggshell color, then it is safe to bake with it

The cookies might turn out a bit rougher, drier, and crumblier, but they will still be tasty. 

If the dough has formed a crust and has changed the color a little bit but is still soft and doesn’t smell unusual, you can still use it, but don’t expect high-quality cookies. In cases like this, you should add some flavor to the dough, such as more chocolate chips, or top the cookies with whipped cream or sliced fruit to make up for the lack of flavor and add some moisture to soften the cookies. 

You shouldn’t use the dough if it has discolored spots on it, visible mold, an expressively tangy smell, yellow crust, and is sticky on the spots where it touches the container. These signs mean that the dough is no longer usable and could even be dangerous to consume. If you see that your cookie dough exhibits signs like these, do not tamper with it, even if it has been in the fridge for 24 hours. 

To know if your store-bought dough is good for use, check the best by date and feel free to use it two days after this period. The best by date means that the cookies will be of the best quality if made by then, but they will still be edible if you make them two days after this date. 

How Long Does Cookie Dough Last in the Fridge? 

Depending on the dough, it can last anywhere from 24 hours in the fridge to five days, but in no case longer. Store-bought cookie dough tends to last longer than homemade, which is to be expected as it contains additives that prolong its shelf life. 

Whereas homemade cookie dough can last in the fridge for three days at the most, the store-bought cookie dough can go as long as four to five days. 

Past the three/five days in the fridge, if you haven’t made the cookies, store the dough in the freezer, where it could last for three months if you store it properly in freezer baggies. Don’t divide the cookie dough into balls, but freeze or refrigerate it as a whole batch to have the same temperature. 

How Do You Tell If Refrigerated Cookie Dough Is Bad? 

The look of the cookie dough and its smell will tell you if it has gone bad, so be very observant and inspect the cookie dough thoroughly even if you are certain that there’s nothing wrong with it. 

The mold and sour smell are the most obvious signs, but there are other signals. For example, the edges of the dough are hard and discolored or darker than the rest. Also, it tends to stick to the bottom of the container and gets slimy and wet. 

If your cookies taste a little off, that’s probably a sign that the dough was too old, but it didn’t show any signs. In this case, it is best to throw out the cookies, as hard as they may feel, and make or buy new cookie dough. 

  • Laura is the owner of Julie's Cafe Bakery. She started this blog with her grandma Julie who introduced her to the amazing world of cooking. She likes to experiment with different flavors, and her favorite flavors combo is chicken with coconut milk, curry and peanuts!