Chewy Soft Sugar Cookies Recipe

5 from 5 votes
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This is the BEST soft sugar cookie recipe! These drop sugar cookies are chewy and soft and perfect with or without frosting.

I know I always say something is the BEST or PERFECT, but these really are. I’ve fine tuned my “perfect” recipe so that they’re not only soft, but chewy too. When I made these for a party everyone absolutely RAVED about them!

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overhead shot of soft sugar cookies with and without frosting

You’re probably thinking…wait. Doesn’t she already have a sugar cookie recipe? Or two? And yes, you’d be right. But I’ve fine tuned my perfect sugar cookies to make them soft and chewy!

This is an easy drop sugar cookie recipe that turns out the perfect sugar cookie that’s melt in your mouth soft yet chewy at the same time. The best part about these sugar cookies is that they’re amazing with frosting, but they’re also good plain. Plus, you can vary the recipe in so many ways.

(They’re even good frozen. I’m not going to explain how I know, lol.)

Explaining why these are the best soft sugar cookies requires that we talk a little bit about cookie science. I think it’s important to understand why these are the best. But…if you don’t care about cookie science, then just scroll through the pretty pictures. 🙂

If you’re looking for sugar cookies without baking powder, this is the recipe. These are thick, soft sugar cookies with icing (or without). They encompass all the best things about a sugar cookie recipe!

I served these at a party recently and every single person who tried one went nuts over them. I think I spent an hour combined listening to the sighs of delight and the raves about taste.

stack of sugar cookies

Okay, now for Cookie Science 101!

Ingredients for soft and chewy sugar cookies:

  • Butter – a good sugar cookie uses butter. Butter flavored shortening is okay, but to get that traditional sugar cookie flavor, you need butter. Use unsalted butter to control the amount of salt. If you’re using salted butter, reduce the amount of salt in the recipe by 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Sugar – this recipe uses granulated sugar. My cutout sugar cookie recipe uses powdered. We’ll go into that too.
  • Egg – eggs provide structure in baking. It’s hard to replace an egg in cookies and still get the right texture.
  • Flour – all-purpose flour is the normal cookie flour. You want to add just the right amount so the cookie is dry enough not to flatten out, but not so dry that it crumbles.
  • Leavening – this recipe uses a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar (more on that in a minute).

What kind of sugar do you use in sugar cookies?

Most recipes you see calls for granulated sugar when you’re making sugar cookies. (That’s what this recipe uses.)

A traditional sugar cookie needs white sugar to be, well, traditional. Brown sugar is delicious in cookies, but then it wouldn’t be an old fashioned sugar cookie. Normally, sugar cookies only contain one kind of sugar (granulated or powdered), instead of a combination of sugars, like in a chocolate chip cookie.

You will recall, however, that my cutout sugar cookies use powdered sugar. So, what’s the difference between powdered sugar and granulated sugar in a cookie recipe? Besides flavor, granulated sugar helps with spread of the cookie. In a drop cookie, spread is okay and expected. However, in a cutout sugar cookie or snowball cookie, you don’t want spread. Powdered sugar includes cornstarch, which helps with binding and reducing spread.

For a normal drop sugar cookie recipe, granulated sugar is the way to go.

Why do you use baking soda in cookies?

This soft sugar cookie recipe is made without baking powder. In fact, most cookie recipes use baking soda and not baking powder. Baking powder is for cakes, traditionally, and results in a more cake-like texture. Baking soda helps with spread and creates a soft and fluffy cookie. Want a soft sugar cookie? You need to use baking soda. But, this recipe also calls for cream of tartar…

Why do you use cream of tartar in cookies?

Cream of tartar is normally used in egg whites and meringue, but it’s also a great addition to sugar cookie recipes. Cream of tartar helps with the chewiness of cookies and, when combined with baking soda, is almost like a double-acting baking powder.

I know it’s kind of an obscure ingredient, but it’s always good to have in your pantry. These sugar cookies without cream of tartar won’t be as chewy and will be flatter than with it. Plus, when you make snickerdoodles, you want cream of tartar for that telltale tang.

What’s the secret to a soft but chewy sugar cookie?

Ah, that’s the question of the day, isn’t it? But for one ingredient, this recipe is so similar to my perfect sugar cookie recipe.

I’ve done so much sugar cookie research on how to make my soft sugar cookies also be chewy and not cake-like and I found the secret ingredient:

Egg yolk. That’s it!

(Well, not it, really. What the egg yolk does in combination with everything else.)

In baking, eggs provide structure. Egg yolks add fat, egg whites add the structure.

Two eggs in a sugar cookie is just too much egg; it makes it more cake-like than a cookie. One egg in this recipe makes a soft sugar cookie, but it’s not chewy.

One egg plus an egg yolk is the perfect ratio of egg for the perfect chewy sugar cookies that are still soft and pillowy. Combined with the magic that the combination of baking soda and cream of tartar work, an extra egg yolk is the key to the chewiness of these cookies.

frosted sugar cookie

So, let’s review:

  • Use real butter, not fake.
  • Use granulated sugar because these are a drop sugar cookie.
  • Buy yourself some cream of tartar so that your cookies have some chew without the spread of just using baking soda.
  • Add an extra egg yolk to complete the perfection of this chewy soft sugar cookie.

This sugar cookie recipe is a blank slate; you can transform it in so many ways. I love a good sugar cookie with frosting, of course, but you don’t need to use frosting on these cookies. They’re fabulous plain. Or, edit the recipe to:

  • Make chocolate chip sugar cookies by adding 1 cup of chocolate chips to the batter and skipping the frosting.
  • Add 1 cup of sprinkles to the batter to make a sprinkle cookie (omit frosting).
  • Roll the cookies in sugar or cinnamon sugar (reminiscent of snickerdoodles) and skip the frosting.
  • Flavor your frosting with lemon juice or a bit of cocoa to make a new flavor!

However you make them, this easy sugar cookie recipe will be a hit with your family! Prepare for rave reviews, I promise!

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Chewy Soft Sugar Cookies

This is the BEST soft sugar cookie recipe! These drop sugar cookies are chewy and soft and perfect with or without frosting.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Yield 17 cookies (depending on size)
Serving Size 1 cookie

Ingredients

For the Cookies

  • 3/4 cup 170g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup 149g granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups 248g all-purpose flour

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons 47g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups 151g powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon 5ml vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon 15 ml milk
  • Food coloring if desired
  • Sprinkles optional

Instructions

Make the Cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheet with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  • Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer). Cream until the mixture is fluffy, about one minute.
  • Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix until smooth, then mix in baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add flour and mix until cookie dough forms.
  • Scoop 2 tablespoon sized balls 2-inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake for 11-15 minutes, or until the bottoms are just starting get golden and the top is no longer glossy. Cool at least 10 minutes on cookie sheet before removing. Cool completely before frosting.

Make the Frosting:

  • Mix butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer until smooth, then slowly mix in the powdered sugar a bit at a time. The mixture will be very crumbly. Add the vanilla and mix, then mix in the salt and milk. Beat until smooth and creamy.
  • Tint with food coloring, if desired.
  • Frost cooled cookies. Store loosely covered.

Alternate preparation:

  • Scoop balls of cookie dough and roll them in sugar or cinnamon sugar before baking. Skip frosting.
  • Add 1 cup of sprinkles to the dough before scooping. Skip frosting.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 222kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 130mg | Sugar: 17g

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

Sugar Cookie Bars

stack of sugar cookie bars with bite taken out

Sprinkle Cookies

Homemade Sprinkle Cookies

Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodles


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13 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. If you look at the ingredients for baking powder, it usually includes baking soda, and powdered acid (often related to tartaric acid). Cream tartar is a powdered form of the same acid. So by combining the baking soda and cream of tartar in this recipe, you’ve effectively made baking powder. Isn’t chemistry wonderful. Baking soda is most often used in foods that are already slightly acidic – containing fruit, molasses, etc. When you combine baking soda and an acid you generate carbon dioxide gas, which leavens the food – the little gas bubbles make the food lighter and puffier. In baking powder, they put a solid form of acid with the solid baking soda – you get the same effect when you add water (try putting some water on a bit of baking powder and watch it fizz). So essentially you get the same leavening action in a muffin or biscuit, without having to have the batter/dough be slightly acidic. To be fair, there are some foods that aren’t acidic, and still only use baking soda. My assumption is that the soda decomposes at baking temperature to release the carbon dioxide – but probably not as well or efficiently as when acid is present. Oh, and incidentally, what is left behind in the baked product, after the CO2 escapes – is sodium and some other chemicals. So keep in mind that effectively, you’ve increased the saltiness of the food by the amount of baking soda or baking powder that you add.