It’s very easy to whip up a batch of cookies when you have cookie dough at hand.
Hence it’s a good idea to keep cookie dough in stock, whether it’s homemade cookie dough or storebought.
But you should know if it’s good and how long it will continue to be usable for food safety reasons.
So, can cookie dough go bad?
Why Does Cookie Dough Go Bad?
Cookie dough eventually goes bad. Whether it’s storebought or homemade, cookie dough has a definite shelf life.
By storing it properly, you can extend its lifespan but not preserve it forever.
Let’s now look at why cookie dough goes bad.
Reasons for Cookie Dough to Go Bad
The lifespan of cookie dough depends on the ingredients and the recipe used.
Nevertheless, no cookie dough holds up forever.
It will eventually spoil because of the following reasons.
1. Cookie Dough Contains Eggs
One of the main ingredients in cookie dough is raw eggs. The only exception is if you use a vegan recipe.
In other cases, you will be using eggs as a binding ingredient.
It holds the rest of the ingredients together and creates a soft and chewy texture for the cookie.
But raw eggs can harbor dangerous bacteria like E.coli and salmonella. They cause food poisoning.
These microbes multiply rapidly in raw cookie dough, especially when you leave the dough outside at room temperature.
2. It Contains Perishable Ingredients
Apart from eggs, cookie dough also has flour, sugar, butter, and sometimes milk. All these ingredients are perishable.
When you combine them to make cookie dough, the overall shelf-life of the product is less than that of each ingredient.
Additionally, improper storage of the ingredients also reduces the lifespan of the dough.
Flour can become contaminated with bacteria, while sugar attracts moisture.
Similarly, butter and other dairy ingredients go rancid over time.
How to Tell if Cookie Dough Has Gone Bad?
It’s tricky to tell if cookie dough has gone bad because it may not always show obvious signs of spoilage.
Let’s look at some of the ways to decide if it’s safe to use or better to toss cookie dough.
1. Check the Expiry Date
Storebought cookie dough will have an expiry date on the packaging.
If you store it as per the instructions on the package, it will be good till this date.
Most of the time, the cookie dough will be safe to consume even beyond the expiry or best-by date.
But it’s better to avoid using it after the expiry date.
Even if the signs of spoiling aren’t evident, it can end up being unsafe for consumption.
2. The Presence of Mold
Cookie dough that is kept in storage for too long can develop mold.
The mold will appear as patches of white or green fuzzy matter on the dough.
It spreads quickly and affects the entire dough.
If you notice any mold on the surface of the dough, toss it immediately.
It’s not enough to just remove the affected part.
Mold may also be present in the other sections of the dough, even if it’s not very visible.
So avoid cooking or consuming cookie dough with mold at all costs.
3. Discoloration of The Dough
When the cookie dough just starts going bad, parts of it will change color.
So if your cookie dough has been in storage for a while, check for any color changes.
The edges of the dough will usually dry out when you store it in the fridge or freezer. This is normal.
But if it turns brown, it indicates that the dough has begun spoiling.
It may also have gone hard and no longer be doughy. It’s unsafe to use.
4. Change in Texture
Cookie dough stored in the fridge and freezer will change the texture slightly. However, it shouldn’t become watery.
If you see moisture pooling inside the container or cover, the dough has gone bad. Consuming it can cause problems.
5. Change in Smell
A sure way to tell if your cookie dough has gone bad is if it smells.
Cookie dough will usually have a neutral or pleasant smell, depending on the ingredients in the recipe.
However, it will have a foul smell when it goes bad.
Toss any foul-smelling cookie dough since it’s unfit for consumption.
Ways to Preserve Cookie Dough for Longer?
You can’t prevent cookie dough from spoiling. But you can extend its shelf-life by storing it properly.
Let’s look at this in closer detail.
1. Keep the Dough Covered
Cookie dough spoils in just a few hours when you store it at room temperature.
Hence, you should try to bake the cookies quickly after preparing the dough.
The dough will also be easier to work with when it’s fresh.
Even if you intend to use it quickly, cover the dough to keep it fresh.
You can either wrap the mixing bowl with plastic or close it with a lid till the time you use the dough.
This will prevent any contact with moisture and air and keep the dough fresh for longer.
2. Use Natural Preservatives
Certain ingredients, like lemon juice and vinegar, are natural preservatives.
If you include them in your recipe, the dough will remain good for longer.
Nonetheless, these preservatives will not extend the shelf-life of the dough indefinitely.
You must use it within a few hours or move it to the fridge.
3. Chill the Dough
Some cookie recipes require chilling the dough. This helps the dough stiffen slightly. So it becomes easy to knead.
Even if the recipe doesn’t call for chilling the dough, we recommend it to keep the dough fresh.
Chilling the dough for at least half an hour will preserve the ingredients better.
It will keep the dough safe for longer while you cut and bake it.
4. Refrigerate the Dough
If you are unable to use the dough within two or three hours, store it in the refrigerator.
You can directly put the mixing bowl in the fridge after covering it. It will hold up for up to two days.
Otherwise, transfer the dough to an airtight bag or container and keep it in the refrigerator.
The cool and dry environment will slow down spoiling. So the dough will remain usable for much longer.
If you are using readymade cookie dough, store it in the refrigerator till you need it.
The instructions on the package will usually mention the same.
5. Freeze the Dough
The best way to store cookie dough for a long time is in the freezer.
The dough will hold up for several weeks or even months in the freezer.
There are many ways in which you can freeze the dough.
You can roll it into a log or a disc and store it in an airtight bag or container.
The other option is to cut the dough into cookies, separate them with parchment paper, and store them in an airtight bag or container.
You can also knead the dough and shape it into a log.
Then, wrap the log of cookie dough with plastic wrap, tie or seal the ends, and place it in the freezer.