Does Letting Cookie Dough Rest Actually Help Them Taste Better?

Many cookie recipes call for resting the dough prior to baking, whether it be for 30 minutes, overnight, or even a full day. But when the craving for a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie hits, you may be tempted to skip this step. After all, is it really necessary? According to experts, the answer is usually yes: If your recipe calls for resting the cookie dough, it is likely for a good reason.

As King Arthur Baking explains, resting cookie dough can help your cookies taste better, as the resting process helps the flavor become more concentrated. As the dough chills in the fridge, it loses excess moisture: this, in turn, concentrates the remaining ingredients, yielding a more flavorful end product. Martha Stewart added that as cookie dough ages, "naturally-occurring enzymes" in flour are able to break down, which "[leads] to increased browning."

In addition to impacting how your cookies taste, a resting period (also called "ripening" the dough, via The Kitchn) will likely also improve their texture. When a dough rests, its sugar levels become more concentrated as excess moisture is absorbed, per Bon Appétit. The higher the percentage of sugar in the dough, the more likely your cookies will turn out chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Additionally, the magazine notes that resting cookie dough in the fridge has specific benefits: because chilling "[solidifies] the fat" in the dough, the cookies are less likely to spread during baking.

How long should I rest cookie dough for?

The recommended resting time for cookie dough varies from recipe to recipe. But according to The Kitchn, the decision can ultimately depend on what you're hoping to achieve. "If all you're looking for is less spreading, a quick 30 minutes should suffice," explained the publication. However, if you're hoping to cultivate a more complex flavor (i.e., help your cookies taste better) and better browning in your final product, you'll likely need longer. The Kitchn recommends a full 24-hour resting period in the fridge, while other sites, such as Taste of Home, claim that overnight is all you need.

However, per The Kitchn, it is important to remember that not every cookie dough benefits from ripening. In general, recipes "that [rely] on eggs to provide the bulk of the liquid content" — such as chocolate chip or sugar cookies — usually improve from a rest period. That being said, always defer to the recipe instructions. If the recipe calls for no resting period, you can be assured it's not a mistake.