There are few guilty pleasures as satisfying as sneaking in a spoonful of raw cookie dough while baking. In fact, the tradition is so popular that there are even ice cream flavors and candy bars modeled after this DIY treat. But is it really safe?
Because most homemade cookie dough has raw eggs and flour inside, there’s been debate about whether it’s actually healthy to indulge in—or if it’s better to put down the spoon and wait for the dough to bake instead. As you whip up all your favorite holiday cookie recipes, consider these thoughts before you decide to scoop up every last remnant in the bowl.
Some of the potential risks that come from raw dough
In June 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement advising people to avoid eating raw cookie dough. At that time, E. coli contamination was found in certain brands of flour that had sickened people in nearly 20 states. While this might be considered a fluke by some, the reality is that flour produced in fields can be in close proximity to grazing animals whose waste might be easily transmitted into the grains.
Raw flour does not experience a cooking or “kill process.” It’s not boiled, baked, roasted, microwaved, or fried, which subsequently means there is no process involved to kill off any of these bacteria that could exist. On the contrary, by cooking the dough to an appropriate temperature, the risk is eliminated, providing safe treats for everyone to enjoy.
But, flour is not the only possible red flag in raw cookie dough. Uncooked eggs are another risk. Ingesting raw egg could put a person at risk of contracting salmonella poisoning—a bacteria that is common to poultry and can lead to serious illness.
In fact, salmonella is one of the leading causes of food poisoning in the United States, with kids at an even greater risk, so you might want to second think about letting them dig into that dough. Using pasteurized eggs can be a safer option because they undergo a process that helps reduce the amount of bacteria, though proper care should always be taken to properly handle any kind of eggs.
Practicing safe food handling
Safe food handling is necessary to reduce the risk of foodborne bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. Food poisoning will result in illness between one and three days after the bacteria is ingested. Some symptoms associated with food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and body aches that can resemble the flu; these symptoms can be as short-term as a few hours, or in severe cases, can last for weeks.
To reduce the chances, all safety guidelines should be carefully followed when it comes to handling raw food to avoid cross-contaminating ingredients.
Here are the FDA’s full recommendations:
- Avoid ingesting any raw dough; this includes cookie dough, cake mix, and batter—or any other products that may contain raw flour.
- Always wash your hands before and after cooking or baking, as well as utensils that have been used. You’ll also want to keep all work surfaces clean to avoid cross contamination.
- Never place raw foods in direct contact with cooked foods. Having raw chicken next to cooked chicken is just as bad as not cooking it at all because contaminants can leach into the prepared food.
- Follow all labels and cooking directions. Keep food refrigerated if it can’t be used right away, and always follow the cooking guidelines to make sure the desired temperature is reached before eating.
The other side of the debate: Is store-bought cookie dough okay?
While raw cookie dough made at home should still be cooked before being enjoyed, some pre-made store bought cookie doughs aren’t as dangerous as the headlines would have you believe. In fact, some experts agree that they are probably safe to eat raw—if you must indulge.
The reason is that these pre-made conventional dough packs (which are also often used in cookie dough–flavored foods, too) use specific eggs and flours that are treated to eliminate the risk of salmonella. Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream, for example, uses a heat treatment for the flour and they only use pasteurized eggs in their recipes, thereby killing the bacteria and making them safer to eat.
Why homemade can still be a better choice for baked goods
In general, baking cookies at home with dough made from scratch can be a better choice when it comes to taste and better health. While you don’t want to eat the raw dough, as discussed above, enjoying a batch out of the oven after they have had time to cook may be better for you for a number of reasons, mostly because you can control the ingredients that go into it, saving you and your family from:
- Large amounts of added sugar
- Artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors that often contain chemicals
- Dairy, gluten, nuts, and other potential allergens
When homemade cookies are made, it’s possible to ensure that only natural, organic ingredients are used and that they’re of the highest quality.
Great recipes for homemade cookies
Here are some of our favorite recipes for homemade cookies that are delicious and more nutritious. In addition to having a treat everyone to enjoy, baking lets the family spend time together.
These cookies are Paleo-friendly and filled with big flavors like nutty hazelnut and sweet chocolate. They’re perfect for the holidays as well as any time throughout the year, and they use only natural ingredients like hazelnut flour and coconut oil to keep them as healthy as possible without reducing their great taste.
Samoas are one of the reasons that Girl Scout cookies are so popular. But you don’t have to wait for those order forms to enjoy them. Our Samoas use raw ingredients that retain that coconutty, caramely, chocolatey taste you love.
Peanut butter is a natural fit for cookies, and this recipe brings out the rich flavor in a big way. Adding a touch of sea salt to the top gives them a little texture and complements their sweetness perfectly.
Packed with coconut flavor, these cookies are part macaroon, part sugar cookie, and entirely delicious. They’re another great option during the holiday season—box them up with a bow for the perfect gift.
Love those skillet cookies from restaurants? Replicate them at home! This fun recipe creates an oversized cookie that can be served in slices just like a pie. The use of sprouted white wheat flour delivers an extra touch of nutrition and helps increase the depth of flavors.
One way to avoid potential contamination in raw dough is to not use eggs at all. This recipe eliminates them (plus chocolate and milk) and still manages to deliver a deliciously rich, sweet cookie. It’s a great way to create that classic oatmeal raisin taste without worrying about dietary restrictions.
Tahini is a sesame seed paste normally used to make hummus, but it can also create a rich, nutty flavor in these cookies, similar to a peanut butter cookie but so much more complex. The addition of dates helps provide some sweetness, creating a cookie that will impress anyone.
Based on the candy known as Sno Caps, these little buttons can be topped anyway your heart desires. This makes it possible to theme them for the holidays or to add superfoods like hemp seeds, shredded coconut, and more. Make them just a bit larger to create a cookie-style dessert that’s truly something different.
Toasted walnuts and warm, chewy chocolate pair well with a with a pinch of salt in this recipe. It’s gluten-free, too! This batch is easy to make and takes less than an hour from start to finish.