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Is eating raw cookie dough really that bad for you? Nutrition experts weigh in

I don’t use the term “guilty pleasure,” but if I did, I think my affinity for ravenously consuming raw cookie dough might fall squarely within that scope. 

My brother and I, on many an occasion, have furtively, mindlessly snacked on cold cookie dough, passing a sleeve of store-bought cookie dough back and forth, enjoying the crisp of the chocolate chips, the toothsomeness of the dough itself, the notes of brown sugar and everything else that makes the bite so darn enjoyable. 

There’s a perfect midpoint, maybe five or ten minutes after pulling it from the fridge, when the dough is ideal and pliable, but still with a chill. Once it warms or comes to room temperature, though, the ephemeral moment has passed … time to throw it back in the fridge to re-chill and enjoy again later. 

What we do not enjoy, however, is the pesky presence of well-known boogeymen like raw egg and flour, which are obviously not two items that should be eaten with such vigor. Of course, for many who enjoy the raw dough for me, it’s supremely preferable to an actual cooked cookie there’s often a a flippant, “Oh well, an infinitesimal amount of raw egg can’t hurt!” 

But, alas, there’s the rub: It most definitely can. 

According to Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Everyday Snack Tray,  while the severity of adverse effects differ, it’s generally advised to steer clear of uncooked egg and flour overall.

“For many people, eating raw cookie dough won’t be an issue — most of the time,” Largeman-Roth said. “But if you’re immune compromised, pregnant or a young child, your risk of getting sick is higher.”

She continued: “Honestly, getting a food-borne illness from cookie dough or raw or undercooked meat or eggs can be life-threatening, so it’s absolutely not worth the risk.” 

While many often assume that the egg is the enemy of fervent raw cookie dough consumption, the flour is actually possibly even more of a culprit. As Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, a registered dietician, tells me via e-mail, “People do not think of flour as ‘raw,’ but it has not been treated to kill germs that cause food poisoning like E.Coli and Salmonella. We hear about Salmonella all the time with raw eggs but eating raw, uncooked flour can also introduce bacteria into your gastrointestinal tract.” 

In recent years, though, many edible cookie doughs have popped up on store shelves and in small storefronts, often with trendy monikers or differing spellings of the word dough. Frankly? I haven’t enjoyed a single one, which often leads me back to the wonders of pure, unadulterated, containing-raw-eggs-and-raw-milk cookie dough. But what about making your own? 

Eggs, actually, should be pasteurized or omitted entirely, according to both Malkoff-Cohen and Largeman-Roth. From a taste perspective, the egg is basically entirely obsolete in a raw preparation. It only comes to life and lends its magic powers to the cookie once it’s cooked, so omitting it in a raw capacity will be negligible, frankly. 

According to Malkoff-Cohen says that “the protein in cooked eggs is 180% more digestible than raw.” As such, she recommends making edible cookie dough with all the usual ingredients, but omitting eggs and heat-treating (a.k.a cooking) your flour prior to adding it to your dough. It can even just be microwaved! No need to turn on the oven at all.

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Largeman-Roth recommends going with a vegan cookie dough made with garbanzo beans or white beans. Interestingly, Largeman-Roth also notes that all cookie doughs in ice cream are “made with pasteurized eggs and treated flour,” which is how they’re made safe to eat and why you’re able to scoop up a pint (or a few) at the grocery store.

Not looking to whip up some on our own? There are also some standby, reliable brands — including Nestlé Toll House, one of my absolute faves — which also now sells an edible variation of their iconic, storied dough. There really is no reason to continue to eat raw cookie dough containing nefarious ingredients when there is such an ample amount of edible, safe doughs on the market, in stores and potentially right in your own kitchen.

So, if you’re asking if there’s a way to make this inherently “guilty pleasure” not guilty whatsoever, then the answer is a big, loud, resounding “yes.” And that’s most certainly something to celebrate perhaps even with some (edible) raw cookie dough?

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