The Best No Cook Playdough Recipe (plus a comparison between cooked and no cook playdough)

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The Best No Cook Playdough Recipe

You know how much we love the cooked homemade playdough recipe we’ve been making forever. It’s the play clay from MaryAnn Kohl’s First Art, and I’ve posted about it here and here as well as probably about 20 other times. It’s awesome. The texture is smooth and playdough rubbery, the batch makes a more than generous amount to play with, and it lasts just about forever.

How does a no cook playdough recipe compare?

We’ve made five different no cook playdough recipes so far. Some use cold water, some use boiling hot water. Most of the other ingredients are the same but vary slightly in amounts. The recipes with the cold water are grainier and a bit drier in general.

Here’s the the no cook playdough recipe I like the very best, using the hot water method.

No Cook Playdough Recipe

The Best No Cook Playdough Recipe

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 Tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • Liquid Watercolors (or food coloring)
  • 2 cups boiling water


1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. Make a well in the center and add oil and coloring.

3. Pour in boiling water and mix.

4. It will look like a goopy mess and you’re going to be sure that you’re going to have to add a lot of flour to make it work. Just let it sit for a few minutes. It will firm up and work perfectly.

5. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it a bit to form a ball.


P.S. Here’s the same version, on Sun Hats & Wellie Boots, using beets and blueberries to dye the dough naturally. I think I’ll try that next…

No Cook Playdough Recipe

These photos actually show my second favorite no cook playdough recipe. Like the recipe above, it was soft and pliable, allowing Maia and Daphne to use it to make pretend food and other fun things. Here they are cooking crepes and eggs over their makeshift stove.

No Cook Playdough Recipe

And Maia used the playdough to “write” us a sweet message.

After giving no cook playdough recipe several trial runs, I have come to the conclusion that cooked playdough is better, but that no cook playdough has it’s place, too.

Why is cooked playdough better?

Shelf life: The cooked playdough recipe we make lasts for months. The no cook playdough batches lasted a couple of weeks. By then they were a little too dried out and, in some cases, a little too smelly to keep using.

It’s forgiving: Cooked playdough can be left out, uncovered, for hours, with little or no lasting effect. No cook playdough starts getting a dry and crumbly coating if left out for any length of time.

Better texture: The cooked playdough has a lovely, rubbery, squishy playdough texture and it holds together better. Most of the no cook playdoughs are soft, but pull apart quickly and you end up with more crumbs and bits of playdough all over.

However, as much as I love cooked playdough, I grant that there are definitely times and reasons to consider making no cook playdough as well.

Why use a no cook playdough recipe?

More kid-friendly to make: If you want your kids (or students) to be more involved in all steps of making the playdough, then no cook is the way to go since there is no hot stove to deal with. If making the kind with boiling water, an adult can boil and pour the water, but children can help with the rest.

It’s quicker and easier: No cook playdough is a bit quicker and easier to make. Mostly just dump and mix.

Expendable: If you plan to use it for a specific purpose, such as a baking soda volcano or a kitchen table forest, then by all means whip up a quick batch of no cook playdough.

Your turn to weigh in! What do you think about no cook versus cooked playdough? Do you have a preference? Or would you rather just buy yours ready made?

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The Best No Cook Playdough Recipe

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  1. says

    We like cooked playdough. We haven’t been playing with it much lately, maybe it is time for a new batch! Love the idea of berries and beets for color, we’ll try that for sure.

  2. Renee Brown says

    I’ve had very similar experiences. I prefer cooked, by a lot. I did used to do a few rounds of no cook with my students when I taught so they could help. I probably need to make a batch with my daughter for the same reason.

  3. Reina says

    I love non cook with glycerin. It is quicker and the kids can help all the way. We keep it in the fridge and it last for ages. We have done a few weeks ago a batch for snowman with corn flour and glitters. Absolutely lovely :)

  4. Sally says

    We like the non-cooked because we like changing colours fairly often. We then use the old playdough for printing pictures or mud pies in the garden.

  5. Alison says

    We keep our non-cook play dough stored in a sealed container in the fridge. It keeps six months in there. I should try a cooked recipe again. The no-cook is so much easier and kid-friendly that I usually just default to that.

  6. says

    If you try the beets and berries, let me know how it turns out for you! I’ve heard of using turmeric for yellow, too, and something (coffee grounds, onion skins?) for brown. Maybe it’s time to whip up some natural colored playdough…

  7. says

    Just wanted to add a tip that Ivania posted on facebook. She says to add a few drops of glycerin to no cook playdough to make it extra shiny and stretchy. I’m going to give it a try next time we make a batch!

  8. Mary says

    I notice that some recipes state that unused cooked play dough can last for several months. How long does itt last after you play with it?

  9. says

    I’ve done both, using the food processor makes the flour mixture super fine before adding water so it is such a great texture when the water is added.
    It isn’t gummy or anything you just use the food processor till it pulls away from the sides and is a ball.
    all done in less then 5 minutes.

  10. lisa says

    Just checking- the recipe you share here is basically 1/2 the amt that is usually used by Mary Ann Kohl correct? I make it for a group, so just checking the amts!!

  11. Renee Brown says

    Mary, ours lasts for months being played with. In fact, I usually toss it after we share it with our playgroup, (germs) while it is still good, many, many, many, months after I first make a batch.

  12. says

    I have loved using the microwave recipe from Picklebums
    . . . So i guess it is a cooked recipe. I love the smaller portion and making lots of colors. We change up colors often and I have kids over all the time. Our playdough is out and always in use. She has it taking 5 minutes, my microwave only took 2. I love the texture and feel and color and everything! It’s been awesome! Even easier to have the kids help make it too.

  13. says

    I like cooked dough too.
    I usually make ours in the microwave (instructions on my blog) which is a bit quicker but still requires the arm breaking stirring. But it just lasts so much longer and with a boy who adores play dough we use it often.
    I am going to give your boiling water recipe a go though, there is a lot to be said for speed and ease!

  14. says

    oops! That’ll teach me to read comments before commenting… looks like Andrea linked to my microwave play dough recipe in the comment above mine!

  15. KElly says

    Thanks! My kids and I tried the no-cook playdoh last night…it was our first time ever making playdoh and they LOVED it.

  16. says

    Do you mean half the amount of her play clay recipe? I think she has lots of different playdough recipes (and I can’t wait to get my hands on her Mudworks book), but the only one I’ve used is the play clay which calls for 5 cups of flour. So yes, about half.

  17. says

    We tried the no cook playdoh recipe this afternoon. My 4 and 2-year-old are still happily playing with it. My more discerning 7-year-old enjoyed making the no cook playdoh but then said the playdoh was no good, made a few hearts and then rejected it for good. I was glad we tried it. I used to use a very similar no-cook recipe with my oldest when he was 2, and he enjoyed it then.

  18. mary says

    Thanks so much for the reply! I am bit of a “planner”, so that helps a lot.
    And thanks for such a wonderfully inspiring blog. I have a baby about to become a toddler, and I have learned so much from you.

  19. says

    I pulled out my copy of First Art after reading this post, but can’t quite figure which of the dough recipes is your favorite – could you please clarify? My 2yo son loved the store-bought play-dough he received for Easter, but I’d really like to make him some homemade dough (he’s a bit mouthy – I’d much rather know exactly what he’s putting in his mouth!). Thank you for your wonderful blog!!

  20. lizapest says

    I make my no-cook slightly differently, I add the salt and food colour to the boiled water and mix until they are dissolved then add it to the rest of the ingredients, I found that this mixes the colour better as well as the dough is far less gritty.

  21. June says

    I like the cooked version. I found that the non-cooked one with just cold water, just melted in the heat and it smells.

  22. Delphine says

    I do n’ont have tartar cream so i used baking soda it´s a total disaster. Is thème any substituts that works the same?