How Long Can Dough Sit Out Before Going Bad?

Dough can sit out for about 4 hours before noticeable changes begin to occur and it starts going bad. However, these changes may occur sooner or later than 4 hours depending on the baking methods used and the ingredients in the dough. 

Have you made some dough in hopes of making some bread or pastries? However, you have to put the cooking or baking process on hold for some reason. Understanding what goes on when you let dough sit out for too long is vital in preventing wastage.

This article examines how long dough can sit out, when it goes bad and how to preserve your dough.

What is Dough?

Dough is a paste that consists of moistened flour made from any cereal or leguminous food, kneaded but yet to be baked. Dough serves as the initial step used in preparing numerous foods and pastries. These can include cooking, frying, baking, etc., and the final products can range from bread to noodles, cookies, donuts, scones, pasta, and pastries.

SEE: The Unique Differences Between Maida and All-Purpose Flour

What is the Difference Between Dough and Batter?

Dough differs from batter in that batters usually contain eggs and are thin while dough does not need to have eggs in it and is usually thicker in texture. Also, because of the difference in their ingredients and structural properties, you will have to prepare and mix doughs and batters differently.

You can use the following factors to differentiate dough from batter;


Doughs are very dense and need to be rolled or kneaded on in other to mix their ingredients while batters ingredients are combined and mixed through whisking.  


Because of its dense form, you can change the shape of dough into numerous forms to suit your needs like pastries (donut shapes, buns, croissants, danishes), pie crusts, and pasta. Batter on the other needs to be poured or served on baking dishes or griddles using spoons. They can also serve as a pre-fry coating. 

Egg Content 

Dough does not necessarily require the use of eggs as part of its ingredients while it is compulsory for a batter to make use of eggs.

SEE: Learn The Differences Between Funnel Cake And Fried Dough

Why Does Dough Go Bad?

Dough goes bad due to the excessive amount of bacteria growing on it. When stored inside a fridge under perfect conditions, your standard dough can last between 5 to 10 days. However, anything beyond that will get the dough damaged by excessive bacteria. 

However, dough that contains animal products like eggs or milk will go bad much faster, especially when stored at room temperature for a few hours. 

Additionally, the yeast in the dough is more likely to exhaust all of its resources if the dough is kept for up to a week. The yeast will also be unable to raise the dough any further. You consider such kind of dough as “over-proofed,” because it will fall when baked. 

Dough can also go bad when it is contaminated, and when it is also unable to rise properly despite the presence of yeast. 

SEE: How To Stop Food Spoilage And Food Poisoning

Signs That Your Dough Has Gone Bad

You can use the following signs to ascertain if your dough has gone bad and should be thrown out:

Mold Formation

You should never use dough that has started showing clear signs of mold growth on it. Neither should you also eat or taste it. Once you see a buildup of fungi on your dough to the extent where you begin to find patches of fuzzy spots on it, dispose of it. The dough has become unsafe for consumption and should be thrown out immediately. 

Also, never attempt to scrape off the moldy part or fuzzy spots in hopes of continuing with the dough. You run a high risk of food poisoning if you do that.

Nasty Smell

A foul smell emanating from your dough most likely means it has gone bad and needs to be thrown out immediately. However, note that not all foul smell means that the dough has gone bad. Sometimes, fermentation may occur and would produce nasty smells or odors. 

For example, your dough may begin to smell like beer or alcohol, or even taste sour as a result of fermentation. Yet, this is quite normal and does not mean your dough has gone bad.

SEE: If It Is Safe To Eat Expired Bread

Is it safe to leave dough to sit out overnight?

No, you should never leave dough to sit out overnight. Dough usually takes between two to four hours to double in size at normal room temperature. Hence, leaving your dough to sit out overnight will force it to rise to the extent that it collapses. 

Also, for optimum results should you need to keep your dough overnight, always make use of the refrigerator to slow down its growth process.

How long can you keep dough in the fridge?

When kept in the refrigerator, dough lasts approximately three days. However, it is best to make use of it within 48 hours. Once the dough is kneaded, place it in a large mixing bowl lightly oiled then tightly cover and place it in the refrigerator. 

SEE: Can You Make Dough With Just Flour And Water?

How long can dough last in a freezer? 

Your regular dough which consists of salt, flour, yeast, and water can stay for up to three months in a freezer without major changes affecting the dough’s quality as long as there are no lapses. However, if the dough contains other ingredients like milk or other dairy products, then it is best to use it within a month.

What are the Uses of Dough?

Dough mostly serves as the precursor material used in making pastries, pasta, and bread. For example; sweet doughs help make delightful products like Danish pastries and coffee cakes. 

Also, sweet doughs are usually richer in ingredients than your average bread dough. That is because they contain various spices, milk, sugar, nuts, fresh or dried fruits, and a more significant amount of shortening. 

SEE: What Happens When You Eat Raw Dough

What are the Types of Dough?

You can find the following types of dough with each of them serving specific purposes;

  • Brioche – Contains flour, eggs, and a large amount of butter
  • Crêpe – eggs, milk, flour, salt, and melted butter. Optional ingredients include; raspberry jam and chocolate sauce, sugar, lemon, Nutella, sliced banana, whipped cream, chopped hazelnut, strawberries, peanut butter, etc.
  • Pizza Dough – This includes water, flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and oil (vegetable, canola, or corn oil). Other ingredients that you can add to make it interesting include; sesame seeds, spices (oregano and basil), and cornmeal.
  • Focaccia – for making Italian leavened flatbread
  • Rolled-In Dough – Used to make croissants and Danish pastries
  • Pasta dough – for making ravioli and noodles, ravioli among other things.
  • Sourdough – bread made with a cultured starter
  • Challah – egg dough

SEE: Gluten-Free Flours You Didn’t Know Are Just Good as Wheat Flour


Will dough rise in the fridge?

Yes, yeasted dough will rise when placed in a fridge, however, its rise will be very slow. That is because the warmer dough gets, the faster it grows, and the colder it becomes, the slower it rises. 

Also, the activities of yeast on the dough slow down as it cools but does not stop until it gets to 34°F and below when it becomes dormant. So, as long as your fridge temperature stays above 34°F, the yeasted dough will continue to rise but at a much slower pace.

SEE: How Long Frozen Bread Is Good For

What dough is used for cinnamon rolls?

The dough used for cinnamon rolls is called the Swedish kanelbulle dough and typically consists of cardamom buds or powder which gives the cinnamon roll its unique flavor. Also, cinnamon roll dough typically consists of a rolled sheet of yeast-leavened dough mixed with sugar, raisins, cinnamon, a thin coat of butter, and other ingredients in special cases.

SEE: What Happens When Cinnamon Goes Bad and Start to Mold

Can you freeze yeasted dough?

Yes, you can freeze yeasted dough once you’ve allowed it to rise. That is because, under extreme cold, the yeast becomes dormant and will no longer allow dough to rise. Hence, to make bread dough in advance, first allow the effects of the yeast to take place before freezing it. 


Knowing how long you can allow your dough to sit out for it to properly form is crucial in baking or making bread, pastries, and other products. However, once it has been made to sit out for too long, then it will most likely collapse due to its weight and no longer rise properly.

Additionally, dough that sits out for too long will most likely undergo fermentation which will affect its overall taste and appearance. To prevent this from happening, either freeze your dough after it has risen to stop the activities of the yeast and bacteria on it, or refrigerate it to slow down their activities. 

Finally, the ingredients used in forming the dough also determine how long it will last. For example, the addition of dairy or eggs to your dough similar to cake batter means that your dough cannot sit out for too long before going bad. In that situation, here’s how you can preserve cake batter to extend its shelf life

I hope you found this article helpful. Thanks for reading.