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The Best Homemade Playdough Recipe (super soft, lasts for months)

At TinkerLab, we love making playdough, and today we’re sharing what is easily the BEST playdough recipe ever. I’ve been making this recipe for over seven years, and haven’t looked back since. The recipe was handed down to me by a preschool teacher, and it can’t be beat. I’m so confident about this recipe, in fact, that there’s a copy of it in my best-selling book, Tinkerlab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors.

The best playdough recipe | How to Make play dough | Tinkerlab.com

Why this is the best playdough recipe

  • It’s easy to make (see our no-cook version of the recipe below)
  • It will last for months if stored in a sealed container or bag
  • It’s inexpensive. Compare it to store bought dough and you are saving loads of cash.
  • The texture is divine. It’s soft, pliable, and fun to work with.

Our Plan

My plan was to make a simple batch of play dough to replace the sparkly dried out purple stuff that happily met our cookie-making, glitter infusing, practice cutting, snowman-making needs over the past two months. I asked my daughter what color she would like this time around, and she answered with…

ALL of them.

The best playdough recipe | How to Make play dough | Tinkerlab.com

Ahem. Right.

The way I have always made playdough requires that I add the color to the whole batch while it’s cooking, making it difficult to make multiple colors. But by some lucky, happy accident we managed to add the ingredients in the wrong order, which is no doubt the result of making dough with a two year old while chatting with my mother-in-law and goo-gooing at my baby! But, as that same luck would have it, I think we landed on the best playdough recipe yet. The texture is buttery and I was able to deliver on the multiple colors request.

And this ingredient, my friends, is the secret to having strong, smooth playdough that won’t crumble.

So, without further ado…The Best Playdough Recipe

The best playdough recipe | How to Make play dough | Tinkerlab.com

Ingredients

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    • 2.5 cups water
    • 1 1/4 c. salt
    • 5 tbsp. vegetable oil
    • 2.5 cups flour

Steps

  1. Mix everything but the food coloring together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks.
  2. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.
  3. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board that can withstand a little food coloring.
  4. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth and then divide it into the number of colors that you’d like to make. I divided mine into four balls, flattened each of them, added a little bit of food coloring or liquid watercolors, and then kneaded it in. I added more food coloring to get the desired shades of yellow, pink, teal, and lavender.
  5. Play with the dough right away or store it in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it’ll keep for months. For play dough tool ideas, you can read this post.

The best playdough recipe | How to Make play dough | Tinkerlab.com

There you have it, rainbow play dough (aka the best playdough recipe ever).

No-cook Best Playdough Recipe:

the best no cook playdoughI’ve been making this dough for a few years now without too many changes. After investing in this amazing BPA-free electric kettle, I was wondering if I could make this playdough off the stove top. So I did some experimenting, and low and behold — this recipe can be even easier and still the amazing dough that we all love. Here you go: No-Cook Playdough recipe.

homemade playdough recipe

More Playdough Recipes

How to Make Cloud Dough, the easiest dough recipe that calls for oil and flour.

How to Make Goop with just cornstarch and water.

Make amazing scented pumpkin spice playdough.

How to make Gluten-free Cloud Dough

Glowing Playdough

DIY Masa Playdough, made with masa harina

How to make Salt Dough with just salt, flour, and water.

What Else Can you do with Liquid Watercolors?

Liquid watercolors can be used for so many other recipes and projects such as:

the best homemade play doh recipe

137 Comments

  1. oooh, this looks beautiful and inspiring! i haven’t made play dough in quite a while, since becoming a gluten-free house last summer. gf flours are spendy! maybe i’ll go out and get some gluteny flour specifically for this and hope there’s little contamination in the kitchen. any other gf families have tips for this?

    • Such a good question! I often check in with an online Reggio forum, and this question just came up. The teachers were saying that the gluten-free doughs often come out crumbly, and recommended going straight for clay instead. If someone has a gluten-free recipe that works, it would make so many people happy! I’ll post a query on my FB page.

        • you’re so welcome! sorry to hear your hands got stained. it could be too much coloring. when i add the coloring, i drop it into the middle of a dough puck, and then fold it in. i try to blend the food coloring into the dough as much as possible without getting it on my hands. eventually it all works through the dough, but the initial globs of color usually work their way into the dough before they hit my skin. hope that helps 🙂

        • use baking powder and scrub your hands in it.. it will manage the stains.. whenever my students hands got stained with color, that’s what i use to wipe the stains away.. good luck!

  2. thanks rachelle! i reposted your wonderful blog entry on my fb page this morning with the same query. hopefully we’ll find a gf option… or just brave it with the wheat flour and hope for not too much dust…?

  3. Love it! I love how bright your colors came out too! When you smoosh them all together, did they become brown or just swirly rainbow?

    • Wouldn’t that be cool if they stayed in a swirly rainbow?! They swirl at first, but if you really smoosh them up good, they ultimately come to create a muddy lavender color.

    • Oooh, first crockpot play dough, and now microwave play dough. There are so many possibilities. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  4. Ahhh… looks FABULOUS!!! Same recipe I used for my 25 yrs of childcare. 🙂

    Here’s another tip… mixing in some dry ‘kool-aid’ gives it a wonderful scent as well as color.

  5. Ah your playdough looks fabulous! My son just saw it and said “I want to make playdough now”. Note to self: look at Kids Get Crafty link ups without the toddler!! Thanks again for sharing a fab craft and activity!! I think we will be making some….

    Maggy
    (PS and nice to “meet” you :-))

  6. What beautiful playdough. I think we’ll just have to try out this recipe. I love the idea of rainbow colors for St Patricks Day! So sweet.

  7. I’ve never met a kid that doesn’t LOVE playdough! I love the colors!! So pretty.

    I’d love to have you link up to my For the Kids Friday Link Party! Stop on by!!

    :)rachel from SunScholars.blogspot.com

  8. I use this recipe for play dough but as well as the food colouring I use a little food essence e.g peppermint with green colouring, strawberry with red, coco with brown etc it makes a lovely sensory activity, I have also use ready made poster paint instead of food colouring to make really vivid colours.

    • Mmmm, I can imagine the smell of your yummy play dough. We also added a bit of vanilla to this batch, which I failed to mention in the post, probably because it was pretty mild and didn’t make a huge impact on my senses. You’re giving me a great excuse to pick up some other food essences. I’ll have to try that next time around!

  9. i tried another recipe that was made in the microwave. It was very time consuming and did not work. I then searched for another recipe and came upon your blog. This was so simple and easy and turned out so good. Thank you. We had a lot of fun today with this.

  10. This is a lovely recipe, but I ran into some technical trouble with the color. Our budget allows us the generic supermarket brand of food color, and I tried (on a request) to make it purple. Now the entire bottle of blue and red left me with a lump of grayish purplish color. How could I correct it and how long do I have?

    • Hi Adrienne, 
      So, it looks like you’ve discovered the little known play dough color theory secret of red + blue = grey. Crazy, right?! After making my first batch of accidental grey play dough, I started using liquid watercolors and the Wilton colorings. I’m not sure if you’re still up for trying to correct this batch, but you could try buying another pack of food coloring and just adding in blue or red to overcorrect the color. No guarantees that it will work, but it probably couldn’t hurt. When we had that funny grey color, we just went with it until I had time (and energy!) to make another batch. Good luck and thanks for the question.
      Rachelle

  11. My kids, extended family & I had a great time with this!  I forgot to add the oil until after we played with the finished product but decided to add a little olive oil to each of the colors and it turned out great!  I also used target generic food coloring and all the colors turned out pretty good except red.  Next time I’ll use kool-aid and let the kids roll it in glitter.  I was amazed with how much dough this made.  Thanks for the great recipe!

    • I’ve never tried this without oil, but glad to hear that it could work that way too in a pinch! All food coloring is different, and it takes some experimenting. Kool Aid and glitter would be a fun combination to try out too. Thanks so much for the lovely comment – you made my day!

  12. Hi, we made play dough for the first time ever today using your recipe and it worked great, thanks so much! I love your gorgeous photos too.  We made chocolate orange play dough with cocoa and orange extract, and lemon play dough with yellow colouring and lemon extract.  Mmmm!

    • OMG — chocolate orange play dough with cocoa and orange extract!! Are you serious? It would be hard to keep myself from eating it. YUM! Thanks for sharing the inspiring extension and kicking it up a notch!! My grocery list is now growing 🙂

  13. Looks amazing. Can’t wait to try it. And now that I know you’re in the same area as I am, I’m dying to meet you in person! :D 

  14. Love your blog! Planning to make this soon. The recipe calls for 1 1/4c. of salt. Just to clarify is that 1 1/4 cup of salt?

  15. I made your wonderful recipe and it turned out great, except that I have little white lumps that won’t go away. My two-year-old said “Look, stars!” so I guess it’s no big deal 🙂 Just wondering if you have a suggestion…

    • Hi Claire,
      I like your toddler’s interpretation — kids can be so open-minded! I haven’t had this happen but I have a couple thoughts. Maybe the flour you used needs to be sifted for lumps. Or perhaps it heated up too fast and you could lower the heat to cook the dough more evenly. If you try it again with any success, will you let me know what works?
      Rachelle

  16. Hi – i LOVE your recipe. I’ve made it several times now and I always have the same issue though with making PURPLE dough! I use the Wilton Gel colors you recommend and no matter how much — or how little — purple I put in, it comes out like a dull navy blue. Could it be I got a bad batch?
    How much purple do you put in? This is a big deal in my household because my daughter, of course LOVES purple!
    Thanks!

    • My purple always looks blue on the first day, but matures to purple after a day or so. Have you noticed that or no luck?

  17. Have you tried making play-dough using conditioner and corn starch?
    1 part conditioner and roughly 2 parts cornstarch. Just mix together… That’s all…. Easy, soft and smells divine!

  18. Im so happy to learn the “grey” play dough secret! I actually WANT grey playdough! My daughter and I are doing a solar system project and I was trying to figure out how make make grey for the moon!! I purchased black hoping if i only used a tiny bit it would make grey! Now I’m going to mux red and blue! Yay! Thanks!!!

  19. Hi. I’d love to try this recipe, looks amazing. But cream of tartar is not available in Switzerland, what replacement can I use to get the same result or similar? Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Alexandra,
      I don’t know of a good substitute for cream of tartar, but I just looked this question up and found a forum where someone asked this very question. The answer sounded promising: “I get mine at the pharmacy. Just ask for Weinsteinpulver.” Will you let me know if this works?
      Rachelle

  20. If you want an even quicker result without risking any lumps, simply add boiling water from the kettle instead of cooking the whole lot on the stove. It works brilliantly!

  21. I, too, love using Wilton colours for my playdough. With more than one child, they never agree on the colour! I use the gel colours, and mix them in after cooking. I take it one step further and get each child to pick out Body Shop Home Fragrance Oil. Our playdough smells great, too!

  22. Oh shoot, I think I misread the ingredients.

    I put in, 1 Cup salt + 1/4 cup of salt, to make 1 and 1/4 cups of salt.
    Your really meant just a 1/4 cup of salt?
    Also I put in 1 tbsp cream of tartar + 1/2 tbsp cream of tartar, but did you mean only to put in 1/2 tbsp cream of tartar. Just checking so I will do it right next time, we also got too much food color on our hands, so next time I will wear gloves while mixing in the colors. Please clarify on the amounts so I can get it right next time. Thank you!

  23. Hi, loved this recipe and adapted for my daughter to be wheat/gluten free by using 2 cups of rice flour and 1/2 cups cornflour. Loved making them all different colours and scents. Thanks for sharing x

  24. Hi , thank u for this lovely recipe:) my 22-month/old son loved it and played for a long time. We cant get cream of tartar in Turkey so i used vinegar-lemon juice instead and it worked out great. Just one question that we wanted to play with it 2 days later so i opened the airtight container but it was so sticky , add some flovour : didnt help. Should i cook it abit more ? Or? İ dont want to throw it away:) thank you

    gamze & zuri

    • Hi Gamze,

      The cream of tartar actually acts as a stiffener for the dough, and the absence of it might be why your dough is getting sticky.

      “But one of the most important ingredients in the recipe is cream of tartar, another term for acid potassium tartrate. Cream of tartar is a byproduct of wine fermentation, and it’s used in cooking to stiffen liquids like egg whites. In this recipe, it makes the dough stronger and stiffer.”
      Source: http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/play-doh4.htm

      It may be too late for this batch that you’ve already made, but you could do a search for cream of tartar in your pharmacy! It also goes by the name “potassium tartrate acide” and I understand that some European pharmacies carry it. Will you let me know if you have any success finding it?

      Good luck!
      Rachelle

  25. Such great, easy, fun recipes for your kids to make. I made some of the play dough for some of the kids I babysit and its awesome! Not hard play dough at all (like the store bought type) and I have made it before (the same recipe) and it lasted four months! But, we didn’t leave our sealed air tight and when I made it again it lasted longer! (cause I still have it). Thanks again. Such fun things for kids to do on this website!

    • Thank you for taking time to leave such a the thoughtful and kind comment, Anna. I’m so happy to hear that this recipe worked so well for you and the kids you babysit!
      Rachelle

  26. Hello! My son loves this play dough. We left three months for a vacation and when we got back, the dough had gotten very sticky. Anything I can do to salvage them? 🙂 Thank you!

    • This has happened to us, and I usually opt to toss it. Sorry. You could try to add flour or cornstarch to it?

  27. Thanks for the lovely recipe. I’ve just finished making it for my 6 and 3 year olds who are now happily playing at the kitchen table. It’s been fun experimenting with different colours too. Thanks again!

    • You’re so welcome, Jennifer! I’m thrilled to hear that this worked well for you all. Cheers!

  28. OMG this is amazing. I have tried 15 different recipes and all have failed. You are a god send!

    • Yes, I believe so. However, I’m all about experimentation. If you alter the recipe with success, please let me know!

  29. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I’ve made it many times over the past few years to send to school for my daughter’s classroom. Her teachers love it for indoor recess!

  30. I want to make this recipe, but I am a little worried about putting the effort into it and not having it work. I tried a “no cook” recipe and I thought it was great at first but then after about 10 minutes of my kids playing with it, it became very sticky. So I added more flour, but again after about 5 minutes it just became super sticky again. I had to keep adding flour to it each time my kids would play with it. It seemed that no matter how much flour I put into it, it eventually turned super sticky. How about your recipe? Is it more like the store bought stuff, in that it doesn’t turn sticky every time? Is that the difference between the playdough you cook and don’t cook?

    • Worry not, Emily. This is a no-fail recipe if you follow the directions. I don’t have a lot of experience with no-cook recipes and every pre-K teacher that I know uses this recipe. It’s brilliant and just like the store-bought stuff. In fact, it’s so good that I included the recipe in my book. If you try it, please circle back and let me know how it went.

  31. I had never heard of cooking play dough, but this dough is fabulous and easy! We did add a little glitter to make it sparkle. So fun. Thanks for sharing!

  32. I love the fact that I can make more than one color at a time. I just got done making this for my son, and he loves it! I posted this page on my blog a few days ago and I’ll be updating it with pictures of the playdough I made. Thank you for this recipe!!!

  33. This was perfect! I needed a recipe that made a lot to stuff large plastic Easter eggs. Using Young Living Essential Oil ( because it’s what I had) I made scented colored dough to match the eggs. Lime green, lavender purple, lemon yellow and orange orange. The recipe stuffed 10 eggs-exactly what I had!

    Easy to cook and very smooth. Thank you so very much, KF

  34. Ok, what did I do wrong? My dough has little white spots (clumps in it). It looks like it has chicken pox 🙂 I’m sure my daughter won’t mind but I do! Haha!

    • Hi Tarsha, I haven’t made this with coconut oil, but I bet it would work. I imagine that if the dough gets cold it may be more firm. It’s definitely worth trying. Will you circle back if you make it and let us know how it went?

  35. made this over the 4th of July holiday- it came together nicely but a few notes from the kitchen:

    The oil amount which is approx 1/3 cup .31 (btw) is probably 1 TB more than needed although we used unpacked flour, we had a very greasy Playdough. Our use of normal food coloring (approx. 15-20 drops for desired color x4) may be adding too much liquid as well.

    Would love to know what your flour amount is for successful version of this in grams.

    Seems like potentially adding dry ingredients slowly to hot water might yield less clumping.

    Finally, curious if you’ve ever tried using bread flour or 50% bread flour. this changed our Banana Bread recipe for life. silky and smooth, we use 100% bread flour and our pancake recipe uses 50%.

  36. Thank you!! I just made it with my 3-year-old niece. I used parchment paper for easy clean-up.

  37. Love this recipe it was so simple!! I used my stand mixer and the recipe worked great I made this recipe for my daughters headstart class.

  38. We made and we love! No alterations to the recipe. Came together fast on the stove. For those who are apprehensive about stovetop instructions, don’t be. The heat is what’s important, and the pot cleans up beautifully.

  39. What a wonderful collection of recipes showcasing the Sweet Potato. My favorite would hard to choose but I will say the dish by The Comfort of Cooking, looks so delicious. We will feature this post on the next Blogger’s Pit Stop, well done. rluy

  40. I am really happy for you and your family. Anyway, thank you for sharing this recipe. This really looks tasty and this is one of the reasons why this is in demand in diners and even in catering Fort Lauderdale. I hope that my folks will enjoy this as much as you do. Thank you again. Keep posting such great recipes.rluy

    • This recipe really threw me off. I love to cook and it runs in the family. My 10 year old son really enjoys coming up with his own ideas and eggs is something he cooks for breakfast for all of his siblings when given the chance. We have a full house with extra kids on the weekends for fun. Several of the kids hate eggs and will only cook my sons. His secret ingredient is cinnamon. I actually googled cinnamon and eggs out of curiosity while texting our oldest daughter about his cooking skills. I can’t wait for him to see your recipe. And the pride it will give him. Made my night! Thankyou.juice

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