Homemade Animal Crackers

Homemade animal crackers kick store-bought animal crackers to the curb. Made from scratch, these frosted cookies are relatively healthy and remarkably easy to make. Here’s how to make your own.

Different shapes of homemade animal crackers lying on a chalkboard background.

If you’re like most Americans of a certain age, the mention of animal crackers summons memories of curious little creatures held captive in wee cardboard boxes resembling Barnum’s circus cars. No more. Not after you’ve sampled these homemade animal crackers from cookbook author Ivy Manning. “I loved animal crackers as a child,” Manning explains. “But as an adult, I find them to be overly sweet and bland at the same time.” Sometimes recollection tends to be more forgiving than it ought in terms of taste and texture, yes? She’s fixed that. What we think you’ll call to mind going forward is this terrific-tasting cookie made with all-natural ingredients and lotsa love. Here’s how to make your own from scratch. Originally published September 5, 2014.Renee Schettler Rossi

What are the best shapes for Animal Crackers?

Okay, so the name “animal crackers” sorta leads one to expect these cookie-like crackers to be in the shape of, you know, teensy animals. Like elephants and bears and so on. But we’re not averse to the notion of reaching for whatever cookie cutters you happen to have on hand, be they in the shape of an animal, heart, angel, dreidel, or vintage mustang convertible. It’s the taste that counts.

Homemade Animal Crackers

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 40 M
  • 2 H
  • Makes 45 crackers
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Special Equipment: Animal-shaped cookie cutters


  • For the animal crackers
  • For the frosting


Make the animal crackers

In the bowl of a food processor or in a large bowl, pulse or whisk the all-purpose flour, oat flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt to combine. Add the butter and pulse about 15 times if using a food processor or use a pastry blender or your fingers to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, honey, and vanilla and stir until the honey has dissolved. Add to the flour mixture and pulse or stir with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together. Remove the dough from the processor or bowl and knead gently on a lightly floured surface until smooth, about 10 times. Divide the dough into 2 portions, shape them into equal-size disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough and place 1 disk on a well-floured surface. Roll out the dough until it’s 1/8 inch thick, lifting and rotating the dough to make sure it’s not sticking to the work surface. You may need to sprinkle the surface with more flour if necessary.

Use lightly floured cookie cutters to cut out animal shapes. Using a lightly floured bench scraper or offset spatula, transfer the cut-outs to the prepared baking sheets. Reroll the scraps once and cut them out. Bake the animal crackers until light golden brown around the edges, 6 to 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once from back to front while baking. Cool the crackers on the sheet until they firm up, 5 minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. While the first batch of crackers is cooling, repeat the rolling, cutting, and baking process with the remaining dough and dough scraps.

Make the frosting

In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and milk and stir until smooth.

Frost the animal crackers

Spread a thin layer of frosting over each animal cracker, scattering sprinkles over the crackers immediately after you frost, if desired. Let them stand at room temperature until the frosting is completely set, at least 1 hour. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

These homemade animal crackers—cookies, actually—are cute, fun, and delicious. It's not a complicated recipe, and the only hitch is the chill time and the time spent cutting out the shapes. I suspect that you could roll the dough and cut off rounds and it would be faster, but surely wouldn't be as cute!

I ground some steel-cut oats in my Vitamix to get the oat flour and it was perfect. I sprinkled my owl shapes with silver and multi-colored bits. My bake time was a bit longer, though it might have been because my shapes were on the largish size. Imagine an owl bigger than a circus elephant—who would have thought?

The lemon in both the dough and frosting is the magic ingredient for me. I stole away some of the 40 cookies that I got from my recipe and set them aside in a resealable plastic bag on the counter. After 6 days, they're just as good, just as crisp, and just as cute! I love animal crackers, but I think I love these even more.

Who doesn't love animal crackers—those fondly remembered, bland, dry, almost cracker-like cookies that came in a circus box? Me. Even my toddler granddaughter took a pass on those. Thanks to this homemade animal crackers recipe, now she loves them. These are simple to make, only taking minutes to throw together in the food processor and an hour or so to chill the dough.

I found the more I worked the dough, the better it came together when rolling it out, so maybe I'd knead a few more times than the recipe recommended. And the beauty of this recipe is that once the dough is made, you can make as few as you desire or you can make the whole batch at once.

I baked my animal crackers in 2 batches, 2 days apart. I found that using a 1 1/2-inch piggy-shaped cookie cutter. I made a total of 135 animal crackers. I can't imagine how big the cookie cutter was to only get 45; I got about 45 animal crackers on each of 3 baking sheets. I glazed half the animal crackers. I found that leaving the glazed cookies to air dry took the better part of an hour to get dry enough to put in a cookie tin. It's certainly not a step I'd omit.

The unglazed animal crackers did keep crisper a little longer, but they aren't destined to be around for a very long time. The cookies themselves had a lovely hint of lemon that the puckery glaze enhanced. The animal crackers were also very nice plain.

My tasters were evenly split on glazed or not glazed. I also found that the animal crackers cooled very quickly on their baking sheets while I dealt with the next batch destined for the oven, so I didn't bother transferring the animal crackers to a wire rack to cool. I had parchment paper on the baking sheets, so I let them continue to cool and glazed them on the baking sheets. Definitely a new family favorite.


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  1. wow, look amazing. i would do some for my baby’s halloween party 🙂 she’s 2 yrs and sure will love it. thanks dear for sharing.

  2. “Animal crackers in my soup…” These look like a delicious improved version of the original. Now if you had a pattern for a circus car box. MS probably has one.

  3. Just hearing the words “animal crackers” brings back so many memories. I used to love carrying that little box around just like it was a purse, while eating those yummy animals. My favorite was always the lion with its big fluffly looking mane.

    I’d agree that they were bland, but they were the perfect treat to snack on when sick, while being entertaining at the same time.

    This recipe looks terrific. I can’t wait to make them.

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