Homemade Animal Crackers
Get crafty & creative in the kitchen with this adorable copycat animal cracker recipe! It starts with a simple roll-out dough, cut with cute animal-shaped cookie stamps, then baked to sweet, crunchy perfection. Even better than Barnum’s! I’ll walk you through how to make homemade animal crackers step-by-step—including how to turn them into frosted animal cracker cookies!
I’m pretty proud of how this animal cracker copycat recipe turned out. The crackers don’t need to look perfect, but they still turn out so impressive—and I think they taste better than store-bought! They’re like crisp, spiced, animal-shaped shortbread cookies. I also find I slow down & enjoy each homemade cracker more, because I appreciate all the steps that went into making them.
These DIY animal crackers are also less-processed than store-bought—made with simple ingredients, less sugar, and no additives. Like most packaged snacks, classics like Barnum’s animal crackers include additives like corn flour, dextrose, fructose, & artificial flavors. But all you need to make this homemade animal cracker recipe is flour, sugar, butter, an egg, & baking soda—with real flavors from honey, vanilla, & cinnamon.
Homemade Animal Crackers Ingredients
- Flour. I use all-purpose flour in this animal cracker recipe because it makes the dough sturdier & easier to work with. But if you want to make gluten-free animal crackers, a gluten-free all-purpose flour can also work here. (It worked great in my homemade Cheez-Its recipe!)
- Butter. Let your butter soften for a few hours before making your dough, or you can use vegan butter if preferred. Softened coconut oil will probably work instead, but the dough will be more finicky & your crackers may lose their shape. I’ve used coconut oil to make homemade goldfish & Ritz crackers, and they turned out well—but they were much easier to make (& looked better) when I used butter.
- Sugar. Granulated white sugar works best here, for a crisper texture & a more aerated crumb. These DIY animal crackers are sort of like animal-shaped shortbread cookies, so the combination of butter & white sugar is a must for me!
- Honey. I included some honey to cut down on the refined sugar in this recipe—and to add some sweet, aromatic honey flavor into my homemade animal crackers! If preferred, you can substitute for the honey with additional white sugar.
- Egg. The egg helps to bind this animal cracker dough together, so it doesn’t crumble when you’re rolling it out & cutting out detailed shapes. I haven’t tried making this recipe without an egg yet, so I’m not sure whether/how it would work. (Try my eggless vanilla wafers if you want a shortbread-like cookie without eggs!)
- Baking Soda. A bit of baking soda helps these crackers rise & spread to crisp perfection.
- Flavorings. Vanilla, cinnamon, and salt are all you need to re-create that classic, comforting animal crackers flavor. To me, Barnum’s animal crackers have a lemony vanilla flavor, and Stauffer’s animal crackers get their spiced flavor from nutmeg & mace. So I combined the best of both in this DIY version!
How to Make Animal Crackers at Home
Making your own animal crackers at home is a bit of a process, and it requires some patience. Shaping & rolling out the dough, cutting & stamping each cracker—it’s really a mindful & creative activity. But the process can be quite fun if you’re willing to take your time with it! Remember: they don’t need to look perfect to turn out adorable. (And delicious!)
1 Make the Dough
First, beat together butter & sugar with a hand mixer. Next, beat in an egg, honey, vanilla, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon until the mixture is well-combined. Then, pour in the flour and mix with a rubber spatula.
2 Wrap & Chill the Dough
Shape the dough into a disc with your hands, then wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes to help it firm up.
3 Prepare Baking Sheets
I recommend lining light-colored baking sheets with parchment and lightly spraying them with cooking spray. (This recipe yields ~60+ homemade animal crackers, so you’ll likely need more than 1 baking sheet.)
4 Roll Out the Dough
Cut your chilled dough disc in half, keeping half of it in the fridge. Place the other half of the dough between sheets of parchment and roll it out on top of a cutting board, until it’s around ¼–⅛-inch thick.
Tip: Roll Out Dough on a Cutting Board
I recommend rolling out your animal cracker dough on a cutting board, so you can easily chill the rolled dough as needed. For intricate animal shaped crackers like these, it will be much easier to cut out their shapes from a cool, firm dough! After rolling, I just pop the whole cutting board in the freezer for 15-30 minutes to chill the dough before cutting out my shapes.
5 Cut Out Animal Crackers
Use animal shaped cookie stamps to carefully cut out & stamp each cracker. (See tips on how to do this below.) Transfer each homemade animal cracker to a prepared baking sheet, leaving space between for them to spread as they bake. Continue until you’ve used all your dough—pausing to chill the dough, collecting & re-rolling the scraps as needed.
How to Use Cookie Stamps to Make DIY Animal Crackers
- Dip Cookie Cutters in Flour to Prevent Sticking. Before cutting into the rolled dough, dip each cookie cutter into flour & shake off the excess. This will prevent the dough from getting stuck to your animal shaped cookie cutters.
- Press Firmly & Separate Shape. Next, firmly press the cookie cutter into the rolled dough, wiggling it gently to separate the edges of the animal shape from the surrounding dough. Keep the cookie cutter flat on the parchment & use your fingers to pull away the surrounding dough.
- Stamp Detail Lines. Keeping the cookie cutter flat on the parchment, press down the cookie stamp knob firmly to imprint the animal’s detail lines. Then, gently pull up on the knob to release it.
- Transfer Crackers to Baking Sheets. Carefully lift the whole cookie cutter up, using your other hand to support the cut dough shape inside it. Release the animal cracker onto your palm or onto a prepared sheet, being gentle & patient so the shape doesn’t tear. (Press the cookie stamp knob to help release the dough shape if needed.)
Tip: Take Time to Chill!
If the dough gets too warm & sticky, your homemade animal crackers are more likely to tear or squish while you’re working with them. So after rolling out a portion of dough (or collecting & re-rolling scraps), I recommend freezing the rolled dough for 15+ minutes or so before cutting out the shapes.
Really, anytime the dough gets harder to work with, pause to chill it so it can firm up. This takes some extra time & patience, but it will make the process of cutting out the crackers much easier!
6 Bake Animal Crackers
Transfer the trays to the oven and bake your DIY animal crackers at 350°F (180°C) for 6-7 minutes. When they’re lightly browned, they’re done! Let them cool a bit before enjoying, storing, or decorating.
How to Make Frosted Animal Cookies
For another fun copycat snack, you can turn your homemade animal crackers into frosted animal cracker cookies! Once the crackers have cooled completely, coat them with icing & add sprinkles before it sets. I made a super simple frosting with just powdered sugar & milk, and I used red food coloring to make a separate batch of pink frosting—so I could create the classic white and pink frosted animal crackers I loved as a kid!
Homemade Animal Crackers Recipe
DIY Animal Crackers
- 4 oz butter, softened, (½ cup or 1 stick)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, (50g)
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp honey
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour, (180g)
For Frosted Animal Crackers:
- white & pink animal cracker frosting
- nonpareil sprinkles
- In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together with a hand mixer. Once mixed, beat in egg, honey, vanilla extract, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon until combined.
- Add flour, mixing with a rubber spatula to integrate.
- Use your hands to shape the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate dough for 15-30 minutes to firm up.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Prepare baking sheets with parchment and lightly spray with cooking spray.
- Cut the dough disc in half, keeping one half wrapped in the fridge while you work with the other half.
- On top of a cutting board, roll out dough between sheets of parchment until it’s around ¼”–⅛” thick. (The dough can get a bit warm & sticky in this process, which will make it harder to cut out your animal shapes cleanly. So I recommend chilling the rolled dough in the freezer for 15-30 minutes to let it firm up before cutting out the shapes.)
- Cut out animal shapes with animal cookie cutter stamps. First, dip the cookie cutter in flour& shake off excess. Then, firmly press the cookie cutter into the dough &wiggle it to fully separate the animal shape from the surrounding dough. Keeping the cookie cutter flat on the parchment, firmly press down the cookie stamp knob to imprint the detail lines, then pull up on the knob to release.
- Gently lift the cookie cutter from the parchment and transfer the cut animal cracker dough onto a prepared baking sheet. (Be gentle & patient so your animal shape doesn’t tear!) Leave some space between crackers for them to spread a little in the oven.
- Repeat process with the rest of the dough, collecting & re-rolling scraps as you go.
- Bake animal crackers for 6-7 minutes, until lightly browned.
- Remove cookies and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing or frosting.
- Store animal crackers in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.
- Yields 60-65 homemade animal crackers.