Animal Crackers, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on July 6, 2010

Animal crackers in my soup
Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop
Gosh oh gee but I have fun
Swallowing animals one by one

I don’t know about you, but I spent my childhood eating animal crackers.  I loved the things.  I also loved the fact that they came in a cute box that looked like a circus railroad car and had a string handle for carrying.  If I’m remembering correctly, the ones we used to get actually had little wheels, so you could use the box as a toy.  With four kids in the family, I’m sure we had zillions of those things rolling around the house.

We also sang the Animal Crackers a song that Shirley Temple sang in her 1935 movie Curly Top.  I do remember wondering why she would put the animal crackers in her soup, given that they were actually sweet cookies.   I didn’t find out until later that the original animal crackers were actually not sweet–they were more like what we in the US call crackers.  Kind of like graham crackers, which also started out not sweet.  If you’re interested in animal cracker lore, there’s a whole site dedicated to it, Animal Crackers.

This post is for Jennifer M., one of my readers, who requested that I develop an Animal Cracker recipe that isn’t too sweet–like the crackers from her childhood.  I’m guessing we are around the same age, because I remember animal crackers not being super-sweet.  I thought this would be an easy recipe to develop, but for some reason, this recipe was a tough one.  I pored over the recipes on the Animal Crackers site, and I made batch after batch, and they never tasted quite like I remember.  Then, one day on Twitter I was asking folks what flavorings they thought would go in animal crackers.  I had tried vanilla extract, almond extract and those two together.  Something wasn’t right.  Then my pal Jenifer suggested a drop of orange extract–and voilà!  That was it!  A drop of orange extract brought everything together.  I found it in the baking section of my grocery store.  It’s optional, of course, but try it and see what you think.

Animal Crackers, Gluten-Free

Special Equipment Needed
-animal cookie cutters, small or large
-rolling pin
-waxed paper


1 C (140 g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
1/4 C (35 g) sorghum flour
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 C (1/2 stick; 55 g), unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 C (60 ml) mild honey
1/4 C (60 ml) heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp orange extract (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda.

Add the cold butter pieces. With fingers, squish the butter into the dry ingredients. Do so until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  Add honey and mix with a fork.  Add cream, mix well with the fork.  Add vanilla extract (and orange extract if using).  You will have to use your hands to do a final mix–to bring the dough together.

Shape the dough into 2 disks, and place each between two pieces of wax paper.  Roll out each disk to 1/4″ thick.  Place in refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up enough to cut out shapes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  After your dough has firmed up, remove first batch from refrigerator.  Unwrap from wax paper and cut dough into shapes using your cookie cutters, and place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet, with about 1/2″ between each. Repeat this process until all of the dough has been used.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 5-9 minutes, until the crackers are a bit brown. Transfer the crackers to a plate to cool completely. Remember, they will be the most crunchy when they are cool.



{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Tamara February 13, 2015 at 5:28 am

Hi there,
I want to try to make these for my kiddos. I just wanted to know if I can sub my gluten-free oat flour for the sorghum? Also can I sub coconut milk instead of the heavy cream?
Thank you


Jeanne February 13, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Tamara: I haven’t used oat flour in this recipe, but I think it would be fine. The one caveat–it’s best to substitute by volume measurements rather than by weight measurements. Also, it’s fine to use coconut milk. Happy baking!


Kristen May 5, 2014 at 7:54 am

I made these last night and have no idea what I did wrong :(. They taste fine, but they are not crispy at all. And they got very brown, but are still soft in the middle. I even left them out hoping they would dry up, but it didn’t work. They were 3/16″ thick (I have a rolling pin with spacer things), so not even 1/4″. They were small cookies too as I used my bento animal cutters that are small. Could using almond milk instead of cream cause a problem?


Jeanne May 6, 2014 at 9:39 am

Kristen: Hm. I don’t know what happened. I haven’t made these for a long time, so I don’t remember how the dough behaves. Also, I don’t think the substitution was the problem. Did you follow the recipe exactly (i.e., used the exact ingredients, etc.?). I will make these soon so I can see what’s going on.


Kristen May 12, 2014 at 8:28 am

I followed the recipe precisely except used almond milk (less the orange extract because I didn’t already have it and wanted to see how they went before spending the money on it). Not sure what I did wrong. I will probably try them again and make them 1/8″ thick instead to see if that helps. The kids gobbled them up anyways! They tasted good. Just weren’t crisp at all.


Jeanne June 16, 2014 at 11:34 am

Kristen: Hm, I’m not sure what to tell you.


Sing January 29, 2014 at 7:25 am

would substituting 1/4 cup of Heavy cream with 1/4 cup of almond milk work?


Jeanne January 29, 2014 at 9:38 am

Sing: I think so. Try it and see!


Kim Speed June 21, 2013 at 6:41 pm

can you sub guar gum for the xanthan? My son is allergic to corn, wheat, egg, soy, peanut and almond…Xanthan gum is corn derived… :-(


Jeanne June 24, 2013 at 11:24 am

Kim: yes, you can sub in guar gum. But be aware that xanthan gum is not corn derived. It is grown on a sugar medium, and that sugar medium is sometimes corn. But, the xanthan gum from Bob’s Red Mill is grown on a wheat sugar medium and the one from Authentic Foods is grown on a cabbage sugar medium. The growing medium is not present in xanthan gum once it’s harvested. See my Gluten-Replacers post for more info.


Alexis September 1, 2012 at 8:56 am

Is there anything I can substitute for the heavy cream? I have a 2 1/2 year old who is allergic to dairy.


admin September 1, 2012 at 11:52 am

Alexis: I would just use the alternative milk of your choice. I think that would be fine!


Abigail July 25, 2012 at 6:04 am

Where in the world would you get xanthan gum?


admin July 25, 2012 at 8:23 am

Abigail: Xanthan gum is available at a variety of places, depending on where you live. You can also get it online from Amazon,, and Bob’s Redmill, among others.


Lucinda June 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

Can you tell me the break down on ingredients or the over all calorie count per cookie? Lucinda


admin June 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Lucinda: I have no idea how one does that. I will research it!


admin July 5, 2012 at 12:49 am

Lucinda: I did a Google search and here are some sites that seem to be able to do a calorie breakdown of recipes. I would recommend finding that looks good to you and then follow the directions for a recipe. Happy baking!


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