It’s time to start thinking about yummy kid foods that are lunchbox-friendly, and this animal cracker recipe fits the bill! Find the recipe below.
When I shared on my personal Facebook page that I was having fun in the kitchen with this animal cracker recipe today, a friend commented “You’re so creative!” I do mention frequently here that I like to get creative in the kitchen, so guilty as charged I guess… but there’s so much more behind my motivation.
When you’re a parent of a kiddo who has to eat a special diet (but let’s be honest, all kids should be eating whole, real foods, regardless of their health or behavioral status!), it can become a sore subject between parent and child.
Kids can begin to feel like they are being deprived and can become resentful that they can’t eat the fun foods their friends eat at school, church, and sports or other activities. From the beginning of our paleo journey, I’ve made it a priority to remake all of my kids’ favorite foods and treats with healthy ingredients they can have.
In the same breath, I’ve made it a priority to teach them about nutrition, explain to them why our family eats the way we do, and make sure the majority of their diet is meats and veggies. (See: Is The Paleo Diet Healthy for Kids? for more information.)
But back to the fun foods. I’ve found that when I provide something that my kids feel is special, they don’t complain about not getting to eat whatever food-dye laced, gluten-filled, hydrogenated pseudo-food is being served up to their unsuspecting peers.
A while back, I started thinking about how fun it would be to recreate an animal cracker recipe with GAPS and paleo-friendly ingredients my kids could have.
I set to work searching for the perfect little cookie cutters and was a little nervous when all I could find was a set on ebay for less than $3 that would be coming from China. But, for less than three bucks, I was willing to risk them never arriving if that was the case. (I’ve since found some on Amazon that I’m not sure how I missed before, and I’ll share those with you below.)
Thankfully, they arrived, and surprisingly quickly. And they worked perfectly! Just look at these little cutie patooties!
One of my little guys mentioned that there was no camel, which I thought odd because they’ve never had “real” animal crackers! Which means that whether these taste just like the real deal or not, my boys think they’re the bees’ knees.
(Because these are GAPS diet-friendly, they contain no starches and are lower in carbs. This means they are a bit softer and more chewy than typical crunchy, starchy animal crackers. But still delightful!)
Yeah, you could turn this animal cracker recipe into any ol’ cutout cookie, but what would be the fun in that? Because of the adorable little shapes, these cookies are just… special.
Which means, when we pack them for snack at church or in a lunch box for our homeschool coop, I won’t get any flack because my kid can’t have whatever packaged food the kid next to him pulls out.
He has animal crackers. That mom made specially for him. And he can make the lion growl or make trumpeting sounds for the elephant and it’s ok to play with his food.
Sorry not sorry, Mister Zebra. Just another example of why animal crackers are so much fun!
My easy animal cracker recipe: the deets
So here’s the thing. These crackers are super duper simple. I based them off of my cheesy crackers recipe in my holiday cookbook Nourishing Holiday, but instead of cheese, I added a little honey and a smidge of vanilla and spices to create a lightly sweetened cookie-cracker.
But- they can be a bit tedious too. I’m not gonna lie, those adorable little cookie cutters were a pain in the behind. You have to wiggle them just right, and the thinner spots like elephant trunks and giraffe necks are prone to breaking. Thankfully, the dough is forgiving and it’s easy to smoosh parts back together.
If you want to keep them uber easy, I would suggest getting regular cookie cutters, which are bigger and don’t have little details for the dough to get stuck in.
But, if you love the authentic look of real animal crackers, these cookies cutters are your best bet.
The trick to tricky cookie cutters
Because the dough for this animal cracker recipe uses alternative ingredients, it’s a bit sticky, which means it sticks to the cookie cutters. I figured out if I pushed the plunger in and out as I wiggled the cookie cutter up off of the dough, it broke away pretty seamlessly.
You can also dip the cutters into a bit of starch before each use.
Mostly, it just takes a little finesse to get the dough from counter to cookie sheet. Let’s break down the steps.
First, you need to roll out the dough between two layers of parchment paper, to about 1/4″ thickness. Carefully use the cookie cutters to cut your shapes, using the tips above.
Transfer the shapes to a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet. I like to use a thin fish spatula to do the transfer.
Once baked, allow the animal crackers to cool before transferring them to an air-tight container. Or eagerly waiting hands.
See the full animal cracker recipe below!
Animal Cracker Recipe for GAPS and Paleo Diets
- 1 3/4 cups finely ground almond flour
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp coconut flour
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- dash salt
- Preheat oven to 350*.
- Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.
- Add wet ingredients and mix using a hand mixer. Dough may become a bit crumbly.
- Roll dough into a ball and place on a large piece of parchment paper, laid on a flat surface. Add another large piece of parchment on top.
- Roll out dough using a rolling pin, to about 1/4" thickness.
- Use animal-shaped cookie cutters to cut out shapes. If using plunge-style cutters, gently wiggle and push plunger in and out as you pull away from the dough.
- Gently transfer shapes to a lined baking sheet, spacing cookies about an inch apart. A thin fish spatula can help with the transfer.
- Bake for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden on the edges. Allow to cool before serving or storing in an air-tight container.