15 Creative Ways To Use Animal Crackers

Lions, tigers, and bears ... oh my! But we're not talking about the animals you'd see in a zoo or a safari. Instead, these creatures are made into fun, cute, bite-sized cookies called animal crackers. Animal crackers have conceptually been around for centuries, but the version we can buy from a grocery store today came to fruition in the 1870s. Nabisco launched its own in 1902 with the classic Barnum's Animals crackers. Since then, the company has featured at least 106 animals in its bags, including camels, zebras, and seals, according to WTTW

These crackers walk a thin line between being classified as a cracker or a cookie. They're slightly sweet and buttery, but they don't have the same profile as other beloved cookies like Oreos and Nilla Wafers. While many people can recognize the plain, lightly golden cookies, animal crackers also come in chocolate varieties and the sickeningly sweet pink and white frosted animal crackers with sprinkles.  

The unique flavor of this cracker along with its short texture make it a unique ingredient to have in your pantry. We've curated a list of some of the best ways to use animal crackers for more than just snacking and how to elevate this humble cookie-cracker hybrid to new heights. 

Use them as the base for your dessert bars

The texture and relatively bland flavor of animal crackers make them a good addition to an array of desserts, including dessert bars. Unlike other flimsy cookies, animal crackers can withstand a lot of weight and mesh well with nearly any sweet ingredient.

These traits make animal crackers an excellent base for your next batch of dessert bars. You can easily swap them for other types of cookie crumb bases, like vanilla wafers, chocolate sandwich cookies, and the quintessential graham cracker.

Try to match this substitution based on the kind of cookie used in the original recipe. For example, switch out your chocolate sandwich cookies with chocolate animal crackers, or use the whimsical frosted and sprinkled animal crackers for a sugar cookie bar. If you're working with punchy citrus, like lemon bars, stick with the plain animal crackers to create a delicious bite.

Toss animal crackers into your popcorn

We're always looking for ways to elevate homemade popcorn because, let's face it, a plain bowl of Orville Redenbacher's can get old. You might think of adding a different kind of butter or tossing it in whatever seasoning you spot first in your spice cabinet. But one of the underestimated ways to change your popcorn game is to add something with a slightly different texture to it — like animal crackers.

Plain animal crackers are a solid choice, but they don't do much for your bowl. Instead, it's time to pull out the cloying frosted animal crackers for this rendition. You can easily chop up those crackers into smaller pieces and add them to your bowl of freshly popped kernels. Or, take things a step further and add a drizzle of melted white chocolate to your popcorn before tossing in the cracker pieces. The chocolate will help the crackers stick to the kernels and will also add a confectionary flair to your snack.

One of our favorite ways to combine animal crackers with popcorn is to make popcorn balls. Combine the popcorn with a soft ball-stage homemade caramel sauce (or an alternative) and mix in your animal crackers. These treats make for great party favors or snacks for young eaters.

Crush them into a creative pie crust

There are tons of ways to make a flavorful crumb crust. Although it might be tempting to just grab one of the pre-made graham cracker crusts from the store, there are a number of cookies that would work just as well — and impart much more flavor to whatever you're using as the pie filling. Shortbread, vanilla wafers, and even fortune cookies all make great crumb crusts because they're dry enough to soak up the butter and bake well without falling apart.

The humble animal cracker also has the same dryness as the aforementioned cookies. Animal crackers are the whimsical crust your dessert needs because they are so easy to break into small pieces, mix with butter, and bake into the cookie crust of your dreams. The subtle vanilla notes in the plain animal cracker pair great with a range of fillings, including a sweet cheesecake, lemon meringue pie, and even a rustic apple pie. Although "pie" is in the name, you can also use this recipe for tarts or any recipe that calls for a similar crust. You can also dress your crumb crust up by adding a hint of warming spices like cinnamon to the cookies when you're pulsing them into small pieces in your food processor. 

Cover animal crackers in chocolate

Is the solution for everything to "just add chocolate?" Maybe not for everything, but it is certainly one way to improve the flavor and texture of these crackers.

There are many different types of chocolate that can be drizzled on or used as a dip for your crackers. If you're feeding these upgraded snacks to young eaters, standard milk chocolate is going to be your best bet. But if you like the taste of Twix bars, you may consider adding a drizzle of milk chocolate and caramel to complement the cookie.

Once you have chosen a chocolate, there are tons of ways to take this recipe a step further. If you want to add extra complexity to your crackers, try including a sprinkle of sea salt or a sprinkle of cayenne to your cookies after you've added your chocolate. Once your cookies have dried on a wire rack, you can easily store them in an airtight container and enjoy them throughout the week — if you can resist the urge to eat the entire batch on day one.

Serve animal crackers with a sweet dip

When people think of dips, the most common ones that come to mind are usually savory varieties, like buffalo chicken, sour cream and onion, and guacamole. But there is a whole world of sweet spreads out there that are just waiting for a vehicle to scoop them up from the bowl and into your mouth. Animal crackers are a great accompaniment to your sweet dip, like a caramel pecan cheesecake dip recipe, because the blandness of the cracker balances the flavor of the dip without becoming too distracting.

Once you have the base of your dip made, which can include ingredients like cream cheese, yogurt, and whipped topping, you can easily customize it with any flavoring agents you like. If you're pairing it with frosted crackers, add a sprinkle of nonpareils to make your dip even more fun. Or, add caramel sauce and top with salt for a bit of sweetness and savoriness in every bite.

You can also serve animal crackers on your dessert charcuterie board alongside your favorite sweet dips and spreads, fresh fruit, and pretzels. Your guests will love dipping their cookies in Nutella, peanut butter, or chocolate sauce.

Turn your animal crackers into truffles

Truffles are one food that really gives off the impression that they're hard to make. But in reality, as long as you have cream cheese, chocolate, and something to add pizazz, you can have truffles ready to go for your party in less than an hour or so.

The secret to making a simple animal cracker truffle at home is to crush the cookies into small but still discernable pieces before mixing them with the cream cheese. Then, you'll need to let the truffles harden in the fridge before coating them in melted chocolate and any garnishes you'd like.

You can also stick more to the traditional truffle recipe and forego the cream cheese entirely. This recipe, although trickier, involves cooking down a mixture of milk, water, sugar, and cocoa powder together before thickening and stirring in the cookie pieces. It yields a more decadent truffle, which complements the vanilla notes of the crackers well.

Include them in your brownies and blondies

Brownies and blondies are delicious — there's no question about it. But there are several different ways to take your basic dessert to a new level with the help of a bag of animal crackers. There are several methods for integrating these cookies into your brownies and blondies. You can layer them on top of your brownie batter to add a bit of textural contrast to your bars. Try encasing the top of the bars with cookie dough to take your treat a step further. It will be like having three desserts in one! 

Alternatively, pour your batter into the pan and gently press your whole animal crackers into the bars. The biggest issue with these treats, though, is that the crackers in the bars will stale faster than the brownies and blondies around them. So, they're a great party treat as long as they can be eaten within a day rather than kept around for the week.

Make bite-sized animal cracker ice cream sandwiches

There is something both whimsical and delicious about a classic ice cream sandwich. You can pair so many different flavors of ice cream with different types of cookies and bases. Granted, animal crackers are smaller in size than other types of cookies, so these treats are going to be bite-sized.

You can easily prep your ice cream for your sandwiches by scooping it with a small cookie scoop or spoon and freezing it until it's solid ahead of time. When you're ready to assemble, gently sandwich the frozen ice cream balls between the crackers. You can also roll the sandwiches in toppings like sprinkles, colored sugar, and more to add a bit of color and textural contrast. These treats are great for serving at a party and are relatively easy to pop in your mouth and enjoy.

You can also swap out your ice cream with frosting for a take on a classic sandwich cookie. It's a bit easier to handle than a frozen filling, especially in the warmer months. No matter what you add in between your crackers, we can assure you it will be delicious.

Swap them for vanilla wafer cookies in your banana pudding

Banana pudding is a classic Southern dessert made with layers of vanilla pudding, sliced bananas, and, traditionally, vanilla wafer cookies. Give your recipe a facelift by swapping out the vanilla wafers for animal crackers instead. The vanilla wafers and the animal crackers have a similar vanilla flavor, though we find the animal crackers have a bit more distinguished (and desirable) crunch. 

The key to assembling a good banana pudding is to not make it too far in advance. The layers of pudding, whipped topping, and other wet additions will cause your cookies to go soggy and disrupt the sublime balance of textures in the dessert. There is an easy way to fix this issue, but it will require some foresight. You can assemble all the components ahead of time and leave them separate. Then, stack them right on top of one another just before serving the dish. This upgraded banana pudding is a great recipe for individual servings or a pièce de résistance at a party. 

Throw animal crackers into a snack mix

Life is like a bag of snack mix; you never know what you're gonna get. Okay, maybe that wasn't the original quote from "Forrest, but you get the picture.

Snack mixes are a combination of sweet or savory treats that taste better when eaten together than alone. For example, a bag of crispy, generic-brand Cheetos can lose its desirability after awhile, but when combined with tortilla chips, pretzels, popcorn, and more, it's more palatable.

Adding animal crackers to a snack mix doesn't mean just adding these slightly sweet cookies to the bag of Chex Mix you got from the corner store. You can instead make a sweet version of puppy chow that invites animal crackers to the party. Toss your Chex cereal, chopped animal crackers, and other ingredients like chocolate candies or sandwich cookies into a bag with melted peanut butter and chocolate. Then, add a bit of powdered sugar to the mix for the puppy chow's signature white coating. The peanut butter and chocolate will make you forget about the animal crackers (in a good way), while the other textures in the puppy chow will make for a different bite each time. 

Crush and add them to your Rice Krispies treats

The only thing more nostalgic than pink and white frosted animal crackers is a Rice Krispies treat. These sticky, saccharine mixtures of melted marshmallows, butter, and rice cereal are about as delicious as it gets. You can easily take this recipe to new heights by fusing these two nostalgic foods. 

You'll want to start by crushing your frosted animal crackers into small pieces using a food processor or the old-fashioned bag-and-rolling-pin method. Stir the cookies into the melted marshmallows with the cereal, then shape the mixture in a separate lined baking pan. You can take these bars to a new level by adding an extra dose of sprinkles or coating them in a layer of pink and white candy melts.

Like other recipes, Rice Krispies (especially ones with cookie pieces) don't tend to keep well after several days. Pop them in an airtight container and enjoy them as fast as you can.

Layer animal crackers in your trifle

A trifle is one of the most underappreciated desserts when it comes down to versatility. You can go all out on the chocolate front, with decadent chunks of devil's food cake, chocolate pudding, and chocolate sauce, or stick to something summery and sweet with strawberries. But whatever recipe you decide on making, consider adding animal crackers to the mix.

Trifle typically contains a layer of cake, for which you can easily swap out whole with roughly chopped animal crackers. You won't have the same plush bite as a sponge cake; these crackers will be a little more resistant to getting soggy than a standard sponge. You can also make an entirely separate layer in the trifle with the cookies and add extra as a garnish on top. Like other pudding desserts, you should expect that these crackers will get soggy after a while, so assembling it as close to serving will ensure a delicious texture.

Use them as a topping for your ice cream

There are tons of unique ice cream toppings to add to your sundae or stuff into your waffle cone. From decadent caramel sauce to crunchy potato chips, there's seemingly no wrong way to add pizazz to your frozen treat. But you can always skip the arduous process of reinventing the wheel and add a sprinkle of chopped animal crackers to your ice cream treat.

Animal crackers, particularly the plain ones, aren't inherently sweet, but they sure are crunchy. This textural contrast is not something found in a lot of ice cream toppings — aside from the painfully frozen chocolate chunks that make your molars hurt.

Kids will also appreciate diving into a towering scoop of bright pink ice cream topped with crushed frosted animal crackers, which makes this a family-friendly topping. You can also take this addition a step further and include crushed pieces to your milkshake. Just give the cookies, milk, and ice cream a whirl in the blender to combine them into a sweet, confectionary slurry.

Add animal crackers to your candy bark

Candy bark is one recipe that you should never sleep on. Essentially, this sweet can be a disposal for whatever menagerie of ingredients you have in your pantry. Nuts? Great, throw them in. Granola that you forgot was back there? That's wonderful to include. Animal crackers that you have far, far too many of? Sounds yummy.

The preparation steps for this recipe are relatively simple, too. Just layer melted chocolate on a lined baking sheet and gently push your tasty ingredients into it while it's still molten. After the chocolate has sufficiently hardened, you can satisfyingly break it into tiny shards and enjoy. The only real cooking for this recipe is in the melting of the chocolate, and the variety you choose can be tailored to whatever chocolate intensity you're after. White chocolate bark with pieces of frosted animal cookies, colorful M&Ms, and a swirl of rainbow candy melts is something that little kids dream about — and it makes for a great party favor.

Stir animal cookies into your cookie dough

The most creative uses for animal crackers don't have to be that out-of-the-box. One of the simplest ways to use up your leftover crackers is to add them to your next batch of homemade cookie dough. First, grab a cutting board and chop your animal crackers into small pieces. Then, stir them into your cookie dough before you portion the balls, along with other additions like nuts or chocolate.

Plain animal crackers can make great kitchen sink cookies when paired with oatmeal, chocolate chips, pretzels, and more. It's like a sweet snack mix in every bite! If you only have the frosted version on hand, you can easily whip up the treat by pairing a basic sugar cookie with animal cracker chunks. This cracker is sweet enough on its own, but you could add white chocolate chips and colorful sprinkles to your dough to add texture and a boost of color.

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.