Vegan Frosted Animal Crackers

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Frosted animal crackers with a healthier vegan twist! Gluten-free shortbread cookies with a hint of cinnamon, naturally-dyed pink glaze, and lots of rainbow sprinkles make these homemade circus animals fun to make and so yummy to eat. Perfect to make with kids, or as a sweet childhood throwback recipe!


This is undoubtedly the most fun recipe I’ve created in a while. Not to say they didn’t take quite a bit of trial and error to sort out the perfect crunchy cookie or the perfect food-coloring-free pink frosting, but when the test batches involve sweet little edible elephants and giraffes it’s somehow much less arduous a job. The rainbow-sprinkled zoo you are looking at is probably batch number seven (eight? I’ve lost count…), but let me tell you they are a perfect cookie pack/herd. So let the DIY childhood treat copycat baking begin!

How To: Homemade Circus Animal Cookies

We are pulling quite a few qualities from the original circus animal cookies – sweet shortbread cookie, subtle cinnamon spice, some of the same creatures, and of course the classic pink glaze and tiny sprinkles. But we are also making a few swaps and tweaks – vegan and gluten-free shortbread cookie, beet-dyed glaze, homemade with love touch, as many sprinkles as your heart desires.

Making The Vegan Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie

I have a go-to grain-free shortbread recipe that I love, but it’s not super roll/cutout-able. So we veered quite a bit away from that recipe, and ended up with a one-bowl, no-chill, easy to work with shortbread dough that is perfect for animal crackers (and other cookie creations!) You will need:

  • Organic SunButter. That’s right, this is a moist “buttery” shortbread recipe without butter or even dairy-free butter because we have SunButter. Any of their creamy varieties will be fine here, but personally I love the Organic jar because it is unsweetened and salt-free. Ingredients: Organic Roasted Sunflower Seed. That’s it!
  • Avocado oil. I tried MANY batches with coconut oil and the coconut oil solidified and sank to the bottom when I rolled the dough out and made them spread weird and just…wasn’t good. Avocado oil worked 1000x better, vegetable oil or melted vegan butter would be fine too.
  • Cane sugar. You could try with coconut sugar, but for authenticity’s sake I went with cane sugar.
  • Agave or maple syrup. Yep, we are using a combo of sweeteners for this recipe. Honey works too if not vegan.
  • Vanilla extract.
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg. The traditional animal cracker uses mace, but nutmeg is close enough. And a little cinnamon, not too much.
  • Salt. As every sweet cookie needs.
  • Baking powder. You’ll notice there is no leavener in this recipe because a) it’s a shortbread and b) SunButter + baking powder/soda = green cookies which is NOT what we are going for here.

Making The Naturally Pink Glaze

I had a few different ideas for the pink coloring – berries, dragonfruit, beet powder, beets, or food coloring. Any of the above would probably work, but I opted for beets and it turned out beautifully. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Grate and “juice” the raw beet. I used a microplane to grate and just a paper towel to squeeze out the juice. a nut milk bag would work even better.
  2. Whisk together powder sugar, water, and cornstarch. The starch is there to help the glaze set faster and reduce dripping off the cookies, you can skip it.
  3. Add the beet juice (or your coloring of choice).
  4. Dip your baked/cooled animal cookies.

You could also skip the pink entirely and just glaze in white with rainbow sprinkles. Still sweet, still cute, still very sprinkle-able.

Tips For Perfect Frosted Animal Crackers

  1. Get the right cookie cutters. It’s pretty tricky to pull off this recipe without the proper cookie cutters, but the set I used are available on amazon for less that $10. There are other fancier cookie press sets, but you really don’t need that since we are going to glaze them anyways.
  2. Use plenty of flour when you roll out the dough. Otherwise cookies will stick, cookies will break, lion legs will be lost, and we don’t want that.
  3. Let the cookies cool completely before glazing. Otherwise the glaze will heat up/melt/run off too much, chilling the cookies before glazing is even better. When you dip, be sure to shake off the extra and still place on a wire rack so any excess can drip off.

More Childhood Throwback Recipes You’ll Love

  • Vegan Cosmic Brownies
  • Copycat Vegan Hostess Cupcakes
  • Homemade Vegan Fruit Snacks
  • Copycat Kudos Granola Bars
  • Homemade Zebra Cakes


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Vegan Frosted Animal Crackers

5 from 1 reviews

  • Author: Natalie
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 38 minutes
  • Yield: 60 cookies 1x
  • Category: cookies
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: american

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Frosted animal crackers with a healthier vegan twist! Gluten-free shortbread cookies with a hint of cinnamon, naturally-dyed pink glaze, and lots of rainbow sprinkles make these homemade circus animals fun to make and so yummy to eat. Perfect to make with kids, or as a sweet childhood throwback recipe!



  • 1 cup (125g) gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (125g) Organic SunButter
  • 1/4 cup (50g) avocado oil*
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (110g) cane sugar
  • 3 tbsp (60g) agave or maple syrup


  • 1 1/2 cup (180g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch**
  • 23 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp beet juice (or a few drops red food coloring)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat together SunButter, avocado oil, vanilla, sugar, and agave with a hand mixer until well combined.
  3. Add dry ingredients, and beat again until it starts to ball together into a slightly sticky dough.
  4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Cut out cookies with mini animal cookies cutters, fitting in as many as possible. Re-roll dough and cut out more cookies. I got about 60 total.
  5. Use a spatula to carefully transfer cookies to the lined pans, leaving a bit of space in between.
  6. Bake 8-9 minutes at 350°F, until just brown around the edges. Cool 15 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


  1. Grate the raw beet with a microplane. Squeezing the grated beet in a towel to get out as much juice as possible (you only need one tablespoon).
  2. Whisk together glaze ingredients until smooth and drizzle-able.
  3. Dip each (cooled) cookie in glaze, then place back on the wire rack to let the excess drip off.
  4. Top with rainbow sprinkles.
  5. Allow the glaze to dry for 30-60 minutes, or until dry and hard to the touch.
  6. Enjoy! Store in an airtight container, preferably in the fridge.


*Or another neutral flavored oil, not coconut. You could also use melted dairy-free butter.

**Optional, helps the glaze thicken/set faster and not drip as much. You can sub tapioca or arrowroot

Keywords: gluten free, homemade, diy, copycat, glaze, icing, pink, sprinkles, beet, shortbread, healthy, dessert, kids

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