One of my favorite things is recreating store bought treats I used to love as a child but with a healthier twist. Like these fig newtons (both in cookie and bar form), graham crackers, Lofthouse-like sugar cookie bars, and even healthy-ish marshmallows! There are few things that bring me back to my childhood more than Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies. (On this same level would be Cinnamon Pop Tarts, Gushers, and Honey Bunches of Oats cereal – in case you were wondering.) There was something so exciting about opening a bag of the adorably shaped circus animals covered in bright pink and white coating and adorned with ample festive rainbow sprinkles. Even now, just describing them, I am filled with a joy that only nostalgia can elicit. And these Healthy Homemade Circus Animal Cookies are sure to bring as big a smile to your face. They are just as fun to eat, incredibly delicious, and better-for-you!
My Healthy Homemade Circus Animals cookies taste super similar to the originals! They are sweet, crisp, and buttery little cookies cut into fun circus animal shapes, coated with a super simple (vegan) white chocolate coating, and adorned with fun sprinkles. While there are a few steps to creating these fun cookies, they are actually simple enough to make and definitely worth it! Plus, I suspect, these would be a fun baking project to make with kids! The dough comes together in a breeze – it’s made with only 8 ingredients and in one bowl. (In fact, the whole recipe is made with only 10 ingredients!) Once the dough is whipped up, it’s wrapped up in parchment paper, and placed in the freezer for 15-20 for an express chilling. Then it’s swiftly rolled out, placed back in the freezer for just 10 minutes to firm up while the oven heats, then cut into shapes and baked! While the cookies cool, the frosting is made by simply melting vegan white chocolate chips and a little coconut oil. The cookies get dipped into the coating, topped with fun sprinkles, and that’s it! Once the coating sets, they are ready to enjoy! I found this cute set of circus animal cookie cutters on Amazon that really reminded me of the original shapes, but feel free to cut your cookies into any shape you like!
While I loved the original Circus Animals, there was always a funny aftertaste and odd coating that would linger after the fact, likely due to the plethora of science-derived ingredients. Here’s a list of the original ingredients:
My version of these cookies is made without any weird stuff – no refined oils, sugars, preservatives or artificial food colorings! And, because they are made with simple real ingredients they taste even better than the original! They are paleo-friendly meaning they have no gluten, grain, or lactose. Plus, they are nut-free! Here’s a quick look at the ingredients:
Ghee – I don’t often bake with ghee because it’s a bit pricey and prefer using avocado or coconut oil. But, for these cookies, to achieve a good dough that would easily roll out, hold it’s shape when baked, and give the cookies that crisp but buttery texture a more solid fat was necessary. Enter ghee. Ghee is a clarified butter so it does not contain casein or lactose which means people who normally cannot tolerate dairy (like me) can typically enjoy ghee. You can easily substitute the ghee for real butter or a vegan butter substitute.
Coconut Sugar – My favorite granular sweetener for healthier baking and keeping treats refined sugar free. I use and love Nutiva’s organic coconut sugar and found this to be the best pricing for excellent quality coconut sugar. The coconut sugar gives these cookies a delicious depth of flavor from the inherent caramel notes and a wonderful texture.
Cassava Flour & Tapioca Flour – This combination of unrefined flours is the most similar to white flour I’ve found all while being gluten and grain free! I use and love Otto’s Cassava Flour, which I have found to be cheapest on Amazon. And use Bob’s Red Mill for the tapioca flour.
Vanilla – This is the ingredient that provides most of the flavor to these cookies, so I recommend using a good quality vanilla. My favorite vanilla is by Frontier Co-op, but it’s a bit spendy, and I go through a fair amount of it, so I most often buy the Whole Food’s 365 Brand organic vanilla which is also pretty good!
Vegan White Chocolate Chips – The coating of these cookies is made from simply melting vegan white chocolate chips with a little coconut oil. I used these vegan White Baking Chips by Pascha but any vegan or traditional white chocolate chips or bar chopped into chunks will do.
Sprinkles – Of course these need sprinkles! The original cookies are topped with rainbow nonpareils (the little tiny ball sprinkles) and these Rainbow Pop! sprinkles by Supernatural are the perfect naturally dyed option. Unfortunately they are currently sold out on Amazon, so my next suggestion would be their Starfetti blend.
Beet Powder – To achieve the pink color without any artificial dyes, I add a small amount of beet powder to the vanilla coating. This is optional and really just for appearance. The beet powder does not give any flavor to the cookies. Feel free to make your coating all pink or just keep it all plain white!
These cookies are such a fun and delicious treat that you can feel good about eating. Which, if you ask me, is just the best kind of win-win situation. I feel safe in saying that once you make these, your inner child will thank you (and your responsible adult self too).
paleo friendly (gluten/grain/lactose free), nut free, refined sugar free
If you make this recipe, please leave a review or rating down below. And I’d LOVE to see your creation! Please tag me on Instagram @freshlydafna and use #freshlydafna.
Healthy Homemade Circus Animal Cookies
Frosted Animal Cookies that are just as delicious as the store bought version but made with simple, real ingredients! A crisp, buttery cookie coated in a simple vegan white chocolate and topped with naturally dyed sprinkles.
paleo-friendly (gluten, grain, lactose free), refined sugar free, nut free
- 1 cup cassava flour (148 grams)
- 1/2 cup tapioca flour (60 grams)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (3 grams)
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt (2 grams)
Make sure there is space in your freezer to accommodate a rectangular piece of rolled out dough.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl if mixing by hand, beat together the wet ingredients until thick and creamy.
Add in the dry ingredients and stir until just fully incorporated.
Form the dough into a ball and place on a piece of parchment paper and wrap tightly. Place in the freezer to firm for 15-20 minutes or in fridge for two hours.
After the dough has chilled, remove from freezer/fridge, place the dough between two large pieces of parchment paper, sprinkle the dough with a bit more tapioca flour, and roll out into a rectangular 1/2 inch thick. If the dough has been left to chill for longer, it may need to warm up a little on the counter for 2-3 minutes before it's malleable to roll out.
Once the dough has been rolled out, place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm again. This helps with the next phase of cutting the cookies. Use a large cutting board or baking sheet to help transfer the dough to and from the freezer.
While the rolled out dough chills, heat the oven to 360 degrees (yes, 360) and prepare a baking sheet by lining with a silpat or parchment paper.
Once the dough has chilled use the cookie cutters to cut out the cookie shapes and arrange on the baking sheet. Leaving about 1/2 inch between cookies. Once all the dough has been cut, reform the dough into a ball, roll out again, and if necessary, place back in the freezer to firm again before stamping out the cookies. Repeat until all the dough has been used.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown all over and slightly puffed.
Let cookies cool on the baking sheet and prepare the white chocolate coating.
Melt the white chocolate and coconut oil over a double boiler or in the microwave in a medium bowl using short 10-15 second bursts. Once the chips have melted, add the vanilla and stir until smooth and shiny. Let cool slightly.
Coat the cookies by placing in the white chocolate mixture, turn cookie over until it's fully covered, lift out with a fork and tap the side of the bowl gently to allow excess coating to drip off, place on parchment lined baking sheet and top with sprinkles. Repeat until all cookies are coated.
Optional: If you want to make half (or the whole) batch pink either: split the coating into two bowls after it's melted and add the beet root powder to one bowl. Start with 3/8 tsp of beet root powder and add additional 1/8 tsp until it becomes your desired color. The amount used with depend on your preference and the type of beet root you use as colors can range widely between brands. OR keep all the coating in one bowl, coat half the cookies, then add the beet root powder to remaining coating to save cleaning an additional bowl.
Once the coating has set, cookies are ready to enjoy! Vegan white chocolate has a lower melting point so I highly recommend storing these cookies in the fridge or freezer!
Freshly Dafna is now on Pinterest! Save all your favorite recipes by pinning this image!
This post may contain affiliate links. Any product I choose to include is one that I’m currently using and loving. If you do choose to purchase these products, I may earn a commission, which helps support my site and the free content I provide.