Learn how to make your own gluten free graham cracker crust and a whole world of easy pies of all sizes is within reach!
Do you have to make your own graham crackers?
I'm happy to answer this with one word: no. I always have a few emergency boxes of packaged gluten free graham crackers in my pantry. Simply put, there are times when I just don't have the time to make my own cookies and the rest of the dessert.
My gluten free son loves anything with a graham cracker crust, so I try to keep a batch of my homemade gluten free graham crackers around. They really do taste just like Nabisco, and I'll often make a double batch.
I keep one batch whole, wrap them tightly and freeze them. That allows me to make desserts like the decadent no-bake banana split or our no-bake chocolate eclair cake. The other batch I process into crumbs and keep in a sealed glass container on my counter. Either I'll make them into a crust, or sprinkle some over a smoothie bowl or yogurt—if I'm feeling generous.
Even though I rarely use the store-bought crackers, I'm super grateful that there are now enough brands of gluten free graham crackers that it's possible to buy them. My current favorite packaged gluten free graham cracker brand is Schar. They're not as good as homemade (what really is?), but they're great in a pinch!
How to use these gluten free graham cracker crusts
I've made so many graham cracker crusts over the years, both baked and unbaked, and used them in too many cheesecakes to count. In fact, many of the best no bake gluten free desserts on this blog are made using this no-bake graham cracker crust.
My favorite recipe that uses a no-bake graham cracker crust has to be our no-bake strawberry cheesecake. The filling is made with strawberries, cream cheese, and whipped cream sugar and just a bit of gelatin. It's so quick and easy, and it's become a favorite of many of yours over the years.
You'd also love our no-bake chocolate pudding pie with a chocolate cookie version of the no-bake recipe below. The no-bake variety is also great when you aren't even looking for the crust to lift out of its container at all in anything other than a spoonful, like our lemon meringue pie in jars.
You can also use the no-bake crust as the base for a baked recipe. Our key lime pie squares are a stunning example of how well that works.
Which graham cracker crust is better, baked or no-bake?
The crust in the photo at the top of this post (and the one just below) is the baked graham cracker crust. It's very stable, even at warm room temperature, although a no-bake graham cracker crust is most stable when chilled.
I like having the option of using a baked graham cracker crust in desserts that need some extra stability from the crust. That's often the case with no-bake recipes like our s'mores pies, but it can come in handy when you're making something quite small, like our cheesecake cookie cups.
A no-bake graham cracker crust simply will not work in a standard miniature muffin tin (ask me how I know that for certain). It will fall apart as you try to get each crust out of its well of the pan.
The smallest size well from which I have ever successfully removed an intact no bake cookie crust is 6 well cake panel pan from USA Pans (you see in the photo just above). And even then, you'll need to add an unbleached parchment paper sling to the bottom—and don't chill the crusts too much or they will become brittle and crack when you try to remove them.
The best feature of the baked crust is its flexibility. Because it's so stable, you can use it to make very small confections, and even lift it right out of a pie plate after it's been baked and cooled.
Then, fill the crust with something warm or cold. Just be sure not to overbake the baked crust and it will cut easily with a fork when you serve it.
Ingredients and substitutions
My recipe for homemade gluten free graham crackers is naturally dairy-free, but it does call for one egg. Here's all I know about how to make this recipe friendly for people who have additional dietary restrictions.
Dairy-free: Make sure the graham crackers you are using are dairy free. The butter in either variety of this recipe can be replaced with half (by weight) Earth Balance buttery sticks and half (by weight) Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. You might also be able to use all Melt brand vegan butter, or Miyoko's Kitchen brand vegan butter.
Egg-free: There is one egg in my recipe for homemade Nabisco-style gluten free graham crackers, but in that recipe post, I have some suggestions for how to replace it so please click through for that information. The no-bake recipe below is naturally egg-free. You can try using a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel) in the baked recipe, but I'm afraid I haven't tried it so you'll have to experiment.
Gluten Free Graham Cracker Crust — 2 Ways
For the baked graham cracker crust
1 1/2 cups (300 g) gluten free graham crackers (I used my homemade gluten free graham crackers)
4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
For the no-bake graham cracker crust
1 3/4 cups (350 g) gluten free graham crackers (again, my homemade version is my favorite)
8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, melted
To make the baked crust, preheat your oven to 300°F. Grease an oven-safe pie pan, standard 12-cup muffin tin, or cake panel pan, and set it aside. Place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or a relatively powerful blender. The less power your machine has, the more you should break the graham crackers by hand into smaller pieces. Process until the cookies have become small, soft crumbs. In a medium-size bowl, place the graham cracker crumbs and create a well in the center with a spoon. In the center of the well, add the melted butter and beaten egg, and mix to combine. The mixture will not be very wet, but will hold together when squeezed in a fist.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pie pan and, using clean fingers, press into an even layer across the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan. I find it helpful to place a piece of unbleached parchment paper on top of the crust and then press the mixture into a smooth layer with the palms of my hands before removing the paper. If you’re using a muffin tin or cake panel pan, divide the mixture evenly among the wells and press each into the wells in a similar manner. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until slightly puffed and matte-looking all the way in the center (about 10 minutes for a full pie; about 8 minutes for a standard muffin tin; about 9 minutes for a cake panel pan. If the crust has developed bubbles, you can pop them carefully with a toothpick but they will settle down as the crust cools. Allow the crust to cool completely in the pan at room temperature before filling however you’d like.
To make the no-bake crust, grease very lightly an oven-safe pie pan or cake panel pan and set it aside. If you’re using a cake panel pan, for each well, cut a piece of unbleached parchment paper that is about 1-inch wide and long enough to cross the center of the well and up each side. This will act as a sling to help you remove the crusts when you’re ready. If you’d like to make very small crusts, you’ll need a mini cheesecake pan with removable bottoms in each well. Place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or a relatively powerful blender. The less power your machine has, the more you should break the graham crackers by hand into smaller pieces. Process until the cookies have become small, soft crumbs. In a medium-size bowl, place the graham cracker crumbs and create a well in the center with a spoon. In the center of the well, add the melted butter and mix to combine. The mixture will be quite wet.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pie pan or divide the mixture evenly among the wells of the cake panel pan and place on top of each parchment paper sling. Using clean fingers, press the mixture into an even layer across the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pie pan or each well of the cake panel pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes. If you’d like to fill the whole pie shell right away, do so and proceed with the instructions for the pie recipe you are following. If you’d like to fill the crusts in the cake panel pan right away, run a dull knife around the edge of each crust and pull on each tab to loosen each crust from the pan. Either remove the crusts and freeze or refrigerate them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or fill the crusts and proceed with the instructions for the pie recipe you are following.
If I am making bars with a graham cracker crust, should I use the recipe for the baked crust and pre-bake it before topping with the other ingredients (sweetened condensed milk, coconut, chocolate chips, and M&Ms) and baking again with the ingredients on top? Or, should I use the recipe for the baked crust, but add the toppings without pre-baking the crust, and then bake it?
Nicole Hunn says
Good question, Sherry! It really depends upon the recipe that you’re using for the topping/filling. You should select the crust based upon the criteria in this blog post As far as how to prepare it, I’d say follow the instructions in the recipe you’re using. If the recipe you’re using doesn’t call for baking the filling and you want to use the baked crust in this recipe, bake it and then fill.
Dream a Sue Beasley says
Leigh, thank both of you for sharing this idea to grind the graham crackers right away. I have that same problem with hubby eating my ingredients.
Nicole Hunn says
That’s so funny, Dream a Sue! Maybe because my kitchen is my workspace, or because he works long hours, but my husband doesn’t steal things from the kitchen (at least that I know of). My children on the other hand… There are 3 of them, though, so it’s super hard to figure out who is responsible for what. I try to keep small treats like Hershey’s kisses around, though, to make them less likely to steal the homemade stuff before I’m done with it…
Why didn’t I ever think to grind the graham crackers right away? Even when I hide them, hubby always finds and eats them! Thanks for the great recipes and the tip!
Nicole Hunn says
Hahaha good point, Leigh!