Cookie Swap for Crumb Pie Crusts

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2013

Can any cookie type be substituted for graham crackers in crumb crusts for pies?

Crumb crusts slump when there is too much fat or sugar in the mixture, either from the cookies or from the added butter and sugar in the recipe. Therefore, we figured the key to finding a graham cracker substitute would be identifying cookies that contain a similar combined weight of fat and sugar relative to the total weight of the cookies—around 35 percent. Still, we rounded up options with varying levels just to be sure. Our lineup included gingersnaps, Lorna Doone shortbread, Nilla Wafers, and animal crackers, all of which we used in our standard graham cracker crust recipe (see Lemon Chiffon Pie under related content).

The numbers didn’t lie. Animal crackers, which contain about 39 percent fat and sugar, produced sturdy, even crusts. Meanwhile, crusts made with gingersnaps, Lorna Doones, and Nilla Wafers slid down the sides of the pie plate—no surprise, since the combined fat and sugar content of these cookies is considerably higher: between 45 and 57 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: Animal crackers make a fine substitute in graham cracker crust recipes, but for any other option, be sure to use a recipe that’s engineered to work with that particular cookie.