Thursday, October 20, 2011

Homemade, gluten free "Cheez-It" crackers

Normally, there is very little I miss about my former gluten-FULL days.  When you've spent years thinking everything under the sun gave you a tummy ache of some kind, then discover that there's only one culprit and everything else is just dandy, well?  You don't miss that one culprit much at all, even if it means losing out on favorite foods like pizza, cake, and freshly-baked bread.

I used to think that I couldn't eat onions, dairy, anything spicy, anything too sweet, garlic, cilantro...the list goes on.  In reality, my digestive system was so shot that those foods simply exacerbated what was already a constant problem.  Within weeks of giving up gluten, I could eat all of those foods again with no problems at all.  So in reality, by giving up gluten I felt like I could eat more freely than previously.

As time goes on for someone who eats gluten-free, you begin to find great alternatives for foods that you previously missed.  I finally have two go-to's for bread (one store bought, one home made), so I don't miss sandwiches.  I found the best gluten-free bakery ever (The Grainless Baker) for hot dog buns and hamburger buns.  I think my brownie recipe is better than any other brownie recipe out there.  (And when it comes to dessert, most of the time I'm too busy eating things like ice cream or Snickers bars to even miss a piece of cake!)  There's just not really much I miss.  However, there are still a few little foods out there, usually ones connected to some random piece of nostalgia, that make my mouth water wistfully whenever I see them or smell them.

Like Cheez-It crackers.  

A little random, I know.  For me though, Cheez-It crackers are connected to years of school lunches.  While all the other kids had potato chips, I had Cheez-It crackers.  I guess my mom saw them as a better snack alternative because they at least had protein from real cheese.  They were cheaper than Goldfish (another beloved childhood commodity) and they were crunchy, salty and yummy.  

I recently came across a recipe for homemade Goldfish crackers, and I was instantly intrigued.  When I read the recipe, I got excited; I knew I could make it gluten-free.  I've been learning about and experimenting quite a bit with alternative flours, and I knew just the right combination to make this babies good.  I thought, "If they turn out, I'll finally have an easy, homemade cracker for the baby to munch."  That right there was great incentive.

Friends, they turned out.  And they were delicious.  And I may or may not have cried a little.  

Gluten-Free "Cheez-It" Crackers
(Adapted from this recipe.)

8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 TBS cold, cubed butter
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to sprinkle over the tops
2 TBS cold water
3/4 cup sweet rice flour* 
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (you can find this at Wholefoods, or you can omit it, but your crackers might be a bit crumbly)

*A note about sweet rice flour:
Sweet rice flour is a God-send for gluten-free baking.  It is not actually sweet; it is made from a shorter-grain rice that has more starch and makes baked goods hold together better.  I get mine cheap from my local Asian food market. 

Pulse all of the dry ingredients together in a food processor until well combined, then add the water and pulse until the dough comes together.  Chill the dough well; at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator or 10 minutes in the freezer.  Roll the dough out as thin as possible; this is important for a crispy, crunchy cracker.  Use a pizza cutter to make little squares.  Lay the crackers on a non-stick baking sheet and use a fork to poke the tops of each cracker.  (This will help them stay flat.)  Sprinkle with a bit more salt.  Bake at 350 for 7 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake another 7 minutes, or until just golden at the edges.

Why is this not like my regular cheese?
They don't spread, so you barely need to leave any space at all.
Poke those holes!
Looking super yummy while baking.
Best lunch ever!

Sweet Pea LOVED them!
Like, really loved them.   

These were simple, fun and easy.  I made them on a dark, rainy day when we were home sick.  They were the perfect comfort food with soup.  Make them; I promise you won't be disappointed!


  1. I cannot believe you made homemade cheez-its! That is freakin' awesome!! You go, girl!

  2. Anonymous3:56 PM

    I just want to say these are great! They really taste like a cheese it. I have a nine year old daughter that was crying cause she wanted a cheese it (we found out she had celiacs when she was 5). She loved them and I can't thank you enough for helping me make her world as normal and happy as I can. They were real cute I made bunnys, butterflys hearts and squares. It will be a great project for them to make with me since they cut out and keep their shape. Thanks Again
    Kelly in MI

  3. Anonymous8:41 PM

    thank you thank you thank you!!! i just recently went on a gluten free diet and i LOVE these...i giggled when i saw the dough magicly from out of crumbs upon adding the water...and i squeled when i tasted the first ones (: definatley going to need to make a double or triple batch next time though b/c they go fast!!

  4. Anonymous6:54 PM

    Awesome recipe! Really tastes like a Cheez it. I found another recipe and instead of using the corn starch it calls for tapioca starch... I'm curious to see if they will come out just as good but because this one tastes so good I'm not sure if I want to even try switching any ingredients.

    1. I am glad that you liked them! I love them, too. :) The tapioca starch would be good because it might be a bit tackier, but tapioca can add a slightly bitter flavor in baking. It would probably be masked by the cheddar flavor, but maybe not. Might be worth just trying it out! I've also done them now without the xanthan totally don't need it!

  5. Anonymous5:43 PM

    I just made these! I did use 1/8 cup Tapioca and 1/8 cup potato starch (my son can't have corn) and they turned out amazing! I have tried several different recipes and these are the first ones that turned out. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I am so glad! I will try it your way- I've recently cut (okay, reduced...although I should cut!) corn myself. Enjoy! :)

  6. Can't wait to try these! (Your peeps are so cute, BTW!)

  7. Anonymous4:19 PM

    I just tried to make these but it didn't work out. I did everything and then I pulled out the dough to roll it, it was just a bunch of crumbles. I added everything and made sure several times. I even added more water and then when I rolled it out it stuck to the roller and didn't roll well. When I blended the ingredients with the water is it supposed to be stickier and come together more? Mine looked the same after I added the water to the food processor. Also my "dough" was pretty white and not orange like yours. Would appreciate help from anyone.

    1. Aw, bummer! I think maybe you didn't pulse the food processor long enough. It should come together as a dough ball in the processor. Try also adding a touch more water, especially if you are using an extra-sharp cheddar. Maybe up to a tablespoon more. Oh and I've had a hard time rolling them out before, too- I've found that putting the dough in two pieces of plastic wrap is a good trick! Good luck and try again- so much of gluten-free baking is try, try again!

    2. Anonymous12:43 AM

      Forgot to reply earlier, but I did figure it all out thanks to your tips. They were amazing, everyone that tried them said they were the best crackers ever. Now I just need to find some good GF tomato soup. Thanks for the recipe!

    3. I am so glad! I also have an amazing tomato soup recipe if you want it...e-mail me! :)

  8. Anonymous6:10 PM

    Rachel Ray has a chicken tender recipt that my family was wanting to try, but we couldn't until now. THANKS SO MUCH!

  9. this recipe sounds wonderful and my sis is gluten intolerant and both she and myself love cheeze its especially with soup. The cutting has to be tedious but there is a ravioli rolling pin by Norpro it cuts your dough into 1" squares which would work wonderfully with this recipe. Amazon has it for 18 to 24 dollars.I haven't looked on ebay.Funny I just finished making tomato basil soup and had to have cheese its,which make me think I should look for a recipe and found yours,can't wait to try them. Celiac disease can be associated with Hasimotos disease so a thyroid check of your T3 and T4 levels might be in order,don't let your MD just talk you into a TSH level. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and tells your thyroid to produce it.You want to check the actual thyroid produced.

    1. A tip to make the tedium of cutting and transferring easier: get a "silpat" or "expat" or other silicon mat for your baking tray. Roll the cheez-its directly onto the mat and cut them carefully with a butter knife or plastic throw-away knife (sharp knives would cut the silpat). No transferring and no spacing needed!

    2. This is an awesome tip! I have done a roll and scoot on my non-stick flat baking sheet and that worked great, but I've always pushed them away from each other a bit. I'm not even going to bother spacing next time! Thanks!

  10. Hi Taylor! My name is Tommy, i'm GF and these look delicious!!!! I tried a different recipe for GF cheez its, and they were okay... but not as tasty as typical Cheese crackers.

    I have "Better Batter" GF flour mix (you can literally use this flour cup-by-cup for GF recipes that call for many different flours, like the ones you have. Would 1 cup of my flour be equivalent to this recipe?


  11. Hi Tommy! I would probably still go with straight rice flour. I've tried a couple of other flours and mixes for making these and they just didn't turn out right! Other flours can have a stronger flavor than rice and those flavors can mask the taste of the cheese. Also, mixes often have baking soda and baking powder (or even sugar) in them and you don't need those for this recipe. But hey, part of gluten-free cooking is experimenting! So you could always give it a go and see how it turns out! Enjoy!

  12. dee m6:13 PM

    You are a lovely answer to my wishing to have a great gluten free snack!! In the last year, I have been removing all glutens from my diet... such a difference! :) I thoroughly enjoyed the music that is feeding my soul! I can't break away from your page, I just want to hear more and more. :) Where have you been? Why haven't I stumbled on your page before... thank you, thank you... your little one is so precious!

  13. The second batch of GF Cheez Its are in the oven right now. The house smells amazing and I am beyond happy to have these little crackers back in my life again. Thank you for sharing these.

  14. The second batch of these lovely crackers are in the oven as I type this. Thank you for giving me back a simple joy. Hello again Cheez Its! They came out beautifully.

  15. Anonymous1:48 PM

    these are great. I make them all the time for my kiddos. I use ground flax seed as a binder instead of the xanthum gum. It works great and is healthy.

  16. Thanks so much for a great recipe! I am just making them again, and had to leave a comment. They taste so much like I remember Cheez-Its

  17. Thanks so much for a great recipe! I am just making them again, and had to leave a comment. They taste so much like how I remember gluten-free Cheezits tasting. My kids love them!

  18. Anonymous4:26 PM

    Hi. I believe I followed your receipe exactly, but they did not rise up. They are flat, your picture looks like they are puffy. Any idea? Actually, they do taste good anyway.

    Thank you!

  19. Anonymous11:09 AM

    I made these yesterday and they spread a lot. I put an extra table spoon of water because they weren't coming together. I made another batch today and just pulsed a lot longer and they turned out great. Both batches were very tasty though.

  20. Anonymous12:01 PM

    Just found out yesterday I have celiac's extremely bummed about that but I am excited to try your recipe, thank you

  21. Thanks I made these today subbing tapioca starch and potato starch for corn starch. They are really quite delicious.


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