Sometimes, you just need some vanilla wafers.
Whether you’re whipping up a banana pudding for the family reunion, making a key lime pie for your best friend’s birthday party, or are simply looking for a crunchy cookie to satisfy your sweet tooth, there’s nothing quite like the classic Nilla Wafer.
But what do you do when you don’t have any handy?
You could run out to the store and buy some—but that’s not always feasible.
If it’s late at night or on the weekend, you might not be able to get your hands on any fresh vanilla wafers.
If you’re in a rural area (or just in a place that doesn’t keep vanilla wafers stocked), you might not be able to find them at all.
Or if you’re trying to avoid sugar and are looking for a more natural substitute, there might not be any healthy options available in your local market.
But don’t worry!
There are plenty of alternatives to vanilla wafers out there—you just have to know which ones to look for.
Here are 24 of our favorites!
24 Substitutes for Vanilla Wafers
When you try to find substitutes for vanilla wafers, it can be hard to find one that will truly give you the same experience.
It might seem straightforward—it’s just a cookie, after all—but when you break down just what makes vanilla wafers special, you start to appreciate just how difficult it is to find a good substitute!
So, what’s the best substitute for vanilla wafers?
The best substitute for vanilla wafers, or Nilla Wafers, is graham crackers. Graham crackers have a similar crunch to vanilla wafers, but with a little bit of sweetness on the tongue. They are available in a variety of different flavors, including honey and cinnamon.
You can easily find them in any grocery store.
If you would like a vegan substitute for vanilla wafers, consider trying dark chocolate!
As dark chocolate has no dairy, it is completely vegan.
Still looking for options?
Then keep scrolling!
1. Animal Crackers
These are great because they come in so many different shapes, from lions to zebras to elephants to bears; so your dessert can be customized for any occasion or holiday (just save the pink ones for Valentine’s Day!).
Also, they have a subtle sweetness that is not at all overpowering when dipped in chocolate—a win-win!
They’re small, crunchy, and delicious, and you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry.
Chocolate chip cookies are a classic cookie flavor, and if you’re looking for a substitute that’s just as tasty as vanilla wafers but can be made at home, they’re a great option.
And they’re so simple to make!
All you need is butter, sugar, egg, vanilla extract, flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips.
Bake them at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes (or however long it takes until the edges are golden brown), let them cool slightly on the pan before moving them to a rack to finish cooling (if you can wait that long!), and enjoy.
If you’re trying to avoid refined sugar or dairy products, there are also plenty of vegan options out there.
Graham cracker crumbs are another great substitute for vanilla wafers.
Unlike the ginger snap crumbs above, however, these do require a food processor to make—if you crush graham crackers with anything less than an electric appliance, they’ll turn into graham cracker dough rather than crumbs.
So if you plan on using graham cracker crumbs as a substitute for vanilla wafer crumbs, make sure you’ve got your blender or food processor handy!
These are a great substitute for vanilla wafers in banana pudding.
They’re not as dry as vanilla wafers, which means they won’t soak up all the liquid in your pudding if you make it ahead of time.
You’ll still get that buttery flavor and chewy texture you’d expect from cookie-based treats.
These little guys are super portable, too—you can just grab them and go.
They won’t fall apart in your hand like some cookies do, so they’re great to take with you on a road trip or eat while driving (ahem, but not while driving).
Sugar cookies are also super customizable: sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar before baking for a new twist on an old favorite, or add chopped nuts for a little extra crunch.
And of course, if you want to get really creative, try rolling them out thin and using cookie cutters to make fun shapes!
If you’re craving that classic shortbread flavor, shortbread cookies are the way to go.
They’re perfect for any tea-time snack: add some strawberry jam for extra sweetness and a soft, chewy texture.
Plus, unlike vanilla wafers that tend to leave crumbs on your fingers and face when you eat them (especially if they’re stale), shortbread cookies don’t crumble as much—and they’re more filling than those little wafers.
6. Cookie crumbles
The easiest way to replicate the crunchy texture of vanilla wafers is to just crumble them into pieces, like you would with graham cracker crumbles.
They’re great on their own (just like vanilla wafers), and you can use them as a topping for just about anything: pies, ice cream, pudding, yogurt parfaits… you name it!
7. Brownie pieces
If you want something more substantial than vanilla wafer crumbles, brownie pieces are an easy option—and they’re even sweeter!
Try using them as a base for chocolate mousse or decorating your favorite chocolate pie with them.
Ginger snap cookies are a great substitute.
They are similar in size and thickness, meaning that they won’t affect the overall shape of a layered dessert, like a banana cream parfait.
The texture of both vanilla wafers and ginger snap cookies is crunchy, which provides a nice contrast to creamy, smooth pudding.
The flavor profile of ginger snap cookies is decidedly less sweet than vanilla wafers.
However, in addition to milk chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, many puddings are flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg.
These spices pair well with the flavor of ginger snap cookies.
In terms of cost and availability, ginger snap cookies will probably be cheaper than vanilla wafers at your local grocery store.
Additionally, if you’re looking for a gluten-free option or don’t have access to Nabisco products where you live, ginger snaps are an excellent alternative.
Digestive biscuits are similar to graham crackers but with a richer, more complex flavor profile.
They’re made from whole wheat flour and have a crisp, flaky texture that crumbles easily, making them another good choice for pie crusts.
10. Vanilla-flavored yogurt and banana slices
Let’s be honest: the one thing that really makes vanilla wafers stand out is the vanilla flavor, so why not find a different way to get it?
Vanilla-flavored yogurt from your local grocery store or farmers market will hit the spot just as well as the wafers—and it’s a lot better for you since it’s got protein and probiotics!
Top it off with some banana slices and drizzle on some honey for sweetness if you like.
Vanilla wafers have a soft, crumbly texture and a mild and sweet vanilla flavor that’s great for crumbling up in ice cream or as a crunchy layer in pies.
If you’re looking for something with a similar texture and sweetness, why not try out gingerbread cookies?
They have the same soft, crumbly texture, but are even sweeter and more flavorful than vanilla wafers.
To crumble them up for ice cream, just let them cool off on the counter while you eat dinner (or go to the movies or something), then come back and break them up into little pieces.
They’ll be nice and dry by then, so they won’t make your ice cream soggy at all!
Or if you want to use them as a crust for a pie—just crush them up in a mortar and pestle or in a food processor until they’re the right consistency.
You can even add some melted butter to them to help the crumbs stick together before you press it into the bottom of your pie plate.
12. Crushed ginger snaps
Ginger snaps are a wonderful substitute for vanilla wafers, but you need to be sure that you crush them completely before using them in any recipes calling for vanilla wafers.
If you have a food processor, that’s the best tool for this job—it can completely break down the cookies without turning them into powder.
Should you not have one, however, don’t worry!
You can use a mortar and pestle or even a resealable plastic bag and rolling pin.
Once your ginger snaps are fully crushed, you can use them as a base for cheesecakes or any other recipe that calls for vanilla wafer crumbs.
13. Thin mints
Thin mints are another type of cookie that is thin, crunchy, and covered in chocolate.
They have a very strong mint flavor (as the name would suggest).
Who doesn’t like thin mints?
14. Lemon wafers
You can buy these at the store, or make them yourself by just adding lemon juice and zest to your favorite vanilla wafer recipe.
Either way, they make a great base for pies like lemon meringue pie or key lime pie, as well as for other desserts like cheesecakes where you want that sweet-tart flavor combo.
15. Coconut Cookies
These cookies are made with coconut milk and coconut oil.
They are gluten free, dairy free, vegan and eggless.
The texture is very similar to regular Nilla Wafers and the flavor is mildly sweet with a hint of coconut.
They make for a great substitute for Nilla Wafers in any recipe as they hold up well to liquids and other ingredients.
16. Miniature Marshmallows
Toasted marshmallows are heavenly when sprinkled over ice cream or whipped into a frosting.
If your recipe calls for melted vanilla wafers in the ingredient list, try melting some miniature marshmallows instead—just make sure to use less than the recipe calls for, since marshmallows are much sweeter than vanilla wafers!
17. Peanut Butter Pretzels
Peanut butter pretzels are a great substitute for vanilla wafers.
They look a lot like the classic Nilla Wafers—a golden, slightly crispy round cookie with a sprinkle of salt—but they come in different shapes and sizes, including the traditional round and stick-shaped pretzels.
The first thing to mention about peanut butter pretzels is that they’re not all made with peanut butter.
Some brands make them with sunflower seed butter, almond butter, and even regular peanut butter.
You can’t just pick up any box of pretzels at the store and expect it to be a good substitute for Nilla Wafers.
For instance, let’s say you want to make banana pudding.
If you use an almond butter pretzel instead of a Nilla Wafer, you’re going to get a totally different texture and taste than if you used one made with sunflower seed butter or regular peanut butter.
The same goes for cookies: if you’re making thumbprint cookies, or snickerdoodles, you’ll have better results using one of these substitutes instead of trying to use a chocolate biscuit or graham cracker instead.
And then there are Rice Crispy Treats! These are crispy rice treats made with cornflakes, brown sugar, and butter.
As their name suggests, they’re basically like Rice Krispie Treats, only they’re a little bit healthier because they don’t have marshmallow creme or chocolate chips.
If you want something that tastes exactly like Nilla Wafers but doesn’t leave a crumb on your beard afterwards, these are the perfect treats for you!
It’s chewy and tastes like vanilla wafers, but it’s not made with milk or eggs.
Instead, it’s made from buckwheat flour and is gluten-free.
It also has a crunchy texture that makes them more like traditional wafers than the typical version made from flour.
While they don’t taste exactly like vanilla wafers, they’re still great treats!
20. Oreo cookies
You know these!
You love these!
These bad boys are the cookie of your childhood.
If you’re looking to switch things up with a little chocolate, this is the way to go.
Oreo cookies make a decent substitute for vanilla wafers because they’re similar in size and shape.
They also have a similar texture, especially if you’re using them in a recipe that calls for crushed vanilla wafers.
The main difference between Oreos and vanilla wafers is the flavor; Oreos taste like chocolate and vanilla wafers taste like… well… vanilla.
But this can actually be an advantage in certain recipes!
For instance, if you’re making banana pudding with chocolate chips on top of the whipped cream layer, using crushed Oreos instead of crushed vanilla wafers will give your dessert more chocolatey goodness while still maintaining the texture of vanilla wafers.
21. Castella cake
Castella cake is in no way related to vanilla wafers, but if you’d like to find a substitute that is similar in texture and flavor (but not exactly the same), this is a good bet.
Castella cake is known for its incredible texture—it’s soft, yet spongy and light, with a subtle and sweet honey-like taste—and it’s one of the best ingredients you can use if you’re trying to make something similar to Nilla Wafers.
Next up: Ladyfingers.
These are called ladyfingers because they are shaped like… well, fingers!
We promise that if you use these as a substitute for Nilla Wafers you won’t be disappointed.
They are just slightly different in flavor and texture, but overall, using them as a substitute will give you great results (especially if you want to serve something similar to the little sandwiches made with Nilla Wafers).
23. Melba toast
Melba toast is a cracker that has a similar texture and even the same color as vanilla wafers.
You can buy them on Amazon, but it’s unlikely that you don’t have a package in your pantry right now.
Because melba toast is such a popular item, most supermarkets will carry it.
This is a highly versatile option, too.
You can eat it plain or use it in recipes where you would normally use vanilla wafers.
It goes especially well with fruit and cheese.
This dry cookie originally comes from Italy but you can get all kinds of flavors in the United States.
They are crunchy like vanilla wafers, so they make a good substitute when you need something crunchy and sweet in your recipe.
Vegan Substitutes for Vanilla Wafers
If you’re looking for a great vegan substitute for vanilla wafers, we’ve got a few different suggestions for you, so your next snack can be a sweet treat any time you want.
Just make sure you have some bananas on hand before reading this list, because you’ll want to try them all ASAP!
Banana Slices on Graham Crackers
After slicing your banana into thin rounds, lay it out on top of graham cracker pieces and serve!
This is an easy option that’s sure to satisfy your craving.
You can even add some chocolate chips if you want extra flavor (and who doesn’t?).
If you’re not into bananas… no worries!
We’ve got another option below!
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with Almond Milk
This one might sound weird at first, but trust us when we say it works wonders!
Try soaking oats overnight before baking them into delicious cookies—then dip them in almond milk for an added bonus.
The best part about this snack?
It’s super healthy too! Just make sure not to eat too many or else those cookie cravings will never go away…
What’s a Good Vegan Substitute for Vanilla Wafers?
When you’re looking for vegan alternatives to vanilla wafers, there are a few options.
First, you can try to find a vegan version of the traditional kind.
This might be difficult, but some grocery stores stock them.
If this is an option for you, it’s probably the best choice—it’ll taste the most like what you’re used to and have the same texture.
If this isn’t an option for you, though, there are a few others that you can try.
You could either buy or make your own shortbread cookies or graham crackers and serve those with your pudding.
These will have a different flavor (and possibly a different texture) than vanilla wafers, but they’ll still taste good with pudding.
Another option is to swap out the vanilla wafer step in your recipe entirely!
Try making something like strawberry shortcake instead, and using sponge cake instead of vanilla wafers as the base layer—it’s delicious!
You could even combine these ideas and make graham cracker-crusted strawberry shortcake!
There are so many possibilities—give it a shot and see what comes out!
What’s the Best Substitute for Vanilla Wafers in Banana Pudding?
Finding a substitute for vanilla wafers in banana pudding is tricky.
Vanilla wafers are basically the perfect partner to the flavors in banana pudding:
- They’re sweet, but not overpowering
- They’re crisp enough to provide an interesting texture contrast to the pudding, but soft enough to melt into it and become one with their banana-y partner
- They soak up just enough of the milk-based custard to become a little soggy and decadent, without collapsing or turning into mush.
The perfect vanilla wafer should have a slightly moist, buttery crumb that contrasts with its outer shell’s crackly crispness.
It should be tender, but not so much that it disintegrates into dust when you chew.
And it should be dainty—the ideal snack is bite-sized, and the ideal vanilla wafer helps you keep your portions under control by obligingly splitting in half when you bite down.
You can make an acceptable substitute for vanilla wafers by using graham crackers or animal crackers instead.
What’s the Best Gluten-Free Substitute for Vanilla Wafers?
The best gluten-free substitute for vanilla wafers (Nilla Wafers) is a recipe for vanilla wafers made with coconut flour.
Coconut flour is an excellent substitute for wheat flour. It doesn’t have much protein, so it’s not suitable for baking high-protein foods like bread. But it’s ideal for low-protein baking—like cookies, cakes, and wafers.
It’s also a great source of fiber, and it’s incredibly versatile—you can use it in many different kinds of recipes, including stews and curries.
You can experiment a bit with quantities and ingredients to get the right flavor/texture/color that you want. You may find that using more of other ingredients—like butter or vanilla extract—is helpful in getting the right taste and smell.
One of the most popular ones is gluten-free graham crackers—I’m sure you’ve seen these at your local grocery store. They have the same kind of buttery taste and crunchy texture as a Nilla Wafer (at least in my opinion).
Can You Use Ladyfingers as A Substitute for Vanilla Wafers?
Yes, you can use ladyfingers as a substitute for vanilla wafers!
This is a great solution for anybody who doesn’t want to spend the time and energy making homemade vanilla wafers.
They’re also more readily available since you can buy them anywhere from your local supermarket to an online retailer, whereas vanilla wafers are usually only available at grocery stores.
24 Easy Substitutes for Vanilla Wafers
- Animal Crackers
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Graham cracker crumbs
- Sugar cookies
- Shortbread cookies
- Cookie crumbles
- Brownie pieces
- Ginger Snap Cookies
- Digestive biscuits
- Vanilla-flavored yogurt and banana slices
- Gingerbread cookies
- Crushed ginger snaps
- Thin mints
- Lemon wafers
- Coconut Cookies
- Miniature Marshmallows
- Peanut Butter Pretzels
- Rice Crispy Treats
- Oreo cookies
- Castella cake
- Melba toast
- Pick any of the alternatives from this list.
- Prepare the rest of your meal.
- Be ready to munch in no time!