The secret is to use tapioca flour.A reader has let me know that tapioca flour and tapioca starch are the same thing, and the latter is much cheaper. It can be found in most Asian markets and other stores as well. Thank you Lili! If you can wing it in the kitchen, read no farther. You’re on your way.
This is not usually a recipe blog, but it is definitely a concept blog. The concept here is that lots of high value brownie-type dog treats are crumbly and fall apart in your hand, treat bag, or pocket. Ewww. Especially if they are made with cornmeal, but even with wheat or most other flours.
Tapioca flour (or tapioca starch) is the trick. (It’s also grain free, for folks who care about that.) If it is expensive, you can experiment and cut it with some cheaper flour and see how far you can go. My other trick is that you can use all sorts of leftovers instead of one protein source for the treats, including that you can save the voluminous crumbs that many store-bought treats exude.
Here is the general method I follow for brownies.
Easy Brownies for Dogs
Puree in a food processor:
- 1 cup raw or cooked protein (see some suggestions below)
- 1-2 eggs, depending on the moistness of your other ingredients
Put the puree into a bowl and stir in:
- About 1 cup tapioca flour/starch, or a mixture of tapioca and other flour. You may need more or less, depending on your protein sources.
Mix well. It will stay a little sticky, but if it is too sticky to handle, add more flour. Toss it between your hands to make a patty and plot it into a greased pan. Bake at 350F for about 15-20 minutes. Longer if you used raw ingredients.
This is what went in mine (pictured below), just to give you some ideas:
- 1/3 cup leftover meat from fajitas: beef, chicken, even a shrimp
- a few french fries
- 1/2 cup crumbs from commercial dog treats: mostly Natural Balance dog food roll and Stella and Chewies dehydrated raw treats, both of which crumble massively
- 1 tablespoon leftover Parmesan cheese crumbs
The mixture I used above yielded brownies that actually smelled like bacon. I think that was from the smoky flavor of the Natural Balance dog food roll. It wasn’t a terrible smell, and the dogs loved them. I have also made some very mild ones with chicken breast and a dollop of peanut butter. Those even smell kind of good to me!
The very easiest version is to use a can of tuna or salmon. Usually in that case I would use just one egg. You still need to puree it.
Even with the high-priced tapioca flour, these are far cheaper than any commercial treats that are this high value. And so much more pleasant to carry around.
Here’s a photo essay on making my version of the brownies. Hah. These aren’t beautiful photos, and any food blogger would scoff at them. But hopefully they get the point across.
Thank you to Anita Gard, who provided the first recipe I saw that used tapioca flour. Her treats are more moist, even less crumbly (they are rubbery), and bake longer. Here is her recipe:
Liver Dog Treats
- Equal parts (by volume) raw chicken livers and tapioca starch/flour. For example, about 1 1/2 lbs livers and 2 cups of tapioca flour work well.
- 2 TB oil
Put ingredients in a blender/food processor and blend until smooth. Line a cookie sheet (not a completely flat one; it needs edges) with parchment paper. Pour in the goop and spread it flat. It should be less than 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 300F for 30 minutes or until done.
Cool in pan. Then lift the whole thing out with the parchment paper. Flip it over onto a large cutting board and peel off the parchment. Use a pizza cutter to cut into appropriate sized treats for your dogs.
Feel free to share your favorite dog treat recipes or methods!
The Secret to Filling a Food Tube (a great way to deliver ultra-high value treats!)
|↑1||A reader has let me know that tapioca flour and tapioca starch are the same thing, and the latter is much cheaper. It can be found in most Asian markets and other stores as well. Thank you Lili!|
90 thoughts on “The Secret to Quick Non-Crumbly Homemade Dog Treats”
Any ideas on calorie count? I know that’s a hard question because the recipes are so loose, but maybe someone can figure the calories on the recipes that are provided? Thanks!! Great ideas!
That is a tough one, Betsy. I can figure it with, for example, just chicken breast. (That would be at the low end for sure!) I’ll get back to you.
OK Betsy, tapioca flour is 400 calories for a dry cup. The eggs I use are 80 calories each. 256 calories in a boiled, skinless 6 oz chicken breast. (That probably yields more than a cup if you cut in chunks.) So that makes 816 calories for my particular recipe, and that’s probably low end. The size of treat I cut (large-ish) probably yields about 80 treats, but they could easily be half that size or less for many dogs. So I’d estimate somewhere between 3 – 10 calories per treat, depending on the size. Not low calorie at all, but definitely high value.
You are such a treasure–so generous to others, so careful to get the details right…just a peach!
Peggie, THANK YOU!
Tapioca flour is rather cheap at the bulk food stores……
At least where I live.
http://www.nuts.com/cookingbaking/tapioca/flour.html If you go through a lot of it, you can buy a huge bag for less!
That’s great, thanks Courtenay!
You’re welcome! Hope they work out for you!
Ironically, I just sat down and saw this after putting a batch of liver treats in the oven! I’m glad you shared your variations, Eileen. I hadn’t thought of those other combinations. A few notes:
1. I can’t claim credit for the recipe, it was given to me by an IPO (Schutzhund) friend of mine. We use a lot of food on the ground to train IPO style tracking and need food that won’t crumble AND that dirt & sand won’t stick to. Hence the preference for a rubbery texture. Pocket lint also doesn’t stick to them. What??? You don’t keep food in your pockets? What kind of a dog trainer are you? 😉
2. I’ve found there’s no need to preheat the oven. Just stick the cookie trays in and turn the oven on. May add a couple minutes to bake time but that’s all. (I learned that trick decades ago from either Hints From Heloise or a Home Ec teacher. Cookies do require preheating, but cakes, brownies, etc. usually don’t.)
3. My favorite add-in flour when I’m short of tapioca is oatmeal: Just put some uncooked oatmeal in a blender or food processor & pulverize.
Thanks, Anita! Those are great tips!
Just pulverizing actual tapioca (the kind you make pudding from) in the blender or FoPro will give you tapioca flour. Not sure of cost, though – I have access to a good bulk foods store, so I’ve never checked tapioca in the supermarket.
Hey, that’s good to know! Thanks Toy Lady!
This post was perfectly timed for me – my dog and I are taking an agility class where the trainer is asking me to toss treats in his path rather than giving them by hand, and having him search for crumbs afterwards defeats the purpose. I’d just started trying to think of something high value that wouldn’t fall apart on impact, and here you were! Thanks!
Yeah, crumbs on the agility field are a problem. I get screwtop plastic containers (food grade) from the Container Store and have them full of good treats to throw ahead in agility. But this only works if you don’t have a dog who will decide to run off with the plastic container and try to chew it up…. Hope the treats work out!
For even less mess you can scrape it into a silicon cake dish and spread it into a thin layer. That saves both steps of greasing and of making a patty with it. Then when it’s done just pop it out of the cake dish, cool, and cut. Lovely treats.
Thanks, Amy! Another great suggestion!
Thank you for sharing! Great idea, esp for dogs who have food allergies/sensitivities. Could you please share how you store these? (In the fridge? Or an airtight container at room temperature?) And approximately how soon you try to use them up after baking? Within a few days? Thank you again!
Christine, for my recipe, I definitely refrigerate. I guess I’d keep them up to a week. I’ll ask Anita to weigh in about her recipe. Thanks for the comment!
a lover recipe that I make keeps awesomely in the freezer, just pull out what I need for the training I’m doing
This is awesome! Thank you so much!
I have two pups that have tummy troubles, and I’m hoping this doesn’t give them too much gas. I made the below recipe, with beef liver, 1.5 lbs for $3.50, the flour, which was about $1.20 for the two cups and used coconut oil instead of vegg or olive.
It came out beautifully! Question? How long will they last? Do they need to be refrigerated? Cause I wasn’t sure, I popped them in my dehydrator to dry them so they are more like jerky. I plan to put them in their treat balls and for walks!
This would be great to use with pumpkin or even natural peanut butter.
Sounds like you made the plain liver ones, and I’ve asked Anita to chime in about how she keeps them.
I do make peanut butter version using my recipe. Cut about 1/2 cup peanut butter into a cup of tapioca flour. Add an egg and sufficient milk or water to get them the right texture. Proceed as per the recipe.
Glad yours came out so well!
They’re pretty hardy. I’ve had some in my pants pockets all day without issues – aside from the smell 😉 But I usually divide a batch into a few sandwich or snack size baggies and throw them in the freezer, then take out as needed. I’ve stored thawed ones in the fridge for a few days. Dogs do seem to like them best at room temperature, but mine will eat them warm, cold, or frozen.
Will coconut flour have the same great effect? Or would it be crumbly?
I don’t know. Maybe someone else out there has tried it? I’d love to hear.
No, coconut flour is much more crumbly. Tapioca has a really weird, rubbery, gluey quality that coconut flour doesn’t have.
Thanks for the info, Sharon!
Try using the entire egg… shell and all, putting it in the blender whole . It adds calcium to the treats which can only be good. 🙂
Thanks, DaneLady. I’ve heard this is good. Does it change the texture at all?
Is tapioca gluten free?
I believe so. It is a root starch and is very popular in gluten free recipes. It is mentioned as such (gluten free) in this article. http://csaconference.homestead.com/survey.pdf
Wow! I just made a batch of my go to mackerel treats and substituted tapioca flour. The treats have a completely different texture and are virtually non-crumbly, yet my dogs still approve! Thanks so much for this idea! I’ll need to try a couple more batches to figure out the best substitution ratio for wheat flour. The tapioca flour is super fine and I added twice as much as I would have wheat. I may have over done it, but it worked OK.
Glad it’s working for you, Barb! Thanks for writing .
Just an FYI. I just made a batch with left over roast beef and used half tapioca flour and half whole wheat flour. The treats where just as non-crumbly as using all tapioca flour. Since I can’t find tapioca flour in bulk here, this will be a good way to make treats a bit less expensive.
Good job, and thanks for sharing!
Thanks I will try this, I’ve been using gluten free rice flour in similar recipes, but I really like the idea of non crumby treats using the Tapioca. I have a trainer I go to for doggy dancing who has a carpet and she doesn’t like crumbly treats they make a mess and my pooch wants treats not boring kibble lol!
Hope it works for you! My dogs say any method of making high value treats is fine with them!
I wonder if this works with other starches, like corn starch or potato starch. Anyone know?
That’s a good experiment to try. Corn starch may be cheaper and easier to find. I hope to make another batch this weekend. I’ll see if I have enough corn starch to try it.
For the Liver Dog Treats, what kind of oil do you use? Is it okay to use olive oil?
Just a tip, I use a pizza cutter when cutting the treats and it’s much easier on my hands and gives a uniform cut. Going to have to try the different flour, always use whole wheat.
Great idea about the pizza cutter! Thanks!
I took a class years ago and the instructor had a soft ball of something homemade that I’ve been trying to produce ever since. Tapioca is the missing ingredient!!!
I made the dough with tuna (including water), oatmeal, and tapioca flour mixed in the food processor. I didn’t cook it — I prefer to use a dough ball and pinch treats off as I go. The consistency is perfect and doesn’t leave dough on your hands. I keep the ball in a ziplock in my pocket and pull out when needed.
Awesome. Thank you!
Deb, that’s great! I may try your uncooked version. Sounds easy to make and use. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for the recipe. I will try it for my Mastiff, who runs agility and is stubborn as sin.
I hope your big’un likes the recipe!
She was begging before I got them in the oven! We have training tomorrow. Looking forward to no crumbs in my pockets. I always have junk in them after training and mostly every other day too.
That’s great to hear! I love the non-crumbly aspect, myself.
i have made the liver/tapioca version a few times and even though it is cooked, it does not last long at all once out of the freezer… only 1.5-2 days max in fridge before it gets a decidedly rancid smell… fyi
thanks to this post, i have been experimenting a lot for my 2 agility dogs. my 9# guy packs on pounds (well, ounces) quickly when we are working daily so i like to use tiny, non crumbly treats… my favorite recipe so far (his too) has been banana peanut butter tapioca 🙂
thank you so much for the inspiration!
Hi dee, I haven’t heard that response about the liver before but thanks for sharing. We all need to be careful about things that go off easily. Glad you are having fun playing with the recipe!
Hi Dee, I cut up into pieces as Eileen shows in the picture in her post, and then I put them in a freezer bag and straight into the freezer. I take out 1 handful a day (per dog) and leave them on the kitchen counter in a plastic container. They thaw quickly. I use them throughout the day during walks or training sessions and then I know exactly how much I have used throughout the day (before I used to go a bit overboard on the treats!). This way they stay fresh and I can portion out easily as required.
Thank you so much. I’ve made these treats 3 times
In the last month or so and my dogs love them. This
recipe is really easy and I love the flexibility of it. I’ve
tried another recipe but my dogs didn’t approve .
I’m so happy to be feeding my dogs healthy treats,
plus I’m also saving money by not purchasing “high
end” pet cookies (that probably aren’t “safe” to begin
Thanks, Monika, for letting me know. I’ve been making a few batches lately as well. They work well with tilapia, poached and blended. (Yuck, the things we do for our dogs!)
Regarding the liver treat recipe, what kind of oil is the best to use? Is olive oil okay?
I usually use canola oil, but olive is probably OK. Maybe someone else can chime in. Extra virgin doesn’t fare well when heated on the stove; I’m not sure how baking compares…
Thank you for this, Eileen! I am going to make this today and use tapioca flour instead of regular flour. BTW, Tapioca Flour is also known as Tapioca Starch, and it is super cheap in Asian Supermarkets.
Cool, Lili! I have seen tapioca starch several places but assumed it was something different. This will help a lot of people!
tapioca will be great to substitute for wheat flour in my treats which are a bit crumbly but not too bad… i usually also add a herb/spice that is healthy for dogs such as mint, tumeric, parseley or cinnamon, rosemary. Just be careful not to include those that are harmful for dogs like garlic, nutmeg, pepper,etc.
These turned out awesome!!! As promised, they had the effect of being very high value with my dog. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!! 🙂
So glad they worked out for you, Mary Anne!
I’ve made something very similar with potato starch which is accessible where i live 🙂 I also used significantly less in proportion to the protein, bc after my first attempt with 50/50 my dog’s poop was literally a cascade of bouncy balls.
Whoa! Thanks for sharing–I guess! Seriously, good info.
Thanks, going to try it. Wish you had a “printable” version. Copied it Sounds like my dogs will love it.
What a great idea! Gonna do that! Thanks, Julie, and I hope your dogs do like it.
I tried the liver treat recipe at the bottom of your post, except I used raw rabbit – my guy is on a prescription diet. That recipe doesn’t include an egg. But it never set up. I baked it for 90 minutes and it still was wet in the middle. Maybe add an egg next time?
That sounds like a good thing to try. It must be a difference between the liver–which can grind very smooth–and the rabbit. Thanks for the feedback–if the egg works, please comment again.
I’ve had a couple of dogs who couldn’t tolerate eggs and have used egg substitutes with reasonable results….which might be an option. I also have had a dog who could not have too much protein so have only used the yolks….in some cases I’ve only used the whites.
The egg does help bind the treats, but sometimes a longer cook at a lower temp resolves the gelatinous issue.
I always always air dry my treats for a number of hours so make them less sticky without completely drying them out.
Thanks for the post Eileen, I am a regular ‘baker’ of dog treats, but that doesn’t mean I can bake a good human cake 🙂 My dogs favourites are liver cake treats, very similar to the recipe you mention above, but I use Rice Flour instead. I haven’t tried Tapioca, but from your pictures, the consistency and texture looks very much like mine with rice flour, ie soft, spongy and no crumbs. My second favourite recipe is with apple/banana and yoghurt, together with egg and rice flour and sometimes I add a sprinkling of cinnamon or a teaspoon of peanut butter
Those sound like good combinations! I have some rice flour right now and I’ll try it one of these days. I bet it’s a little lower in calories than tapioca, which is pretty sky high. Thanks for the comment!
So I am just trying this now with some pumpkin&banana puree and have noticed the very top layer of the treat is pulling away from the rest, leaving an air pocker right udernethe the top layer.
Is there something I did wrong?
Vanessa, I have noticed that happening sometimes with mine but I can’t remember the circumstances. I guess it depends on the kinds of add-ins. Sorry that’s happening. Maybe some others have some ideas?
So my end result was a very gummy treat, like geletain, with a semi dry top and a moist, sticky bottom.
When I cut a strip to try with my dog I had her take one end and it stretched quite a bit before it broke in half.
I need some help because while really like the idea but I can’t afford remaking this multiple times until I chance upon a good batch :(a
Can you tell me the approximate proportions you used? I’ll try to help you troubleshoot.
I’m thinking my math was off because I used Anita’s recipe with 16oz of pumpkin&banana puree with 1.5 cups of tapioca flour (180g by what my bag tells me, I used Bob’s Red Mill), and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
I did grease my pan with a non-stick spray instead of parchment paper so maybe that was what went wrong?
Vanessa, my best guess is that you had too much moist stuff and not enough “binder.” Anita’s recipe uses meat. My recipe is a little more flexible and has an egg or two in it to bind things. So for you, I would reduce the ratio of wet stuff to flour by quite a bit and add an egg. Tapioca flour does act as a binder but I think there was just too much puree and not enough stuff to hold it together. That’s my guess; I’m going to ask a couple of dog treat gurus if they will weigh in as well.
A couple of things I’ve found with this recipe when you use things that have a higher sugar content….it does tend to form an upper crust that does separate. I’ve done a couple of things to reduce that….I tend to add more tapioca flour (I think Eileen is spot on here and that your binder was a bit low), I tend to cook for a bit longer, I cut the resulting cooked mass into strips and either air dry in the oven (no power) or dehydrate them a bit (I have a dehydrator in my oven so it’s easy for me) either in a dehydrator or you could set the oven at 200 if it will go that low.
I have found that most of the treats I make where the sugar content is high or the “protein” is watery can have this happen.
I also tend to cook all my treats on a cookie sheet which spreads them out a bit thinner and can reduce the ‘crust’.
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