Best recipes for savory cereal/Chex mix?
December 28, 2013 4:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the best recipes for homemade chex/snack mixes. Savory, not sweet.

Thanks to a recent road trip, my family recently discovered that we LOVE the savory sort of chex mix you buy in a bag at the grocery. But now I'm all fired up about making my own. Googling for recipes leads to way too many choices, so I'm looking for recommendations from people who have personal favorites of their own that they've made and enjoyed.

We only want savory, not sweet. Open to any and all sorts of mix-ins - nuts, chips, pretzels, melba toast, any other crunchy and savory things. Interested in learning your best tips on preparation, cooking times, seasoning methods, etc. Interested in making as many of the mix-ins from scratch as possible. Looking for maximum deliciousness, saltiness, crunchiness, umami, etc. What are your go-to recipes?
posted by jbickers to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
My family recipe is called "Nuts & Bolts:"

Preheat oven to 200F-350F (100C-175C, off the top of my head)

2 cups each of the following:
Rice Chex, Wheat Chex, Corn Chex, Plain Cheerios. (In the past I've included shredded wheat*, the little ones, as well as crispix, which is wheat+corn chex, fused into a hexagonal hybrid). Generic cereals are just fine for this application.

2 cups of pretzel sticks, broken in half or thirds. (Roughly-- the goal is to get something that won't jab you in the cheek by surprise because it's too long). I measure first, then break the pretzels.

1 can of Planter's Mixed nuts with Peanuts (or without, and then add a handful of peanuts)

1 cup or more of Sesame Sticks (originally these came in a can of Planter's snack mix, which was basically Mixed Nuts + sesame sticks...but they're my favorite part).

Combine and mix.

Melt (microwave) a stick of butter (half a cup or about 100-115g) to liquid. Mix with a teaspoon (I heap this one) of garlic powder (don't use garlic salt-- I'm not making that mistake again) and a teaspoon of paprika (sweet is how mom made it, but I prefer smoked), and a pinch or more of cayenne, or else some hot sauce of your choice: I've used Cholula, Tapatio, Tabasco, as well as chipotle powder. Hot stuff is optional. Other stuff that would work here: a few shots of worchestershire (umami!), roasted garlic, finely chopped raw garlic, fresh ground (fine-to-medium) black pepper, but you can add that later to taste.

Mix everything so the butter mixture coats everything (stir while pouring to keep the spices suspended); I usually do this in gallon ziplock bags, whereas mom had the patience to gently stir and turn in her baking (casserole) dish. Either way, combine and get it into a casserole dish. You can do this part in batches, keeping in mind it multiplies your time.

*If you use shredded wheat, keep it out until the butter's on everything else, then add. The fact is that you're pouring a slightly sludgy butter mixture over a pile of solids, and it starts out unevenly distributed, and shredded wheat soaks up more than its fair share at this stage.

Mom always did this at about 200F for 25-30 minutes, but I prefer closer to 300-350 for half the time. Stir/turn as possible halfway through. If doing this in batches, have a strategy to remove the first batch from your casserole (to a foil-lined sheet-pan, e.g.) to free up the dish for the next batch. Baking it is not a science, but you want to warm the butter until it's mostly absorbed, and then toast everything, basically.

Let cool before eating-- the oilier nuts hang on to heat for a little while, so let a brazil nut be your thermometer.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:20 PM on December 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've always used and loved the back-of-box recipe. I skip the bagel chips, though, and only use Chex/pretzels/nuts. The Chex are the best part, anyway, since they absorb the most buttery flavor goodness.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:44 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I made this sriracha-based chex mix for Christmas and it was inhaled by my coworkers. I used garlic and ginger powders instead of fresh and cashews instead of peanuts.
posted by topophilia at 6:46 PM on December 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

BIG box of crispex, big box of cheese its, can of low salt cocktail peanuts. Mix with one stick melted butter, 1/2 t onion salt, 1 t garlic powder, 2 T lemon juice, 6-8 T worchestershire sauce. Bake at 250 or 300 for about an hour. SO GOOD. SO SALTY. Drink lots of water.

P.s. Try to eat some veggies the rest of the day, because this mixture sits in your digestive track like cement.
posted by Malla at 8:16 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since bibliogrrl is busy at the moment, I will post this on her behalf.
posted by baniak at 8:20 PM on December 28, 2013

You can substitute skinned, toasted chickpeas for the nuts if there are tree-nut or peanut allergies to be concerned about. (you'll have to check your other ingredients for allergy risks, natch)

From the can, dry, then skin them with a modicum of elbow grease. Toss with a tablespoon of light oil, and spread on a sheet pan. Roast under the broiler for about 25-30 minutes until crunchy to taste. It you make them as a stand-alone snack, you'd toss them with a few spices, but here you're doing the spicing later. Hmm, maybe shorten the roasting time by 5 minutes to finish the process in the mix.

That sriracha recipe above looks dynamite. It basically has the ingredients of teriyaki plus heat, if that's your thing. Yum, I'll second that.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:07 PM on December 28, 2013

Use cheerios. Use real butter. Use the broadest, widest pan you can so that the surface area allows even distribution in the butter. Cheerios toast really well and suck up butter nicely. They melt in your mouth if you do it right.

Otherwise, play with all the other flavors above. They all sound great.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 12:27 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use the back of box recipe, but use hot salt instead of regular seasoned salt. also, i skip the wheat chex (just personal preference) and substitute cheerios. and no garlic chips. i just made some last night!

and microwaving works fine, you just have to make sure it doesn't burn. faster than oven baking.
posted by kpht at 8:44 AM on December 29, 2013

Homemade Chex mix is waaay better than the store bought. My aunt makes the best version ever, and gives everyone a bag at Christmas. Mine was gone the next day.

She just uses the classic Chex mix recipe - the one from the box, or I'm sure it's available on their website. The secret is, one, she uses Crispex cereal, and one or two types of Chex (not usually the wheat kind, rice or corn) and two, USE CHEERIOS. This is the most important thing. Cheerios soak up the buttery spice mixture better than any other additive, and they are what make this the best Chex mix ever! Also, use real butter, not margerine, and add extra.
posted by catatethebird at 9:05 AM on December 29, 2013

I basically make the back of the box recipe, but with the following adjustments.

First, get a turkey roaster. The giant pan, right? You're going to need that. Go big or go home.

You want go get 40 cups (yes, forty) of crunchy stuff. I start with about nine cups each of wheat chex, rice chex, and corn chex, then add three cups of cheerios, three cups of small cheese crackers (cheez-its this year, I think it was), two cups of pretzel nuggets (not sticks, which are gross and wrongly sized, but nuggets or twists), one bag of garlic bagel chips, broken into pieces (or, if you can find them, the bite-sized bagel chips, which are better), and, finally, about three cups of nuts. Part of those nuts should be pecans, which are as expensive as balls and unbelievably delicious in this. I did about half almonds, half pecans this year.

Mix all that up, and then get out a smallish pot. Heat a pound of butter until it melts. (Hey, this makes a ton and is delicious. I didn't say that it was healthy.) Add 3/4 to 1 cup of Worcestershire sauce. I go towards the high end, but some small children feel that this is "too spicy". (Not mine, sadly. Nothing I've found will keep that child from chex mix.) Add in three tablespoons of seasoned salt, 1 heaping tablespoon of garlic powder, and slightly less than a tablespoon of onion powder. (Optional: Add about 1 teaspoon of celery seed. I like it when I remember, but almost never remember.) Finally, add between 2T and 1/2 c of Frank's Red Hot Sauce. I like 1/4c. If you're wild for spicy things, you want more; if you're serving small children, less.

Dole out the sauce over the dry stuff, mixing it in well and making sure that you don't forget the corners. Place the roaster in a preheated 250 degree oven and let it roast, stirring every half hour, for at least two hours. You'll know it's done when the cereal pieces that you inevitably taste every time you stir are coming out almost dry.

Turn off the oven and crack the door. Let it cool there overnight. In the morning, you feast. Put into ziplocks, this will keep for about a month on the counter, if you can keep people from eating it all. Otherwise, doublebag it and put it in the freezer, where it will last longer. I have no idea how long, because it never lasts that long in my house.

Variations: Jerk seasoned chex mix: Omit Worcestershire sauce, add 1/4c soy sauce and 1/4c lime juice, and instead of salt/garlic/etc, use an equivalent amount of jerk seasoning; keep the Frank's or not, as you prefer. Buffalo wing chex mix: Half the Worcestershire sauce, replacing it with an equal volume of Frank's; leave out seasoned salt and add two packets of ranch dressing mix. Steakhouse chex mix: replace Worcestershire sauce with steak sauce.

I refuse to make this more than once or twice a year, for fear that we'll all turn into giant pieces of butter-coated cereal, but hot damn is it good.
posted by MeghanC at 9:29 AM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

The secret, IMO, is the Worcestershire sauce. And the Cajun seasoning of course.

1/4 cup butter or margerine
5 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp garlic salt
3/4 tsp cajun salt
2 2/3 cups Corn Chex
2 2/3 cups Rice Chex
2 2/3 cups Wheat Chex
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup pretzels

1.  Pre-heat oven to 250-degrees.

2.  Melt butter in microwave then stir in seasonings.

3.  Gradually pour butter/seasoning mixture over cereal, nuts, and pretzels, coating evenly (having already put the cereal, nuts, and pretzels in a 13-inch by 9-inch oven safe dish that has walls that are at least two inches high). Stir.

4.  Bake one hour stirring every 15 minutes.
posted by dave*p at 10:13 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a chex purist.

6 Tb oil (butter, margarine or corn oil - do not use margarine containing water)
2 Tb liquid flavoring (Worcestershire sauce is really good. You can add tabasco or sriracha sauce, to taste.)
2 3/4 tsp dry flavoring and salt (garlic, seasoned, onion, cajun, salt and/or powder. - You have to taste to get the mixture you like and to not oversalt. A little cayenne, extra garlic, etc., is up to you.)
12 cups crunchies. (I prefer 4 cups Corn Chex, 4 cups Rice Chex, 4 cups Wheat Chex. Feel free to add any crunchies you like, just adjust for any salt. I like it with just chex, but skinny pretzels, cheezits, nuts, bagel chips, crispix, cheerios, etc., are popular. I miss bran chex, which gave me the illusion of being healthier.)

The microwave method failed me, ymmv. 250F for 1 hour, stirring every 15 mins. Cool on newspaper to soak up any extra oil.
posted by theora55 at 11:10 AM on December 29, 2013

The combo that is the holy grail in our family is chex, goldfish, pretzel sticks, and peanuts. Heaven.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2013

Coating: Melted butter, a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce, a little Texas Pete, Lawry's seasoned salt, onion powder and garlic powder. Follow the directions on the box as far as proportions go, but I like to add more of everything except the salt.

Crunchies: Cheerios are a must. They are the golden choice. If you add nothing else, use cheerios. Chex (generic as should be the cheerios b/c so cheap) in whatever combo you want. I like corn and rice chex, but not wheat chex. Mixed nuts or just peanuts. Pretzels, but I end up picking them out. Goldfish or other cheese cracker sounds good, but I've never done that. I will soon.
posted by Stewriffic at 1:17 PM on December 29, 2013

I've been dividing my butter+seasonings into thirds. With the first third of butter, I mix Lawry's seasoned salt. With the second third of butter, I mix garlic powder and onion powder. The last third of butter gets 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce. I distribute the three seasoning blends over different sections of crunchies, and blend them at the end.

Cheeto's are very good. Oyster crackers have the same utterly bland, absorbent quality. I like honey-nut peanuts.
posted by ohshenandoah at 10:16 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I could live off of this stuff.

Several points:

No matter what you use when it comes to the raw materials, (Chex, Cheerios, Goldfish, nuts, etc.) consider doubling up on all of the seasoning in the popular recipes. This will kind of hyper-charge your mix. Many of the actual Chex cereals that you use will actually get somewhat clogged with the seasoning mixture. If you do this, what you'll be eating is like comparing a fine microbrewed beer to Milwaukee's Best.

The problem with adding miniature pretzels is that they're not particularly absorbent. Chex Mix is best when as many of the solid components as possible are absorbent. However, even though nuts don't absorb much, they carry their share in texture and taste. Ideally, you want a variety of nuts, but go easy on those butternuts, since they are big, relatively tasteless on their own, and don't absorb much of your double strength seasoning. Shelled pistachios are a fine substitute.

Finally, Old Bay Seasoning. There is nothing in the world that tastes less good when this is added, and nearly everything tastes better.

You're welcome.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:30 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

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