Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Homemade Chex Mix

Homemade Chex Mix close-up macro view

The Ultimate Party Food

Chex Mix is one of the best party foods going.  Put out a bowl of it, and you’ll have an irresistible guest magnet.  People hover around, grabbing handfuls until the bowl is empty.  And then they’ll look for a refill.  It’s great for New Year’s Eve – or any other big party night.

For most of us, serving Chex Mix means buying a packaged snack that’s shelved with potato chips, pretzels, and corn chips in the “salty snack” aisle of the local supermarket.  This pre-packaged stuff is readily available, and it’s pretty tasty.  But it can’t compare to the homemade version. 

Haven’t had homemade Chex Mix lately?  Or ever?  You’re in for a treat.

And once you’ve tasted the real thing, you’ll have a hard time going back to the packaged variety.



Homemade Chex Mix in white ramekin, black background, overhead view

Recipe: Chex Mix

The recipe for Chex Mix is very flexible. The main ingredient you’ll need is Chex cereal, which is available in corn, rice, and wheat flavors. I prefer using all three in my Chex Mix, but you can use any combination that pleases you. You’ll also need a combination of additional munchies, preferably salted. Pretzels, mixed nuts or peanuts, and garlic bagel chips are common ingredients, but you can use anything your heart desires – and in just about any proportion. My general rule is: For every 9 cups of cereal, use 4 cups of other munchable ingredients. Add some butter and seasoning, and there you are.

My recipe is adapted from the original recipe.  It yields 13 cups, but it’s easy to cut in half – or double. It requires about 15 minutes hands-on time, and about an hour and a half total (most of that is baking time).

Ingredients
  • 3 cups Corn Chex cereal
  • 3 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 3 cups Wheat Chex cereal
  • 2 cups bite-size pretzels (pretzel sticks are traditional, but I prefer a pretzel with some shape to it)
  • 1 cup garlic-flavored rye bagel chips, broken into smallish pieces (about an inch or so)
  • 1 cup peanuts or mixed nuts (optional; see Notes)
  • 1½ sticks butter (6 ounces)
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (to taste; I prefer 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons garlic powder (I prefer the larger quantity)
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons salt (optional; I prefer less salt; many people prefer a seasoned salt like Lawry’s – see Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional; I like spicy, so I often double this)
  • 12 - 20 dashes Tabasco sauce (optional)
Procedure
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (for microwave method, see Notes).
  2. In a large bowl, mix the Chex cereal, pretzels, bagel chip pieces, and nuts.
  3. Melt butter (either in a saucepan on stovetop at medium heat, or in microwave oven – about 40 seconds or so).
  4. When butter is melted, stir in Worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion powders, salt, and optional cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce.
  5. Dip a piece of Chex cereal into butter mixture and taste.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.
  6. Pour butter mixture over the cereal mix, and stir until the butter mixture is well distributed.
  7. Pour cereal mix onto 2 rimmed baking sheets (it will fit on one, but two is easier to work with).  Place in oven.
  8. Bake for an hour and a quarter, stirring every 15 or 20 minutes.
  9. When done, cool on baking sheet and then store in air-tight container.
  10. Optional:  When the Chex Mix is done baking, you can pour it onto paper towels (which will absorb some of the excess grease) and cool before placing in air-tight container.
Notes
  • As discussed, this recipe calls for 9 cups of cereal and 4 cups of pretzels and other assorted munchies.  But you can adjust this ratio to suit your tastes.
  • The original Chex Mix recipe called for nuts.  Although I love nuts, I don’t think they really add much interest to this recipe.  So when I make Chex Mix, I often use an extra cup of garlic bagel chips instead.
  • The garlic bagel chips were not part of the original recipe, but I think they’re a great addition.
  • People often add a cereal such as Cheerios to Chex Mix (replacing the nuts or one of the Chex cereals).  This doesn’t appeal to me, but it’s an option.
  • There was an early version of this recipe that called for Kix cereal (no doubt originated by the makers of Kix).
  • You can add all sorts of seasonings to Chex Mix.  Curry powder would be good, for example.  
  • The makers of Chex cereal have a whole list of Chex Mix recipe variations that’s worth browsing for ideas. Develop your own house recipe! 
  • Many recipes specify seasoned salt (like Lawry’s), which is tasty. But be aware that these products can contain MSG, which some people prefer to avoid. I never buy seasoned salt, so it’s not in my recipe. If you use it (recipes usually suggest 1½ teaspoons), you may want to decrease the amount of garlic and onion powder, at least at first (you can add more if necessary when you taste the seasoning in step 5 of the Procedure). 
  • I like butter in this recipe. I’ve seen (but haven’t tried) recipes that augment the butter with bacon grease (a few tablespoons). If butter concerns you for health reasons, I suggest substituting olive oil. I haven’t tried it myself, but it sounds delicious. I’d start experimenting with half a cup of “pure” olive oil (the cheap stuff). 
  • If you want to microwave rather than bake your Chex Mix, the makers of Chex cereal suggest putting the mix in a microwavable bowl and microwaving uncovered on high for 5 or 6 minutes. Stir well every 2 minutes. 
  • Microwaving is faster — but the aroma of baking Chex Mix is wonderful! I’ll stick with the oven method.
Homemade Chex Mix reflected on black acrylic

Another Guilty Pleasure

Chex Mix originated in the early 1950s. Both Wikipedia and the Food Timeline have good historical information about Chex Mix (the latter is particularly interesting).

Chex Mix was born at a time when salty snacks like potato chips and corn chips were not daily (or even weekly or monthly) fare for most people. Chex Mix satisfied the lust for salt and fat at a time when packaged snack foods just weren’t consumed on a regular basis. I remember my mother stirring up vast quantities of Chex Mix when my parents entertained (she baked it in the roasting pan she used for the Thanksgiving turkey). She also often made Chex Mix around Christmas and New Year’s as a treat.

The Kitchen Riffs buy packaged Chex Mix more than we care to admit. It’s one of our guilty pleasures — foods that we’re embarrassed to admit we crave. Sort of like Cheddar Cheese Chicken Curry or Frito Pie.

I hadn’t made Chex Mix for years — until I decided to write about it. In the past few weeks, I’ve made 3 (big) batches.

“Just so I could perfect the recipe,” I explained to Mrs. Kitchen Riffs.  “My readers deserve and expect it.”

“Admirable,” she said, patting my belly.  “And you’ve left no mix unmunched.”

You may also enjoy reading about:
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Corpse Reviver Cocktail
Manhattan Cocktail
Dry Martini Cocktail

26 comments:

  1. My mother in law has made this for years. I however will have to tell her about the addition of bagel chips. Definitely, a very good choice. And by the way, I made the eggnog. Quite potent, but just the way I like it! Thank you so much Mr. Kitchen Riffs. You always make my day!

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  2. Hi Abbe, the bagel chips are great. Glad you enjoyed the eggnog! It's really good stuff. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. That's a stunning photo you have at the bottom there, very 'Modernist Cuisine'.

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  4. Love chex mix! Homemade sounds even better!

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  5. @Justin, thanks! Although I started my blog because I enjoy food and writing about it, I've really come to enjoy the photography. It's always fun to experiment with different looks for each subject.

    @Natalie, the difference between homemade and packaged Chex Mix is incredible. The packaged is decent enough - and certainly convenient - but the homemade is at least twice as good. Plus you can season it to suit your own taste.

    Thanks to both of you for taking time to comment.

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  6. Sounds delicious! Great post, too.

    Those photos are killer, btw. I've never been able to figure out the whole crisp black background with reflection thing. I always wind up over-exposing the black or having lights reflected from below... how do you do it?

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  7. Yum!

    How did you get that lovely black background?

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  8. Hi Willow & Jane Ko, thanks! Since you're both asking about how to get the black backgrounds, I'll answer the questions together.

    In both cases you want to light the subject & not light anything else. So I use a lot of foam core to block light from everything except the subject. In the overhead shot, I actually had the ramekin with the Chex Mix raised above the black background a foot or so so the light falloff would help turn the background black. On the acrylic shot, the light is coming from the side - thus no reflections (that the camera could see). In both cases, if your background isn't as black as you'd like, in Photoshop you can set the Dodge tool to dodge only shadows, and it's easy to darken the blacks if necessary.

    Thanks for commenting.

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  9. My sister made several batches of this during the holidays when I was a kid. I love it but have forgotten about it! Your recipe looks very similar to hers which was the classic Chex Mix, but back then there wasn't such a thing as bagel chips. :) Good choice! I like your general rule. It makes it easy to adjust to one's preferences. Thanks for bringing back such fond memories. Your photos are fabulous!

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  10. Hi mjskit, I'm glad to bring back a happy memory! The bagel chips are great in this (not my idea; they're in the packaged Chex Mix you can buy). And thanks for the compliment. Thanks for stopping by.

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  11. What a tasty snack, that too made at home.

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  12. Hi Asmita, thanks! It is tasty, and the homemade version is so good. Thanks for commenting.

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  13. I haven't had chef mix in years but it's one of my favorite snacks! I suddenly can't recall if we even have Chex in Israel...I'll need to check next time I'm at the supermarket! Happy New Year!!!

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  14. Hi Katherine, Chex Mix is one of those oldies but goodies, isn't it? Happy New Year to you!

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  15. What a great idea! I'm sure it tastes so much better than the store bought stuff. Extra cayenne pepper for me too!

    I wish you a happy new year 2012! Keep the delicious food coming!

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  16. Hi zenchef, homemade is sooo good! I'd love to see what flavoring ideas you'd use if you made this. Happy New Year to you too! And I have just begun to cook . . .

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  17. Oh this looks so so good to a snack addict like me. I have bookmarked this recipe and will try it very soon!

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  18. Hi Nupur, it's really good. I haven't done much with the curry-type spices when making my Chex Mix - but I hope you'll give that a try! Thanks for your comment.

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  19. Thanks for sharing. This was a staple at my house around Christmas time. I am now gluten intolerant so was trolling around for a recipe I could use with my gluten free ingredients. You'd be surprised where gluten pops up. I love your suggestions, and I'm going to give this a whirl this week-end.

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    1. Hi Christin, there's definitely some gluten in this recipe as written, although it should be pretty easy to avoid it (skip the Wheat Chex and the pretzels, for example; and check and make sure the Rice and Corn Chex don't contain any wheat flour). Hope you enjoy this! Thanks for the comment.

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  20. I leave out the wheat chex, and add extra corn and rice chex. (not for gluten-free reasons...i just don't like them as much). I also add a few cups of cheerios and not quite a full bag of bugles. Then, I just have to increase everything in the butter mixture just a bit. This is a great recipe which you can add/delete ingredients as to your personal preferences. It's really pretty simple, and I never eat chex mix from a bag anymore!

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    1. Hi Dawn, bugles are a fun idea! And I agree one of the best things about this recipe is how easy you can change things up. I'm always adding or subtracting ingredients, and spicing it differently, depending on my mood (and what's in the pantry!). Thanks for your comment.

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  21. My grandmother use to make this at Christmas and they called it Trash has anyone else heard of this

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    1. Hi Anonymous, I do have a recollection of some dish along these lines being called trash, but the details are hazy — I haven't heard this term used for something like this for years and years. But I'm intrigued by the term, and a quick Google search does reveal that this is a term other people use, too. Thanks for reminding us of this, and for commenting.

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  22. Love this and your domestic commentary! Always a fan of chex mix but never tried making it. Will it keep crisp for two days or should I plan on reheating it before serving?

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    1. Hi uberdrivel, if you dry out the mix well in the oven, it stays pretty crisp for two or three days in a airtight container. Always easy to pop it into the oven for 10 minutes or so to crisp it up if necessary, I guess (I've never had to, so I'm guessing). Thanks for the comment.

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