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.
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).
- 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)
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (for microwave method, see Notes).
- In a large bowl, mix the Chex cereal, pretzels, bagel chip pieces, and nuts.
- Melt butter (either in a saucepan on stovetop at medium heat, or in microwave oven – about 40 seconds or so).
- When butter is melted, stir in Worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion powders, salt, and optional cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce.
- Dip a piece of Chex cereal into butter mixture and taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Pour butter mixture over the cereal mix, and stir until the butter mixture is well distributed.
- Pour cereal mix onto 2 rimmed baking sheets (it will fit on one, but two is easier to work with). Place in oven.
- Bake for an hour and a quarter, stirring every 15 or 20 minutes.
- When done, cool on baking sheet and then store in air-tight container.
- 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.
- 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.
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.”
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