At the risk of yucking literally the entire world’s consensus yum, a confession: I hate marshmallow rice squares. Since childhood, I’ve avoided them, even as eager adults presented “ooo, let’s make Rice Krispies treats!” as a fun activity-and-dessert combo at Girl Scout meetings, sleepovers, or playdates. They’re messy and gluey and far too one-note, their goopy strings of pure sugar sticking to everything as you pull away a bite, marshmallow goo cementing pulverized toasted rice cereal right down into your molars like a filling. But I recently taste tested these flatly sweet treats with one added ingredient that tied the whole thing together: a smattering of dry roasted peanuts. Now, I can’t wait to make a batch for myself.
Scouting alternative Rice Krispies treats recipes, I was struck by the fact that we rarely compare this nearly century-old treat to that of its predecessors. Take, for example, sachima, a Chinese dessert consisting of tiny strips of fried dough and various nuts, seeds, and fruits bound together with syrup. Or Indonesian rengginang, rice cakes crisped up in cooking oil and sweetened with coconut sugar. These varied origins make the straight-up sugar flavor of the American version that much more of a disappointment. The Rice Krispies treat could afford to take some cues from international cuisine.
The addition of savory roasted nuts to the classic dessert synthesizes the toasty notes of puffed rice cereal and the tidal wave of sweetness formed by deconstructed marshmallow. Texturally, Rice Krispies treats weren’t lacking—they’re a beloved combination of crispy and gooey—but peanuts add a softer, almost satiny crunch throughout each serving that makes them fun to eat and easy to keep reaching for. Don’t you want that for your guests of all ages?
First, it should be said that even a hater such as myself understands the vast superiority of homemade Rice Krispies treats versus the store-bought individually wrapped ones from Kellogg’s, the latter of which are as stiff and dense as a granola bar. A homemade batch has a looser consistency that lets you tear away chunks of cereal in soft, appetizing globs, rather than brittle crumb-strewn bites. So here’s the formula, straight from the source:
- 3 Tbsp. butter (not margarine)
- 10 oz. marshmallows (it doesn’t matter if they’re mini or full-sized; you can also sub in 7 oz. marshmallow fluff spread if you prefer)
- 6 cups Rice Krispies or other puffed rice cereal
Coat 13-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray. In a large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, then add marshmallows and stir until they’re all melted. Remove pan from heat and stir in the rice cereal, using a rubber spatula to ensure all the cereal is coated. Press the mixture into the pan, using either the spatula or a sheet of wax paper to help you spread it into each corner. Let cool, then slice into squares and enjoy.
Okay, so that’s the basic rundown. Now add the secret ingredient:
- 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
Do all the same stuff as above, but after you’ve added the rice cereal to the butter-and-marshmallow mixture and given it a good initial stir, add the peanuts and continue mixing until all the cereal and nuts are coated.
If serving to a crowd, note that the treats contain allergens not found in a typical batch. You never know who in your party might have a peanut allergy.