Although I consider myself a connoisseur of salty, crunchy snacks, I have never understood the appeal of Chex mix. Overly salty, slightly stale cereal never seemed like an appetizing snack. However, over the holiday season, my daughter ate Chex mix at a few different parties and it has become her favorite snack. Anytime she gets to pick a treat now, she chooses a bag of Chex mix. I found myself trying once again to understand the appeal of this America snacking staple. I decided to try making homemade Chex mix to see if it was any better than the store bought version and, lo and behold, I am now addicted to homemade Chex mix. I know this is giving away the results of the comparison already, but this stuff is seriously good. Buttery, crunchy and, with the addition of some smoky chipotle powder, perfectly spicy. It has already ruined my healthy eating ambitions for 2014 and I had to hide some of it in the freezer to avoid eating the entire recipe. I used the official Chex Mix repice from General Mills but added some extra flourishes of my own. The official recipe suggests using bagel chips to replicate the rye crisps found in the bagged version, but I though pita chips broken into small pieces would be a nice substitute. Now, without further ado, I give you Spicy Chipotle Chex Mix:
- 3 cups corn Chex
- 3 cups wheat Chex
- 3 cups rice Chex
- 2 cups small pretzel sticks
- 2 cups cocktail peanuts
- 2 cups pita chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
- 10 Tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons garlic oil
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (depending on how spicy you want it)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1. Preheat oven to 250ºF. In a large bowl, toss together the first 6 ingredients until well mixed. In a small pan, combine the butter, oil, Worcestershire sauce and spices. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the butter is all melted.
- 2. Pour the melted butter mixture over the Chex mixture and toss gently with a wooden spoon until the Chex mixture is well coated. Spread the Chex mixture onto two large sheet pans and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes and rotating pans halfway through. Allow Chex mix to cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container.
As with almost any food, the biggest benefit of making Chex mix from scratch is that it can be easily customized. You can add just the things you like most and make it as spicy or mild as you wish. I really liked the addition of peanuts, and the fact that the homemade mix didn’t have those weird cracker sticks that are in bagged Chex mix (does anyone actually like those things?). This customization is probably one of the reasons that I so vastly prefer the homemade version, but I also found that homemade Chex mix just tasted fresher. That might be a strange word to use for a recipe made almost entirely out of salty, processed ingredients, but the homemade version definitely tasted less stale than the store bought. I also loved the buttery flavor of the homemade Chex mix, which is entirely lacking in the bagged version. I will not that my 5-year old still prefers the store bought version, probably because it’s less spicy and more salty than homemade, so if kids are your main audience, the homemade version is probably not worth the time.
I was surprised to discover that homemade Chex mix is actually slightly cheaper than the bagged variety, coming in at 75 cents a cup compared to 85 cents a cup for store bought. Of course, making Chex mix from scratch is a bit time consuming, but it’s really only a few minutes of actual hands on work to mix things together.
Bottom Line: If you have only ever had store bought Chex mix, I suggest making the homemade version at least once to see just how tasty this snack can be. However, if you just want an easy snack for a group of children, it’s probably best to stick with the mix from a bag.