Things To Add To Your Rice Krispies Treats That Won't Make Them Basic

For a lot of us, Rice Krispies treats were our gateway to cooking and baking: They're not only kid-friendly to eat, but to make. Any kid who's old enough to stir a pot of melting marshmallows (with grown-up supervision) or work a microwave can pull off a batch and feel like a real cook. And the magic of the original Rice Krispies treat recipe is that it's nearly impossible to screw up — you're going to get consistently good results whether you're a 5-year-old novice or a 50-year-old culinary veteran. Even better, almost everyone loves them.

Iconic and beloved as the original recipe is, however, it's a bit basic. Okay, it's very basic — the kind of thing you'd make to comfort a sick or heartbroken friend, but not something you'd serve when you want to make a big impression.

But with a little out-of-the-box thinking and a few simple tweaks, Rice Krispies treats can be made memorable. The key is to think of the original recipe as a template that allows nearly infinite variation — just by adding or swapping out a few ingredients, you can take your Rice Krispies treats from basic to unforgettable.

Lucky Charms

The original Rice Krispies treat recipe is dead simple: It's nothing more than Rice Krispies bound together by a mixture of melted marshmallows and butter. (And sorry, you won't be saving a lot of time by using marshmallow crème instead — you'll still have to heat it up to get it to combine smoothly with the butter.)

But there's no rule saying Rice Krispies are the only cereal that can get this treatment. By switching some or all of the Rice Krispies out for Lucky Charms, you'll get a crunchy, colorful variation on the classic treat. The texture will be a bit different (much crunchier), which could be a plus or a minus, depending on your taste. But if you're a big fan of marshmallows, you're in for a treat — you not only get the stretchy gooey-ness of the classic melted marshmallow binding, but the chew and pops of color and flavor from the marshmallow "charms." While the resulting snacks are (obviously) not technically Rice Krispies treats, the technique and ease of preparation are the same.

Freeze-dried strawberries

Classic Rice Krispies treats are comfort food par excellence. But like a lot of comfort foods, they're not much to look at. Truth be told, they're pretty boring. So tasty as they are, you're not going to make them the showcase item in your holiday cookie assortment without giving them some extra bling.

An easy way to make your Rice Krispies treats more eye-catching is to top them with something colorful, such as sprinkles or icing. This will make them prettier and a tad sweeter. But if you really want to mix things up and give an old favorite a colorful refresh, add something that will contribute an unexpected pop of flavor as well as color: freeze-dried strawberries.

Why freeze-dried strawberries? For one, strawberries and cereal are a classic combo — consider this a riff on a bowl of Rice Krispies topped with sliced strawberries. The intensely flavored freeze-dried berries add a burst of fruity flavor and a welcome tang to the treats, which can be overwhelmingly sweet to some palates. And their rosy pink color will give these Rice Krispies treats a festive and elegant look — perfect for an afternoon tea party.


Puffed rice cereals such as Rice Krispies have long been used to add extra crunch to chocolate treats — think Nestle's Crunch bars or for fans of European candies, Lion bars. So since Rice Krispies and chocolate bars have proven to be a great match, why not punch up your Rice Krispies treats with a hit of candy bar pieces — such as crushed Butterfingers?

Admittedly Butterfingers are among the more polarizing items in any Halloween haul — people either love or hate the sharp, crunchy shards that break off with each bite. But if you're a fan and want to add some extra texture — as well as peanutty, chocolatey flavor — just fold crushed or chopped Butterfingers into the cereal mix, then cool and cut as usual. For an extra decorative touch and even more crunch, you can press some of these pieces into the top of the treats before they cool.

Milky Ways

Butterfingers aren't the only chocolate bar you can add to your Rice Krispies treats. If you love chocolate and really want to play up the inherent chewiness of the treats, add chopped Milky Ways — the classic milk-chocolate-covered nougat-and-caramel bars add both creaminess and chewiness to the treats, as well as a lot of extra flavor.

Because of their inherent stickiness, however, Milky Ways don't easily lend themselves to neat cuts unless cold — and mixing them into the stiff mixture of cereal and melted marshmallows will crush the pieces even more. Thus, the end result will be tasty and fun to eat, but not especially elegant to look at. If you want a more polished-looking treat that pays homage to Milky Way flavors, instead top your cooled Rice Krispies treats with a layer of melted caramels, then a layer of melted chocolate. Your treat will evoke not only the classic Milky Way flavors, but the classic three-layered look of the candies.

Peanut butter cups

Mae West once famously said, "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful." If this is your philosophy to cooking and eating, add an extra dose of decadence to your Rice Krispies treats with peanut butter cups. The combination of peanut butter, chocolate, and chewy Rice Krispies bound by marshmallows evokes several classic treats all at once — fluffernutter sandwiches, Nestle's Crunch bars, and more. In short, peanut butter cups will make your treats anything but basic.

There are several ways you can incorporate peanut butter cups — or at least the flavor components of peanut butter cups — into your Rice Krispies treats. An easy and dramatic-looking way is to top your Rice Krispies treats with melted chocolate, then press mini peanut butter cups into the chocolate before it cools. Other cooks infuse the treats themselves with peanut butter, mixing it into the melted marshmallow mixture before folding in the cereal. To get your hit of chocolate, either fold in chocolate chips or drizzle melted chocolate on top of the treats.


Nutella, as we all know, makes any sweet thing better: The iconic chocolate-hazelnut spread adds a touch of sophistication and decadence to even the plainest of sweets. And this makes it a great way to add punch and interest to plain Rice Krispies treats, turning these homely after-school snacks into party-worthy confections.

You can incorporate Nutella into your Rice Krispies treats in a number of ways. If you want to infuse every bite of your treats with Nutella, mix it into your melted marshmallows and butter before stirring in the cereal. For a multi-textured effect, melt Nutella and chocolate together and use it as a topping for your treats. Or you can follow the lead of many cooks and go all in — make a batch of Nutella-infused treats and drizzle their tops with Nutella, and if you're feeling really decadent, also add melted chocolate and chopped hazelnuts. No one will ever call these treats basic.


Salty-sweet snacks are having a moment, and over a decade after Homer Simpson accidentally discovered how good bacon and chocolate taste together, bacon has found its place in mainstream sweets, from doughnuts to chocolate bars. And putting a meat product in desserts isn't as odd as it may sound. After all, mincemeat historically contained actual meat, and bacon is often cured with sugar to give it a slightly sweet note. Plus, any pastry chef can tell you that pretty much all desserts benefit from a touch of salt to balance out their sweetness — a role that bacon can play to great effect.

This is especially true for Rice Krispies treats, which can be cloyingly sweet to some palates. Mixing crispy bits of cooked bacon into the cereal mixture not only cuts the sweetness, but adds extra color and crunch. And it's a clever and modern way to combine two breakfast staples in a new and unexpected way. So if you need breakfast on the go but also want to feel like you're on the culinary cutting edge, give bacon a shot in your next batch of Rice Krispies treats.

Red velvet cake mix

If you're craving a sweet treat but can't decide if you feel like a Rice Krispies treat or a slice of cake, fear not — you can have both in a single treat. Cake mix is a surprisingly good add-in for Rice Krispies treats, since it amps up their simple flavor and adds richness and interest with just seconds of additional work — just stir the cake mix into the melted marshmallow mixture before adding the cereal. And changing up the flavor of cake mix you choose will give you dramatically different results. For instance, adding yellow cake mix and topping your treats with multicolored sprinkles gives them a distinct birthday cake vibe.

But for real drama and an intense pop of color, add red velvet cake mix. This will give you show-stopping red treats with a rich chocolatey flavor. And this quick and easy variation could be just what you need when you want to make something festive and memorable, but don't have a lot of time.

Brown butter

Sometimes the simplest of ingredients can take a dish from ordinary to extraordinary. For instance, take a basic kitchen staple like butter. Melted with marshmallows, it forms the sweet glue that holds classic Rice Krispies treats together. Its flavor contribution is subtle: there's a good chance most lovers of Rice Krispies treats don't even notice the flavor when enjoying their treats.

But brown butter is a different story. By simply heating your butter a little longer before adding the marshmallows — until it sizzles and turns golden — you amplify the already rich scent of butter and add tantalizing toasty, caramel notes that will add depth and sophistication to your humble Rice Krispies treats with just a few minutes of extra work. Still, a note of caution is in order: Brown butter is easy to make, but keep a close eye on your pot: Butter can go from browned to burnt in seconds, so don't let yourself get distracted.


Almost everyone has a soft spot for Rice Krispies treats, but let's face it: They're kid food, and one's fondness for them often stems from childhood nostalgia. And for the most part, adults eat them only in the most casual of contexts — say, family reunions, hiking trips, or as a work-from-home afternoon snack. They rarely if ever make appearances at formal events or when one wants to make an impression. And it's no wonder: Eating Rice Krispies treats doesn't exactly signal worldliness or sophistication.

It doesn't have to be that way. It's better to think of Rice Krispies treats as a little black dress of a recipe — one that can be made as formal or festive as one pleases, depending on what one adds to it. And one way to give them a low-key, but distinctly grown-up, vibe is to add a grown-up ingredient: bourbon. The sweetness and fruitiness of bourbon adds a subtle depth to the treats. It won't be enough to get you even remotely tipsy — but you'll definitely won't feel like you're reliving kindergarten when you're enjoying these treats.


As tasty as classic Rice Krispies treats are, their flavor is a bit one-dimensional — just straight vanilla-scented sweetness and little else. But if you prefer sweets that wake up your palate — not to mention your nervous system — add chocolate-covered espresso beans. These little caffeine bombs add a welcome bitter contrast to the cloying marshmallows, not to mention extra crunch, intense coffee aroma, and a pleasant hit of chocolate.

In short, this is another easy way to make your Rice Krispies treats into a grown-up snack. These coffee-laced treats are also a great choice for those times when you need an extra energy boost, such as for a grab-and-go breakfast before an early meeting (hey, it's basically cereal and coffee, right?) or when you need a little lift to get you through a long work day. And if you want to make your coffee treats extra festive, drizzle the tops with melted chocolate and decorate with more chocolate-covered beans.


Salted pretzels have been steadily working their way into the sweet kitchen in recent years, showing up in everything from cookies to brownies to ice cream. (And of course, chocolate-covered pretzels have long been a snack food classic.) So it's not surprising that enterprising cooks have started experimenting with pretzels in Rice Krispies treats. They add not only a pleasant hit of salt, but a welcome visual and textural contrast to the tender cereal.

And because pretzels just beg to be dipped into (or stuffed with) other tasty things — such as chocolate, caramel, or peanut butter — you might also want to try adding these flavors to your Rice Krispies treats along with the pretzels. Whether you swirl peanut butter into your treat mixture before topping the treats with pretzels or stir in pretzel pieces and decorate your treats with chocolate and/or caramel, you'll have a crunchy, chewy, sweet-salty treat to remember.


For some people, the stickiness and chewiness of Rice Krispies treats can be irksome. But for others, it's the treats' best feature. If you fall into the latter camp and want to lean in hard to the chewy, sticky pleasures of Rice Krispies treats, you can amp up the chew — and add a big hit of flavor — by adding a layer of caramel. But don't worry, this won't entail standing over a pot with a candy thermometer waiting for sugar to caramelize — most recipes use a simple mixture of melted store-bought caramels, condensed milk, and sometimes butter.

How you form your caramel layer is up to you. The easiest option is to simply spread it on top of your cooled Rice Krispies treats and wait for it to set before cutting. For a fancier presentation, you can "stuff" your treats with caramel: Form a bottom layer with half of your Rice Krispies mixture, top with caramel once the cereal mixture has set, then top with the second half of the Rice Krispies mixture once the caramel has fully set. Whichever option you choose, you'll get a satisfyingly chewy treat.

Cookie butter

The original recipe for Rice Krispies treats is so simple and plain it just begs for experimentation — what flavors or new ingredients can we add to the classic treat to make it seem new again? In recent years, bloggers and home cooks have thrown just about every sweet ingredient imaginable (and a few not-so-sweet ones) into the classic recipe, and most have worked to good effect. And one of these innovations uses a relatively new ingredient — cookie butter — to refresh the generations-old treat.

If you're not familiar with it, cookie butter is itself a sweet treat — a thick spread made from pulverized spice cookies (the kind you get with your drinks on many commercial flights). You'll find it at Trader Joe's, among other places. So if you enjoy those cookies, you'll love cookie butter — it gives everything it's spread on the spicy, toasty taste of the original cookies. This also makes it a promising ingredient for culinary experiments: Would a plain dessert benefit from a hit of spice? Why not add cookie butter? A generous dose of cookie butter heated with the melted marshmallow mixture gives the familiar treats a fresh hit of spice and flavor.

Cherry Jello

One of the reasons Rice Krispies treats have become a classic comfort food is because they're so mild mannered, with a simple, straightforward flavor and a humble appearance. But while this makes them a great go-to choice for feeding picky eaters or stress-eating when you're feeling down, this also makes them pretty basic. As pleasant and dependable as they are, Rice Krispies treats can often benefit from a bit of excitement — more intense flavors, or perhaps more eye-catching looks.

And one key to adding intense flavor and showstopping color to a basic batch of Rice Krispies treats comes from another unassuming ingredient: Cherry Jell-O gelatin mix. By stirring the powdered mix into your melted marshmallow mixture, you will not only color your treats an intense shade of bright pink, but add an intensely tangy cherry flavor. The first bite will be a happy surprise to most eaters — they'll know they're getting something special.