DIY Food

How to Make Snack Mix Without a Recipe, Savory or Sweet

January 20, 2014

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: With just 4 steps and a trip to the spice cabinet, you can elevate all of the snacks already in your pantry into a mix that's suitable for special occasions and raucous get-togethers.

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Picture your favorite snacks: pretzels, peanuts, bagel chips, cereal, Fritos -- the foods that, despite all our talk about kale, get us through day-to-day life.

Now, picture your favorite snacks blanketed in a coating of spicy, salty butter and baked in the oven until crispy and toasted. Suddenly, your favorite snacks have been elevated beyond the stuff of everyday sustenance. Now, they're a diverse mixture of all the snacks you love united under a common flavor. 

Ordinary snacks are for road trips, between-meal mouthfuls, school lunches, and watching TV. Snack mix, however, is suitable for special occasions and raucous get-togethers -- and at this time of year, that means football games and Oscar parties.  

To get started, you need to pick your path: savory or sweet. Spicy snack mix goes particularly well with ice-cold beers and chicken wings, but if you're forgoing the big game and watching the Kitten Bowl instead, you might prefer a mix flavored with honey and dotted with dried fruit and chocolate chips.

How to Make Any Snack Mix, Savory or Sweet

1. Compose the ultimate mix. Get out a big bowl and start gathering everything you want as the base for your snack mix that will fare well in the oven. (You’ll want to hold off on any chocolate or dried fruit for now.)

This list will get you started:

  • Chex in all of its iterations: corn, rice, wheat, and, if you’re going sweet, honey nut 
  • Nuts, broken or mini bagel chips, and bite-sized pretzels or pretzel sticks
  • Cheerios or any other cereal of your choosing, like Kix, Crispix, or Life
  • Goldfish, Fritos, or Bugles (yes, Bugles)
  • Coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, and pepitas

Consider any tasty, bite-size morsel in your pantry to be fair game. Make sure that there are no duds in your mix -- otherwise, your guests are going to scavenge for the good parts and you’ll be left only with the undesirable leftovers (rye chips, anyone?). 


2. Melt plenty of butter. For both the savory and sweet varieties, you’re going to want to melt enough butter to coat your mixture. For a big serving of snack mix, you’ll need approximately a stick or a stick and a half of butter for 12 to 14 cups of stuff, but use your judgment. 

How to Make Snack Mix Without A Recipe


3. Raid the spice cabinet. 


If you’re looking for a savory, bar snack sort of mix, you’ll want to add plenty of salty, tangy flavors. Try a combination of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, garlic (fresh or powdered), onion powder, or soy sauce. 

If you want something on the spicier side, throw in some cayenne, chili powder, curry powder, or paprika. Whatever flavors you decide, be sure to add a generous pinch of salt and pepper. 

Melt the butter and seasonings in the microwave (or in a cute butter warmer). Dip in a piece of cereal (or a finger) to make sure the mix is properly seasoned. Pour the melted butter mixture over your base and toss everything until well-coated.

How to Make Snack Mix Without A Recipe


If you’re interested in a dessert-y snack mix, you’ll want to add some form of sweetener at this point. Brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, and agave nectar are all possibilities. 

You can also experiment with spices: cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves. (If you use it to bake delicious cakes and quick breads, it will probably be good in your snack mix.)

Maybe you’re feeling chocolate-y and you want to add cocoa powder. Melt that with the butter, too. Add a pinch of salt and do a taste test. Then, coat the mix with the melted butter.

How to Make Snack Mix Without A Recipe


4. Bake to perfection. Spread your mix evenly across a couple of baking sheets.

Bake in a low temperature oven (about 250° F) for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes, or until the mix is crisp and dried out. 

Let cool, then add all of the goodies you’ve had in reserve: mini-marshmallows, raisins and other dried fruits (papaya and mango chunks, chopped figs and dates), chocolate chips, M&Ms, yogurt-covered raisins, and anything else you fancy.

Pour the mix into a big, party-size bowl and let your guests have at it.

Eat a handful every time your team has the ball. Eat a handful every time the opposing team has the ball. And if you get bored of the game, start planning your next snack mix concoction. 

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you make in your sleep, without a recipe.

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Yvonne Spencer
    Yvonne Spencer
  • Stephanie Paige Kilian
    Stephanie Paige Kilian
  • Julie Abrams Britton
    Julie Abrams Britton
  • Chanteclar
  • jpriddy
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Yvonne S. September 13, 2017
Why didn't I trust you on the rye chips?? I thought it would be different, but no! Augh. Next time. Like in 3 hours... :)
Stephanie P. September 12, 2017
Wait! Is this Paleo compliant?!
Julie A. October 16, 2014
Rye chips?? Those are our favorite! haha I wish I could find a place to buy a bag of them. Never thought about corn chips in it or making sweet at home. Great ideas!
Chanteclar October 16, 2014
Add a little cayenne to your sweet mix. Delicious
jpriddy August 24, 2014
I make the mix like my grandmother's but organic, vegan, and gluten-free so that everyone in the family can eat it. I use whatever cereals and crackers meet my criteria (vegan/gluten-free pretzels are fabulous!) and coconut oil with seasoning my family likes.
Superdutch July 28, 2014
please, just stop the nonsense. you give a whole list of instructions and ingredients - THAT IS A RECIPE!
babswool January 29, 2014
I have what I think is the original recipe from General Mills because it came from my mother and she made it while we were growing up in the 1960's. The seasoning in my recipe is Beau Monde seasoning with a dash of Worcestershire Sauce. I've never seen another version of the recipe that used Beau Monde Seasoning. But my family loves it.
jpriddy August 19, 2016
My grandmother made it when I was a little girl in the 50s.
Patti I. January 21, 2014
My Chex mix is my Christmas present for everyone in my office and my friends so I make a lot of it. I use corn, rice and wheat chex,Crispex, pretzle sticks, mixed nuts and pecans. My topping is 1 stick butter, 1/2 c. vegetable oil, 1 1/2 Tablespoons Celery salt, 1/8 c. Worcestershire Sauce per large aluminum baking pan. I bake it at 350 and stir every 15 minutes for about 45 minutes to an hour.
mrs M. January 21, 2014
I love adding wasabi peas and sesame chips/sticks to my spicy party mix!
Dina M. January 21, 2014
i'm going to add some of my homemade siracha...
sscook January 20, 2014
I did the CHEX mix with my granddaughter. We still had left over CHEX, so we added hot air popcorn and dried cranberries. What a delightful mix that was. Next I want to make an adult curry mix with popcorn, cranberries and pita chips.
Sarah J. January 20, 2014
For the curry mix, would you use curry powder to flavor the butter? I imagine you could also use curry paste if you really wanted to spice things up! And pita chips sound like a wonderful addition.
Sandy W. January 20, 2014
Recently I substituted safflower oil for butter and used a Creole seasoning (left over from frying a turkey - yum!) The Creole flavor was spicy but not tongue-numbing hot, and the safflower oil worked just fine. One of my favorite extras is a double handful of sesame snack sticks (mine come from Trader Joe's, but they are ubiquitous.)
Sarah J. January 20, 2014
Sesame snack sticks -- now that's a great suggestion!
April January 20, 2014
But but but, rye chips are my favorite!
Sarah J. January 20, 2014
The great part about this world is, that for as many rye chip-haters like me there are out there, there are just as many rye chip-lovers. April, you can share my Chex Mix anytime!
sascbh January 29, 2014
I know. I don't even like rye bread but i love rye chips. I was so surprised to see that! But i remember seeing a friend of mine eating a bag of pretzels and I was like: really? Who buys a bag of pretzels and eats...PRETZELS? Those are the ones that never get eaten in my (store-bought) chex mix.