Brown Butter–Bourbon Rice Krispies Treats

November 14, 2019
26 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis.
  • Prep time 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 24
Author Notes

Traditional Rice Krispies Treats are taken to a whole new level thanks to a few clever tricks. You’ll begin by browning two sticks of salted butter until nutty and dark. Then you’ll add two bags of mini marshmallows, vanilla extract, and a splash of bourbon for good measure. While most Rice Krispies Treats recipes simply melt the marshmallows and butter together and call it a day, this recipe cooks them over medium-high heat for several minutes until they transform into a thick marshmallowy caramel. (A trick we learned from The New York Times.) This step does two things: It adds a deep, toffee-like flavor and gives them a beautiful golden color—but it also causes the marshmallows to harden—so to compensate, one more bag of marshmallows is added right at the end so you get the best of both worlds. Sure, it’s a bit more work compared to your classic Rice Krispies Treats recipe, but it’s totally worth the effort.

Adapted slightly from recipes by The New York Times, Smitten Kitchen, and Kellogg’s. —Jesse Szewczyk

Test Kitchen Notes

Rice Krispies treats are often seen as something just for kids, but this version—made sultry with bourbon and browned butter—is one that’s very, respectably adult, dare we say sophisticated. The kicker is a generous splash of bourbon into the treats themselves—and, yes, we do recommend serving with a glass of bourbon. Whiskey or dark rum will also sub in here just fine. The amount of vanilla extract and salt might seem inordinately high, but the squares need that punch of earthiness and saltiness to keep things from being sickly sweet. With a recipe that has so few ingredients to begin with, really leeeaning into each one makes all the difference.

Brown butter once, and you’ll wonder why you ever left it alone. Same with the marshmallows—after trying one deeply toasted, to a deep, dark caramel, you’ll have trouble enjoying one raw, plain.

Psst: If you’re conserving your flaky salt, feel free to use more kosher salt on top—just don’t skip the salt altogether. And if you’re without salted butter, just use the same quantity of unsalted butter and increase the salt in the Rice Krispies Treats by ¼ to ½ teaspoon, to taste. Of course, you could cut these into the classic squares—or you could cut them into itty-bitty bites and sprinkle them over Greek yogurt chocolate mousse or one-ingredient vegan banana ice cream. Wild, we know. But us adults get to do what we want. —Food52

What You'll Need
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 3 (12-ounce) bags mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 cups (one 12-ounce box) rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • Flaky sea salt, to garnish
  1. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan with butter. Set aside.
  2. In a very large pot set over medium-high heat, melt butter, stirring constantly, until the milk solids at the bottom of the pan start to brown and the butter smells nutty and darkens in color. This will take about 5 minutes. Do not walk away or leave unattended.
  3. As soon as the butter has browned, add two bags of marshmallows, the bourbon, vanilla, and salt. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture is golden, smells like caramel, and is smooth and glossy.
  4. Turn off the heat, add the remaining bag of marshmallows, and stir just until melted. Add the rice cereal and quickly stir to coat them with the marshmallow mixture. (If your pot is not big enough, quickly transfer the mixture into the largest mixing bowl you have.)
  5. Transfer into the prepared baking pan and gently press into an even layer. If the mixture is too sticky, coat your hands in butter or oil to make it easier to work with. Garnish with flaky salt. Let cool completely and cut into squares.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • dale.mcneill
  • Liz Wagner
    Liz Wagner
  • FrugalCat
  • Rita Carey
    Rita Carey
  • Charles

28 Reviews

Savannah1 May 3, 2024
I'm glad you have this recipe on your website. It used to be on the Kentucky Derby website but not any more. I add more rice krispies to mine. I make them every year for Derby day!
BethA December 9, 2022
These were rock hard! Taste great, but we have to chip shards off the block. What a waste of ingredients.
Another site lists too high of a temp as a reason for hard rice crispy squares. I only put the stovetop to medium. How does anyone make this work?
Rita C. December 10, 2022
This is so weird because mine were so gooey they were hard to pick up.
Randi October 16, 2022
Delicious. Followed recipe but used what the store had: 9 oz box Rice Krispies, 3 10.5 oz bags of mini marhmallows. Figured the proportions would be right and they were. Used 1/2 c of Bulleit bourbon becz other reviewers said 1/4 c wasn't enough and I thought I'd probably agree. 1/2 c was right. Lots of reviewers seem to be over-thinking this or have some very specific ideas abt cereal-to-marshmallow ratios. All a little too twee for me. They're just Rice Krispie treats! No need to freak out! 😃
dale.mcneill March 27, 2022
I have made these a few times. I do weigh the marshmallows, as the bags available locally are not 12 ounces.

I have come to double the bourbon.

Otherwise, I follow the recipe and love it.
Linda S. January 15, 2022
Redefines rice krispy treats. Absolutely delicious.
Ilene S. November 7, 2020
OMG this recipe is amazing, I made it for my office they all loved it. People took 2nds and 3rds.
srkelly November 7, 2020
Made these ‘by the recipe’ a couple of weeks ago - we liked them enough that I decided to quickly whip up another batch. This time I added just shy of 1/2 cup of bourbon, and mini choc chips at the end. When I smooshed the mixture into the pan I also sprinkled chips on top (someone here insists it’s not dessert if it doesn’t have chocolate). Yummmmm
jrooker July 5, 2020
I made these according to food52’s other rice crispy recipe which calls for a single 10oz bag with 5 cups of rice crispies (though I prefer to use 6!). I used a full 1/4 cup of bourbon still (knob creek smoked maple) and put in the full bag at once. Difference is I pulled on and off heat until caramel-y like the recipe calls for (~4 min). Then I stirred for a couple minutes off-heat until it cooled/thickened before adding in the rice crispies. Only thing, pour these into your pan and gently move around but do NOT flatten the top or press down. Trust me, the texture will be 10x as good this way.

Anyway, I give this modified version a 10/10. Fantastic choice with the bourbon addition, can’t believe I didn’t think about that before!
Oat&Sesame August 10, 2020
I followed your guidance and they turned out great! 12oz bag of marshmallows + 6 cups krispies. Everyone has their own preference for the krispies to marshmallow ratio and I'm on board with you - more krispies less marshmallow. I used honey bourbon and the flavor didn't really stand out against the sweet marshmallows at 1/4 cup. I think it's best to stick to straight bourbon or a smoky bourbon you suggested and maybe use a bit more. Thanks for the tips!
pennylane December 22, 2020
I used your ratio variation/suggestions and it worked well with both Bourbon (Woodford Reserve) and Old Overholt Rye Whiskey. 👌 That little tip you provided about not flattening the top or pressing down was perfect. You nailed it on the texture!
Delta E. July 2, 2020
THANK YOU!! These are AMAZING!! Adult rice crispy squares, where have you been all my life?! I’m still being hailed as a hero at work for bringing these in - and that was weeks ago😂 I’m thinking next time I’ll use a single malt scotch such as Laphroaig for the smoky petey depth of flavour that will marry well with the caramel sweet and salty. (OK I’m drooling now.) 😁
Delta E. July 2, 2020
THANK YOU!! These are AMAZING!! I’m still being hailed as a hero at work for bringing these in - and that was weeks ago😂 I’m thinking next time I’ll use a single malt scotch such as Laphroaig for the smoky petey depth of flavour that will marry well with the caramel sweet and salty. (OK I’m drooling now.) 😁
Liz W. April 25, 2020
Made them with canna butter and they were absolutely amazing. The liquor definitely helps it all come together and certainly burns off. I wouldn’t worry about alcohol content here.
jessbair April 25, 2020
Liz-did you do three 10 oz bags of marshmallows (that's how they come) or did you actually weigh out 36 oz?
Havespoon April 26, 2020
jessbair, I only had larger bags so I weighed out 36 oz.
jessbair April 26, 2020
Awesome, thank you for replying!
Jeanne B. March 28, 2022
Just FYI - I am a professional confectioner and no, the alcohol does not burn off. Alcohol must boil for an average of about 35 minutes before it dissipates in sugar syrups when it is used in this quantity.
FrugalCat April 19, 2020
And for anyone preaching "this is just for adults" I divided out the bourbon (and vanilla extract) and found it came to less than a teaspoon per treat. I have no problem giving these to a kid (if they are sophisticated enough to appreciate them).
Rita C. April 19, 2020
I’m sure any alcohol evaporates and just the flavor of the bourbon is left.
kim September 2, 2023
The alcohol does not evaporate. It must be cooked at a boil for a good bit for that to happen. I'm in the food biz
Rita C. April 18, 2020
I love marshmallow crispy treats, but these came out so gooey and buttery that I just can’t eat them. I don’t know if it was too much butter, or too much marshmallow, but I’m just sticking to the regular back of the box recipe from now on.
Gabuc April 14, 2020
Just finished making this... very excellent recipe. Couple of notes...

* Following another recommendation to up the amount of liquor, I used a generous half cup, turned out to be a nice balance.
* I didn't have bourbon, so I used Japanese whisky (I was going to use cognac as it is my favorite, but I was worried about adding too much sweetness), turned out pretty good.
* Rather than buttering a baking dish, I used parchment paper to line it, worked out really well as there was absolutely no sticking, and I ended up cutting a piece of the parchment paper to use with my hands to "mold" the treats (it is surprisingly difficult to work with as the stickiness level is insane, also be careful not to burn your hands as the marshmallow sauce is crazy hot).
* The recipe list shows using 3 bags of marshmallows that are 12 ounces each, however the supermarket carries bags that are either 10 or 16 ounces only, assuming the recipe list isn't a mistake, I ended up buying 4 bags that were 10 ounces and did 2.5 bags first followed by 1.5 bags after, worked out fine.
* Be very careful when adding the vanilla extract and alcohol to the hot butter, there will be splattering and water/oil foaming (ensure your pot is really large to accommodate).
* You want a really large pot or mixing bowl for the marshmallow sauce and cereal combine step, as it is really difficult to work with at that stage.
Charles April 11, 2020
Substituted Jack Daniels “Honey Whiskey Liqueur” for the whiskey. Not a rice Krispy treat I will be serving to children, but for adults...oh, yes!
Anjalog December 20, 2019
This is no kiddie dessert! I'll never make regular Rice Krispy Treats again. Loved how chewy the texture was and the depth of flavor really elevates.
Holly S. December 18, 2019
I’m not sure if there’s a difference in brand of marshmallows?! I used Dandy brand and it took forever to get the mallows to melt. I substituted coco rice cereal which was a nice touch. The flavor is great! I’m not sure what I did wrong but the texture is ridiculously chewy. I’ve never made rice crispy treats was crazy hard! Which I did not expect.
Jesse S. December 19, 2019
Hi Holly!

I'm so sorry they didn't turn out. It looks like Dandie's marshmallows are vegan. I did a little research and it looks like people have a hard time getting them to melt right. This is completely my bad for not mentioning this in the recipe.

Hopefully they still tasted good enough to eat!
Ken C. November 17, 2019
Nice nutty flavor. The consistency is spot on - not dry, but not too gooey. For me, the whiskey flavor got lost a little. I might try 1/3 to 1/2 cup for my next batch.