Brown Butter–Bourbon Rice Krispies Treats

November 14, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis.
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

  • Prep time 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 24
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.

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