Between the nutty and aromatic browned butter, the melted sweet marshmallows, and using less cereal most recipes, these Treats are the most gooey, buttery, flavorful, and richest Rice Krispies Treats I’ve ever had.
And that’s saying something because I’m quite the connoisseur, having sampled hundreds in my day.
I know you’re thinking, “It’s a Rice Krispies Treat, big deal.” Well, to me it is. They’re a lifelong favorite and I’d rather have a gooey, buttery cereal bar than pie, fudge, or even creme brulee. Yes, I would. Many people overlook the humble bars for more decadent or more grown-up fare. After all, classic bars made with basic cereal have an uphill battle trying to compete with salted caramel this-or-that or brownies stuffed with candy and cookie dough. But never under-estimate the underdog.
What makes these Rice Krispies Treats the best ever – and I don’t use those three words lightly – begins with the butter. First, there’s double the amount than you’re probably used to. When comparing the amount to the Kellogg’s recipe and to others, most call for three or four tablespoons, or one-quarter cup, or half of one stick. I doubled it and used a full stick, eight tablespoons. This is a situation where more is definitely better.
And not only is there more butter, but it’s browned first. The nutty aroma and the richness of flavor imparted from browned butter is like no other. Taking an extra four minutes to brown the butter rather than just melting it makes all the difference in how the treats taste.
I recently discussed extensively how to brown butter when making Browned Butter Caramel and Butterscotch Bars. If you’ve never browned butter before, the key points are to either stir or swirl the pan almost continuously for the three to four minutes it takes to brown. And the minute you see brown specks and flecks in the butter, remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir for another minute so the carryover heat doesn’t burn the already browned butter.
If you prefer salted treats and are a fan of salty-and-sweet combinations, feel free to add a pinch of salt to the browned butter at this point. I always cook with unsalted butter so I can control the amount of salt that goes into my food rather than having it pre-determined by the butter company, but if you’re using salted butter, make sure to take that into account before adding salt. Some people like a hearty does of salt with their sweets and others don’t, so salt only if desired, and to taste.
To the warm browned butter, add the marshmallows and stir. I use mini marshmallows because I find they melt faster and easier than their larger counterparts, but one standard ten-ounce bag of either size will work. The carryover heat from the butter should be enough to melt the marshmallows, but if it’s not, turning the stove back on momentarily will do the trick. Don’t cook them, just melt them.
Pour the hot sweet mess over five cups of cereal that’s waiting in a large bowl. Most recipes call for six cups of cereal, and remember they’re using half the amount of butter, but I don’t like those ratios. Using double the butter butter and sightly less cereal creates treats that are extra gooey, chewy, and marshmallowy.
As you stir, the mixture will be loose and gooey, but if you find it’s ridiculously gooey to the point it seems there’s more marshmallows than cereal, add up to 1 cup additional cereal. Don’t exceed six cups total, and I never use more than a very scant 5 and 1/2, or these won’t knock your socks off with their gooey prowess.
Transfer the mixture to an 8-by-8-inch aluminum foil-lined and sprayed baking pan. Make sure to line your pan unless you have lots of elbow grease to spare, and make sure to use an 8-by-8-inch pan. Although a 9-inch square could be used, don’t use a 9-by-13-inch pan, which is the size many recipes suggest. A big pan produces thin, flat, and wimpy treats. I want thick, sink-my-teeth-into-it kind of treats and an 8-inch square gets me there.
It will seem like there’s no way all the mixture will fit into the pan, but it does. Pack it down well, pressing it down firmly with your hands or a spatula because this helps achieve sink-your-teeth-in density. Unlike many other recipes where the cereal bits are exceedingly sticky and hard to work with and are sticking everywhere but where you want them, that’s not the case here thanks to the butter. If necessary, lightly grease your fingers or palms with more butter, ahem, and press. It may feel like you’re pushing too hard, but you’re not; you want this compacted so the bars don’t fall apart and are dense like bakery-style treats.
I love a good jaw workout and these squares are chewy and gooey, soft yet dense. Because the mixture is tightly packed into the pan, each bite takes awhile to chew, just the way I love my Treats. I dislike bars with the cereal loosely bound and it’s just barely dangling together, but that’s not the case here. The buttery marshmallows form a beautiful sweet white web around the cereal for treats with great structure.
The butter makes these. The abundance of it and the browned, nutty, aromatic, flavorful, and rich quality it has. You’ll never say ‘Oh, just another Rice Krispies Treat’ after these. Underdog gone over-achiever.
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Browned Butter Rice Krispies Treats
- 5 ½ cups Rice Krispies Cereal
- ½ cup unsalted butter, browned
- ¼ teaspoon salt, optional
- 10- ounce bag miniature or large marshmallows
- Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add 5 cups cereal; set aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed large pot or skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat, stirring nearly continuously or swirling the pan. Butter will melt, foam, turn clear, golden, turn brown, and will then smell nutty. As soon at the butter begins to turn brown, take the pan off the heat, and continue to stir for about 1 minute, to ensure carryover heat doesn't continue to cook and subsequently burn the already browned butter. Optionally stir in salt for salted browned butter Treats.
- Add the marshmallows and the residual heat should be enough to melt them, but if not, heat pan over low heat for about 1 minute, or just until they melt, taking care not to cook them; just warming to melt. Stir to combine the marshmallows and butter. Pour mixture over cereal and toss to coat. 5 cups cereal will yield very gooey bars, but if less gooey bar are preferred, stir in up to 3/4 cup additional cereal. Mixture will be very gooey and buttery. Transfer mixture to prepared pan, and using a spatula or your greased hands, press it firmly and evenly into the pan, making sure to really pack it down well and push it into the corners and edges. Allow bars to set up at room temperature for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving, or place pan in the refrigerator to expedite cooling. Store Treats in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To keep recipe vegan, use vegan marshmallows, vegan-friendly butter and vegan crispy rice cereal. I recommend simply melting the vegan butter rather than trying to brown it. To keep gluten free, use gluten-free Rice Krispies or other crispy rice cereal such as Erewhon Organic Gluten Free Crispy Brown Rice Cereal. Take care that all ingredients used are suitable for your dietary needs.
- Adapted from the The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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Do you like Rice Krispies Treats? Bars made with cereal? Or desserts with marshmallows?
I love all the above and have so many related recipes and versions of cereal bars and marshmallow-based bars because I never tire of the endless combinations. Many of them are no-bake or nearly no-bake, which is a nice bonus. If you have favorite recipes, please share.