I often wonder who was the first to discover certain foods, or in this case thought to combine 3 simple ingredients to create such delicousness as the Rice Krispies Treat. Butter, marshmallows, crisped rice cereal. With the addition of a little heat, they combine to make a mouth-watering indulgence in practically no time at all (except for the time you impatiently wait for them to cool).
While specific details differ from various online sources, the general consensus seems to be that Rice Krispies Treats were invented in 19391 by Kellogg’s employees Mildred Day and Malitta Jensen. The two may have come up with the recipe either as a fundraiser for Camp Fire Girls, or in the Kellogg kitchens as a promotional vehicle for Rice Krispies cereal (which came on the market in 1928). Perhaps they were inspired by earlier recipes for “Puffed Wheat Squares” and “Puffed Rice Brittle”, substituting marshmallows for the older recipes’ sugar, molasses and vinegar ingredients, adding in Rice Krispies cereal, and creating an instant hit.2
Variations on the original recipe abound across the interwebs, with different ratios of butter to cereal and it seems everyone has their own techniques, add-ins, substitutions or toppings to make these treats their own.
In looking for the original recipe today, I cam across several ideas shared below that you might want to consider the next time you whip up a batch.
- Several folks swear that their treats are the best due to the inclusion of a touch of vanilla to the marshmallow/butter mixture just before the Rice Krispies are added. Not surprising since the original recipe from 1940, includes vanilla
- Salt is another popular “secret ingredient” — just a dash
- A splash of milk
- Peanut butter: include 2-3 heaping spoonfuls to the wet mix (if microwaving add this after the mallows and butter are done, then microwave an additional 30 seconds)
- Chips: butterscotch, chocolate, white chocolate, whatever you got
- Un-melted mini marshmallows
- Halved spiced gumdrops
- Strawberry-flavored powdered gelatin
- Unsweetened Kool-Aid drink mix
- Sweetened coconut
- Fruit & nuts: chopped pecans, cranberries, Maraschino cherries, or chopped almonds (1/2 tsp almond extract with 8 tsp. chopped almonds)
- Heath milk chocolate toffee bits
- Chewy caramels
Whether it’s waxed paper, the butter wrapper or spatula, or even plastic gloves, different techniques abound to try to press that ooey-gooey mixture into the pan. My tested favorite is to rinse your hands under cold water — the marshmallow mixture doesn’t seem to stick to cold, slightly wet hands (though you may have to run your hands under the tap a few times because the mix heats your fingers up again pretty quickly).
Can you really improve upon the original? These unusual variations on the theme certainly are worth taste testing to find out:
- As scones
- As s’mores–these look heavenly, but a bit more work than the traditional versions of either
- As edible cupcake liners
- Rosemary infused
- A healthier version (with peanut butter, cranberries, honey and brown rice cereal)
- There are always the classic cereal substitutions depending on the flavor you’re looking for: Cocoa Krispies, Cocoa Pebbles, Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, Kashi Golean
- For marshmallows, you might want to try: caramel-vanilla flavored, strawberry flavored or marshmallow creme
There are as many endless ideas for shaping as there are cookie cutters, but there a few more unusual ideas that fall more into the molding camp:
- Carrots: a clever idea to file away for Easter-time
- Add some fruit leather, and you have candy sushi
- For Thanksgiving time, a few strategically placed candy corns and an Oreo cookie turn a Rice Krispies treat ball into a turkey
- Sheep: form cooled treats into fist size balls to look like sheep bodies. Add 4 licorice legs, a tail and a marshmallow head
1 There are some discrepancies with the year Mildred invented Rice Krispies Treats; while many sources say it was 1939, her obituary states that she developed the desert in the 1920’s. Further research seems to indicate that the cereal wasn’t introduced until 1928, so I’m sticking with the 1930’s folks on this one.
2 Rice Krispies Treats: The Food Timeline