Learn the essential tips and tricks to making thick, and chewy rice Krispie treats! To ensure soft and crispy bites, using the proper ratios for the butter, marshmallows, and cereal is critical.
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The most iconic dessert kids and adults enjoy is soft, and chewy rice Krispie treats. The little squares always make an appearance at parties. What’s not to love about crunchy cereal coated in gooey melted marshmallows and butter? When made right, there are never any leftovers.
Made from only five simple ingredients, the technique for this no-bake dessert is crucial. The dessert is made on the stovetop for quick and easy preparation. After lots of testing, I’ve found just the correct ratio of ingredients for delightfully tender and crisp bites. The most common mistake is making these treats too hard. Don’t worry. I’ll share all of my secrets for success.
Use fresh ingredients
- Puffed Rice Cereal: Stales quickly once opened, creating a harder, less crunchy texture.
- Marshmallows: Sealed marshmallows retain their moisture. Once exposed to air, the surface gets dry, making the treat not as soft.
- Butter: If the butter has been sitting for an extended period in the refrigerator, especially uncovered, it can dry out.
- Vanilla: The flavor is extremely volatile, losing its aromatic compounds when opened and stored too long. The taste will be more pronounced if using a newer bottle.
I use mini marshmallows because they melt quicker compared to the larger size. However, larger pieces contain more moisture, which builds in more buffer to ensure the treats are soft. The key is to work quickly, reducing water loss from the ingredients when melted on the stovetop.
For this rice Krispie treat recipe, you’ll need 20 ounces (two 10-ounce packages) or 10 cups of mini marshmallows. Large marshmallows can be used instead. You’ll need 20 ounces. It helps to cut them in half for quicker melting, but this is optional.
The original rice Krispies treats inspire this recipe, but my version is even tastier! I use the classic blue box of Rice Krispies cereal that “snaps, crackles, and pops!” Generic crispy rice cereal brands can be used, but the size of the pieces may differ.
To switch up the taste, there are wide varieties and flavors of rice cereal, like cocoa, cinnamon sugar, frosted, or holiday colors. You’ll need 10 cups, or 10 ounces, in a regular-sized box. When measuring, make sure the cereal is level and not heaping. Too much grain will make the bars taste dry.
I make this no-bake dessert for birthdays and holidays. A 13×9-inch baking dish with 2-inch high sides makes a large batch, which yields about twenty 1 ¼ to 1 1/2-inch thick pieces. Sometimes I cut them in triangles to make 40 pieces, which is still generous.
It’s easy to halve the recipe and use an 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch pan, square or round. They will still be at least an inch tall.
Prepare the pan
It’s essential to line the pan so they don’t get stuck to the bottom. I use parchment paper or wax paper. The mixture is slightly sticky when warm, so if you like, you can apply a light coating of cooking spray or melted butter to the bottom of the liner. You can skip this step if using wax paper. My family likes the taste without the extra spray, so I’m okay working with a slight tackiness.
Melt the butter
Use a large pot or dutch oven with plenty of space to make the treats. It’s essential to work quickly to retain moisture from the ingredients. This prevents a dry and hard bar. I use unsalted butter, then add salt later to control the sodium.
If using salted butter, omit the added salt. The flavor will be saltier than this recipe. Melt the butter over medium heat, then turn it down to low.
Melt the marshmallows
Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. They will turn into a thick, fluid, and sticky consistency. It’s okay if you see a few lumps; it’s better not to overcook them. Immediately remove from the heat! This is crucial. Otherwise, the sugars will continue to cook and harden over time, just like making candy.
Stir in the vanilla extract and salt into the warm marshmallow mixture. This will dissolve the granules and bloom the flavor for a more robust aroma.
Add the cereal
Quickly stir in the cereal until evenly coated with the molten marshmallows. Don’t wait too long. As the sugars cool, the mixture becomes extremely thick, making it difficult to mix.
Don’t forget the scrape the bottom of the pan! If you like extra gooey bites, this is a good time to sprinkle in some extra marshmallows, about 1 to 2 cups, then stir. Transfer the mixture to a lined baking sheet.
Shape the treats
Work quickly to spread the cereal mixture into the lined pan with your fingers. Have a small bowl of water nearby to dip your fingertips lightly to prevent sticking. It makes pressing the mixture into the corners and sides much more manageable. Do not press down on the mixture too hard!
Alternatively, use a greased spatula to smooth the surface as evenly flat as possible. The more air in between, the better! I know it’s hard to resist, but let them cool to room temperature for about an hour. As the sugar and butter cool, the texture will firm up, so it’s easier to slice.
Cut into pieces
Cutting the rectangular bar into 20 pieces will yield about 2 1/2-inch squares. Alternatively, cut into strips, mini pieces, or shapes using cookie cutters. It helps to lightly grease the knife with cooking spray to reduce the stickiness. Cut straight down instead of dragging across for the cleanest cuts.
- Use cocoa, cinnamon, or festive-colored crisp rice cereal.
- Use almond lemon, orange, coconut, peppermint, maple, or banana extract.
- Color the treats with different liquid or gel colors.
- Add colorful sanding sugar or round nonpareils on top.
- Stir in sprinkles or confetti right before adding to the baking dish.
- Make brown butter-flavored treats.
- Add mix-ins like nuts, crushed pretzels, chocolate chips, or dried fruit.
- Stir in nut butter like peanut butter or almond butter.
Frequently asked questions
There are several reasons. 1) Not using the proper ratio of ingredients -my recipe uses ½ cup of butter, 20 ounces of marshmallows, and 10 ounces of cereal. 2) Too much moisture evaporated, or the sugar was cooked too long and started to crystallize. 3) Too much grain was added, drying out the texture. 4) The cereal was pressed down when shaping -spread into an even layer, do not compress!
Wait for about 1 hour before cutting. This gives the melted sugar and butter time to firm up. This makes them easier to slice and hold their shape better.
About 5 days at room temperature in an airtight container. Frozen for 1 month when wrapped tightly and stored in a resealable plastic bag.
Let the bars cool to room temperature first! Lightly grease a chef’s knife and make straight-down cuts for the neatest shapes.
Making brown butter rice crispy treats
For a butterscotch flavor, you can brown the butter. This only takes a few extra minutes to cook the milk solids until golden in hue. The lactose and proteins cook, adding a nutty aroma and sweeter taste. I recommend adding 1 tablespoon of water back to the pan after browning since more moisture is evaporated in the process. This prevents the cereal treats from tasting hard.
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Rice Krispie Treats
- ½ cup unsalted butter, sliced into 8 pieces
- 20 ounces mini marshmallows, 12 cups
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon table salt, kosher, or sea salt
- 10 cups rice krispies cereal, 10 ounces
- Prepare the Pan – Line a 13×9-inch baking dish with parchment paper or wax paper. This makes it easy to lift out. If desired, lightly coat the liner with nonstick spray or melted butter.
- Melt the Butter – Melt the sliced butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once melted, immediately reduce the heat to low.
- Melt the Marshmallows – Add the marshmallows. Use a greased spatula to stir the mixture continuously until the marshmallows are just melted, about 3 to 4 minutes. It's okay to have some unmelted pieces.
- Add the Cereal – Turn off the heat and move the pan to a cold burner. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Quickly stir the cereal into the marshmallow mixture, careful not to crush the pieces.
- Shape the Treats – Immediately pour the cereal mixture into the prepared baking dish. Gently spread into an even layer using a greased spatula or dampened hands. Do not firmly press down! Let cool down and set for about 1 hour.
- Slice – Lift the cereal mixture out of the pan, and transfer it to a cutting board. Use a lightly greased chef knife to cut into 20 pieces.
- Recipe Yield: 20 pieces
- Adding More Marshmallows: Evenly sprinkle in 1 to 2 cups of mini marshmallows after mixing the marshmallow and cereal. Gently stir to combine.
- Using Large Marshmallows: Use 20 ounces of large marshmallows.
- Using Brown Butter: Heat the butter until it turns lightly brown. Add 1 tablespoon of water to the brown butter after cooking.
- Storing: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- Freezing: Wrap in parchment paper or wax paper and store in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Defrost before eating.
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