20 Best Ways To Upgrade Your Rice Krispies Treats

Rice Krispies treats are the dessert everyone forgets about until you find one in a bakery or magically in your lunchbox. Each bite takes you back to your childhood, comforted by the sweetness of marshmallows, the crunchiness of the Rice Krispies cereal, and the best part: the sticky fingers that you get to shamelessly lick off afterward. You can thank Kellogg's employees Mildred "Millie" Ghrist Day and Malitta Jensen for coming up with the dessert nearly 80 years ago. The Rice Krispies treats were so popular and universally loved that the company has continued to share the recipe on the cereal boxes in the hope that it will inspire the next generation to snap, crackle, and pop their way to a sweet dessert.

And while there's something classic and deeply nostalgic about a good Rice Krispies treat, there is also a lot that you can do to take your treats to a new level. Here are some of our favorite ways to upgrade Rice Krispies into a beloved dessert for all ages.

Substitute regular butter with brown butter

If you love the nutty, complex flavor of brown butter, consider adding it to your next batch of Rice Krispies treats. There are numerous ways to make your own brown butter. The stirring secret to even more flavorful brown butter is always to keep the butter moving in the pan. Walking away from your light-colored skillet for too long might mean that your milk solids stick on the bottom of the pan and burn. If this occurs, you're better off tossing the pan in the sink and starting from scratch.

Brown butter novices will appreciate that you can make brown butter in the microwave by cooking it in a microwave-safe container for at least three ½ minutes. Check often to ensure your brown butter cooks correctly, and add more time as needed. Once you've properly browned your butter, slowly pour in your marshmallows and stir to cover completely.

Use honey instead of marshmallows

Marshmallows can get you into a sticky situation. But it has nothing on this natural sweetener. Swap out the marshmallows in your with honey for a sweet twist on your Rice Krispies treats. This liquid sweetener has a floral flavor and will keep your Rice Krispies treats together easily.

To make this substitution work structurally, you're going to want to substitute half of the marshmallows with honey (or maple syrup, if you like a more oaky flavor), and the other half with an unsweetened nut, or seed butter like peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter, or tahini. For an 8-inch square pan, this looks like ½ cup to ⅓ cup of each component. Combine the sweetener with the nut butter on a stovetop or straight in your mixer before pouring in your crunchy cereal.

Add condensed milk

One of our biggest qualms with Rice Krispies treats is that they get stale very, very fast. After all, they're made of marshmallows and cereal, which are two ingredients that don't like being out of the package for too long. If you're looking for a way to extend the shelf life of your treats, try adding in a canned dairy staple: condensed milk.

This secret ingredient will take your Rice Krispies treats to the next level in flavor and texture. The dairy product is made of evaporated milk and sugar, so it will complement the flavor profile of plain vanilla marshmallows and whatever ingredients you decide to add to the treats. You'll only need to add between ⅓ to ½ cup of condensed milk to keep your Rice Krispie treats shelf-stable for several more days.

Infuse it with salted caramel

There's a lot to love about this ooey, gooey, and sweet confection. And we can appreciate caramel even more when it's mixed into Rice Krispies treats.

To make your salted caramel Rice Krispies treats, you'll need both soft caramel candies and caramel sauce — like the type you'd drizzle on top of ice cream. Melt your butter down with sweetened condensed milk and add the caramel candy pieces. You'll need to babysit this mixture as it cooks for a few minutes since caramel is notorious for sticking to everything. Once the caramel is melted, add your marshmallows and make the rest of your treats. You'll want to add your caramel sauce to the tray of Rice Krispies treats while it's still warm. Allow your treats to harden for about half an hour before slicing and serving.

Toast the cereal first

It seems like food personality Alton Brown has a handy piece of culinary advice for almost everything — and Rice Krispies treats are no different. Alton Brown upgrades Rice Krispies treats by both adding brown butter to his recipe and toasting the cereal in a wok before stirring it into his recipe.

The food aficionado shared his tip on a "Pantry Raid" segment of his show. He uses a wok, which can be substituted with a flat-bottomed skillet, to toast the cereal, which he shares must be Rice Krispies rather than puffed rice. He constantly moves the pieces around in the pan to prevent them from burning, and you can apply these tips to your own Rice Krispies treat iteration, too, of course.

Don't neglect the salt

Salt can be a make-or-break ingredient for a range of sweet applications. If you add too much, you risk transforming something into a savory concoction rather than a sweet one. But a little dash of salt can help temper the sweetness of a recipe and even hone your tastebuds to the sweetness of a dessert.

Once your Rice Krispies treats have been tossed and shaped in your pan, we recommend adding a quick sprinkle of sea salt. It will add a bit of bite to the bars, but won't take away from the marshmallows' sweetness and the butter's toastiness. If you're adding an ingredient like salted peanut butter to your dessert, you may be able to get away with adding less (or no) salt.

Dip your bars in chocolate

One of the reasons why Rice Krispies treats are such a popular dessert is because they are very malleable and can be designed to fit a certain theme or occasion. For example, you can add food coloring to the marshmallows, or cut your treats out with a cookie cutter to get the perfect whimsical shapes you desire. But one of the most valuable tools to making these treats unique is to cover them in melted chocolate.

To make your melting chocolate, combine chocolate with an oil or butter and microwave until smooth and creamy. From there, you can drizzle it on top of your bars and smother it with an offset spatula. If you want a more refined bar, let the treats cool and harden before sticking them with a popsicle stick and dipping them into chocolate. After that, you can place the coated bars on a wax-lined baking sheet and decorate with sprinkles, candy, and drizzles to your heart's content.

Add leftover Halloween candy

We're always looking for creative ways to use up our leftover Halloween candy rather than just eating it for breakfast for the two months following the holiday. If you have a surmounting pile of chocolate candy, consider adding it to your next batch of Rice Krispies treats.

One of our favorite recipes is for Reese's Rice Krispies treats. Add a scoop of peanut butter to the mixture while you're melting down the marshmallows. Then, fold in Cocoa Krispies cereal (the regular flavor would work, too). When the treats are set, you can press in the chopped Reese's cups and drizzle on the peanut butter. If you want a more low-key recipe, press M&M candies, chopped Snickers, or Butterfingers into the pan of treats before slicing.

Swap out the regular cereal with another Krispies variety

When you think about Rice Krispies treats, your mind probably automatically goes to the traditional, beige cereal you fill up your bowl with when you're craving a nostalgic breakfast. But, the best way to improve your Rice Krispies treats is to venture beyond the traditional flavors and into other Krispies cereals.

You can make homemade rice crispy treats with Fruity Pebbles for a blast of color and flavor (although we can't really pinpoint what exactly that flavor is). Or, stick with the Kellogg's brand product and go with Cocoa Krispies instead. The latter fares much better with adults and can complement other mix-ins like chocolate candy, caramel, or cookie pieces. Kellogg's will occasionally release seasonal Krispies cereals, like its Shocking Orange Colored Cereal, so set your sights on the grocery store aisle for inspiration.

Include other cereals

Although Rice Krispies treats will get downgraded to the title of "cereal treat bar" without adding the Rice Krispies cereal, you can still play with different flavors and shapes to give your treats a whimsical appearance. For example, you can substitute Lucky Charms for the standard cereal in these treats. Not only will you get a similar puff texture, but also the crunchy bits of dried marshmallows mixed into the bar. Although this cereal contains marshmallows already, you'll need to add enough puffy marshmallows to the mixture to bind it together.

Other cereals we love adding to these bars include Honey Nut Cheerios. For a bonus flavor, press in crushed peanuts and drizzle on butterscotch ice cream sauce. You can also use a mixture of Rice Krispies and Cinnamon Toast Crunch for a sophisticated, spiced rendition of the recipe.

Mix in freeze-dried strawberries for a fruity flavor and color

You probably have never had a Rice Krispies treat with pockets of fruit in it. Dried fruit, like raisins, would just be too chewy for this kind of recipe, while fresh fruit would make your puffed rice cereal watery. The best ingredient to turn to that won't make your Rice Krispies treats basic is to use freeze-dried fruit. It combines the classic flavors of breakfast cereals and berries while adding a soft, marshmallowy texture. The freeze-dried fruit is also a natural way to color your Rice Krispie treats and add a satisfyingly sweet pop of color.

Our favorite fruit to add to Rice Krispies treats is strawberries. Blend the fruit in a food processor until it resembles fine dust. Add the fruit powder to your marshmallow mixture and stir to combine before adding your cereal.

Get meaty with bacon

Rice Krispies treats don't have to be solely sweet; it's why adding a salty, savory addition like bacon can help make your recipe more complex and more delicious, too. The meat pairs well with maple syrup, so we recommend adding a splash in when you're melting down your marshmallows. You'll always want to use precooked bacon for this recipe, which has been brought to room temperature. Add the meat to your recipe with the cereal and an additional cup of marshmallows if you like having some whole confections mixed in.

Bacon Rice Krispies treats pair well with other add-ins like browned butter, chocolate chips, and caramel. You can also make a bourbon glaze by combining the booze with powdered sugar and a pinch of salt. Drizzle onto the pan when it's still warm.

Hybridize your dessert with cake mix

Rice Krispies treats are designed to be light desserts, but that's not to say that you can't amplify the flavor by adding a staple that everyone should have in their pantry: boxed cake mix. There's no single cake mix that works best for this recipe. If you're looking for a kid-friendly treat, stick with adding Funfetti or yellow cake mix studded with extra sprinkles. Red velvet will be your best bet if you love a beautiful red hue and strong flavor.

To add this creative ingredient, melt down the butter and the marshmallows before stirring in the dry cake mix. No eggs or oil are needed here — you'll just want to use the dry product. Once everything is well combined, remove it from the heat and stir in the cereal.

Infuse your treats with coffee

We love coffee anything, so it's no surprise that our hearts sing for a coffee-infused Rice Krispies treat. Although the flavors of this treat may not go over well for seven-year-olds, it's an adult-friendly addition that will make this dessert more palatable.

Adding espresso powder rather than liquid coffee is the best way to add a java flavor to your Rice Krispie treats without upsetting the moisture balance. The flavor is much more concentrated and will infuse into your marshmallow mixture beautifully. Other recipes will call for instant coffee granules, which will dissolve into the mixture just as easily but won't have the same java flavor. We recommend studding these treats with chocolate-covered espresso beans or drizzling on a chocolate sauce or coffee glaze.

Play with different flavors of marshmallows

The cereal isn't the only ingredient you can play with when making Rice Krispies treats. There are tons of different flavors of marshmallows on the market, and they're all waiting for you to try to add them to your recipe. During the winter holidays, stores will often carry peppermint marshmallows, which can combined with crushed candy canes, peppermint extract, and peppermint-flavored candies. Trader Joe's released maple mini marshmallows in 2023, which can add a hint of maple flavor without upsetting the balance of your dessert.

The one precaution we have when working with marshmallows is that you should always use mini marshmallows rather than jumbo or regular-sized ones. It's one of the most essential tips you need for making Rice Krispies treats, because the mini marshmallows will melt faster than larger sizes.

Add graham crackers and chocolate for a fireside treat

We love it when recipes follow themes, and s'mores-inspired Rice Krispies treats are no different. We recommend browned butter rather than regular to get the profoundly toasty element for these treats. Once the butter is melted, pour in your marshmallows and remove from your heat to add the chocolate chips and more marshmallows. Although many recipes just call for Rice Krispies cereal, you can also add Golden Grahams.

Once your treats have been pressed into a pan, you can add crushed graham cracker pieces and drizzle with a bit of melted chocolate. This is the perfect dessert to serve at kids' parties or whenever you're thinking about the nostalgic experience of toasting a marshmallow over the campfire.

Get tropical with coconut

Coconut is surely one of the most under-appreciated ingredients to add to a recipe. It's tropical and bright without being too overbearing. We recommend using sweetened shredded coconut, added with the marshmallows, for this recipe. It's not as dry as desiccated coconut and will impart a mild coconut flavor to your treat.

There are many different avenues you can take after adding coconut to your bars. If you are a fan of the Girl Scout Caramel deLites (otherwise known as Samoas), you might consider adding a drizzle of chocolate and caramel to your bars. The coconut also meshes well with a crunchy topping, like pretzel pieces or hunks of melted chocolate and slivered almonds for a take on an Almond Joy.

Load it up with peanut butter

Peanut butter is the ingredient bound to make your Rice Krispies treats better. It's the base ingredient for Iowa's Scotcheroo, which combines the nutty spread sans marshmallow with honey, chocolate, and a sprinkle of sea salt. The recipe is named after the occasional splash of scotch or bourbon that is added to these treats, as well.

Even if you're not veering off the Rice Krispies treat path with Scotcheroo, you should still consider adding peanut butter to the traditional recipes. The salty, sticky, and filling spread adds a novel flavor element to the dessert. You can play with the texture of it depending on what type of peanut butter you enjoy eating. For example, if you go the crunchy route, you can add extra chopped peanuts to your bars to make them more nut-forward.

Add nutella

Although Nutella is technically a nut butter spread, we think of it more as a dessert on its own. This chocolate hazelnut spread is the perfect addition to cupcakes or toast, but it can also be used to round out the flavors of your Rice Krispies treats. Add your spread to the heat when you mix in the marshmallows; it may be difficult to stir at first, but it should start to mix together once the marshmallows melt. We recommend reserving a bit of the Nutella to warm up and drizzle on your bars after they cool.

The major limitation of using Nutella for this recipe is that it is not a suitable alternative for vegans since it contains skim milk. To veganize your recipe, you'll also need to swap out the marshmallows for a gelatin-free variety and find a suitable butter replacement. You can make your own "Not-ella" by combining roasted hazelnuts with cocoa powder, sugar, and oil.

Boost your bars with spices

Sometimes, the simplest way to upgrade any recipe is to return to the basics and add more spices. And you can do a lot to a recipe based on the options in your spice cabinet. One of our favorite variations of Rice Krispies treats infuses the sweet, warm flavors of chai. The treats include spices like cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger, cardamom, and powdered Earl Grey tea. The spices and tea are pulsed in a food processor or spice grinder until fine before being added to the marshmallow mixture.

For the less adventurous spice enthusiast, you can also dip your toe in the water by adding cinnamon to your Rice Krispies treats. The spice is inviting and can work well with a diverse portfolio of cereals and add-ins.