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A bowl of Puppy Chow is like a bag of classic potato chips: Once you start snacking, it’s impossible to stop. Every time I say I’m going in for my last bite, my hand, as if I no longer have control over it, finds its way back into the mix.
I know I’m not alone in this obsession. Put Puppy Chow out at any holiday gathering and it will always be the first thing to go. Pack it up as a party favor and you’ll be crowned hostess of the year. But the very best Puppy chow has a few tricks up its sleeve that you won’t find on the back of the Chex cereal box. Here’s how to make the very best batch that I guarantee will impress even the most discerning Midwesterner.
Chex cereal, originally made by the Ralston Purina Company, debuted in grocery stores in 1937. Because the company referred to their dog food as “dog chow” and cat food as “cat chow,” they jokingly called their new cereal line “human chow,” according to Taste. Somewhere along the way that got changed to Puppy Chow, although the snack is also commonly referred to as Muddy Buddies, Muddy Munch, Monkey Munch, or Reindeer Chow.
Although General Mills, who bought the Chex product line in 1997, now sells pre-packaged bags of Muddy Buddies, families all over the Midwest have been making Puppy Chow at home since the 1960s. It was (and still is) the perfect snack for any occasion: holiday parties, of course, but also bake sales, tailgates, movie nights, snow days, and potlucks. Having grown up in Ohio, I remember munching on it backstage at dance recitals, bringing it as a classroom treat on Valentine’s Day, and alternating between bites of Puppy Chow and pigs in a blanket at a family friend’s annual New Year’s Eve party.
Not only is it an instant crowd-pleaser, but Puppy Chow also couldn’t be easier to make. In fact, you could give the recipe to a group of eager kids and they’d produce an equally delicious result (their hands will just likely be covered in chocolate and powdered sugar).
It’s exactly what everyone craves in a satisfying snack: mostly sweet, a little salty, supremely crunchy, and yields enough to feed a crowd. You don’t have to worry about any of the usual party food conundrums, like serving it warm or skewering it with mini toothpicks, or finding the prettiest board to serve it on. Chex cereal is gluten-free, so this snack will please almost everyone at the party — and you can dump it into any large party bowl and be good to go. Plus, you can continue to eat leftovers for up to a week after the party.
Most Puppy Chow recipes on the internet are pretty much identical to the one on the back of the Chex cereal box: 9 cups of Chex, 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar. But after several rounds of experimenting, I can assure you there’s a better formula.
1. Use the full box of cereal. One standard-size (12-ounce) box of Rice Chex cereal contains about 11 cups of cereal. Save yourself the hassle of measuring out 9 cups and dump the entire box into your largest bowl. It’s easier, it feeds more people, and you don’t have an awkward amount of cereal left over.
2. Increase the other ingredients accordingly. Because you’re using more cereal, you’ll also need more of everything else. Go for 1 1/2 cups of semisweet chips (although if you want to try something new, feel free to use milk, bittersweet, or white) and 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (use the non-natural kind like Skippy for the creamiest results), which will help create the best part of Puppy chow: the clumps of cereal that are stuck together, resulting in an extra-big, peanut-buttery bite. Adding 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt balances out all the sugary sweetness.
3. Layer the powdered sugar for even dispersement. Puppy chow is objectively simple to make, but if there’s one tricky part, it’s getting the powdered sugar to distribute evenly across all the cereal. To solve this, you’ll want to add some, but not all, of the powdered sugar to the bottom of a large zip-top bag, followed by half the chocolate-coated Chex, more powdered sugar, the rest of the Chex, and the remaining powdered sugar. Then shake, shake, shake and watch as the cereal gets evenly dusted in a light powdery coating.
Chex cereal is coated in a mixture of butter, peanut butter, and chocolate — then tossed in powdered sugar — for the very best salty-sweet party snack.
Calories 302Fat 14.3 g (22.0%)Saturated 6.4 g (31.9%)Carbs 43.1 g (14.4%)Fiber 2.2 g (8.8%)Sugars 27.4 gProtein 4.2 g (8.5%)Sodium 152.6 mg (6.4%)
1 (12-ounce) box Rice Chex cereal (about 11 cups)1 1/2 cups
semisweet chocolate chips (10 ounces)3/4 cup
smooth peanut butter, such as Skippy6 tablespoons
(3/4 stick) unsalted butter1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon
kosher salt1 1/2 teaspoons
vanilla extract2 1/2 cups
powdered sugar, divided
Pour cereal into a large mixing bowl and prepare a baking sheet. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Pour the cereal into the largest mixing bowl you own; set aside.
Melt the chocolate and peanut butter. Place the chocolate chips, peanut butter, butter, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl (start with 1/4 teaspoon, then add more to taste after microwaving). Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving in 15 second intervals, stirring in between each, until almost melted, about 45 seconds more. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth.
Toss the cereal with chocolate-peanut butter mixture. Pour the chocolate peanut butter mixture over the cereal and toss until all the cereal is evenly coated.
Layer the powdered sugar and Chex in a gallon-sized bag. Place 1 cup of the powdered sugar in a gallon-sized zip-top bag. Add half of the cereal, a second cup powdered sugar, the remaining cereal, and then the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar. (You’re layering it so the powdered sugar coats the cereal evenly). Seal the bag.
Let cool. Pour onto the baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Let cool, about 10 minutes, then store in an airtight container or a clean zip-top bag if not serving immediately.
Cereal variations: Any type of Chex, such as Corn Chex or Chocolate Chex, will work.
Storage: Puppy chow tastes best within 1 to 2 days of making it, but will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Deputy Food Director
Grace Elkus is the Deputy Food Director at Kitchn, where she writes a monthly vegetarian recipe column called Tonight We Veg. She received her culinary arts diploma from The Natural Gourmet Institute.
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