caramelized brown butter rice krispie treats

Salted. Browned butter. Caramelized. Rice Krispie Treats. Surely, you can’t hold it against me. Who could resist? These are some of the most enchanting words in the dessert lexicon. I am weak within the earshot of them. And if you can imagine my husband–in his predictable but lovable answer to everything–whispering in my other ear that chocolate chips would really make these babies sing (fine, he doesn’t talk like that, but guess who has the last word here? nya-nya!), you can pretty put together the story of how we ended up with this.

caramelized brown butter rice krispie treats

Let’s jump right into the Lessons Learned, shall we?

1. In the Lesson I Have Already Learned Countless Times But Consistently Pretend to Forget File, there is the fact that one should not spend a surprising amount of money making a recipe unless they have some guarantee that it will be dreamy. You’d be surprised how those packaged, big brand foods like President Butter, Ghiradelli Chips, fortified Kelloggs breakfast cereals and even good old Jet-Puffed Marshmallows add up. You wouldn’t care a bit if it had worked, but as you lower the failure into the garbage, it’s hard not to picture the implied $20 bill also getting flushed. You could have bought a new tart pan! [Insert husbandgroan here.]

2. Chocolate chips mixed into warm, nay hot ingredients will melt. Yes, melt! Who would have thought? It may not mix will. It is certain not to be pretty. It cannot be undone once you realized it’s beginning to look like muddy footprints. Or worse.

melting buttermelting marshmallows

3. Salted butter caramel is amazing. The first time I had it–in ice cream form, at Berthillon in Paris way too long ago–I wondered where it had been my whole life. And caramel may appear fluffy and gooey, especially when rendered from marshmallows, but in the end, it is not. It hardens. The Rice Krispie treats of your fond childhood memories are gooey. When cut into squares, they do not make a sound like sawing into a thick block of Styrofoam. They don’t leave fine-ground Rice Krispie crumbs everywhere.

4. They also have less than 20 percent the butter that this recipe does. Under one-fifth! Ow, my heart hurts.

5. In what should really be the first and biggest, and possibly only lesson that needs to be learned we have the old adage: If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. And especially not at an additional cost, ugliness, texture loss and more than five times the fat.

marshmallow caramelrice krispies

So, we decided to throw them away. I mean, I couldn’t fob them off on coworkers as I had planned to, as I didn’t wish to hear 25 times that day, “hm, I think I like the originals better,” and “is that SALT in there?” But then, there we were, sawing off one square after another, reminding ourselves between cronching mouthfuls that we really ought to throw them out already. They’re not that good! But… the butter caramel, the aggressive chocolate chunks… oh, just one more bite.

Late last night, before throwing them in the trash once and for all (and considering dousing them in dish soap) we had to admit: you know, they’re not bad… they’re just not as good as we remember.

Lesson five, people. It’s the only one you need to know.

caramelized brown butter rice krispie treatscaramelized brown butter rice krispie treats

Update: Look! I finally got these right. Check out the better version, Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats.

One year ago: Throwing Pancakes to the Wind

Caramelized Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats
New York Times, 10/31/07

Proceed at your own risk, and only if you lack nostalgia for the originals. [Updated and now worth trying, 11/09: Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats! Check them out instead.]

Yield: 30 to 50 treats.

8 ounces butter, salted or unsalted, preferably cultured, plus extra for pan
1 10.5-ounce bag marshmallows
1 12-ounce box Rice Krispies cereal.

1. Line rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper or wax paper, or butter it well.

2. In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Watch closely and stir often.

3. When butter is evenly browned, stir in marshmallows. (If using unsalted butter, stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt.) Melt and cook, stirring often, until mixture turns pale brown, then stir constantly until lightly browned but not dark, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Turn off heat, add cereal, and mix well, preferably with a silicone spoon or a spatula. Scrape into prepared pan and press down lightly. If necessary, butter hands to press mixture flat. Let cool, and cut into squares or bars.

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53 comments on caramelized brown butter rice krispie treats

  1. Hmmm – I wonder what accounts for the difference in texture? It does sound like a fun idea to make gourmet rice krispie treats, but then again – I have to agree – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  2. oh bummer, i clipped the recipe and proudly announced to KS that i’m paying homage to american processed foods this weekend by purchasing marshmallows AND the rice crispy box… this is truly sad :(

  3. Phoebe

    I wonder if the reason they’re so hard has to do with the marshmallow-to-rice-krispie ratio. You’re using one bag of marshmallows and an entire box of rice krispies, whereas I seem to recall the standard recipe using one bag of marshmallow and only part of a box of rice krispies. Or maybe a 12-oz box is smaller than I would usually get, but I know I always had leftover cereal (because it would always go to waste). Sometimes I use even less cereal, or more marshmallows, to make them softer. Anyway, I’m glad you tried these out before me. Thanks for the sacrifice.

  4. I had the recipe for Rice Krispie Treats ripped from a box of Rice Krispies that sat in my kitchen drawer for years. Well, it didn’t just sit there, it got used quite frequently. When we moved cross-country about 4 years, I threw it away.I haven’t had one since. I’m going to add “Rice Krispies” to my grocery list this weekend. Thanks for a most enjoyable post, and too bad they weren’t as fabulous as you had hoped.

  5. I am always a little leary of these “new” classics. Sometimes you just want what you remember.

    And it is true how much odd little food purchases add up. Who would think of rice krispy treats costing more to make than a cake (even using good chocolate)?

  6. Couldn’t agree more on #5. Every so often, I’ll stray from the path and decide to try a more fancy pants version of one of my classics. And nine times out of 10, I take one bite and think, “Eh… The original is still better.” Ah, well. (Love the SATC clip, btw.)

  7. courtney

    The concept is good. I wonder if you just made regular rice crispy treats, and then drizzled some salted caramel over it and then scattered the chips on top, if It would be any better? The consistency overall would not be rock hard (only the top, and you could use a different caramel recipe for that too, one that stays pliable). Heck you could even still mix the chips into the treats if you wanted.

  8. Cris

    What amazes me is that you get such gorgeous pictures even of the food you claim was both ‘not good’ to taste and looked bad to boot. You are a wonder with that camera!

    My rice krispies have turned out hard when I either over cook the marshmallow part or press them into the pan too hard. Or both together. So sad that I can mess up even such a simple recipe. I like courtney’s recommendations – you could also put down half the rice krispies, pour on the caramel and chips and then gently put the rest of the rice krispies on top. Just don’t press too hard.

  9. I’m sorry that you had to throw the batch away. That’s a shame. Perhaps for untested recipes you could halve them or even quarter them? I know sometimes this doesn’t work out for every recipe but it might save you money and food from being wasted if it did work. I know how it is though, great big batches of tempting goodies, even unperfect ones can call your name in the middle of the night for a quick bite and before you know it you’ve ate the whole thing. I’ve had pretty good success reducing recipe sizes, even down to ridiculous amounts like 1/10 th of the original recipe. As I’m cooking for just my husband and myself and only want 4 cookies not 40. Your photos are gorgeous, and even if the squares didn’t taste amazing they look fabulous! Oh yeah, I almost forgot, sometimes I enjoy the challenge of trying to turn my cooking *mistake* in to something that does work, though it’s extra painful if that doesn’t work either.

  10. I looked up the original (or what claimed to be, anyway) recipe for Rice Krispie Treats a year ago when a friend requested Krispiehenge . . . yes, Stonehenge constructed from RK treats. The recipe I found calls for1 bag marshmallows (40 large),1/4 c margarine instead of butter, and only 5 cups of cereal (vs. the usual 6). They are soft & pliable – and they stayed soft for the entire party.

  11. Oooh…your version sounds like they should have been so much better! I guess nothing can compete with the memories of making these in grade school, though. Oh well.

  12. Too funny as we’ve just been playing around here with our own chocolate and peanut butter crispy rice treats which can only be described as the love child of a Reese’s peanut butter cup and a Nestle Crunch bar!

  13. Oh, so sorry. You’re right, the recipe really does sound wonderful and actually your photos are great with the flecks of dark chocolatey rice crispies. Actually, it’s kind of refreshing to read about culinary debacles once in a while, especially with your wit.

  14. Caroline

    I have to admit, I swooned when I saw the title of this recipe, but I can see why these wouldn’t be so good. Still, you’ve reminded me of the existence of RKTs, which I have not had or made in years, even though it’s one of the only desserts my gf will eat…AND I have a bag of marshmallows leftover from fondant that I was trying to think of a use for (you can see where this is going)…

  15. Actually I tried these. I didn’t brown the butter as much as you did. I heated the butter until after it foamed and I could smell the yummy nuttiness of the butter (in all, I probably cooked it for 20 minutes), then I used mini marshmallows to speed the melting process (large ones would require further cooking of the butter – and perhaps burning of it).

    They were really really really good. I mean really good.

    My 4 yo, who has a penchant for gourmet food and who has in the past turned her nose up at plain rice krispie treats (whose child does this, seriously??) gave me thumbs up and begged for more.

  16. deb

    Ooh, I’m so glad to hear it worked out for someone. Thanks for chiming in. So, they were gooey? Also, did you have trouble getting that volume of butter to mesh with the melted marshmallows? It took a few minutes for me, and that could have been the few minutes when the marshmallows broke down more than they should.

  17. They are nice and gooey still, although I can’t promise that they will last much longer. We’ve polished off half the pan so far.

    I only mixed the marshmallows in the butter till they melted, there were pools of butter squishing around, but I didn’t want it to burn – so I mixed in the cereal. I figured it would suck it all up. :p

    I worried that it would be too rich with butter, but it doesn’t seem to be. I’m not sure I would reduce it at all.

  18. Loretta

    Heres a good and easy variation: make the usual RKT. Then melt some chocolate chips and butterscotch chips together, perhaps a cup of each for a 9 x 13 pan,(a minute or two in the microwave will do it) and spread over the top. Try to wait until it sets up, and enjoy!

  19. Sumintra

    I made this recipe, too. One batch with fancy marshmallows and one with jet puff. I agree with Jennifer. The recipe is really good, but you can’t overbrown the butter and mini marshmallows work best. Use jet puff or another commercial brand since the kosher or natural kind make the treats crunchy instead of chewy.

  20. I am a bona fide, certifiable Rice Krispie treat fanatic! I can’t even make them anymore, because when I do, I can’t go to sleep at night until I have eaten Every. Last. One. I have mixed in peanut butter, toasted coconut and toffee bits; dipped them in chocolate and poured caramel on top. I have even made them with Fruit Loops and Cap’n Crunch! There is no such thing as a bad RKT, and yours look pretty darn good!

  21. Martha

    My daughter uses Fluff instead of marshmallows. She also make a version with Cocoa Pebbles and peanut butter. I’m not a fan of the original but the PB and Chocolate version is insane!
    I’m going to try the brown butter version with cappucino chips,

  22. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for writing about Rice Krispie Treats. I adore those. What a nice respite from super fancy recipes that are all about looks and not about taste.

    Like you, I am dedicated home cook. And I love your realistic, and very edible, approach.

    I would love to link to your blog on mine, which concentrates on ethnic foods, a very different approach from yours. Please take a look at it and see if you would like to link too.

  23. Hi Deb – I’m so glad you made these, so I don’t have to. They sounded mighty appealing, I mean, 2 favorites, merged together, right? Sometimes it makes you wonder if the NYT actually tests recipes before printing them. Sorry you had to throw the batch out.

  24. Sally

    I made a version of these last night which basically was the original volume of ingredients but treated so the butter and marshmallows were browned—-they are not gooey per se, not like the originals they are more chewy. However, they are almost exactly like the ones my mom used to make—-we normally had several partially used bags of marshmallows sitting around which were past there prime so they took longer to melt, add in one busy mom often forgetting to stir and they turned light brown in the process. Apparently it is the browning of the marshmallows and not the age which yield this tougher consistency. I will have to tell her that she is in fact a gourmet, ahead of her time.

  25. Ha, that dishsoap dousing is a good idea! I know what you mean about hard salted caramel. For my office’s Halloween party, I tried to make a gourmet Twix with salted caramel and a homemade graham cracker base. I started with Michael Recchiuti’s caramel recipe, and it crystallized into a yellow mass, so I threw it away, scrubbed the pan, and started all over. This time, I added a little water to the caramel and it took forever to cook down. Then the caramel got really hard–almost unchewable. Sure, it tasted good, but it was a jaw breaker. It wasn’t worth all the work, and everyone was disappointed that I didn’t bring my traditional almond macaroons. Thanks for sharing your mistake. Now I know not to try this recipe.

  26. Emily

    I made these just tonight, and I had the exact same problem — they turned into styrofoam treats! The concept is lovely, though, and the flavor was really nice. I kept standing over the pan, breaking off and eating little pieces, hoping that as I got closer to center, they’d be gooey and softer. What a disappointment!

  27. I can’t believe I found this recipe! I swear when I was a kid I made these all the time with the extra butter, because I loved butter. It made the bars crispier and buttereyer. Then as an adult I followed the original recipe to a T and I thought they were too gooey and sweet. I am going to use the 1 stick of butter, but just to the point of melted and I’m not sure what type of marshmallow, I remember using Fluffer Nutter as a kid. Hmmm…a good excuse to make a FlufferNutter sandwich…mmmmmmmm!

  28. Deanna B

    The best thing to do when adding chocolate chips or m&ms to rice crispy treats is to freeze them first.

    I cannot stand regular rice crispy treats to I usually add a 11/2 cups of peanut butter and a bag of peanut butter m&ms to the recipe. The peanut butter goes in with the marshmallows.

  29. RK

    BTW, smashed-up candy canes are AMAZING in RKT’s… I can imagine smashed candy canes and mini choc chips.

    Re the caramel version, what about melting a few caramels in with the butter and jet-puffs? Or adding a bit of caramel ice cream topping? Get the caramel flavor hopefully without wrecking the texture.

  30. N.D.

    I see this post is kinda old but I figured Id chime in anyway. They now have Caramel & Vanilla Jet-Puff Marshmellows out there….they are to DIE FOR! My husband LOVES caramel, but I was sceptical of putting actual caramel in the treats (messy, texture…etc) I make the treats the regular way but with these marshmellows instead and they add such a nice hint of caramel. I’ve also added just a drop of vanilla right before I add the crispies in to give it more of that flavor. Another version I make is with 3 cups reg RK’s and 3 cups fruity pebbles. These are the biggest hits a little kids parties…just ask my 3 year old :) Although I brought them to a friends 40th birthday and the adults devoured them before we even sang happy birthday :) Just some suggestions that are easy and don’t mess up the original goodness of RKT’s too much :)

  31. Nancy

    Yes, I know this is an old thread, but when I saw the words “brown butter” and “rice krispie treats” in the same recipe title, I happily read on. You see, that is similar to how I make my rice krispie treats. They get raves wherever I take them because it IS such a wonderful flavor. I mean, who can resist the yummy flavor of browned butter? Exactly! No one! Hmm, I know what I’m making later tonight! Anyways, what I do differently than the above recipe is only use one stick of butter and do not COOK the marshmallows. I just add them to the browned butter and stir until they are just melted. I usually have the pan off the burner so the butter won’t continue to cook. Then add the cereal and pat into your favorite pan. Please try them that way, and I think you’ll have a new favorite!
    P.S. Congratulations on becoming a mom! He’s adorable!

  32. jarrelle sartwell

    It has been so bloody hot here in the north. . . i feel like i am back down in TN!! so the thought of turning on my oven kills me and i am not going to do it. but today is thursday which means tomorrow, friday is baking day for work. so i am going to make these no bake yummy treats!!! thanks!!

  33. “Siobhan”

    Alright, I’m sitting here, reading recipes when I should be doing other things. This all started because I had a pancake jones going this morning. Sigh. Now I feel like rice krispie treats and I never actually liked them!

  34. Kris

    The best twist on rice krispie treats we used to make when I was a kid is completely and utterly ridiculous, as many delicious things are. I can’t remember the exact quantity of rice krispies, but you mixed them with four melted down regular-sized Mars Bars (Canadian regular…not sure if the American regular is bigger but probably). Refrigerated until firm. Never fail.

  35. Sahiti

    There’s a version of these you buy in Indian sweet shops and hot chips stalls…like a popcorn ball, only with puffed rice. You mix it with hot caramel and ghee (clarified butter), and shape it into balls. Puffed rice is much airier and somewhat firmer than rice krispies (as long as you keep the stuff dry), and makes for a much lighter dessert or snack. How stretchy you want the binder dictates how much fat goes in; I’ve had decadently soft ones that fell apart at the first bite and made strings when you pulled pieces away, and crisp firm ones that store very well and taste like crunchy hard candy. Some people make it with jaggery (traditional raw sugar which you should really try with pumpkin or yam) instead of sugar, which makes it crumbly. Welcome to the wide world of sugar syrup sweets from South India, this is the newfangled fast food corner of it.

  36. Lisa

    I know exactly what went wrong. When the marshmallows were heated you raised the temp too high and the sugar in them went to hard crack stage. I did the same thing once. I left them on the heat too long and years ago they told you to heat them past melted for a couple minutes. When you melt and then boil the marshmallows you are esentially recooking them..Too high and you have shatter, break your teeth crispy treats.

  37. Caitlin

    Since it looks like you still read these comments, I will just note that …a friend… discovered that when you overheat the marshmallows for RKTs and the resulting bars are too stiff to eat like normal, if you break them up into small enough chunks you can eat them with milk and they are very like the delicious 90s kid fad of Rice Krispie Treat Cereal, except better because of course you browned the butter and added sea salt. This friend may have replicated these results on purpose several times.

  38. Michelle

    So, I always have some of your deep dark salted caramel sauce in the fridge. (I swear, when I pull it out and pour it over some ice cream at the end of an impromptu dinner party, people freak out with joy.) Anyway, I made some Rice Krispie treats today and in addition to browning the butter slightly I added about 1/4 cup of the salted caramel sauce. O. M. G. Have you tried this??!! If not, you must try. You will not be disappointed.

  39. Katie Long

    Hi. I actually asked this same question the other day, but I can’t find it in the comments, so I’m not sure if was answered. Anyway, figured I’d ask again, just in case, because these looks SO good.
    Could you make these using marshmallow creme, such as Fluff, instead of marshmallows? I can’t eat marshmallows because of the gelatin (I’m vegetarian). Thanks!
    And thank you for all the wonderful recipes!

  40. I believe there is an error in this recipe – brown butter rice krispy squares. It calls for 1 12 oz. box of Rice Krispies. In the genius recipe book it says 6 cups of Rice Krispies. I have the cook book but used the recipe you recently posted online. Big mistake. It is way too many Rice Krispies. They went in the trash and it was another trip back to the store.

    1. deb

      I’m so sorry for the confusion; I tried to make it absolutely clear in the essay and headnotes that is the “flop” recipe that preceded the “perfect” one that’s also on the site (here) in the Genius Recipes book.