They’re easy, quick, and get tons of flavor from a mix of puffed grains, seeds, and flaky sea salt.

By Bridget Hallinan
August 20, 2020
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Rice crispy treats are a nostalgic dessert we’ll never pass up. Sweet, slightly sticky, and incredibly simple to make, they’re the perfect snack to whip up when you don’t feel like turning on your oven and want something ready within the hour. And these Birdseed Rice Crispy Treats from Kim Alter, chef-owner of Nightbird, which were featured in our August 2020 issue, have a grown-up twist. Her original recipe’s “birdseed” mixture included puffed grain and brown rice, and we riffed on it by adding a mix of toasted and raw seeds (pepitas, roasted sunflower seed kernels, and poppy seeds), along with a flaky sea-salt topping as well.

The end result is an easy twist on the classic that you should definitely, definitely make during your next free weekend (or weeknight!). Check out some tips and recommendations for preparing them below, gathered from Alter’s recipe and the Food & Wine Test Kitchen.

Photo by Johnny Autry / Food and Prop Styling by Charlotte Autry

Don’t Forget the Parchment Paper

Just like with this banana-chocolate chip snack cake and these double chocolate chunk brownies, you’ll want to line your baking pan with parchment paper before adding in the puffed grain-marshmallow mixture, leaving a two-inch overhang on all sides. Once it’s time to cut the treats into squares, the extra paper will act as handles and help you lift the mixture from the pan.

Try These Swaps

These treats are easily adaptable to substitutions, so feel free to experiment. As long as you use the same volume of puffed grains, you can mix up the ratio—for example, all quinoa, or an even mix of millet and amaranth. You could even just do all puffed brown rice cereal, if you want, or another favorite puffed cereal you have on hand. As for the seeds, you can try adding sesame seeds, and nuts like peanuts or pecans would stir in really well, too.

Make Sure You Use Medium Heat for the Marshmallows

In step two of the recipe, Alter instructs you to combine the marshmallows and butter in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat. You definitely want to stick to medium heat here—if the heat is too high, you could scorch the marshmallows and burn the butter. And if it’s too low, the marshmallows won’t quite melt down. What you want is a melted, smooth mixture that looks like marshmallow sauce.

Spray Your Hands with Cooking Spray, Too

In addition to using the cooking spray to coat the parchment paper-lined pan, you’ll also need it to coat your hands. Yes, your hands. After you’ve combined the melted marshmallow mixture with the puffed grain mixture and added it to the pan, grease your hands so you can press the mixture into an even layer without it sticking to you. Make sure you use gentle pressure so that you don’t crush the grains and end up with dense treats.

Another important note: As soon as you’ve combined the marshmallow mixture and the grain mixture, act quickly and get it pressed into the pan, since it won’t take long to set.

Sprinkle on the Salt

Once you’ve pressed the puffed grain-marshmallow mixture into the pan, sprinkle on the flaky sea salt right away while the marshmallow is still sticky. Adding it will highlight the flavors of the seeds and grains and cut through the sweetness and richness of the marshmallow as well.

Cut With a Serrated Knife…

In the final step, Alter says to cut the treats into squares using a serrated knife, which helps you cut through the treats cleanly and without crushing them. Use a gentle sawing motion and you’ll get nice, even cuts.

Make ‘Em Vegan

If you want to make these treats vegan, simply swap in vegan marshmallows and vegan butter, and use vegan cooking spray.

Want to Add a Topping? Go for Chocolate

To add an extra decadent touch to these treats, try drizzling melted dark chocolate or nut butter on top, or even a combination of the two. Drizzle or no drizzle, they’ll be delicious.