Gluten Free Adaptations · Parties and Visits · The Vintage Kitchen

The Original Chex Mix Recipe

Many of us have been eating Chex Mix since we could walk. We swiped a handful from the bowl as we strode past the party table at holidays. We hoarded those little bags in the back of the pantry when they went on sale. And maybe we even happily made Chex Mix from the “Original Recipe” … you know, the one that calls for 8 cups of cereal and a gallon zip-top freezer bag.

Except, that’s not the original recipe.

Awhile back, I scrounged around looking for the Original Chex Mix Recipe. And I found several interesting things.

Here’s the recipe from It calls for bagel chips, which were added to the recipe after Chex began selling bagged prepared mix in 1985. They call it the original mix.

In the early 90s I found a recipe for Chex Mix that I jealously guarded and made every year with pride. It was The Original Chex Mix Recipe. After all, that’s what the card said. I believed it. At least, I believed it then. This had to be The One. Only, it wasn’t.

Chex mix recipe on card, calling for 8 cups of cereal, 1 cup nuts and 1 cup pretzels.
Chex Mix recipe card, stained from use, clipped from a cereal box in 1994.

The Party Mix

Actually, snack mix recipes have been really popular since cocktail parties in the 1950s. Every respectable cookbook offered at least one party mix recipe, sometimes more. Ususally called something like “Party Mix,” they were easy to locate, easy to stir up in advance of a hoarde of guests invading your house before sundown, and most people seemed to love them. In any event, they appeared in cookbooks throughout the 50s and 60s, and every host or hostess seemed to have their own favorite recipe. Snack mix was an easy, affordable entertaining recipe after the food rationing of World War II. A crunchy cereal or two, some nuts, a few spices, and you have a party treat.

In an attempt to jump on the party wagon, and to sell more cereal, Ralston Purina (yes, the Puppy Chow people) tried to come up with recipes to sell more of their Chex. In April of 1952 they published an ad suggesting that Chex would taste great when stirred into your favorite fudge recipe. Or maybe the trick was sandwiching a slice of Vienna sausage between two Chex squares, speared onto a toothpick for easy eating.

Original Chex Mix recipe from 1952 advertisement. Shows a photo of the party mix, a corner of a box of Chex, and the recipe itself.
When Life magazine published this recipe for Chex Mix, they had no idea they were making culinary history.

Later in April, Ralston tried again. This time the ad printed a recipe for popcorn balls, but with Rice Chex as the popcorn substitute. The other recipe on the same page suggested mixing up some Cheese Chex: Melt in skillet 1/2 Tablespoon butter. Add 1 cup Wheat Chex, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir until hot. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Cheddar cheese, and stir until all pieces are coated. Now we’re getting somewhere! This one sounds almost tasty.

When Life magazine published the new Ralston ad on June 16, 1952, they had no idea they were making snack food history. The ad touted a new Party Mix. It was a while before the mixture became known as Chex Mix.

Gluten Free Options

Sometimes you have to tweak older recipes for new allergies and intolerances. When I realized I needed to change to gluten free food, Chex Mix became one of my first workarounds. If you believe the Gluten Free label on the box, then you can make the snack mix using extra Rice or Corn Chex and omitting the Wheat Chex entirely. If you are celiac, and absolutely need 100% gluten free all the time, substitute the Chex with one of the square or hexagon gluten free corn or rice cereals you probably already know and use. The original recipe calls for “nuts.” If you cannot tolerate nuts, change them out for something else (like sunflower seeds) or use none at all. Personally, I like it best without nuts, but I’m a bit strange that way.

The true Original Recipe

The first Chex Party Mix recipe contained no Cheerios (unlike many of the party mixes of the time), no bagel chips, no pretzels, and no seasoned salt. I know! Heresy! But if you mix up a batch of this mix, you’ll taste the true flavor of the 1950s party table. And you might find that you like it better.

The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup butter, 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 2 cups Wheat Chex, 2 cups Rice Chex, 1/2 cup nuts, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt. Melt the butter in a baking pan, and mix in the Worcestershire sauce, Chex cereals, and nuts. Sprinkle with the salt and garlic salt, and then roast in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Yes, this makes a tiny amount. After stirring together 8-9 cups of cereal, plus a cup of nuts, a cup of pretzels, and so on, a four cup batch seems hardly worth the effort. But it cooks in half the time, and it was designed for one party or one evening, not a week’s worth of Chex Mix in a large container in the pantry. This small recipe was probably designed to serve 8 people. The ad doesn’t say.

Give the Original Chex Mix recipe a try, and see what you think. Is it better than the taste you’re used to? Do you like the smaller portion size? I’ll be talking a lot about portion sizes at Vintage Living, Modern Life. They are a key to vintage cooking.

Vintage Ways

Dipping One Toe into History While Keeping the Other Foot Firmly in the Present

What intrigues us so much about yesteryear? 

We think of it as a simpler time. In many ways, it was. Parties in the 1960s featured items like cocktail wieners, spicy cheese balls, and that newfangled concoction we call Chex Mix. If Chex Mix appeared on your appetizer table, you were a winner.

Think about it. Chex Mix was new. Not bagged, not re-engineered with different ingredients. It was novel, and simple to make. And 60s partygoers loved it. Easy to scoop onto an appetizer plate, the mix wasn’t too greasy to eat while playing cards or chatting with a drink. It was a hit! And in time, those 60s partygoers fed Chex Mix to their children and their grandchildren.

Earlier times brought us simpler ingredients. Not one cookbook published in the center of the United States in the 1920s seems to feature avocados as an ingredient. Avocados were the hot new thing by the end of the 20s in California, but recipes incorporating them hadn’t made their way to the middle states or East coast by 1930. Recipes during this time focused on easy to obtain, seasonal ingredients – much like many of us prefer to cook today.

These examples center around food. What about fashion? Decorating? Writing? Entertainment? The answers remain the same. Life seems simpler to us as we look backwards, so we find a decade that appeals to us (or two, or three, or five…) and we peer a bit closer. Then we might be interested enough to chase down some crepe paper and attempt to make a few vintage decorations. You know, just for fun. And to add some sparkle to our next seasonal decorating scheme. 

How Old Is Vintage? 

Although some modern “antiques” dealers will dispute this, the term antique refers to an item more than 100 years old. Anything less than 100 years old but more than 20-25 years old is considered vintage. Retro generally applies to the 1950s decade. At least, it does currently. I’m sure that will change with time, and 1960-1980 will become retro in their turn. 

My focus is generally older vintage, but I love it all. 

My vintage house

Currently, I live in a 1985 one-story house. It definitely fits into the vintage range, since it is over 25 years old and it was all the rage when it was built. My laundry is in a closet off my kitchen, which I love — and which hearkens back to an article from the 1930s by Cheaper By The Dozen mom Lillian Gilbreth. She was actually a psychologist and a trained efficiency expert in her own right, and Dr. Lillian Gilbreth designed the basis for what we know as the modern kitchen. 

When I first moved into my house, I was a bit sad. I desperately wanted a 1920-1940 bungalow, but in my area of the country these were all built with basements, and multiples of stairs were not in my future. 

Once we got settled, though, I looked around. The 1920 china cabinet looked right at home next to the corner fireplace. The piano and the treadle sewing machine… they looked like they fit, like they belonged. 

Suddenly, I realized something. Something important. This house was the mid-1980 redesign of the 1920s and 30s bungalow. It was small, functional, fashionable, and popular as a design. The kitchen was an update of the Kitchen Practical design from Lillian Gilbreth 50 years before. The only thing it was missing was the kitchen sewing machine area and ironing station.

Whew. I could relax and enjoy my new house. It was everything I’d wanted, only 50 years later and all on one floor. 

Do we accept everything labeled Vintage?

Well, let me ask you another question. Do you accept everything – absolutely everything – that exists in your culture right now? No, of course you don’t. Some things you refuse due to lack of time, or money, or interest. Other things you eschew due to ethics, or morals, or beliefs. Where you stand on any issue isn’t important right now. The point is, you choose sides for many topics. 

This means that when you embrace vintage living, you don’t have to accept everything just because it existed in a particular time frame. As part of the simplicity we see as appealing in the past, it tended to give rise to odd and offensive opinions every now and then. 

“But they believed” — of course they did. Most people are a product of their time. We can enjoy the gold nuggets they left us without ascribing to strange views. Once in a while, coming across outdated views (especially in literature) gives us a chance to ponder how things have changed. Or how they haven’t.

Just because it looks like a duck…

In the same way, not everything labeled “vintage” is truly that. Some of it, frankly, wasn’t popular enough to be considered vintage. It’s simply old. A self-published book that talks about your family line, that only existed in 150 copies to begin with is not vintage. It certainly qualifies as a family treasure, and it may be very old. But neither of those things marks it as vintage. To be vintage, an item must be culturally popular at one time. Radio shows are vintage. So are radio show commercials. The radio script that never found a buyer and so was never recorded is not considered vintage in the same way.

I’ll focus on vintage gems that will enhance your life. The fun, the quirky, the memorable. Those things that add joy and sprinkle charm.