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 Chex.com. 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. https://www.chex.com/recipes/original-chex-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.
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.
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.