This sweet and savory spin on the classic snack mix is easy to make and hard to resist. Perfect for gift giving, too!
Why is it nearly impossible to replace a favorite pair of shoes? You know, the shoes that are really comfortable and go with everything, but their near perfection wasn’t apparent until they withstood many months of wear. By then, the manufacturer had moved on to newer styles.
To stay relevant, companies of all kinds continually change and innovate. Whether we’re talking fashion, phones, or our favorite restaurant menu, seasonal changes and upgrades are usually a good thing but occasionally leave us pining for older offerings.
In my mind, our rapidly changing world heightens the appeal of a homemade gift. There’s something so comforting about the time and intention that goes into a coworker’s annual loaf of cranberry pumpkin bread or a neighbor’s quart of chicken corn soup. And if we want to enjoy these seasonal offerings throughout the year, chances are good we can get the recipe!
It’s been fifteen-plus years since my Aunt Peggy gifted her first batch of spiced pecans. Crisp and lightly crusted with a cinnamon sugar coating, the colorful tin in which they came was empty within hours. Those nuts, however, scored a permanent spot in my family’s hearts and stomachs. Delicious by the handful, the flavorful nuts also perk up a variety of salads. In subsequent years, I’ve given them as gifts, too, and the five-ingredient recipe was an early addition to my blog where it has become a favorite of many readers.
So when I stumbled upon a Chex mix recipe that included candied pecans, I perked up. My family has long enjoyed the classic Chex mix recipe, with its savory mix of cereal, peanuts, pretzels, and more. The following twist on the generations-old recipe is lightly sweet and studded with lots of crisp pecans that taste much like the ones my Aunt Peggy made famous.
As an added perk, combining the pecans with inexpensive snack mix components is a great way to get more mileage out of the pricier nuts. The end result is a tried-and true crowd-pleaser that goes from lunchbox snack to party nibble and makes a welcome hostess or holiday gift.
- 8 cups Chex™ cereal (I use equal parts Rice Chex and Corn Chex–Wheat Chex may be included if gluten isn’t an issue)
- 1 cup Cheerios™ *
- 4 cups raw pecan halves
- 2 cups mini pretzels (if needed, Utz makes a great option)
- ½ cup (96 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (96 grams) lightly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne (I level off the measuring spoon; this amount adds a very subtle spicy note)
- 4 large egg whites (1/2 cup or 120 grams), whisked
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a very large mixing bowl (a large pot also works well), combine the cereals, pecans, and pretzels. Set aside.
In a small or medium bowl, mix the sugars, cinnamon, salt and cayenne until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Drizzle the egg whites over the cereal mixture, and gently toss for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is evenly coated. Then sprinkle the sugar mixture over all, and continue tossing until everything is evenly coated.
Spread the mixture evenly over the two prepared baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, and then remove the sheets from the oven and toss the mixture for even cooking, gently breaking up any big chunks. (The baking sheets will be full, so to help with the tossing, I use the ends of the parchment to move everything towards the middle of the baking sheet and then carefully redistribute.) Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, switching the placement of the trays in the oven, or until the mixture is crisping up and no longer moist. (The mix will continue to crisp as it cools.)
Remove from the oven and cool completely. Once cool, transfer the mix to an airtight container. The mix may be served once cooled or stored at room temperature for approximately 2 weeks.
- *In lieu of Cheerios, an additional cup of Chex cereal may be used. I like how the little O’s add an extra crunch once cooked, but if you won’t eat the remainder of the box and prefer to limit your cereal purchases, the mix will be delicious with all Chex.
- Tip: Chinese restaurant takeout containers make fun gift boxes and can be purchased at many large craft stores. For optimum freshness, place the mix in individual bags before transferring to the boxes, which are not airtight. Pretty tins are a nice gift-giving option, too.